Teaching Children Intuitive Eating

[subtitle: How the Hell Do You Do It?]

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Today, on two separate occasions, I followed the sound of silence to find one of my sons tucked in the corner of a room, frantically unwrapping and eating candy that he had found in the Christmas stash.

I’m still trying to sort out how I felt upon discovering him, hiding from me like he was doing something bad.  I have a swirling mass of needs-to-be-untangled thoughts and feelings about the topics of eating and bodies, and I don’t want to project my own drama onto my sweet, innocent, still-untarnished-by-the-world little children.  And yet, I want to raise them to value themselves and others, to look deeper but also to love the bodies they were born with and to have an easy, natural, untainted relationship with food.

But it is damn hard to know how to teach intuitive eating when it’s not a skill you grew up with or are even now passably proficient in.  I don’t know what mistakes I can make and still have my children turn out okay.  I don’t even know how many mistakes I’m already making.  I don’t know if fostering intuitive eating means letting them eat whatever and whenever and however much they want, or if it’s eating whatever they want at mealtimes only, or if it’s eating whatever they want of what is offered at mealtimes, or any number of options.  I just don’t know.

My boys are bread fanatics–they would subsist solely on baked carbs if we decided to restrict our diet to a single food group.  Because they’ve often loaded up on bread/rolls/naan/focaccia/biscuits/etc. and refused to eat any other dishes at dinner, my husband has instituted the “finish all your food before you have more bread” rule.  I back him because we’re supposed to present a united front and all that.  But inside, I’m conflicted.  The “eat food to get more food” concept just doesn’t quite sit right with me.  To me, it reinforces the concepts of  (1) “special foods”–things like bread and dessert get put on a pedestal; you have to suffer through a plate of “boring food” in order to get to them and (2) overeating/eating when you’re not hungry.  If a kid (or adult) wants a piece of cake but believes he has to join the Clean Plate Club to get it, he’ll plow through the food on his plate until he’s worthy of the prize.  And if he isn’t hungry anymore by the time he’s “earned” the cake?  Too damn bad.  He’s worked for this cake, and he’s going to eat it, hungry or not.

If it’s dinnertime and I’m absolutely craving chocolate cake, I think I’m better off forgoing the dinner and just eating the cake (provided I enjoy it, listen to my hunger signals, etc…all that IE stuff).  Maybe after I finish the cake, I’m full, so cake is all I have that night.  So what?  Worse things have happened.  But as someone who has worked really hard to eradicate the ideas of “good/healthy/guilt-free” foods and “bad/sinful/naughty” foods from her mindset, I feel really uneasy when we start talking about earning this food or deserving that food.

On the other hand, I really want my children to be open to trying new foods, and I don’t think I should have to make them something separate when they don’t like what is being offered.  But I’m having a really hard time trying to fit these two pieces of the puzzle together.  What if I let them eat whatever they want (of what is offered) at dinner as long as they try at least one bite of each dish?  Then I’m exposing them to new foods, but am I screwing up their chances at being intuitive eaters?

Maybe I am projecting.  (very likely) Maybe I’m overthinking this.  (99% chance)

But I hated seeing my son try to hide his candy-eating from me.  Oh, I know it wasn’t due to some deeply rooted body shame and mental anguish over his food choices–he was just hiding because he thought he would get in trouble (I’d already vetoed candy consumption when he asked me earlier).  But at the same time, I don’t want him or his brother to ever feel ashamed or like they have to hide what they’re eating.

I suppose the most impactful thing I can do is model all of these things myself–self esteem, body acceptance, a healthy relationship with food.

At least that’s easy.

(HA.)

———–

Do you overthink your relationship with food?  Do you think it’s laughable that I use the words “relationship” and “food” in the same sentence?  Do you believe that children are the future? (teach them well and let them lead the way)

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Adios Holiday Cheer

I packed up all things Christmas-themed today.

Which included un-decorating the tree, gathering up 10 strands of lights (for which I naively kept the boxes–apparently I was under some delusion that I would actually  be able to wrap each strand neatly enough and tightly enough to fit it back into those nice little containers.  HA.) and cleaning up endless piles of needles.

My first-experience with a real tree.  I’ll try to come up with some emotion that summarizes it.

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HOLY SHIT SO MANY NEEDLES.

[this is about 1/4 of the ones I swept up today]

And did I mention that I carried that big-ass tree outside to our back patio all by myself?  Yes sir I did.

So Christmas is over, and the new year is looming.  I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that yet (not that it really matters.  Time marches on, and all that.)

Maybe I’ll contemplate it while I finish off my kids’ Christmas candy tonight.

Just Call Me Martha

I used to be a baking addict.

Cookies, brownies, cupcakes, cake…I couldn’t get enough.  I made it all, all the time.  No hyperbole, I baked something sweet at least once a day.

Holidays were my favorite, because I felt justified in feeding my obsession.  What else is the end of the year for if not overindulging?

Slowly I moved away from a habit (compulsion?) that I never thought I’d escape.  (Someday we might have a discussion about that journey, but today is not that day.)  This holiday season has been seriously lacking in the treat consumption department, so today I decided I would remedy that. (I mean, Christmas is in two days so…)

I found this recipe for Oreo Peppermint Bark on A Southern Fairytale.

Excellent, I thought.  That looks so easy.  It’s really not even baking at all.

HA.

Somehow, even though I followed the very simple recipe like a formula (well, sort of) , my top layer of white chocolate was quite sparse and well nigh impossible to spread.  Also, there’s the simple fact that, instead of looking like a chocolatier’s holiday confection, mine looks akin to something Santa’s reindeer might vomit up after a particularly turbulent sleigh ride.

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[NAILED IT]

I feel so festive now.  This almost makes up for the lack of snow.

(for more evidence of my culinary failure see also: breakfast from last week)

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——–

Do you have any have any holiday treats that promise results that are attractive enough to actually share with people?  Lay ’em on me.

Who You Callin’ Lady?!

The other day I was in Target (by myself–I can’t remember exactly what miraculous circumstances came together to make that possible but it was a glorious occasion indeed), speed-walking like I do when I’m alone and on a mission.  I edged past a woman pushing a cart, and she saw me and pulled her daughter gently out of my path.

“Watch out for that lady, honey.”

“Oh, you’re fine,” I said, flashing the pair a smile as I defaulted to my ‘extra accommodating and friendly to strangers’ persona like I do when I’m alone and in public.  Something about what she had said struck me as weird but it didn’t hit me until several full seconds later.

5…

4…

3…

2…

HEY.

I cocked my head to the side.  (Mentally, at least.  I did not in fact stop in the middle of the frozen foods aisle to tilt my head in a perplexed manner.)

I’m not ‘that lady‘!  I’m that girl!

It was a small lexical swap but for some reason it niggled at me.  I have spent the better part of the last 8 years being mistaken for a 16-year old.  It’s ingrained into my psyche.  Tell me about yourself:  I look like a high schooler.  People assume I’m babysitting when I’m out with my kids.  I only get hit on by boys that aren’t old enough to vote.  I am a girl, not a woman.

But somehow, sometime over the past decade, I became a woman.  And I guess I’m just wondering when exactly it happened because I seem to have missed it.

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Yesterday my mom and I went Christmas shopping.  After getting distracted at Target and a shoe store we went to the mall to actually buy some gifts for other people.  It was crawling with teenagers, and I realized as I observed them hanging in their groups and wearing their fashionable clothes and texting or whatever the hell else adolescents do on their nice phones these days that they were like a foreign species to me.

Wait.  When did I stop being able to relate to teenagers?

I used to get teenagers, used to feel like one of them.  When did I go from “HELLO, MY FELLOW ANGSTY BRETHREN!” to “Could you please explain to me the purpose of snapchat?”

I mean, I guess I am a woman.  I’ve been married for five and a half years and have two kids and I pay bills and go grocery shopping and have love handles and shit like that.

But in my head I still feel like that awkward, hopeful 16-year old girl.  The change happened so subtly that sometimes I still look around at my life and think, Okay, whose brilliant idea was it to give me all these adult responsibilities?

I wonder if you ever really feel grown up.  Maybe you don’t.  Maybe you don’t magically get everything figured out one day like I always assumed.  Maybe a lot of us are still teenagers in our minds, and we’re all just winging it through adulthood.

——-

Was there a defining moment when you suddenly felt “grown up”?  Or do you, like me, have serious doubts that you’ll ever actually qualify as an adult?

Sweet Nothings

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Game night with my husband and brother-in-law.

While they’re waiting for me to add up my score my bro-in-law pulls out his iphone and shows us a vine of his friend dancing spliced with some famous person in a music video for comparison.  She has pretty sweet moves and I’m inspired.

me:  hey maybe we should make a vine video of me dancing

husband:  and compare it to what, birthing a rhino?

There’s nothing quite like the honesty of longtime love.

But really.  My dance moves are pretty damn sweet.

And by sweet I mean horrifying.

I know what you’re going to say.  And yes, I’m available for weddings.

Open bar preferred.

Going for It: The Pixie Cut

The first time I really thought about going for the crop was when I met Cam.

She was stunning–in that blessedly effortless, natural way I’d always hoped I would somehow grow into.  Her flawless skin, piercing green eyes, and striking features didn’t need the cosmetic help that I had assumed was a standard part of every woman’s morning routine.  I rarely saw her with makeup on and never ceased to marvel at how striking she was.

And her hair–naturally dark and curly–was cropped so close to her head she didn’t have to style it at all.  I studied her in wonder, trying to figure out her secret–how did she pull off the gamine look and still manage to exude femininity and sex appeal?  Cam had a subtle confidence that was never abrasive or obnoxious.  She was just obviously comfortable in her own body and didn’t make a big deal out of appearances–hers or any one else’s.

How I envied that self-assurance.  I would have given anything at that time to be free of the anxiety and insecurities that clung to me like a too-tight second skin.

Fast forward a few years.  A few more of my friends had gotten pixie cuts, and they too looked sexy and carefree and amazing and I began to believe that maybe, just maybe, I could do it too.

Now perhaps at this point you’re thinking FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS VAIN, WOMAN!  IT’S JUST HAIR!

And you’d be right.  It is just hair.

And yet.

And yet we rely on it, to hide our faces (fellow girls with round cheeks, you feel me?) and make us feel attractive.  Long hair is beautiful, safe, expected.  Short hair is…well, it depends.  Definitely beautiful.  Not always expected.  And rarely safe.

I had worked hard to battle disordered eating and a shitty body image and conquered a lot of demons along the way.  I was no longer the shy, body-obsessed teenager who hid behind a curtain of long, painstakingly flatironed hair.

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I was stronger, more confident, and less obsessed over my perceived beauty.  I had pushed two 9 pound babies out of my body, damn it!  I was a woman!

And I was ready.

For months I googled obsessively.  I read blogs about pixie cuts.  I watched youtube videos about pixie cuts.  I measured my face shape and looked at endless pictures.  I waited and thought and planned and considered until–

I pushed aside my doubts (what if I hate it?) and worries (my face is too round!) and fears (I’ll look like a boy!), gave myself the requisite pre-haircut pep-talk (it’s just hair, it will grow out) and took the leap.  On December 18, 2012.

I was getting sick of my hair anyway–it was time for a change.  This is what I said goodbye to.

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And this is what I said hello to.

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In spite of my hairdresser’s reservations (“You’re sure you want to go that short…?”), I thought it turned out awesome.  And I was so, so proud of myself.

———-

What’s the biggest hair risk you’ve ever taken?  Have you considered the pixie plunge?

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year–and I’m Ruining It for Everyone

I love the end of the year.

Autumn (when you don’t live in Arizona, at least) always feels like a delicious preview of the upcoming season.  I love the sweaters and the hoodies and the cold cheeks and the scarves.  I love the wool socks (I have never actually owned a pair but I recently appropriated my husband’s and they are fantastic) and the hot baths and the switch from iced to burn-your-tastebuds coffee.  I love sipping anything from a mug as I pretend to contemplate the mysteries of the universe.

I love decking the hell out of the halls by draping every window and entrance in christmas lights, and I love being the first one to wake up so I can plug them all in and bask in their comforting glow.

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super hi-qual photo of our rather mangy-looking christmas tree. you can see a heavy distribution of ornaments right about the level that two preschoolers can reach.

I look forward to this last stretch, packed with festivity and wintry comforts, all year long.

And this year, I might just miss the whole thing.

Due to a lack of foresight and general on-the-ball-ness on my part (note to all: get your damn prescriptions filled WELL BEFORE they run out), I have been slowly deteriorating from certified functioning adult to weepy, irritable, anxiety-ridden mess that is pretty much the antithesis of all things Christmas and cheer.

I have been miserable, you guys.  And unfortunately, due to my utter lack of believable acting skills, I have been making my misery so apparent as to ruin every family function I attend.  (My deepest apologies to all who have had to share space with me the last few weeks.)

I went with family (my little nuclear + some extended) to see the Zoo Lights the other night.  It was magical.  Thousands of beautiful light displays, Christmas music, merriment and mingling…there was even a giant talking giraffe that my boys regarded with equal parts fascination and terror.  (note to self: add threats about possible future visitations from the aforementioned terrifying giraffe into discipline repertoire.)

Any other time (under the proper medication), I would have loved it.  That time, however…let’s just say I was not up to par.

We went on a Wednesday night, hoping to avoid the weekend crowds, but there were PEOPLE. EVERYWHERE.  Everyone was milling about in a festive sort of chaos, and I froze.  Standing in the midst of the laughing, chatty multitude, surrounded by flashing lights and the shouts of parents chasing after children, I could feel myself withdrawing, shutting down.

Too loud. Too much noise.

Anxiety unfurling, stretching itself out in my chest.

So many people.  Rushing past, bumping into me please don’t touch me. Other people I’m supposed to be paying attention to, interacting with, at least walking in pace with.  Go catch up to them, dammit!  They already think you’re avoiding them.

Arms folding tightly, head bowing slightly.  Walking a little faster.

All the noise, filling up my head.  I can’t think.  I can’t focus. Someone just asked me a question. Pay attention. What? 

“Oh, nothing.  I’m fine.”  Tight smile.  What is wrong with you? Stop acting so ungrateful!  You can do better than this!  “The lights. They’re…so beautiful, right?  Must’ve taken forever to put them up.”  Attempt a laugh.  “Heh heh…heh.”  Shit. I’m terrible at this.  

Over the foggy din in my head I recognize that my mom is asking me about our Christmas plans.  Where do we want to do Sunday dinner?  Christmas Eve dinner?  Christmas dinner?  When can we pick up the boys’ presents?  Are we going to spend the night for Christmas or just come over the next morning?

The questions are floating around in my head, expanding and crowding it, bouncing off of each other and I can’t make sense of any of them.  The inability to make decisions is a lovely side-effect of anxiety (recent experiences include the time I spent a paralyzed 30 minutes in the soup aisle at Target agonizing over the ramifications of picking one of two nearly identical cans of tomato soup.  TOMATO SOUP, PEOPLE.)

“Can…can I get back to you on that?”  Can’t think.  Family dinner, Christmas plans?  Too many factors to consider.  Why do I have to make this decision? I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know.  I wish I wasn’t here.  They’re giving me those looks and asking if I’m okay and why can’t I just suck it up and act normally for the family?

Anxiety is a bitch, man.

And it turns me into a bitch.  I start hating everyone and everything; the slightest noises or accidental touches become unforgivable offenses to my very person.  This makes me very difficult to be around.  And lucky for all of us, I’ve been an absolute beast this entire holiday season.

Of course everything was fine.  We all enjoyed the night and got home safely.  Children were put to bed and drinks were made (at the urging of my husband.  In a pinch, alcohol can be marvelous for anxiety).  I chilled out enough to be functional and we endured watched all 87 minutes (commercial-free!) of Psych: the Musical.

When I was lamenting my ruination of the Zoo Lights experience to a friend the next day, she told me exactly what I needed to hear.

“Don’t freak out about it.  Sometimes, you’re going to have a hard time, and you’re going to feel anxious and shitty and it’s okay.  It’s just okay.  Your family loves you and they’ll understand and forgive you.”

I thought about it.  I suppose being an asocial ass sometimes isn’t the end of the world.

I guess it really is…just okay.

And I guess my family really is eager for me to get back on my meds, if the gentle and frequent reminders to “make that doctor’s appointment so you can get your prescription!” are any indication.

———-

If you made it through that novella I’d love to hear your stories.  Has anxiety ever ruined any holidays for you?  Do you find yourself putting off making important appointments for no logical reason?  Have you ever used the authority of an imaginary character to threaten your child(ren) into obedience?

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