Diet

Diet was a four letter word when I was growing up. Dieting was a self-destructive cycle that hinged on a disordered relationship with food and wellness. They were the quack schemes of the body image world, the motivation being a “get skinny quick” fix that had little to do with actual health. My understanding and opinion of dieting hasn’t changed, but the clarity of what a diet is has become increasingly confusing. Diet also basically means-what you eat. I’m not ON a diet, but I have changed my diet. …But does being intentional about my food automatically make me on a diet? Is the only way to avoid the black hole of food obsession to embrace all foods whenever, however, and however much I want? I just need to love my body, no matter how unhealthy it gets, and not think at all about what I’m eating past the pleasure it gives me while consuming it?

The past two weeks of Hammer and Chisel the honeymoon phase of good nutrition wore off completely and I’ve been struggling to stay on track. As I’ve struggled I’ve wondered quite simply SHOULD I be struggling? Am I becoming obsessed with food? Is the temptation to eat “just one more cracker” really a temptation? Or is it a warning flag telling me that I’m becoming neurotic about portion control and I need to ease off before I head into a self destructive spiral? Am I simply overthinking this?

So the second part of my nutrition reflections is an uncomfortable revelation for me. It is the Lenten season-something that I have participated in for awhile even though I am not Catholic-and in this past year especially I have been working hard on adjusting my priorities to make my family truly Christ centered. Becoming a parent changes your awareness on so many levels, and never have I thirsted more for a solid relationship with my Savior than in the midst of panicking over my responsibilities as a mom. My choices of sacrifices for this Lent reflects that, and boy has it opened my eyes.

In a nutshell, I worship the pleasure of food. Mind, body, and soul, I love food. The taste, the texture, the sensation-food is glorious. When I started this clean eating journey I went from indulging in a box of girl scout cookies in one sitting and hot dogs for breakfast to reading labels at the store, meal planning at night, food prepping during nap,and taking pride in my culinary progress and the healthy food provided for my family. There is nothing wrong with eating clean, meal planning/prepping, enjoying food, etc., etc., -until there is. The thing is, whether it’s cookies or grapes, I just can’t resist having “one more” because I want “one more”. I could be way past comfortably full and I still have a hard time cutting myself off. Add into that an actual portioned meal plan that has me thinking about food constantly and I have set food on an alter by giving it importance beyond what it deserves.

Wait, what? I know, I know, seems completely contradictory. Let me try and explain.

I believe eating healthy, balanced, and properly portioned is crucial for total wellness.

Eating in such a manner requires planning, preparation, and knowledge. It requires intention and yes, discipline.

BUT. When meal planning edges out Bible study, when food prep causes me to snarl at my children, when I feel pressured to be pushing my skills in the kitchen because of “clean” recipes I find online, when I spend more time during my day thinking on or handling food than time with my children, my husband, my God-there is a problem. And the problem, for me, is that I worship the pleasure food brings. I enjoy food so much it trumps more important aspects of my life. I couldn’t resist browsing Pinterest for recipes anymore than I could resist snacking while I read a favorite book.

We like to think of money as the major tripper upper of false idols-and it’s definitely a big one-but in this land of plenty I wonder how many of us consume our idols at the table. Like I said, this was an eye opener for me, but I am SO GLAD my eyes have been opened. Yes, I have a struggle ahead of me to place food where it belongs, but even as the balance is just beginning to right itself already our home is calmer and happier for it.

Food is good, God is better.

 

 

From the Nutrition Trenches

I had a challenger sum up the struggle a lot of us face in adulthood in a simple sentence, “I finally realized I can’t out exercise my diet.” We like to blame our inability to find time to workout as the reason we struggle with our health. This was totally me! “Sure, I exercise-but I am already pretty thin I don’t really need a meal plan, I just need to exercise more. Ok, so these last few pounds of baby weight are being stubborn, but that is just because I can’t run as much as I’d like. FINE, I’m a little tired and headachy, and prone to sinus infections and strep, but that’s just the weather, or hormones, or you know, life. Whatever. I just need more cardio.”

You know the saying “Abs are made in the kitchen”? Well, it’s true. But a better one is, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” You know where prevention happens? In the kitchen. What you eat matters, folks. A LOT.

And I totally get why people fight against this concept. For one, sure balancing food groups has always been imperative for optimal physical health, but a hundred years ago what was available to eat was a LOT different from today-a hundred years ago people were mostly still eating food. Convenience food changed the game, it has so screwed up the typical Western diet that we have to have a label (clean eating) for eating actual food. The problem with convenience food is that quite simply a lot of it ISN’T food. I have nothing against chemicals or modern medicine or technology-but chemicals that aren’t food, well, they AREN’T FOOD.

My youngest son tries to eat everything. For awhile I found mulch that had passed through his system in his diaper on a weekly basis. I continued to try and prevent him from getting into the garden. Why? Because mulch isn’t food, people. Sure, he managed to pass it (THANK GOODNESS) but that doesn’t make it food! Not only is there no nutritive value to mulch, but his body had to work to process it and filter out any toxins that existed in the dye or from simply being outside in the garden. So much of what is in processed food isn’t food anymore (or ever was) and it puts a strain on your body’s systems as it tries to filter out all the foreign crap-just like my son eating mulch-and your body get’s very little for it’s efforts. We’ve tried to cheat the system by stripping foods of all their nutrients so that they can be convenient and quick, pack them full of fat, sugar, and salt so that they don’t taste like the cardboard they’re reduced to, and then we just dump a bunch of chemically synthesized vitamins in at the end to try and make up for it. Never mind that our bodies don’t process synthesized vitamins as well as those found in the natural form-we mark it “Enriched!” and use it as a selling point.

People look at you like you must be some die hard health nut when you talk about “clean eating” but if you think about it, NOT eating “clean” is a fairly recent phenomenon. I’m eating food, guys. That’s all. I season it with spices and herbs, I cook it with oil or steam or dry heat, I chop it, I slice it, sometimes all I do is rinse it off. It’s not weird, it’s food.

You know what? You can still eat unhealthily while eating clean. I can (and sometimes do, haha) make desserts that are “clean” that are just as loaded with sugar and fat and deliciousness. My portions can still be completely out of whack. I could get completely overweight but still be eating clean-it would just take more effort. And THAT is where the rub comes in.

People like to blame gluttony and poor impulse control/lack of willpower for the expanding waistlines and rapidly rising disease rates all around us-but the truth is gluttony is only half the problem, and sometimes I don’t think it’s even that much. The real problem is laziness. We’re completely disconnected from the work it takes to make food, and if we are honest with ourselves-we really don’t want to reconnect.

Case in point-when I decided to stop buying store bought bread and to only eat the stuff I made from scratch-I ate a LOT less bread. Every slice was weighed and considered. And absolutely savored. Making bread is time consuming, and I knew as soon as I ate the last loaf I’d have to make more. I gravitate towards simple recipes because of the time commitment that many recipes take. The end results of complex recipes are often stunningly delicious-but I am more often than not unwilling to spend that much time preparing. I know I’m not the only one who is lazy when it comes to food.

BreadBite

Bread straight from the oven = Heaven. On. Earth.

Many women seem to take pride in their hatred for the culinary arts-and as a backlash against society I get it, but it’s not healthy. And men seem to have this weird “if it’s not grilling it’s not manly” vibe going on that-not being a man-I totally don’t understand. Regardless, it isn’t healthy. I’m not saying everyone has to “love cooking”, but when we talk about making food as something we can “choose” to do or not based simply on how much we enjoy it, we’re thinking about food completely wrong. You don’t have to love prepping food (I don’t), you don’t have to feel bliss as you season soup, or joy as you roast a chicken, or bubbles of wonderment as you lay the labor of your hands on the dinner table. None of those things are necessary for your life. Food, however, you must eat. And to be kind to your body you should try to eat as little “not food” as you can. This means you will have to prep food, and will probably want to cook it, and season it, and make it taste ok. The place this typically happens is the kitchen. It doesn’t require love or hate, making food should simply be a fact of life.

With that said-I’m still lazy, or well, time conscious. With two adorable ankle biters howling around my knees every time I set foot in the kitchen, I still prefer quick foods. And you can still have that and eat clean and healthily. I eat fruits straight out of the fridge-takes less then 5 seconds to grab a handful of grapes or an apple or strawberries or whatever. I scramble eggs almost daily. Just two eggs with some dill. No milk, no chopped veggies, no anything but eggs and herbs. 10 minutes tops. I eat red peppers without slicing them-like one oddly lumpy vegetable apple. You can’t tell me that the drive through is quicker than half the stuff I eat-because it isn’t. And half the “quick and easy” boxed meals take longer then the dinners I choose plus they taste half as good.

RedPepperSelfieFail

Trying (and failing, haha) to get a boys and me selfie. Notice the red pepper? Mmmm yum!

Give food a chance, people. Give cooking a chance. Don’t set out to make a three course meal, just learn how to make eggs the way you like them. Figure out your favorite fruit. Discover where your aversion to spending time in the kitchen comes from-society pressures, bad experiences, impossible expectations-and take steps to correct it. You might be surprised at how easy it is to eat well when you step back and get out of your own way. 😉

Throwing in the Towel

We made it to the end! Last on the list for what not to say to children about food-is when we, the parents, give up. And although this list is about “saying” things to kids, you don’t always have to say anything. If you realize your two year old is not eating dinner so you leave the table and make something you know they’ll eat that is different from what everyone else is eating, well, you’ve encouraged them to stay picky. You’ve told them that they don’t actually ever have to try new foods, they will always get what they want.

Ouch. This one is a tough habit to break. I don’t know any parents that like dealing with a cranky, hungry toddler. I also don’t know a lot of parents that are adept at creating meals every night with enough side dishes to please everyone. This is where my slice of bread at night thing comes in handy. The slice comes at least an hour after dinner-so it isn’t an immediate, “here, let me feed you something else” and despite the amount of dinner consumed they only ever get one slice and that is the only pre bed snack they get. Cade can choose butter or no butter, Zane gets PB and honey. It’s part of their routine-they’re offered bread an hour after a good dinner (which often isn’t eaten completely) and bread an hour after a not so good dinner, and it helps take the edge of the hunger from a not well eaten dinner so that they at least fall asleep at night. Now, if they didn’t eat much at dinner they usually wake up ready to eat off my face if I don’t get oatmeal provided quickly enough, but hey, that’s life with toddlers. And so far, Cade is still a more adventuresome eater then a lot of two year olds. Tonight he actually tried chicken and red beets in goat cheese. He didn’t eat a lot-although he licked all of the “pink!” cheese-and he was more interested in trying to cut the chicken then consume it BUT he tried it.

I may phase this “pre bed” snack out, regardless, because I really want to encourage my boys to eat a variety of foods-but it’s a nice fall back for when I forget to make them a side at dinner that I know they’ll eat. And if I do it ONLY when I forget to make them a side at dinner, then I feel like I AM reinforcing the idea that they’ll always get what they want. But if I do it consistently around 7-730 and it is always the same thing, then it seems more like normal routine and less like “something special”. Like, when the boys don’t eat a big lunch-for whatever reason-but the typical snack they get when they wake up is a banana. They like bananas-but I’m not reinforcing that they don’t need to eat lunch since the banana doesn’t happen AT lunch.

Does that make any sense? Lol. Anyway. I am relieved that I have made it to the end of this list. I love reading Maryann’s blog, but this consistent posting thing is not my forte-especially this time of year. I’ll keep working on it, though, and maybe get a few recipes up. 🙂

Guilty Pleasures

Number 9! “We don’t eat cake often because it is bad for you.” 

Now the child equates pleasure with “being bad”. Womp womp. This falls under the category of “food judging/labeling” but I like that she includes all of the different nuances of judging on her list, because too often we think, “well, I don’t do it blatantly or like so and so does, so it’s ok…” when the literature points to the contrary. With eating disorders and child obesity on the rise, it’s important to stop equivocating and start putting a tiny grain of faith in the research. This particular method of judgement is crucial, in my opinion, because it can so easily extend to other areas besides food. “Well, if all the food I like that tastes delicious are BAD for me, then these other things I like must be bad…and THEN well if a thing is BAD then it must be pleasurable.” Uh oh.

End story here people: food is food is food. At our house, “Food gives us energy and strength.” ALL food. From cupcakes to carrots. That is ALL I say about food to the kids. Internally, of course, I’m trying to slant the victory towards fruits and veggies, but I do this WITHOUT telling them. I am not talking about sneaking vegetables into dinner-Maryann actually address the problems associated with this method in a different article here-I’m talking about eating lots of healthy food in front of them and making all sorts of (genuine) “yum yum!” noises the same as if I am eating cake. I’m talking about not keeping cookies, crackers, or less nutritionally desirable food in the house so that when it comes to snack time their (and my!) only options are somewhat healthy.

The suggestion made for this particular scenario is to explain that we only eat cake sometimes-like at parties or celebrations- and that we’ll have more cake then. We do this with the boys and bread. I monitor their bread intake because too much and-not only do they eat less fruits and veggies-they also don’t poop. So all wheat based products get limited throughout the day. However, I make my own bread so I don’t feel bad giving them a piece consistently. They may get a piece during the day, but they almost always get a piece as a pre bed time snack. So if Cade asks for bread first thing, I simply say, “No, bud, it’s oatmeal time. We’ll have bread tonight before bed.” I repeat it however many times I need to, but usually just once is enough to satisfy and we don’t have to label anything.

Tomorrow will be the last post on picky eaters! If you want more pretty cool tips and tricks, follow the Raise Healthy Eaters blog! (And no, she doesn’t pay me to advertise, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even know my tiny blog exists, haha. Still! Good stuff. 🙂 )

Judgement

This is probably one of those things that sneaks into conversation without anyone even realizing it. 7th on the list of 10 Things You Should Never Say To Your Child About Food is the commonplace, “Eat this, it’s good for you.” This, unfortunately, backfires and basically tells the kid that it’s going to taste awful. I find that any judgement about food is bad. Don’t say food is bad, don’t say food is good, don’t try and convince children that vegetables will give them super powers, or anything along those lines. Setting up food as good or bad just invites an unhealthy perspective on food-like guilt and shame, or the reverse a sense of “rightness” or moral superiority-all centered around one of the basic needs of life.

At our house, food is food. I do say things like, “food give us energy.” but I don’t say things like, “carrots are good for your eyesight” or the reverse “French fries can make you fat”. There is no good and bad, no healthy vs unhealthy dialogue between the boys and I. Now I DO pick foods that I believe are healthy, I DO think there are foods that are better for your body, and I try to present balanced meals. We generally don’t keep less nutritionally desirable foods in the house, so we don’t really have to fight this battle at home. When we eat, we talk pretty much only about taste. “Mmmm mommy likes this. Do you like yours, Cade?” “Do you think this is tasty?” Cade answers yes or no and their is no judgement for either response. If he says No it’s just an, “Ok, well Mommy will eat it then because she likes it. Would you like this?” Food is food is food. However, when we go out to get ice cream or get a hashbrown or fries at McDonalds, the tone of voice and conversation remains the same. Food is food is food. When the boys are older we can start slowly talking about nutrition, but there will be no food shaming. I like French fries on the rare occasion. So I eat them. I like peach pie, too. And cake. And a Dairyman from Hickory Farms (helloooooo cheese!). And I don’t feel guilt or shame when I eat any of the above-despite them not being a superfood omega 3 fatty acid antioxidant vitamin powerhouse fighting cancer food, or whatever.

Don’t tell your kids vegetables are good for them. Don’t even say it around them. Don’t judge food.

Praise

Past the halfway point! Number 6 on our list is praising children for eating more than usual at a meal. Now, some parents don’t say “Good Job” ever-but we aren’t those parents. We do try to encourage without an endless stream of banal “Good Jobs” floating after every accomplishment, and I definitely engage with the boys and ask them questions about what they accomplished or ways to do it differently or how it felt or blabbity blah. I can’t seem to help myself with that, it’s just the natural course of interacting with toddlers. BUT we do use Good Job on occasion, because sometimes I think kids need to know when a job is well done, and I don’t think it is a horror or a sin to have them seek parental approval. Ahem, that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.

On this one, Maryann is specifically addressing any sort of praise after a large meal. This continues to mess with the child’s understanding of internal hunger cues as their desire to please overrides their body’s needs. We don’t say good job at the end of meals, in fact, we don’t say it much at all during the dinner. If anything it is at the beginning. If I offer Cade a new food and he tries it I praise him. He doesn’t have to eat all the rest of the food on his plate, and each subsequent bite doesn’t get praise, it’s just that initial taste. And then I ask him how it tastes, whether he liked it, what other things he likes, etc., etc., etc. So this one isn’t a struggle for us. I do sometimes get a little nervous about how little the boys eat at meals, but I am more likely to be guilty of food pushing. If they eat a lot I’m just relieved, ha, and don’t say anything at all in case I jinx it.

Not Just For Kids

“If you eat your veggies, then you can have dessert.” ….This, to me, is a two things in one on “what not to say about food” and I think it really needs to be struck from not just our dialogue but also our thought process. This 1.) makes veggies a chore and 2.) dessert a reward. Leave food rewarding to dog trainers, don’t teach it to your kids, but better yet, examine your own mindset.

This is THE way society views food. Health bars that are “guilt free!” (there should be no guilt to begin with). “You won’t believe it’s good for you, tastes just like dessert!” (So, things that are good for you automatically taste horrible). The number of commercials with women practically making love to tiny cups of yogurt compared to others staring woefully at wilted salads in their quest to “be healthy”…This mentality that vegetables taste gross and if you do something good you should reward yourself with sweets is ingrained into the fabric of this culture. Statements like this make vegetables work. A chore to be done. Business to get through. A task to survive. And dessert is made MORE desirable by making it a reward. Believe me, people, we don’t need any help in making dessert desirable-it’s flipping delicious. We-the entire human race- are always going to enjoy the taste of sugar (and how it lights up the happy places in our brain).

But vegetables don’t taste gross (at least not all of them. I’ve yet to meet a pea that I didn’t DIDN’T like). They may not taste like a triple chocolate lava cake- but that doesn’t make them automatically gross. Or even work. Your child will be flooded with this idea that vegetables are work and dessert is the best thing ever- keep it away from your own dinner table. Maryann suggests saying the veggies taste like “x food” that the child likes, and above all to model healthy vegetable eating.

This is not easy for me. The idea that vegetables are work has been my mindset for years. Even though I naturally do LIKE some vegetables, I think of them as “not really food”.  Ridiculous. Since having Cade and Zane my vegetable intake has increased and I am slowly, painstakingly changing the way I view them. From zucchini noodles to eggplant (which I really, really like) to the typical steamed side of broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower, veggies are making a regular appearance at the dinner table-and throughout the day. So far it seems to be working. We talk about vegetables in the same manner that we talk about icecream. Tonight Cade requested more carrots to eat during TV time. I really think the fact that I eat veggies around them all the time is the biggest influence on both boys’ veggie eating habits. And we don’t have dessert at the house, although we do go out for icecream on occasion. There are no cookies, no cakes or pies or candy…pretty lame, I know, but the boys seem to be thriving just fine.

So this No No is a big one, folks, and it’s for adults as well as children. There is nothing wrong with enjoying food, including dessert, and it should be completely guilt free (unless you’ve swiped the last piece of pie from your sister, or something, SHAME ON YOU). Vegetables are food, too, and they can taste good. Toddlers may never be vociferous vegetable eaters-and that’s ok-but don’t turn them into vegetable haters.