Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Being My Own Beloved

Working with clients in my private practice, one of the things that always comes up at some point is the issue of body image. As a clinician, I'm curious to learn how people's body image affects their eating habits.  I often tell my clients, "Improving or changing your body image will take time. There is no quick fix and it may happen slowly but you can improve it."  As someone who as struggled with chronic dieting the disordered eating habits that resulted from it, I have my own experience with body image as well.  Personally and professionally, I think about the tangible things that we can do to help improve how we see and relate to our body.

As part of the Dietitians Unplugged Podcast I co-host with Glenys Oyston, RD, we recently were excited to interview Vivienne McMaster who runs an online program called Be Your Own Beloved. Her program is a 30-day course (she offers shorter and longer courses too) that encourage people to make peace with how they see themselves in images.  We interviewed her because I have had some clients who participated in her program in the past and they had nothing but great things to say about it. We also thought it would be great to share with our listeners in the hopes of exposing more people to the great work she does.  In talking to Vivienne, I was struck with how she encouraged the participants not to judge the photo taking process but instead to approach it with curiosity. When we got close to ending the interview, my podcast partner and I agreed that we should enroll in her next 30-day course.

I started the 30-day course on July 1 and it works like this: each day, Vivienne emails the group with a prompt.  The prompts are simple and you are free to interpret them in any way you like. With that, information you are off to start taking pictures.  What is really nice is that Vivienne sets up a private online group where you can post your photos (if you choose to) for other participants to see. The support you get from others in the program is very encouraging and helps build your confidence right away.

As a participant,  Be Your Own Beloved is quite helpful in getting you to process your own body image feelings in a gentle and safe way.  Because of my own personal work in the Health at Every Size® and Intuitive Eating, I've developed some tools to improve how I see my body, but it is still a work in progress for sure. It hasn't always been like that though. Up until fairly recently, I have struggled with very poor body image. Since high school, I remember thinking I was never muscular enough, never thin enough. I was too curvy, too flabby and always ashamed of my "love handles."  I have finally started to make peace with my body.  I'll be honest, I still struggle with body image.  There are good days and there are bad ones.  But overall, I've learned to appreciate my body more today than I did before.  Pictures have always bothered me and, especially as I struggle with accepting my body as it is, because photos have always been a true reflection with how others see you.

At the time of writing this blog, I'm about half way through the program and I wanted to share some of what I have already learned.  The images that I've taken have been some of the best selfies I've ever been in.  There are some days that I don't want to participate.  Some days my inner critic is very loud, telling me I'm not good enough or this is too hard.  Those are the days that I make it a point to be open to the process.  Those are the days that I am sure to challenge my inner critic and, over time, hope to make it much quieter.  I've also learned that curiosity must be a part of my consciousness.  At Vivienne's advice, I take a ton of pictures and that is so helpful. I don't judge them, I just take the pictures with curiosity responding to the daily prompt and just see what comes of it.  There are usually 1 or 2 gems in the 40 or so pictures I take.  As one of the only men participating in the group, I find that I've also learned how to read the daily prompt and make it mine.  I think that just because mostly women participate in the program, there tends to be a feminine quality to the images that are shared.  At first I tried to copy that notion but realized, hey, that is not me.  So with each prompt, I make sure to add my own interpretation.

This is something that has been personally and professionally amazing. Personally, it is a tool that is helping heal my body image.  Professionally, I have found a resource to recommend to my clients. I would tell them that it can be a transformative experience that will begin to heal your body image, to have a safe space to explore difficult issues.  I would tell them that Vivienne is kind, compassionate and knows how to help you on this journey.

I'm sharing some of the pictures I've taken.  I hope you enjoy them.  Some are vulnerable, some are fun but I'm sharing them so that you can see part of my process.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I've had taking them.




























Sunday, July 10, 2016

My Response to Camp Shane Weight Loss Camps

I got the following email recently and rather than letting it linger in my inbox or just delete it, I've decided to blog about it and post my response online.  Read the original email and my response below. 

 Hello Aaron Flores,

Camp Shane is the longest running weight loss camp in the world, with 48 years of experience and expertise in the fight against childhood obesity. Including six camps nationwide, we also own and operate an adult diet program.

If you are interested, we would love the opportunity to provide you with original content to publish on your site or blog, at no charge to you. With nine registered dietitians on staff, we have unlimited information to share. 

To see samples of our writing, please view our blog. Virtually every post is original.

http://www.campshane.com/blog/ covers a wide array of topics for kids, young adults, and families. This includes:
  • Childhood Obesity/The Problem and Solutions
  • Nutrition Tips/Recipes
  • Fitness Tips/Exercise Suggestions
  • Healthy Lifestyle Suggestions
  • Featured Articles from Licensed Staff

Additionally, we have several high ranking websites that we would be able to feature you on as well.

We hope to have the opportunity to speak with you further about a potential partnership, and look forward to your reply!

Best regards,


The Camp Shane Team

Dear Camp Shane,

Thank you for taking the time to reach out to me and offering me free content to publish on my site.  
In my work, I never promote any sort of weight loss strategies, especially for children.  I believe in Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size® principles and use them extensively in my practice. If these topics are unfamiliar to you, I recommend you do research about both using the links above.  

If you would have emailed me 10 years ago, I would have jumped at the chance to explore a partnership.  I too used to promote weight loss as a primary strategy towards improving health.  I probably would have been so ecstatic that I might have even asked to work with you. But I've changed a lot since then.  I've come to see, not only in myself but in the research, how a focus on weight-loss and restrictive eating habits only leads to disordered eating patterns and future weight gain.  

Aside from the unhealthful relationship with food, the stigma of being in a larger body is something that is caused from our focus on weight and our "one size fits all" mentality.  After all, what we are really teaching people when we encourage them to lose weight is: "Your body is not right; you need to fix it."  

When it comes to kids, putting them on any sort of diet where weight loss is the goal might be the worse thing we can do for them.  We are setting them up for a life-time of disordered eating habits, body shame and weight stigma.  I know you'll probably say, "Our program works!"  Show me the data--not the 6-months,1 year or 2 years after data--show me the 5+ year data.  I am guessing that if we looked, we'd see a vast majority of former campers gain their weight back.  You might say, "But it worked for some." But what about the majority?  Should we really employ strategies that only help the minority of people and ignore the negative effects on the majority?  

I'm kindly going to reject your initial offer, but I'm giving you a counter offer.  If you are still willing to be a partner, I'm game, but I am going to be the one to supply you with the content, not the other way around.  I'll write articles for you on a weekly or monthly basis that will focus on ditching the diet mentality, stopping the focusing on weight loss, learning to love your body no matter what shape it is, and developing a positive fun relationship with food.  I'm sure I can inspire your readers and campers to develop body-positive behaviors that will lead to long-term health, without ever focusing on a scale or encouraging them to lose weight.

I'm going to leave you with this thought.  Instead of focusing on fixing the problem of, "childhood obesity," what if we start to adopt the philosophy: there is no problem that needs fixing!  That's right, we don't need to see "weight" as a something that needs to be fixed, worked on, or changed.

To your campers, my message is this: "We come in all different shapes and sizes.  Expecting that we should "fit" within one idealized body type is just wrong. Your body is beautiful just the way it is.   There are no bad foods and no bad bodies.  Moving your body is fun and is not a punishment for what you ate." 

I look forward to hearing your response to my proposal,
Aaron Flores, RDN

Monday, July 4, 2016

Sorry, My Privilege Got In the Way!

I have a confession to make, I've been saying something offensive for some time.  I'm guilty, no way to hide it and no excuses. I used to say it all the time and I can remember being proud of exposing this type of "issue" to clients or groups. So what did I say that was so wrong?  It was this: "Fat is the last form of acceptable discrimination."

Now before you pass judgement on me, just read a little more, please.

How did I learn that this phrase was offensive?  Let's go back to May of 2016.  I was at an eating disorder conference and this phrase came up in the middle of a weight stigma/bias presentation.  One of the presenters said this phrase and a fellow RD, whom I have a lot of respect for, stormed out of the room.  Her frustration and anger was so intense that she needed to remove herself from the room. The words clearly offended her in a very deep way.  I thought of what I might do if I were in front of the room and had seen my words affect someone so deeply.  What if I said something that offended someone so much that they had to leave the room? I had said these words so many times without thinking how it might offend someone.  What if there were other words I was saying or beliefs I was espousing that were equally as offensive? I sat in the presentation and started to get very uncomfortable.  It was a feeling that permeated through my body and I realized that my privilege as a straight white male, had done it again.  "Privilege" is a word that has been bouncing around in my head for a short-while now.  And what I mean by short-while is that as a 43 (nearly 44) year-old man, I have probably spent 41 of those years (mostly) oblivious to my privileged status in society.  I've only recently become aware of how, as a straight white male, I'm living the game of life on the easiest setting possible.  I might have been aware of my privilege but only until the past few years have I really started to understand and accept it as it relates to society and to my work as a dietitian.

So there I am, sitting in this conference, struggling with privilege.  Realizing that in my life, on the "easy setting," I don't see some things that are going on around me. I don't feel or live with or experience the discrimination that happens every day to people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community or any of the other marginalized voices in our society.  I won't see it unless I start to open my eyes.

After the conference session, I went out for a cupcake with a colleague I respect very much. I've only met her in person a couple of times but she is the type of person who makes you feel instantly comfortable and understands all the different issues that come up within the Health at Every Size® community.  So who better to talk to about my uneasiness and privilege than her? (I'm looking at you Carmen Cool). There we are, sitting down to cupcakes and blurt out something to the effect of: "I've been saying this phrase for so long and I never thought it would be so upsetting to someone else.  I can understand now how upsetting it might be as I see there are still so many 'acceptable' ways people are discriminated against, but as a person of privilege, how do I do better, ask questions and not be offending people whom I respect?" I can't remember her exact words with how she answered me but I can remember that it was concise and honest.  She said that by having conversations like the one we were having in that moment is how you do better!  Being open and understanding my privilege, not denying it, is how I start to be an ally.  I have found in my work as an advocate for Health at Every Size® and exposing weight stigma in our society, there are times when I'm too scared to say something for fear of offending someone that is marginalized or oppressed.  But what my wise friend taught me is that being open, admitting your willingness to learn, discuss, see and hear the other side is how we do better.

Speaking with respect to weight stigma, too often we just deny there is a problem.  We say, "Well, I don't see it," or "How can that be?" or even, "If you just lost weight, you wouldn't have this problem."  Those comments reflect a thought pattern that is very dangerous.  It's the argument that because you have not experienced it, you think it doesn't exist.  That is the same argument the oppressors have used when discussing issues of race or sexual orientation.  "It isn't discrimination or racist or oppressive because I don't see it that way."  Of course you don't, you have different privilege.

I'm learning.  I am a work in progress. "Easy setting" living does't mean I can't work every day to better understand how my privilege might cloud my perception of someone else's reality.  It doesn't mean I can't understand or be willing to change or be open to the discussion.  We need more safe spaces (like the one I had with my friend/colleague) to be vulnerable to each other and share our stories and not just hear, but really listen to someone else's story.

I'm going to leave you with quote I saw on Facebook by Tigress Osborn, a fat activist from Oakland, California.  It has helped me gain perspective on how I can be a better ally and if I'm going to frame weight as a social justice issue (which it totally is), then I need to be a better ally to all movements, not just the one I identify with.  That is intersectionality and learning to see the big picture.

Do not let your friends use the phrase "fat is the last acceptable prejudice." The way to heighten awareness of fat discrimination is NOT by belittling other forms of prejudice. Fat people experience discrimination far beyond "people were mean to me" and that shit is REAL and needs to be understood and stood up against. But claiming that we live in a culture where fat hatred is allowed and other hatred is not is some super privileged bullshit to say, and if you actually think that is true, you are not paying attention. If you've been saying that, no. Just no. "But if they said that about Blacks/gays/women/...." Nope. Still no. First of all, they still do. See, for example, the entire internet. Second of all, if your standard for liberation and equality is based exclusively on media visibility and social tolerance for saying mean things without repercussion, you need to come up with a better standard of freedom. Cuz when "they" can't tell jokes about you on tv anymore but they can still run you out of your neighborhood, rape you in scores while no one gives a damn, and shoot you in the street and shrug, it is not a diversity utopia where everyone but fat people are free. Stop. Saying. That. Shit.  -- Tigress - iofthetigress.com

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I'm back!

It has been way too long for me to post something to this site. There is so many reasons for not posting but after a long conversation with my wife last night, I finally realized why I'm not writing.  It's fear!  Fear of finding and using my voice.  Fear that my voice might not be accepted.  Fear that I might say something that offends you.  Fear that no one will listen.  Fear that I don't have anything to say.

I know I'm not alone. I am sure there some of you out there reading this that know what it's like to live with the voice of fear constantly speaking in your ear.  That voice holds us back from so much.  It keeps us from trying new things, from going outside our comfort zone and from perusing our dreams.

Well last night, I realized that I have a voice.  I have something to say and it is something important.  I am sorry if it offends you or makes you uncomfortable.  I am sorry if it challenges your assumptions about health, healthy bodies and eating.  What I need to say is bigger than just a small private practice in Los Angeles.  It is a message that needs to be heard by everyone.  I need to add my voice to the many colleagues that I respect and admire.  I am joining them in a revolution to change how we, as a society, see our bodies and how we define health.

I'm back to join a movement to stop the oppression of people who are in bodies that society says do not fit and to say, we are here, and we deserve to be heard.

Change is coming and I am going to be a part of it.

I have a voice, and I'm going to make it heard.  I will be unabashedly honest and I'm sorry if that bothers you.  I owe it to myself, to my family and to my profession to use my voice to help us change.

I'm back baby and guess what, I think you're going to love it!

I know fear will always be there, but like I've told clients before, we never mute the voice, we must make the competing voices louder.  So here's to courage, bravery and vulnerability.  Fear can bite me!

In the coming months, you can look forward to more frequent posts on topics that might be difficult to discuss, read or share but this is what needs to be done for change to come.  You'll be reading more about my own body image experience, my observations of the diet culture that surrounds me, and an honest point of view on how I am, and will continue to, work to help us embrace our bodies, find our own version of health and learn to heal our relationship with food.

I look forward to you joining me on this journey.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Letter to My Son: What I Hope You Learn About Men's Health

Movember is upon us!  Men everywhere will be growing their mustaches to help raise money and bring awareness to men's health issues that, at times, fly under the radar.  Since my wife forbids me from growing a mustache and a happy wife leads to a happy life, I figured I'd write a post instead of growing any more facial hair.  So here is a letter to my 8-year old son, sharing my "health" tips that I hope he can incorporate into his life. After all, what better way to promote "men's health" than by preparing our sons for what lies ahead of them.

Dear Son,

You've just turned 8 this month but there is still a whole life that lies ahead of you.  Since the day you were born, I've seen so much of myself in you.  They say you are like an Aaron 2.0.  It seems we have so many similarities, physically and emotionally.  The same things bring a smile to our faces.  Our laughs, our senses of humor seem to be cut from the same vaudevillian cloth.  On the other side of that coin, when we are upset, frustrated or angry, we do the same thing. We close up, shut the world out and crawl within our emotions.

Because we are so similar, I want to write to you so that I can share some of my experiences about my life in the hopes that you will read it, and when you are ready, use this information to learn from what I've learned.  If you are really version 2.0, I hope that the latest version is just a little bit better than the original. So in no particular order, here are some things I hope you'll learn sooner than I did in the hopes you have the healthiest life possible.

  • I hope you appreciate all the amazing things your body can do.  It helps you run, play and compete.  But it also is amazing to see how every muscle of your body moves each time you laugh.  Your body will change over time but I hope that you always cherish each and every thing your body will help you do in life.  
  • I wish I could say your Mother and I gave you the genetic code to have a body like Bruce Lee or Dwane Johnson, but that is probably just is not in your future.  You'll probably look more like Seth Rogan than The Rock but that doesn't mean you should be envious.  You have all the tools you need to do anything physical you put your mind to.  I promise you, your body is capable of doing much more than you ever can imagine. Trust your body and don't be afraid to challenge it.
  • Food is nourishing and fun.  You can eat for many different reasons in life and I hope that you will learn to use food for fuel and not as a way to punish yourself or to feed your emotions.  
  • Your emotions are powerful but not something you need to be afraid of.  It can be hard to open up and tell others how you are feeling but when you finally get the courage to do it, know that others will be waiting and willing to help you.  
  • Being alone and keeping your emotions to yourself will only create a cycle of isolation. Being vulnerable will be the most courageous thing you will ever do.
  • Respect all bodies.  As you get older, the default behavior of many of your friends will be to ridicule or tease any body or person that is different.  When it happens, be brave and stand up to shaming and teasing.  Remember what Bren√© Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” 
  • Moving your body feels good and will help you feel better about yourself.
  • Breath in and breath out.  I hope that you will learn how mindfulness can help you connect to your body and your emotions.  It will help you learn to be comfortable in the moment and honor each and every thought and feeling.
  • Honor your partner with love and respect.  Love is the greatest thing you can ever give someone, so when you find that right person, don't hold back.  Share every part of yourself with them and fight every day to sustain a strong union between the two of you.
  • Have faith.  Whether it is the religion we are raising you with or something else that resonates with you, find peace in learning that there are things in this life that are larger than ourselves.  
  • There is no one way to be masculine.  These days, there is a common refrain to "man up" to the issues and occasions.  People will tell you how to be a "real man," but remember,  you are already a man.  Follow your heart, do what feels right and don't feel like you have to live up to some ideal image of what a man should be.
  • Be a feminist.  Understand that because of your gender, your race and where you grow up, you have been given opportunities that many women who are in similar situations might not have. Stand up for all women.  Fight for equality in the work place, equal access to health care and equal access to education and careers.  
  • Don't forget to be a mensch.  Be kind to others and don't take advantage of those who might not have what you've had access to as you are growing up.
  • Find a good doctor that you trust.  Don't be afraid or intimidated of their white coat.  It's ok to ask them questions, challenge their recommendations and have conversations with them.


I know that you might read this and dismiss it, but one day, you'll be confronted with each of these things in real life and when the time comes, remember this letter.  I hope it helps you and I hope you find your path towards a long and healthy life.

Love,
Dad

p.s. If you ever need help writing a letter like this to your son, it would be an honor for me to sit beside you to help if you ever need it. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Problems with #WeighThis Campaign from Lean Cuisine

One of my friends sent me this video recently.  It is a part of Lean Cuisine's #WeighThis campaign which launched earlier this year.  Watch the video and let's discuss it!


As I watched the video I enjoyed seeing how there was a shift in focus from the number on the scale to other more important things in life. The participants in the video (all women by the way) were asked to weigh the most important things in their lives.  The types of things that they wanted to weigh varied to wedding rings, diplomas, Dean's List honors, back packs and siblings.  It was a nice message to send, especially by such a notable brand as Lean Cuisine.  It shows that the mainstream notion of "weight loss" might be changing.

But after a few minutes of thinking, I became much less complimentary of the video.  It actually got me pretty riled up and here's why: it's a perfect illustration of the mixed messages we get about weighing ourselves yet still try to lose weight.  Is it an improvement compared to past campaigns? Yes but let's be honest, Lean Cuisine is selling and designing food for people who want to eat smaller portions with the ultimate goal: to lose weight!  Lean Cuisine is co-opting the non-diet message in the hopes of selling a few extra million frozen dinners.

This co-opting of messages is a common theme these days.  "Eat mindfully and tune in to your hunger and fullness! IF you do these things, you'll surely lose weight." Now I'm obviously paraphrasing a little but it's basically what the messages comes down to.  Despite a change at the surface, when we look closer at what lies underneath, we are still a society that is focused on changing the number on the scale.  Although we might be changing the words we use, we are still focused on changing our body.

C'mon, think about it.  Lean Cuisine is telling you not to focus on what you weigh, to think more about what you have accomplished in your life, and it's not the number on the scale.  Great message and I agree 100% percent. But this is coming from a company whose name is LEAN friggin Cuisine!  Every box of frozen-food says it right there, in front of our face: "LEAN!" The package does not say, Every Body is Beautiful and Deserves Delicious, Frozen  Cuisine.  No, it says LEAN Cuisine.  You might say, well it's just the original name of the company and maybe they are talking about the food being lean.  To that I say, everything is in the name.  Sure maybe they are referring to lean food but the underlying message is also having a lean body! Brand names are important.  Think about Skinny Cow.  What is that product name saying about us?

So, let's give up on the name thing and then focus on the food.  Sure, Lean Cuisine makes some great options.  Their food philosophy has changed recently and they are meeting the need of the consumer by offering different choices like high protein, gluten-free and organic meals.  They've removed almost all mention of "low calorie" from their website but if you look at the nutrition information you'll see nearly all dishes (except for a few) are less than 300 calories per meal.  Why would someone intentionally eat a 300 calorie meal unless it was to lose weight?  If I eat one Lean Cuisine meal, 3 times a day, that would be around 900 calories a day an not nearly enough to satisfy any normal level of hunger.  Restriction like this is what leads to binge-related eating.  What if I just have them for lunch or dinner (which is totally reasonable)?  Again, I would argue that 300 calories might not be enough energy to sustain someone from mid-day to bedtime which can lead to this scenario.  Eat lunch --> it satisfies my hunger for an hour or maybe two --> hunger levels increase --> I don't have permission to eat because I just ate 1-2 hours ago so I wait until the next meal --> hunger levels increase --> I overeat my snack or dinner because hunger levels became so strong.  In my experience, the low calorie frozen meals just don't sustain hunger levels long enough for most people.

I'm left with another in a series of gray area answers to real-life issues. (Appreciating the gray areas is foundational for intuitive eating.)  Sure, Lean Cuisine should be applauded for a change in their philosophy but in my opinion, this change is only on the surface.  In reality, their core business is to help people lose weight and if I'm true to my Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size® philosophy, then the two can not live together in harmony.  When the underlying goal is to lose weight, it will ultimately sabotage any Intuitive Eating and HAES® beliefs. I leave you with this graphic which I adapted from the Intuitive Eating book that shows the cycle that is created when we put our desire to lose weight at the forefront of our concern.  Nice try, Lean Cuisine, but I'm not buying it and nor should you!


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Honey, Are the Kids Making Their Own Lunches?

Photo Credit: Aaron Flores, RD
One of the things that I'm most proud of is how my wife and I have instilled Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size® philosophies in our kids.  I often tell people it's my greatest accomplishment as a dad and as a dietitian.  To see how their positive relationship with food and their bodies is developing is truly a blessing.

Even though I see little things that reinforce their food and body trust each day, occasionally there are things I see that truly amaze me and make me so proud.  One of those moments happened last week as both of my kids asked my wife if they could make their own lunches for school.

Let me give you some back story before we go any further; we go to a Jewish day school which means we need to bring a Kosher-dairy lunch.  No meat of any kind.  Eggs and tuna are ok but no turkey, roast beef, hot dogs or chicken.   We are also a nut-free school so, we can't send peanut butter either.  This means we are just a tad limited as to what we can pack in their lunches.  Now, for the most part,  most things we pack are a success but we do sometimes find that our kids get into a bit of a rut after so many years of dealing with these limitations.  It's actually the chore that my wife and I enjoy least because we feel we've run out of creative lunch options so, when our kids said, "We want to make our own lunch," we more than gladly agreed.

Because of how we have our house set up with regards to food, if a child wants to be responsible for making it, they can choose what is in the meal.  That means my wife, who usually makes the lunches, did not tell the kids WHAT to pack, she was just the sous chef.  She provided them with the ingredients they wanted and supervised them as they used a knife.  That's it.  I'm sure you probably want to know what the kids packed themselves for lunch, right?  I mean c'mon, what would you pack if you had no limitations in place(except those already described above)?  Well, that's not the point of the post and to be honest, it doesn't matter one little bit!  For me that's not "where the magic happened."

The magic is that without pressure from my wife and I, my kids are interested in food.  They want to be a part of meals.  They choose to be involved in meal preparation because they enjoy it.  In our house, food is fun.  It's not punishment, a way to reward good behavior or achievement.  It's not something that is held over them like a carrot on a stick (i.e.: "just eat five more bites of protein and then you're done").

A healthy relationship with food is not just about tuning in to what our bodies tell us about the food we've eaten. It is also about being a part of the process of how food is made, where it comes from and how it impacts our environment.

My kids understand their role in our house when it comes to food. They trust that we will provide them with all different kinds of food.  They trust that we will sit as a family every night for dinner.  They trust their body to stop eating whenever they are done.  They trust that food will not be taken or hidden from them for any reason.  As parents, we trust that our kids will not abuse this privilege with food.  We trust that they will eat what is served and they will not ask for separate meals.  We trust that they will stop eating when they are full, no matter how little or much is still left on their plate.

I believe this family trust is where our kids' positive relationship with food and their bodies comes from and I'm so grateful that my wife and I have found something that has worked for all us.

Our kids continue to make their own lunch.  They are enjoying it and my wife and I are proud to watch their creativity with each new day.  I'm sure one day, the novelty will wear off and they'll give up this chore but that will be ok.  Until that day comes, though, my wife and I will gladly take a step back and marvel at the simple pleasure of watching our kids explore their food environment.