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.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Learning to Fly!

This week, I'm celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  This time of year is a time to reflect on the year that passed and the year to come.  It seems that I've been doing more reflection over this past 45 days than any other time of year.  Reading Brené Brown's book, "Rising Strong" was a large part of that but also, I'm in the process of starting my own business.  Combined, all of these things have forced me to look inward more than usual and I wanted to share some of those thoughts with you.

Although my last post didn't get the kind of traffic it usually does, I think it was one of my most important articles that I've ever written.  Even though it might not have resonated with many, it did with me!  So selfishly, maybe I just wrote that post for me, to inspire myself to "get outside my comfort zone" and "make some magic."

After all, starting a new business is all about taking a leap, trying something new and seeing if it will be successful.  Something new is the hard part.  Part of what I need to do in order to make this business take off is to really understand what it means to learn to fly.  Like a little bird, whose mother has left the nest, now it's up to me.  I have the tools, I know how to be a good dietitian and help people improve their health, but now I need to make sure everyone else knows it too!

But here I am in the nest, looking down 150 feet at the ground below and the nerves are there.  Just like the little bird, I know that I'm going to eventually get the hang of it, but those few seconds of free fall are what scare me.  Free falling downward, the ground racing up to meet me in a fatal crash, but all I have to do is trust my instincts.  Stick out my wings, let the rushing air flow over and beneath them to create the necessary lift to move me from perpendicular to parallel.

I'm still in the nest right now.  Well, maybe I'm not 100% in the nest...perhaps I have both feet out, dangling over the edge. I'm sitting on the edge, my instincts are there but I don't yet trust them. I know that they'll work if I just test them out.

So here goes, I'm pushing off. I'm going to be courageous and be vulnerable.  I will try new things and I understand that I will fall and stumble along the way.  But I'm willing to risk the fall because I know that I can rise stronger!

I'm going to try to fly and I don't know how long the free fall will last until I run out of time, but I'm confident that even if I hit the ground, I will be able to get back up and try it again.  My instincts will kick in and I will soar, but the hardest part is right now.

I don't know what this new year will bring but I'm confident in a few things:
1) I have the best support system around me.
2) Although I tend to be scared of new things, I know that I will have to try new things each day to be successful.
3) I will work hard every day to accomplish my goals.

To those who celebrate, shana tova and may we all be healthy, safe, and have the courage to be the best possible versions of ourselves.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Where the Magic Happens

Believe it or not, the first time I saw this image on the left was on an episode of Girls on HBO. It’s a great show and, for sure, one of my not-so-guilty pleasures. I can't recall the exact scenario for how it came up but I remember the main character, played by Lena Dunham, sitting in some sort of job interview and seeing a poster with "Where the magic happens" in big circle with a much smaller circle off to the side which was labeled, "Your comfort zone."  I recall from that episode how Dunham's character just sat there and stared at the poster on the wall, contemplating the meaning.  

I've been in that exact same position as Dunham's character, staring at this picture, for what seems like an eternity, reflecting on my own life.  "Why can’t I be where where the magic happens?" "Why am I stuck in my own comfort zone and what will it take for me to get out?"  These were two thoughts that came up most often. The words might vary but the theme was the same: "What was keeping me from stepping outside my comfort zone?"  My comfort zone was my job, my comfort zone was staying hidden, behind the curtain and afraid to step out and get noticed in my professional work. The potential magic was taking a leap to do something brave, daring and to risk failure.  The predominant vision that kept recurring was leaving my full-time job to start a private practice.  The comfort of a regular paycheck was preventing any career magic from happening.  But finally, just recently, I was brave enough to be vulnerable and make a leap outside my comfort zone to where I am now--I'm stepping out from behind the curtain, hoping to be noticed and trying to make some magic happen.

The funny thing is that, until recently, I never turned this idea of "where the magic happens" around to focus on something other than me.  Now I'm applying this notion of stepping outside your comfort zone to Intuitive Eating.  I've begun to think about the people (some clients, some friends, some just acquaintances) that I know who are struggling with or working on incorporating Intuitive Eating (IE) into their lives.  Some are struggling to get rid of their diet mentality.  Some are fighting even to start to use IE in their life.  Some are dealing with letting go of their food rules while still fearing loss of control.  No matter what the issues are, leaving one’s comfort zone is a huge challenge and I for one know full well what it’s like.

The comfort zone is where we feel safe.  It’s the familiar environment were we know what to expect.  It’s the safety of a “home base” that we never stray too far from for fear we might not find our way back.  Wanting to be comfortable is normal. But here’s the thing: sometimes we mistake safety and comfort for something positive when it can actually be negative, holding us back from that amazing magic.

The common things I hear from people who struggle with IE are:
  • “If give into my cravings, I won’t stop eating.”  
  • “I am not happy with my body unless it is a certain size and I won’t try anything that might cause me to gain weight.” 
  • “IE sounds great, but I don’t think I can do that. I need to be on a diet. I need structure” 
  • “I don’t think I’ll ever feel safe or comfortable around dessert.
If you look more closely at all of these statements, you’ll see fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of giving up control, fear of our bodies and fear of trying.

Your diet, your food rules, your cleanse, your body loathing are not your comfort zone.  You might think you are safe and supported with your structure, your meal plan or your diet, but that is a false sense of security.  Those constructs are just keeping you from landing where the magic happens.  

It’s a scary leap to truly be ready for something new.  It takes courage to put your foot down and say, "enough is enough."  "I’m done living in fear of food and my body."  "I’m done with feeling horrible about every food choice and every curve of my body." It’s time to take that leap outside your comfort zone.  

Maybe some of these simple tips will help you get started:
  1. Read Intuitive Eating - It is the basis for how I work and it will change how you think about food!
  2. Be curious - Think hard about what might really be at the center of your resistance to change.  Learning to objectively examine your thoughts is a skill that is essential for becoming an Intuitive Eater.
  3. Learn to check in - Check in with hunger levels throughout the day. Check in with what cravings you might be having and honor them.  Check in with how satisfied you are at the end of a meal and adjust what you eat the next time to ensure satisfaction.  
  4. Listen - Listen to the inner voice you use to talk to yourself about your body and about food. Is it nurturing or negative?  Just learning to be more nurturing to yourself is an important first step.
  5. Permission - Give yourself permission to ask for help. There are many people out there who are willing to help, myself included. Give one of us a call to find a partner in your journey towards the place where that magic happens when it comes to food and your body.
Take the first step toward making some magic.