Oh, food….I have learned so much about you in the last couple of
years. I have been riveted by the documentary Food,
Inc., I have been educated by Michael
Pollen's books The
Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules, and also by Kathy Freston's
And our whole family fell in love with Jamie
Oliver's Food Revolution. Even the girls loved watching him run
around dressed up as a big pea pod.
Jamie and the others are getting the nation's attention because
they have a big message to share. The food we eat is
harming us and it's harming our children. It's hard to hear,
but it's time that we hear it.
Honestly, the food topic is so vast; I don't even know where to
begin. There are so many issues when it comes to what we eat,
from government subsidies to family traditions; it's a tough
subject to wrap up in one blog post. And I am struggling
while writing this because I know there is a lot of guilt around
food, a lot of blame and a lot baggage that we carry.
But guilt is time consuming, not helpful and it's a literal
waste of energy - why focus on what happened yesterday when you
have today and the rest of your life to make changes?
Instead, let's move forward with food rather than staying stuck,
and let's be honest about why feeding ourselves and our children is
Our society tends to view food only from a place of weight loss
and body image, and that makes food an obstacle to overcome instead
of something to appreciate and enjoy. Children need
information so they can use food in a healthy way, not in a way
that makes them feel bad about themselves. Eating is often
used as an opportunity to demonstrate control or more often lack of
control. That process has burden and guilt written all over
We need to teach our children to eat from a place of balance and
connection to their bodies, so they realize what food can do for
their body, how eating well can give them energy, and how eating
poorly can diminish their energy. We need to help our
children create a positive relationship with food - a relationship
that will last the rest of their lives.
Just for the record, I am not a doctor, I am not a health food
freak and I don't believe in diets. I definitely enjoy my
occasional order of french fries and chocolate cake (people who
know me well are nodding right now), but I also attempt to be
thoughtful about my daily choices. I don't restrict or count
calories; I just try to eat real food. Food that's not
processed (or at least not processed too much). Food that my
body can use and food that tastes good.
I have plenty of vegetables and fruits during the day, but I
also eat kettle chips at lunch just because they are ridiculously
good (Buffalo Bleu, yum). I am in no way a perfect eater, nor
do I try to be. But I have found that if I balance the really
good stuff with a few splurges here and there, I feel really good
most of the time.
I want my children to view food in a balanced way, too.
Yes, they have an occasional Portillo's hot dog and french fries,
they love birthday cake, and at least once a week they get a sucker
from my next door neighbor. But instead of telling them how
bad a food is or how certain foods will "make them fat" (guilt,
guilt, guilt), I want them to notice how they feel.
They are usually sugar-buzzed and then crash after a birthday
party, if they eat too many pieces of pizza they end up lying down
with a stomachache, and they tend to feel "funky" after eating a
tri-colored fruit roll up. I gently help them realize (again,
no guilt trips) that their body does not know what to do with that
unhealthy food and that it can cause them to feel yucky.
If I really have their attention I shift my focus to how "real
food" (instead of "healthy food"….healthy food tends to sound like
a carrot stick) helps their brain do homework, run faster in
soccer, and it allows their body to sleep well at night.
These are the messages I want them to integrate.
As their mom my job is to make good foods accessible.
Unfortunately I do not find the kitchen relaxing nor do I take
pleasure in cooking a meal. BUT, I am committed to buying and
preparing healthy foods in my house. I am willing to pay a
little more for organic fruit and vegetables and I am willing to
cut it up and have it ready to eat when my kids are hungry.
There is no perfection to this process, you will still find
crackers in the pantry and frozen pizzas in my freezer, but again,
I am not looking for perfection. I just want my children to
realize that food is an ally and it's meant to be enjoyable and
even medicinal. The food we eat is our first line of defense
in being healthy people, emotionally and physically.
This is not easy, I have a daughter who won't eat much, a
daughter who will try anything, and one that falls somewhere in the
middle. Trying to change everything overnight is not
realistic and it can lead to feelings of failure. Our first
big choice a few years ago was having organic milk delivered to the
house. Then after some time we made another little change,
and then another, and so on.
Our newest change is introducing a "vegetable of the week" at
family dinner. We cook the vegetable (olive oil and salt do
wonders) and also try it raw. We talk about how the vegetable
can help our body and mind. By the way, did you know that
asparagus can detoxify the system, protect against cancer, reduce
pain and inflammation, reduce the risk of heart disease, and it has
While I am committed to the health lessons, I am not committed
to becoming fanatical. We still have pizza and ice cream
every Friday night because it's our family tradition, and because
it makes having dessert a once-a-week special occasion.
Above all I am most committed to viewing food in a positive
way. I don't want my girls to view food from a place of lack
or as something forced on them (I can't have this, I have to
have this). I am searching for that place in the middle
- a place where they can enjoy what food has to offer while being
educated about its effect on the body. I want them to eat for
pleasure, but not use food to fill a need for pleasure.
Am I asking too much? Maybe, but I have no immediate goal
or milestone that I need to reach. This is a work in
progress, a re-shaping of old patterns and a life long educational
process - for me, my children, and for the entire nation.
Any thoughts about food and eating? Feel free to
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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