I have been open with how much my relationship with my body and food has changed since having kids. Recently, with lots of travel and my exercise and sleep schedule being a bit off, I have been reflecting with gratitude on how different my relationship with food really is. And though there are times when my old behaviors want to creep back in, I am sometimes surprised, but also proud on how far I have come. Below are a few ways I know my relationship with food has changed for the better.
*Once I started writing on this topic, I just kept writing and writing so decided to break this blog into two posts. Check back next week for Part II!
- I do not count anything anymore.
For years, especially when I was trying to be ‘good,’ I would record my food in a notebook or food journal. I would try to count calories and macros as I thought that would help me stay on track and reach my goals. Not only was it exhausting to write down everything I ate, it was ludicrous to think that my recording and calorie counting was accurate. I am not a fan of calorie counting or macro counting for many reasons (you can read my thoughts here from a past blog a few years ago) but it is virtually impossible to be accurate. However, I am not completely against food journaling if you are trying to see patterns or figure out a way of eating that might work for you. I do think it can be helpful in the short term to see where your strengths and weaknesses are and I always have my clients complete a three day food recall. But in the long term, I do not think it teaches you how to eat mindfully and can definitely become a bit of an obsession. I still of course read labels and pay attention to what I am eating but I honestly have no idea how many calories or macros I eat each day. I will also probably never keep a food journal again unless I feel it is medically necessary. I have learned to eat when I am hungry, not overeat about 98% of the time and what foods I like and make me feel good.
2. I do not dread nor get overly excited for social events because of the food.
I am a very social person and I love going to parties and different events. However, when it came to the food, I had two very different attitudes. I used to get a bit of food anxiety if I knew there was going to be a lot of delicious food because I would feel that I would not be able to control myself (due to the fact I was always trying to restrict myself). On the other hand, I would be excited that I was going to give myself a free pass to eat anything I wanted and I looked forward to a few hours where I was not restricting. If I did eat whatever I wanted, I would then feel guilt and often shame. Now, I just see these events for what they are, activities to be with my friends and family and chat and have fun. Of course, if I know there is going to be good food I look forward to eating it (our family dinners are amazing since my sister is a professional chef 🙂 ) but I am not filled with pre-emptive guilt, thinking I will eat everything in site. I enjoy myself while still making mostly healthy choices. I do not eat everything and anything but I eat at least a little bit of everything I want.
I love birthday parties and cake. I almost always at least have some of the treats served.
3. I do not look up menus prior to eating at a restaurant for health reasons.
I love trying new restaurants and luckily Denver has an awesome food scene. I used to always check the menu before I would go to make sure I felt there was something healthy that I could eat. And one of those tried and true ridiculous ‘health’ tips on eating out is to look at the menu before you go and decide what you are going to eat when you get there. And make sure you do not change your mind or be tempted by something less healthy. Now, if that works for you, great. But the amount of time and energy and the thought of me deciding what I want to eat three days before I go is so silly to me now but I did it for years. Now, I really know I can pretty much eat anywhere and make pretty good choices. I might still hop on the restaurant’s website to check out the place and see if the menu appeals to me but you can bet I am not deciding what I want to eat in advance.
in my next post, I will talk about the other 3 ways my relationship with food has changed that are even more significant.
At 9:19 AM, 1,825th days ago, I became a mom. I always try to come up with some heartfelt, cute blog on my kids’ birthdays. This birthday is a hard one for me. A milestone birthday. I usually love everything about birthdays but now my first born is no longer a baby or a toddler and now not even a preschooler. I finished the last page in his baby book last night with photos from his 5th birthday party. He will start elementary school in the fall and though I am so excited for who he is becoming, I am saddened that it seems to happen so fast.
Below are random thoughts, reflections, wishes and my hopes for you, my dear Caleb.
You will never know how much you were wanted.
I hope you inherit your father’s patience, loyalty and handy man skills.
You probably will never understand my love for you until/if you decide to have your own children. Unconditional.
I hope you will love to travel and read and do both often.
I will never, ever forget the moment when after 3 years of infertility, I found out I was pregnant with you.
The days can be so long but the years are so fast.
I hope you inherit your Papa Johnson’s practicality and financial savvy, your Aunt Wibby’s intelligence and quick wit,and your Uncle Nick’s sense of humor.
You will never know how much I love you.
One of the best moments of my life was putting you on my chest right after you were born.
I hope you grow up to be kind, respectful and brave.
I love watching you with your sister.
I do not know how I can love one human being so much while sometimes at the same time driving me absolutely bananas.
I hope you inherit your Papa Frank’s ability to talk to anyone, your Grammy’s calm spirit.
I know I will never, ever, stop worrying about you.
You bring me joy and make me laugh every single day.
I hope you inherit my love of exercise, healthy food and education.
I hope you and your sister will always be close.
I hope you always love animals.
I hope you find a career that you are passionate about.
I hope you strive to win but also learn how to lose graciously.
I hope you are as detail oriented as Uncle Jason, patient as Aunt Jennifer and as generous as your Aunt Michelle.
I hope your love of music, dancing, the water, and dressing up continues.
I hope you know the power of deep breaths, sunshine, a hot shower and a good night’s sleep.
You are my greatest teacher and life coach.
Though I am sad you are growing up so fast, I cannot wait to see the person you will become.
I wish time would slow down.
Happy 5th Birthday my sweet baby boy.
- Eat More Vegetables.
This is the number one piece of nutrition advice I give to anyone and everyone, and would often even give it to myself. I have never once worked with a client that I did not recommend to increase their vegetable intake. Even if you are doing a pretty good job of getting vegetables in, you can always eat more. Vegetables are always going to give you the most bang for your buck. They are low in calories, high in nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber. I believe they are almost impossible to overeat as most people will just simply fill up before eating too many. There are thousands of types of vegetables and numerous ways to prepare them. If you claim you do not like vegetables, keep trying new ones. Try cooking them a different way, add a little salt and butter or dipping sauce to keep them interesting. Add them to smoothies, soups, frittatas, sauces. There are endless ways to add vegetables to your meal and they can have a significant impact on your health.
2. Move As Much As Possible.
For years we have heard about trying to get in 10,000 steps/day, taking the stairs or parking further away. These small amounts of movement might seem insignificant but they can really add up. Research shows that many people, after working out earlier in the day, actually end up sitting more that day since they already exercised. They feel they have more of an excuse to be less active that day because of their earlier workout. Though working out is great, it does not counteract sitting at your desk for 8 hours. You need to keep moving throughout the day for optimal health. This might be challenging for many with a desk job but just moving around your desk and office can help.
In 2005, the concept of NEAT, Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis was introduced. This concept is the idea that daily movements such as standing, walking and basically fidgeting can have an impact on how many calories we burn each day. Studies show that NEAT can burn up to 350 calories a day! Stand up when you answer the phone, get up every hour for a few minutes and walk around the office. Try to have walking meetings if possible. Try to take a few breaks during the day for even 5-10 minute walk breaks. Every step does really count. Just move.
3. Sleep More.
I actually feel somewhat of a hypocrite typing this as I should be sleeping and not staying up to write a blog but I know that I should sleep more. We all probably should. I also know that at times it is literally impossible even with the best intentions. Like the night I got into bed early and was so excited for my 8 hours of sleep, only to be woken by my toddler at midnight demanding a bedtime story about “Frog and Toad.”
Sleeping and parenting little ones often do not go hand in hand but sleep is crucial for everyone. As with food and exercise, sleep can have huge impact on your overall health. Your body and mind need time to rest, recover and restore. When we do not sleep enough, our cravings, energy and hunger levels are out of whack. We are often grouchy and sluggish. Research shows that with less than 6 hours of sleep, our blood sugar becomes elevated the following day which can lead to inflammation. Most experts say 8 hours is ideal with some needing 7 and others needing 9. However, many hours you need to feel good, make it a priority.
4. Cook at Home More.
I love to cook but I realize that not everyone does. Even if you do not love to cook, please know it is one of the most impactful things you can do for your and your family’s health. Eating at home has so many benefits including eating less calories, fat and sodium overall, not to mention saving a significant amount of money. The time to connect with your kids and significant other is also hugely important.
Cooking at home does not mean cooking boring chicken breast and vegetables all the time. It also does not mean cooking super elaborate meals. I cook a wide variety of foods. Some are super simple like putting pre-made burgers on the George Foreman (yes, they still exist and I use mine often), steaming a vegetable and making some type of quick cooking whole grain/starch. Other nights when I have more time and feel more creative, my meals are a little more involved like chicken enchiladas. I also often try to re-create restaurant favorites like nachos and pizzas but they are signiciatnlty better for you when made at home. I can control the ingredients, portion sizes and add extra nutritional value with added vegetables.
It does help that my sister is a professional chef and has helped me significantly over the years to become a better cook, which I am forever grateful for. But just as with anything, getting better at cooking takes practice. The more you cook, the better you will become and we generally enjoy things we are good at. Keep trying new recipes. If you do not enjoy it, try super simple recipes. Pick a protein, starch or whole grain and a vegetable. Super flavorful meals can be put together in just 20 minutes. Keep trying, cooking at home matters.
As Madelynn was screaming that she wanted to take her half eaten breakfast (that took her 90 minutes to pretend to eat) in the car with her, I just kept repeating, ‘motherhood is a privilege, motherhood is a privilege,’ to try to get me through the moment. A few weeks ago I read a fascinating article on the idea of the privilege and selfishness of motherhood in the New York Times by Karen Rinaldi.
“I don’t believe for one second that motherhood is the hardest job in the world nor that it is all sacrifice” states Rinaldi. She continues that stating that motherhood “is all sacrifice reinforces the disempowerment of mothers and women.”
I read those lines and literally scoffed out loud, as I often heard even before becoming a mother, and then started to tell myself and believe that motherhood was in fact the hardest job in the world. At only a few paragraphs in, I was so intrigued by her stance that I had to read on, as how in the world was she going to defend that statement?
“The assertion of motherhood as a sacrifice comes with a perceived glorification. A woman is expected to sacrifice her time, ambition and sense of self to a higher purpose, one more worthy than her own individual identity. This leaves a vacuum in the pace of her value, one that others rush to fill.”
Though I do agree with the above statement from society’s perspective, I do not on a personal level. I do not think I have sacrificed my own individual identity when I became a mom. Though I have a love for my children deeper than anything I have every experienced, I know I am more than a mom and I work hard to keep my sense of self. I do believe that I sacrifice a lot of time, money and energy for my children but I do not sacrifice everything.
A recent quiet and relaxing evening with Madelynn.
“When we cling to the idea of motherhood as sacrifice, what we really sacrifice is our sense of self, as if it is the price we pay for having children. Motherhood is not a sacrifice, but a privilege that many of us choose—selfishly. Selflessness implies that we have no skin in the game. In motherhood, we’re all in.”
Brilliant. I have so much skin in the game of motherhood. I have experienced more emotions in the last 4 1/2 years than probably most of my life and the emotions run the gamut. There are so many highs and but many lows as well and I am only a few years in.
“By reframing motherhood as a privilege, we redirect agenda back to the mother, empowering her, celebrating her autonomy instead of her sacrifice. There are many mothers who who not have chosen motherhood, for financial or personal reasons. Still, by owning our roles as mothers and refusing the false accolades of martyrdom, we do more to empower women.”
Yes. Yes. I have so many times in the wake of exhaustion and frustration played the martyr. I want sympathy, I want people to know how distressed I am, I want admiration. And I often do this unconsciously. People simply ask how I am doing and if I had a rough night with the kids, I automatically reply with a diatribe on how the kids did not sleep and this and that. But I must remember that these experiences are a privilege. Yes, they are hard and tiring and frustrating. I chose to have these beautiful babes and for Caleb, I went through 3 years of fertility treatments for this privilege. I chose this. I am also very aware that many did not chose motherhood or could not chose motherhood and I am grateful I had the choice.
“Calling motherhood “the hardest job in the world” misses the point completely because having and raising children is not a “job.” No one will deny that there is exhaustion, fear and tedium, Raising a family is hard work, but so is every other meaningful aspect of our lives.”
This quote challenges me, the idea that motherhood is not a job. I asked my husband if he thought parenting was a job and he said no. He said he thought it was hard work but not a job. In most cases, he feels that in a job, someone tells you what to do. No one tells you how to parent. I think parenting is a responsibility which is often synonymous with ‘job.’ The author is using the traditional definition of a job and that motherhood does not involve an employer/employee relationship, is unpaid and mothers are not reporting to anyone. The author still mentions and advocates for paid parental leave, flexible working hours and more but “the cultural shift has to happen for policies to follow. Martyrs, after all, don’t need or expect public services.”
This brilliant article, though short was very impactful on my current feelings toward motherhood. I am in a challenging stage, I am in the trenches, just like many others. I have two kids under 5. They require a lot of energy and attention. They drive me nuts a lot of time. They also bring me joy a lot of the time. They make me laugh, they make me smile, they have taught me a love that I never knew existed. I chose this and it is a privilege to be their mother.
What do you think? Do you classify motherhood as a job? Do you think society makes mothers martyrs? I would love to hear your thoughts on this and if you want to read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/opinion/sunday/motherhood-family-sexism-sacrifice.html
As I was writing this blog, I also came upon her follow-up article since her initial article had so many responses. That can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/12/opinion/is-motherhood-a-sacrifice-or-a-privilege.html A few people commented that it could be both selfless and selfish. It is a sacrifice and a privilege. The topic was also brought up about fathers and why they are not included in these type of articles. Again, fascinating.
Regardless if you think it is a sacrifice, privilege, selfless or selfish, even on the rough days, I am so glad these two chose me as their mother.
My family loves Halloween. We love dressing up in coordinating costumes and going to lots of Halloween activities. My husband and I actually liked dressing up even before we had kids, but now it is even more fun and seems more acceptable and not quite as weird.
However, what I do not love is the ridiculous amount of candy but I understand that is a big part of Halloween. I wish more of the activities could not be focused on treats but again, I get it, it’s Halloween.
When my son was finally old enough to understand the concept of Halloween and eat candy, I figured I would limit his intake to a few pieces that evening and then maybe 1-2 pieces the following days. I was asking other parents what they do and a friend said they actually allow their kids to eat as much as they want on Halloween. I am pretty sure my heart stopped. What? You let them just eat as much as they want? How can you do that? Don’t they eat a million pieces? Doesn’t their stomach hurt? Aren’t they then wired from all that sugar?
I have written before that I do think of one of our greatest responsibilities as parents is to teach our children how to take care of their bodies with good food and movement. These are so crucial to long term health that I take it very seriously. I understand that at 16 years old, my son will probably be getting fast food with his friends. But as research shows and I mentioned in my last blog about soccer snacks, what they learn, observe and eat as young children can have an impact on their preferences later in life. And at this point in their life, I get to control what they put in their bodies. Just as they learn about heathy food from us, they also learn what kind of relationship to have with food. With that being said, I am not trying to make foods bad and off-limits, but some foods are occasional and though maybe not best for our bodies, taste good, are fun and part of holidays and special activities. I also do not want to be so strict that they are sneaking or hiding food or to create any type of food issues. I have had my own food issues in the past and that is the last thing I want for my children.
So the last 2 years we have let them (last year Madelynn was only 15 months old so obviously we had to watch what she was eating) eat as much as they want on Halloween night. This is still hard for me to actually accept and watch, but I embrace it. I make sure they have a healthy dinner beforehand and kids are incredibly good at self-regulation, which many adults have lost. I actually think they probably had only 5-6 peices of candy before deciding that they were full or decided it was enough. Both of my kids, Caleb especially, are starting to realize that too much sugar will make their stomach hurt and that they will not feel good that night and often the next day. So they learn moderation without strict rules and without me constantly saying no for one night of the year. It is such a fun, crazy, memorable night for all of us.
So what about in the following days? I know there are tons of different ideals revolving Halloween candy including the ‘Switch Witch,’ donating it to troops, throwing it away etc. I am not judging any of these as I think every family should figure out what works for them.
What we have done the last for few years is to keep it. I am not going to make a big deal about Halloween and costumes and trick or treating and then throw it away. I am not sure how I explain that to two small children. The few weeks following Halloween, they are allowed to pick 1-2 pieces after dinner. They eat very low amounts of refined sugar througout the day as I pack their lunches every day. Their school does not allow candy or juice and asks us not to send cookies or any other treats in their lunches unless it is a birthday or special celebration. They spend a long time picking these treats out and savoring them. Which is exactly what I hope for. It is special, it is a treat. It’s moderation. The candy often lasts us until the next holiday. Literally we could probably make it from Halloween to Easter and back to Halloween. We might end up donating it or finding something else that works better in the future, but this is what currently works for us.
I often think people want to get rid of the candy so the parents are not tempted. This is understandable and I used to be of the mindset out of sight, out of mind and often recommended it and sometimes still do to my clients. But I have worked so hard in my years to overcome my food obession, guilt and shame around food that I actually want candy in the house. For me it is like exposure therapy. I am not going to give candy so much power that I cannot have it in the house and have control over me. Though each person is different and might not want it in the house, it is actually part of my recovery process. I want to be in control and know that I can have a few pieces after dinner without going overboard and eating until I am uncomfortably full or riddled with guilt and shame. Knowing that it is there and I can have it whenever I want has actually given me much freedom. This will be one of the topics covered in my upcoming course Find Your Framework that I will be releasing in late January (jump on the pre-sale and info list here).
So though I cannot believe I actually allow them to just freely eat candy, it works for us and the kids have a great time and enjoy the freedom for one night. I always love to hear what other families do so send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or a comment or message on social media what works for your family. I would love to hear from you!
Have a very fun and safe Halloween!
Wonder Women Sara, Madelynn and Housh and Spidermen Adam and Caleb