To the Mama Who Just Wants to Raise Healthy Kids

mom-raising-healthy-kids

Dear Concerned Mama,

I saw you at the grocery store today, standing in the cereal aisle, hair swept up while your children bayed for your attention at your feet. You swayed gently back and forth while softly shushing the babe wrapped around you, balancing a box of cereal in either hand.

I watched you carefully scrutinize the labels, the ingredients, the grams of sugar while you compared your options. As you scrunched your nose in dismay, I could feel your confusion and overwhelm.

Your older children begged for a bright, colorful box of cereal, one promising rainbow marshmallows and a secret toy inside, but I saw you quickly take the box and place it back on the shelf.

You settled on an option you felt would be healthiest for your children and quickly squeezed it in your overflowing cart before they would start protesting. Onward would you go, but I couldn't help but wonder about the lingering questions that stayed with you throughout the day.

Sweet mama, I understand the confusion you face as you struggle to raise healthy, capable children.

We live in a society saturated with information overwhelm. New diet trends and news reports circulate at a pace faster than we can keep up with. But it's more than just overwhelm. It's a deep-rooted fear that we will somehow harm our child if we do not feed them the "right" foods.

Food has become moralized, an issue between right and wrong rather than enjoyment and nurturing pleasure. When disease is linked with food, with chemicals, additives, dyes, preservatives, added sugars, saturated fat, and all the like, food becomes unsafe. Feeling like you can raise a healthy child begins to feel impossible, like a battle of polarized options that never find a middle ground.

So you follow the rules, the guides, the advice of well meaning pediatricians, nutritionists, health food experts; but when the rules just don't seem to fit with your lifestyle, are overwhelming to follow, cause guilt or shame, or simply strip you of joy and satisfaction, what good are they then?

How do you deal with a child who doesn't like their vegetables or only wants to eat desserts? How do you navigate birthday parties, Halloween candy, or the overwhelming cereal aisle?

Sweet mama, you are not alone in these struggles or questions.

Perhaps part of the confusion is in the definition of what "healthy" is, as we have sadly muddled this word with trends, fads, and misinformation.  Maybe what being healthy means is normalizing eating, neutralizing all food as potentially nourishing for our bodies. 

A wise woman once said,

"Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it -not just stop eating because you think you should.

Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.

Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.

Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.

Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more.

Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.

Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings." [1]

So sweet mama, when you are questioning your abilities or worried about doing what's right, know that you are doing an amazing job at this whole parenting thing, simply because you care.

Remember that good nutrition is more than just getting your kids to eat their vegetables or avoid eating certain foods entirely; rather, by encouraging a normal relationship with food, you will help your little one build a sturdy foundation that will benefit them for years to come.  

You have the capacity to instill this within them as you model this with your own life.   Because there is joy is nourishment, and food is meant to be an extension of how you nurture yourself, a pleasurable aspect of how you care for and connect with those you love.  

So when the outside noise becomes overwhelming, learn to tune it out and turn up the volume of your own innate wisdom.  Because you already know what's best for those children who think the world of you.

Sincerely,

A Mama Who Understands

P.S.  If you are looking for more wellness support for yourself or your family, please check out my service page to learn more about how I can help. Know that you are not alone!

Reference:

[1]: Ellyn Satter Institute, "What is Normal Eating", http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/hte/whatisnormaleating.php Accessed 21 June 2017

Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC

Crystal Karges Nutrition

Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a San Diego-based private practice dietitian helping others embrace their health for themselves and their loved ones.  Focusing on maternal/child health and eating disorders, Crystal creates the nurturing, safe environment that is needed to help guide individuals towards a peaceful relationship with food and their bodies.