Lesson 10: Being a real food ninja out in the world
This is the final course module, and to finish up we'd like to share a little guide to feeling comfortable about your food choices and helping kids do the same - within yourselves and out there in the world.
Here's what we'll cover:
- The 2 most important things when it comes to creating a relaxed, resilient, anxiety-free food life.
- Bonus interview with Dr Deirdre Ryan, founder of Aruna Psychology.
Once of the best things to do is to teach our kids that 'different' does not equal BAD. We must give them the confidence through our own education, that feeling awesome is the reason we’re crowding out processed, packaged food, NOT just because we want to be difficult parents, depriving them of things. Once they see there’s a cake or biscuit recipe in whole food version that hits the spot better, you’ll start to get there. It’s just getting them to really feel the difference in their own bodies to allow this positive shift to happen and also being the change yourself at home and doing all the things we’ve been speaking about in the course.
The 2 things we believe will create the most relaxed attitude and resilient, anxiety free food life are these:
1. Food on your plate is not the only type of food.
Our body and soul requires many foods. Ensure that your celebrations and family time aren’t only focused around food. Mix it up. Hikes, beach, fairs, fun parks, singing, boating, ferry ride, meditation. Here’s a little example of a circle of the many foods that might feed your body and soul. It's tailored more to an adult's concept of 'overall health' but you get the idea. There's more to 'filling our cup up' than food alone for satisfaction and well being. An interesting exercise is to treat each line coming from the middle point to the outer circle as a 1-10 scale. Plot around the circle along all the lines imagining that 1-10 scale, where you're at for each from 1-10. Now connect each dot around the circle: Is it a good looking and round circle outline, or are there dips and angles all over the place?
Our aim is to have all the ‘foods’ represent approximately equal footing. It’s easy to see how this can get out of whack.
Thing about being too heavily influenced on food - This could be an example where we were constantly talking about our great day or bad day in relation to whether the food was good or bad. We might be talking about how much food, or how you couldn’t stop eating it was so good, or how junk food everything was or how healthy or unhealthy something is… and then you might be talking about how you have to lose weight, or sigh loudly while on the scales (throw those things out already!!!) or always talking about your child’s assets as being their looks or thin body or pretty / good looking features.
Have a little think about your family’s various ‘foods’ and whether food and body image are an over concentration of attention throughout conversations and doing throughout the day. Start to plot some ideas around balancing those skews out with other interests, activities and emphases.
2. When it does come to 'food' Food - education is key.
Kids get it when we explain stuff to them. They WANT to understand. They don't want a NO - It doesn't fit with their desire to learn and understand everything about their world as they grow. So TEACH them WHY. When kids are young, you can simplify and relate food to a super hero or favourite toy figures to explain healthy options - those good guys vs bad guys in the tummy and which army we're feeding, playing the role of micro biome, are just the sorts of messages you need to start confidently sharing with them. You can look back to the previous lessons to go over some of the strategies we’ve covered.
At school, play dates and mates houses:
It can get tricky here, because not everyone is going to share the same food values as you. Plus, you can’t exactly dictate, unless you’ve a child with an allergy, what other people feed your child for meals and snacks. The younger they are, the more you can ask if processed, packaged foods can be kept to a minimum. Let the fellow parent know in a way that doesn’t imply them as ‘guilty’ in any way and just say things such as ‘Would you like me to bake anything? My little girl gets hives and often a sore tummy from some of the packet foods, and rather than have you stress or worry, I’d be really happy to bake something for them to enjoy together. Just say the word”.
Or when they ask “What can he / she eat?” be really specific and say, “really simple foods - rissoles and mash is his most favourite thing” or “He loves everything but processed treats don’t love him, if you could steer clear of flavoured chips, the other day I learnt there was hidden MSG in them, and we’re trialling getting them out of the diet to see if it improves his concentration at school and helps with the tantrums” or some such. This way it’s not about food choices or higher than thou stuff. It’s just more talking about your experience as a parent.
At the end of the day, the best you can do is help your child make a healthy choice. When they’re offered something and they know it's the type of food that won’t make them feel good, you could teach them to say, “No thanks. Do you mind if I have that apple in the fruit bowl though?” or “Those types of biscuits sometimes give me a headache. Could I just have a XYZ please?”
Or when offered a juice, soft drink or cordial: “No thanks. Could I just grab a soda water or water please?”
It's so important however to also let them know if they’re hungry, and it’s dinner time and they want to, it's ok to have a try of whatever is served. Just letting them know that there will be times when what they usually eat and want to eat might not be around, and those times are the times where we’re grateful to have anything at all. They need to know learn to ‘go with the flow’ as well and be confident enough to make their own food choices, guilt-free, so that food doesn’t become an enem. If you truly don’t want it, simply say “No thanks” or “I’m really not hungry thanks”.
Again, while they’re younger, bringing a platter to a kids’ birthday party is gold. People are never going to know whether those chocolate cupcakes are ‘healthy’ or not. You could teach them to enjoy the fruit platter, crudités dips & popcorn. You could teach them to say to friends who offer them lollies, that it's ok to say ‘no thanks’ with a quick change of subject or move onto a game. Plain and simple.
It's about giving them SKILLS, not telling them NO. And at the end of the day not applying any form of pressure on them to make the 'right' choice, as we don't want to learn to say no out of sheer willpower, or fear, or guilt, we want them to make peace with food, all types of it.
Once they get a little older and head out more often without you it’s trickier. Your best line of defence is a great meal before they head out the door. This will ensure that whatever else is going to be eaten, there may well not be as much of it because they are full.
So for a teen who’s headed out for pizzas, if you feed them an early roast dinner and pack in the veggies, it might mean only one slice of pizza, instead of 5! Or simply recognise that this is just one of those occasions where they probably won't be in a position to choose the most nourishing foods, but their souls will certainly be nourished as they enjoy the company of their friends.
If you feel you can, work to the next level in your school community to get a parent’s educational night together where parents are taught about food chemicals, how to avoid them, and then how to make a few delicious things instead. This is a great way to get parents thinking about what is going on the party tables without making them feel dumb or like YOU are crazy.
After social outings:
Debrief with them if they need it. Have open conversations. If there's any confusion around their food choices on their part, don't make it a big deal, just tell them you hoped they enjoyed it and let them know you enjoy all different types of food too. Make them feel safe and secure and confident that they can make choices for themselves.
If it's appropriate you can ask if there was a situation to do with the food that made them feel happy / sad / anxious / angry at the party. You’ll be surprised what comes back. Ask what their ideas are to make next time more fun / easier. Let them know that the solution is theirs to think of (perfect for building individual, resilient people) and that you’ll support them with those solutions.
Be sure to ask about other things so it’s not just the food that's the whole focus of their time at a friend's house, in the debrief (think back to our many forms of ‘food’).
If you have a child with challenges / allergies and you get those snide remarks from parents OR from their mates about them having 'special' food... Our favourite thing to suggest is to invite them - kids AND parents into your world. Have them over. Whip up a couple of 'whatever-free' favourites that allow you to demonstrate that there's no deprivation here, and the food isn't 'weird' or yucky. People don't understand what they don't understand, and if we help them understand our priorities and show them that the food is delicious anyway, then you'll stop getting those comments and if you don't - there's more to a relationship than just food.
These days in primary schools for the most part kids aren’t allowed to share lunches. This helps stop those ‘grass is greener’ thoughts from creeping in.
You could take the initiative with your class and send an email or head to the P&C meetings, to stop the barrage of refined birthday cakes throughout the year…
“Hi guys. I’ve found a few cakes that are still awesome and delicious but are pretty healthy and not likely to send our little people batty for poor Mrs Langley in the afternoon on the days it’s someone’s birthday. I thought I’d share them if anyone wants to give them a go. We’ve made these two so far and they were both seriously delicious with not a tantrum in site after a whopping two slices each”.
This way you are spreading the world at school without being a ‘real food against processed food’ argument or pretty about chemicals, additives etc. You’re simply sharing some content and relaying a positive experience. What could be better than that?
With resistant partners, friends and family members:
“But we didn’t have all of these issues in my day” says Gran. You can say “Well, unfortunately we have been exposed to heaps of things that our bodies don’t recognise over the past few decades. Terrible stuff that you wouldn’t have even known existed when you are little. It’s thought therefore that all these allergies, asthma and digestive issues are our body’s signs that these days, we’re overloaded with stuff that our bodies don’t recognise and our kids are now paying the price with poor, inherited gut health causing allergies and strange gene expressions causing all sorts of odd new 'grey area' diseases.” There you go grandpa and grandma, take that! 😉
If your partner is resistant, you could try ask this “How do we want our children to grow up to be, health wise / confidence wise?”. Ask it while you are both having a really nice warm chat over a wine or cup of tea. Let it be super clear that you’re not attacking or preaching. This is essential. Then you can discuss whether the food you’re feeding them is matching that goal of healthy, strong and clever or whether it’s worth looking at improving maybe. Share your concerns, what you’ve been learning and explain that you’re not concerned about the odd random thing at a birthday party or movie theatre, but it’s the day to day foods you’re wanting to get to be more healthy and real. If they're open to it a "That Sugar Film" or "Fed Up" documentary would be a great think to watch TOGETHER so that you can discuss the food industry and how you guys feel about it as a family, instead of that dynamic of "I know all this stuff now and YOU'RE wrong". That will never work so pop the preacher to one side and get creative on your collaboration messaging vs the attack.
When someone else remarks your abstaining from certain offerings of the processed variety you can confidently say “I’ve been doing my research with a few little symptoms / niggles we’ve had, and that *insert food in question here* doesn’t work for us. The chicken dish is amazing though, what’s the glaze? I’d love the recipe!” Something that affirms in a relaxed way with a smile what’s not working for you, coupled with a quick subject change and an affirmation / praise of something else that’s available, is a great way to not make a big deal. Your food choices can be important to you, without having to have them become your whole story. Sure, if someone wants to find out more and ask you questions, go for it, but generally it’s perfect when you get the opportunity to just give a simple answer and move onto other things that unite you as friends, rather than magnify your different choices - especially in those early stages of you making changes.
Resist the urge to bring it up or make it a big thing that you’re on the real food train. Could you catch up between meals? A cup of tea where you offer to bring the sweet treat, thereby making something you love and you know they will too. That is a great way to avoid a full meal time catch up, when you know you both 'do food' differently.
Lead by being your change, not by going on and on about it.
Many of us on the whole food train can get quite evangelical at the beginning. We’ve been there and both have talked about how quickly we got the heck OUT of that red zone of food evangelism. It’s a waste of time and icky for the people around you. Just be proud of what you’re doing for you and try not to worry so much what others think. More often than not, people will ask you questions eventually. Then, as above, speak from the heart and what speaks to YOU about what you're doing / results you're seeing, rather than speaking about your changes in a "I know XYZ and you're doing XYZ wrong".
Do more entertaining among parents at yours where you’re the cook.
This is a great chance to showcase your food and prove it’s not weird, and rather that it's just simple, yummy food. You won’t need to say a thing other than thank you when they compliment you on your efforts. "Isn't it great that healthy desserts actually TASTE great these days?" for example.
Don’t take on their issues as your own.
Be confident that you’ve made the choices that sit right for your family and simply say ‘no thanks’ to everything else.
Bonus interview: Alexx chats to Dr Deirdre Ryan founder of Aruna Psychology.
Click for the AUDIO ONLY FILE of Alexx and Deirdre's interview
Printable - Do's and dont's for a healthy attitude to food and body image in your family
We hope this has given you a few ideas. See you on Facebook,
Alexx & Bren x
© Thrive 2020
Disclaimer: This eCourse contains the educated opinions of the authors and does not substitute for medical advice from your health care professional. It is your responsibility to consult your medical provider before making any changes to your diet. The author, therefore, assumes no responsibility for the decisions you take based upon the information contained in this eCourse.
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