Monthly Archives: June 2013

Little Eater: How We Try to Create Healthy Habits

Eating is such a personal topic, some people love to eat, and others hate to eat. Some folks over eat, some forget to eat, some eat slowly, and some eat fast and often people are very defensive regarding their choices or habits. Anyone who has ever tried to research diet and nutrition also knows there is a vast, overwhelming sea of conflicting information out there over what to eat, how much of it, when to eat it, ways to prepare it, where to find it, etc.

Last time I was here talking about how we are still breastfeeding past age one, but today I am discussing baby’s other nutrition, solid foods! We first introduced solids at six months old and I thought I would share some things we have implemented over the past eight months that we believe will help our son establish a healthy relationship with food and learn to nourish himself optimally from the very start.

Baby Led Weaning:

Krystyna chronicled her family’s journey with Baby Led Weaning and their youngest child in detail here if you are interested in more information about the actual approach and implementation. We chose BLW because it allows baby to explore food in different forms, exposes them to different tastes and textures depending on preparation, is aligned with our “whole foods” approach to eating and most importantly allows baby to have control over physically feeding him or herself along with determining when to stop or continue eating.

Meal Times & The Family Table:

When we first began giving my son, T, food to explore he sat in his Bumbo with attached tray. We would sit on the floor next to him and eat our food while he spent time discovering the food in front of him.

IMG_3277First Foods

When he outgrew the Bumbo seat we got a highchair that goes on one of the kitchen table chairs and pulls right up to the table, no attached tray. 

IMG_6816At our table – clearly, he is comfortable.

When he became increasingly more mobile and not content in the high chair, around a year old, we got a low to the ground kitchen table with floor cushions for our dining area and a wooden child size table and two chairs for his room. At the dining table he gets in and out of his chair when he wants, sometimes eats standing up at the table, and sometimes grabs food off of our plates. The table in his room usually has some snacks on it throughout the day for him to graze. I know this isn’t practical or conducive to everyone’s lifestyle, but it works for us. We love being on our son’s level and spend most of our days on the floor with him anyways so sitting on the floor at a low dining table isn’t really that much of an adjustment for us. We always place his food directly on whichever table we are eating from and use this silicone placemat from Green Sprouts.

IMG_7746Enjoying a snack at his table.

IMG_7849Unconventional eating 🙂

Incorporating our son into our meal times, what we are eating ourselves and the table we are eating it from, has been very important to us. We want him to see us fueling our bodies with the same things he is. We want him to hear as I tell my husband what I have prepared that night and how and to be involved in the mealtime because he wants to be, not just because he is constrained.

Variety of Healthy Choices:

We offer a variety of choices all day, every day. For breakfast it is usually two or more options rotating between fruits, soaked oatmeal, eggs, green smoothies, coconut/almond yogurt, and nut butters. Mid day snacks and lunch always consist of multiple different foods as well: quinoa, vegetables, rice, olives, possibly more fruit, avocados, more nut butters, hummus, beans, chicken, and fish and dinner is his own serving of whatever my husband and I are having. He honestly doesn’t have foods that he “hates” or “loves” yet, sometimes he will reject things, and sometimes he will gobble up those same foods. Sometimes he throws food on the floor; sometimes he feeds food to the dog. Sometimes he chews his food and spits it out and sometimes he wants me to eat something first and then he will. I don’t react to any of this behavior, when it comes to food, I am in charge of providing the options and he is in charge of what he does with them. No matter the outcome I continue offering a rotating variety of seasonal, whole foods.

Limit Refined Sugar & Sweeteners:

We had an absolute, hard and fast NO refined sugar or sweeteners rule until 12 months. Around twelve months I began using small bits of maple syrup to sweeten things like pancake batters and chia puddings. Around that time we also introduced raw, local honey for the first time and now use that sparingly in things like dressings, marinades, etc. We are very limited on the number of packaged foods T eats but there have been a couple of times he has been given good quality snack type bars with agave or some organic, gluten free snack bunnies that have cane sugar in them as a special treat in the car seat. I strongly believe that by very strictly limiting refined sugar and sweetener intake it allows his natural taste preferences for real, whole foods to flourish.

Relaxed Attitude:

Overall, I think our relaxed attitude towards eating behavior is what we feel will benefit our son’s eating habits the most. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and am starving, sometimes I have things I want to do first before I eat, and sometimes I don’t find myself hungry until 10 or 11 AM. In these instances my husband doesn’t force me to sit down and eat breakfast with him or ever force me to eat foods that don’t sound appealing. Some days certain things sound good, and others days they do not. Keeping in mind that our little man is just the same as us in this regard allows me to feel good about letting him choose how and when and what he eats. As long as all of the options provided are healthy, it makes no difference to me. I also always remember that he is still breastfeeding, so if he doesn’t eat a large quantity one day, there is no need to stress. He is getting plenty of nutrition from my milk and he will make up for it by eating more food in the coming days. Empowering T to not only choose but also then physically feed himself feels so great; watching him navigate food and eat still brings me joy like I am seeing it for the first time. It is much messier, sometimes wasteful, much more inconvenient at times, and takes a lot of work to not only prepare fresh food AND multiple options, but, as the saying goes: “Nothing worth doing is ever easy”. Doing what I believe could help my son learn to sustain his body naturally and optimally is definitely worth it to me!

I could talk food and eating all day and would love to hear from you in the comments! How do you feed your baby or toddler? Have you seen the impacts of your choices on your older children if you have them? What do you think best creates a healthy relationship with food and eating?


Learning and Growing Every Day

As a ballroom dance instructor, I invited my students to step out of their comfort zone every day.  As a parent, I watch our children learn and grow on a regular basis, and do my part to facilitate their growth as much as I can.  As a childbirth educator, we teach people who are interested in natural childbirth to become informed consumers and take responsibilty, among other things.  And yet, I forgot all about applying all these lessons to myself.

Backstory:  Being a homeschooling mom of four, three of who are involved in outside activities four days a week, plus our own classes on the fifth day of the week – we are always on the go, go, go!  Weekends are busy with social engagements and church.  As a partner, I seek to support my husband in his work and make sure I am telling him how much I love and appreciate him on a regular basis.  I try to remember to breathe and apply the relaxation practice we learned when we were students of The Bradley Method® when I am feeling frazzled (it happens!).  I try to read about birth and breastfeeding at every opportunity, and one of my guiding principles is to learn something new every day.

I am, for the most part, a believer.  I am a Believer and have faith in God.  I believe in the power of positive thinking tempered with a healthy pinch of realism.  I believe we are called to love, and I try to Live Love.  I want to inspire others, especially our children, to find their gifts and pursue them so they can live a life full of joy and with no regrets.

In all the busy-ness, I left out one piece.  What am I doing to grow as an individual?  What am I doing that makes me uncomfortable?  I have set some goals – what have I done to get them done instead of letting simply sit on the paper I wrote them on?

As life would have it, I have been crossing paths with Blue Russ for over a year now.  We met on Facebook since we run in the concurrent circles of homebirth and green living.  We finally got to meet in person through an event hosted by Moxie Midwifery last fall.  Blue was kind enough to be our monthly family-friendly featured business in our June newsletter.  After getting to know her better (read her complete interview HERE), I decided to take the plunge and sign up for a complimentary personal health strategy session.

There were/are a lot of reasons not to do it.  I knew I was going to be uncomfortable.  To talk about my health means talking about all the things I am doing wrong in my life.  It means taking responsibility for the extra weight I am carrying around that is not healthy.  It means actually having to do something about it instead of just hating the person that I see in the mirror.  What really convinced me to talk with Blue is her statement that, “No counting calories or grams of nutrients. No judgment. No food is off limits. No deprivation.”  

DSC_7250©2012 BCFlix Photography:  I dislike the way I look so much, that I cropped myself out of this picture when I printed it for our family album.  What kind of message does that send our children?  Whether or not I lose the weight, I want to be “okay” with myself again.

The fact that she assured me that she was not going to make me feel guilty, and offer a safe space, convinced me to take the next step and get uncomfortable.  It’s time to have a positive self-image.  I owe it to our daughters to walk my talk – beauty *is* more than skin deep.  When they tell me I am pretty as all daughters do, I want to believe it, whether or not I get to my target weight.  I owe it to my sons, so that they can meet partners of substance.  I owe it to my husband – I want to feel and be attractive in all aspects of our relationship.  Most importantly, I owe it to myself.  I am tired of the self-loathing and the guilt of feeling like I am not good enough simply because I don’t like the shape I see in the mirror.

The  session with Blue was all that I thought it would be and more.  We started with a breathing exercise to clear my mind and dedicate the next hour to just being present.  I got to leave my list outside the door! (How did she know?)

Next, Blue guided me through some questions to help me find clarity about what my health goal really is, and to help me develop some strategies to reach that goal.  We did that by centering, identifying priorities, and then identifying possible obstacles to that goal.

Finally, we ended with an action plan.  She guided me through devising what the next steps are in reaching my health goal.  How am I going to get there?  How is Blue going to guide me to the next level?

To say today was transformational is an understatement.  In her gentle, wise way, Blue led me through a series of questions that finally uncovered some of my fears about losing weight.  It was such a gift to take some time to focus inward and to think.  I feel like for the first time in nine years, I can actually do something about losing the extra fluffiness that built up over nine years of being pregnant five times.  Now that I know what has been holding me back, I can work on letting go of my fears.  I can focus on getting to a weight that is safe for my heart, and that will allow me to meet at least two more generations of our growing family.

The great news about working with Blue is that you do not have to be in the Phoenix area for her to work with you as a health coach.  She makes great use of technology and you can connect with her via Skype, Facebook and Twitter.  Read more about her in our Inside Look: Blue Russ feature on Sweet Pea Births, and visit her website for more information about the services and classes that she offers in-person and online.

coaching session

I am scared and hopeful at the same time.  I feel like I can really do this, for the first time in long time.  I also have peace of mind that even if I don’t get to my target weight, working with Blue is going to yield a heart-healthier and image-healthier lifestyle.  It was great to stretch out of my comfort zone, and “sharpen the saw” as the old saying goes.  Whether you engage with a personal health coach, or some other kind of way to get uncomfortable and grow, go for it!  You can only get better and better.