Tag Archives: nutrition

I beg you, please stop doing this

Healthy food or unhealthy food?

Please, please, stop using food as reward and punishment for your kidlets. I am guilty of this in the past with my own children–promises of treats if they’re good while I’m on the phone; bribery of yummy things to come for patience while we’re in the store; threatening no dessert if they don’t eat their veggies; warnings of no goodies if they don’t behave.

I hear it all around me from fellow frustrated parents: “No snack for you if you don’t listen.” “Uh-oh, I guess everyone else gets a treat except for you because you made a bad choice.”

Food, especially “treats,” seem like a handy piece of leverage when our nerves frayed. Food is an easy tool for parenting control, but it’s dangerous. The problems with using food as reward and punishment is it sends messages that can cause dangerous eating habits later.

  • Message: Food is a privilege and it must be earned, whether we’re hungry or not. Food is not a right; it’s a basic human need, especially for kiddos whose little bodies are constantly burning physical, mental, and emotional energy. They need constant refueling, and if that need is attached to strings, it causes dissonance between internal body cues and external rules. It’s confusing: “Do I eat when I’m hungry or do I have to wait until I’m good enough–meet all the requirements such that I’ve earned my ability to satisfy my need?”
  • Message:  Food says if I’m bad or good. First of all, placing foods on pedestals as “treats” or “special” makes them that much more desirable. Who doesn’t want a little piece of something super special? And if we earn it, then we must be special too. We’re so good! But what happens if we don’t eat the veggies and don’t earn the special reward? Over time, food starts becoming associated with shame and self-esteem. “I didn’t get ice cream with daddy because I was bad today.” Food becomes less about feeding the body and more of a tool to cope with feelings of value–whether overeating because “I deserve it” or restricting it because “I need more control.”

There’s another angle to consider when putting food itself into “good” and “bad” categories. To a child who doesn’t like peas, peas are bad; dessert is good. Yet, as parents we tend to send the message that peas are “good” for you; the dessert is special because it’s actually “bad” for you. Treats should only be eaten at certain times and under certain conditions. In our house, we used to call dessert foods “sometimes” foods. Food rules regarding what’s good and what’s bad is confusing and interrupts a child’s ability and confidence to read h/her body cues regarding hunger and what sounds good: “I’m hungry and a cookie sounds good. Mom says cookies aren’t good for me and that celery with peanut butter is healthier. I don’t like celery and not in the mood for peanut butter. I guess I’m not hungry.”

  • Message: Eating means following rules and ignoring your body. As an adult do you typically eat food you don’t like? When’s the last time you forced yourself to eat tomatoes, even though tomatoes make you gag, simply because they’re “good” for you? I hate Lima beans and I won’t eat them if you paid me. Lima beans are chock full of amazing nutrients and I couldn’t care less. If my dinner order comes with Lima beans, I will substitute them out for something else, probably french fries.

Forcing your kiddo–using dessert as leverage–to eat everything on h/her plate or certain items because it’s “healthy” sets faulty internal rules: a) if I’m full, I still have to keep eating because there’s food on my plate; b) I have to eat things I don’t like in order to be healthy; c) certain food rules apply to certain people. Grown ups can/cannot eat foods as they choose; Tommy is allowed to pick off his tomatoes, but I’m not; in order to eat foods l love, I must endure foods I hate.


Kids are intuitive eaters by nature. However, when we use food as reward and punishment for control, nature takes a back seat and food habits are formed based on rules and emotional feelings instead. This is so dangerous and can lead to disordered eating habits that will have health implications. Good eating habits start when kids are kids. If you’d like information on  about developing healthy eating habits for your family, I highly recommend the Ellyn Satter Institute. When I went into recovery for anorexia, I was introduced to Ellyn Satter to help incorporate new habits for my whole family. Anorexia didn’t just harm me, it was harming my sweet kidlets too.

Writer-mama seeks beta-recipe testers!

Hey friends! As I have mentioned, I am working on my first children’s book called The Hungry Garden. This is an alphabet book that bridges two worlds together, allowing children to imagine the endless fun they can have in their kitchen using the food they can  grow in their garden. It comes with a snack book filled with recipes kids and parents can make together, with the encouragement to be creative in customizing or changing the recipes to make them their own.

Here’s the message I teach my own children and want to share with you and yours: the world has lots of confusing messages and strict rules about food. Don’t listen to them. Listen to your imagination and your body–eat what sounds good and have fun with it. Continue reading

4 healthy habits that nearly killed me

After 13 years of anorexia and a lifetime of disordered eating habits, I have spent this last year in intensive recovery, peeling back the layers of my life to discover what contributed to my disease. One of those layers uncovered a multitude of “healthy choices” that were anchored in cultural rules and founded upon dangerous half-truths. The following are four habits that were the most deadly for me–and the truths I have learned in my rehabilitation, which have saved my life. Continue reading

Calories are not bad for you

WARNING: What I am about to say is radical and contradictory to cultural norms!!

Calories are not bad for you. Food is not bad for you.


I know. Mind blown, right?

I am not a dietitian or nutritionist or a health coach or a doctor. I am a woman who is in treatment for a 13-year+ battle with anorexia. I am working closely with a (phenomenal) dietitian and a therapist who specialize in eating disorders; I am becoming awakened to faulty beliefs about food.

Our nation has done a pretty good job of scaring people to death (literally) of eating. The media touts the obesity epidemic and plasters 100,001 ways to lose weight, not gain weight, watch weight, manage weight, control weight, maximize weight, minimize weight. We’re instructed to avoid carbs of all types, bread, grain, sugar, fats and many protein sources like legumes and dark meats. We’re successfully whittling down our diets to 100-calorie packs and organic greens. We’re constantly in each other’s foods with judgement and warning, “Are you going to eat that? It causes cancer.” “That’s bad for you.”

As a result, I dare say, it isn’t an obesity epidemic our nation is dealing with. We’re dealing with a disordered eating epidemic. Obesity is just easier to see. Anorexia, bulimia, and orthorexia are much easier to hide, accept as “normal,” and completely misunderstood.

Food is not bad for anybody. There aren’t even certain foods that are bad for the body. It’s habits that are unhealthy. Eating too much or too little of any kind of food isn’t good for the body. Too much ice cream is just as harmful as too much  broccoli. Too much soda can be just as hard on the body as too much kale or blueberries or flax. Ice cream in itself is not “bad”; soda is not “bad”; carbs are not “bad”; beans are not “bad”; the “badness” of food is not the food’s fault–it’s the habits by which you consume or not consume the food according to what your body needs that deserve the scrutiny.

The human body operates on calories. It will use anything you feed it… to give you energy, to help you think, to help you digest, to help you build muscle, to help you feel happy, to help you function. Your body is really good at telling you what it needs if you know how to listen. Ever eat too much candy? You get a belly ache. Eating too much cheese lately? You get constipated. Ever avoid carbs before a workout? You get dizzy and tired half way through. The body is kind in notifying you, “Hey, yo! I need some fruit. I need water. I need fat. I need protein.” And when you oblige the body, it rewards you.

Similarly, if your body can’t handle a certain food, it will also tell you. I have celiac disease which means my body cannot utilize gluten–the protein found in wheat, barely and rye–and it lets me know with resounding borborygmus, rashes, nausea, and extreme fatigue.  This doesn’t mean gluten is evil. Nor are grains evil! It just means my body can’t read gluten properly. Some people know they can’t eat peanuts because the body says, “Hey yo! I can’t breathe when you eat these things!” This doesn’t mean peanuts are bad, but rather their body can’t read peanuts properly.

Your body is always working for you–trying to protect you. Even in disorder, the body will seek to adjust to a “normal” function within the disorder, always striving to keep you alive. But we don’t just want to eat to stay alive. We’re built to thrive, my friends! If we don’t feed the body calories and trust our body to work with the nutrition it asks for, we fall ill. We injure our metabolisms, which our body depends upon for a multitude of internal processes; we mess with our brains, which is a powerful but fragile organ; and we deplete our capacity to thrive, thus reverting to survival mode.

Trust me. I am living proof.

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Photo courtesy of my sweet friend Monet Borla!

Take a look a this box of ordinary light bulbs. The measure of light is calculated in lumens–the higher the lumens, the greater the light produced and usable for our needs. Think of calories the same way. The measure of energy in food is calculated in calories. The greater the calories, the greater the energy produced and usable for our body’s needs.  Why would you ever want to deny your body energy–life, light!

Just as we adjust our lights based on what we’re trying to do; so it is with our calories.  When we work out, we need more energy, more calories; when we’re hibernating in those cold winter months, we don’t need as many. Regardless, we always need a balanced  mixture of carbs, proteins, fat, and sugar because all these elements work together to produce full life. You omit or restrict one, well, the lights dim. Restrict the calories long enough, the lights will go out completely.

Don’t be afraid of calories. Ignore the media headlines and listen to what your own body is asking for. It won’t let you down.