Recently posted on the great blog: www.achildgrowsinbrooklyn.com

Do you have a child who loves to eat…and eat and eat? Do you wonder if it’s an issue? My daughter will say “mmm” with such enthusiasm when she slurps down her soup that it gives me great happiness to serve her another bowl…and even another sometimes. My husband is concerned. I’m not. So, when Donna Fish wrote this article about an overeating child, I knew it would not only resonate with us, but with some of you.

Flipping the “Off”- Switch: Teaching Your Overeater How to Stop by Donna Fish
Nothing like having kids to reinforce the nature part of the nurture debate when it comes to personality traits. Forget things like hair and eye color; any parent with more than one kid knows how different and unique their personalities and temperaments are, from Day One.

I broaden this to what I call your kid’s “Food Personality”. It is rare for there to be kids in one family who all have similar eating styles. More often than not, I hear parents including myself, talk about having one kid who’s a fairly picky eater, stops easily, while there are many children who have trouble stopping.

I call these kids, my Trouble Transitioners. Since I coined this term for the 6 Styles of Eaters I write about in my book, I have come to see that some kids don’t necessarily say: “More, More!” because they have trouble with transitions, but simply because they have a well developed palate, and love the stimulation of the tastes, smells and the sensations of the food! I think back to when my middle daughter who delights in whatever she is doing at the moment, would be eating bowls and bowls of cereal, with the biggest smile on her face; humming the whole time. I had to teach her how to flip the ‘off’ switch by waiting and checking back in with her body 20 minutes later.

This is the opposite of the Picky Eater; kids whose palates and senses don’t develop until they are older. (If at all, there are some adults who are still picky eaters, and not that ‘into’ food.) Trouble Transitioners are so stimulated by the tastes and sensations (early ‘foodies’; and I say that in the best sense of the word), that they are on their third helping before they feel the signal that they are ‘Done, or Full”. By the time they hear the signal and stop, they are usually STUFFED. This way of eating can, over time, become habitual as the cue to feeling ‘DONE’ and STOP EATING, is triggered after larger quantities. The obvious result can be weight issues, which create other problems.

Parents can worry about how to handle this without at best, creating bad feelings and power struggles, or at worst, an eating disorder. (Although parents, you can let yourself off the hook, it takes more than that to create a true eating disorder; some disordered eating, perhaps, not a full blown eating disorder.)

So in the interest of giving your ‘foodies’ some tools to prevent problems from developing, here are some tips:

1) Enjoy and show your kid that you love how much they love food and the tastes. Celebrate this.

2) Teach them that they are their own “BODY EXPERT”, and it is their responsibility to become the best “BODY DETECTIVE” possible. This means listening carefully to their stomachs for the signal that they are DONE, OR FULL. Educate them that some bodies take longer to send the signal; it can just be a whisper after one bowl of cereal, but they need to WAIT 20 minutes to hear it well.

3) While they are waiting, let them do an activity with you like clearing the table, doing the dishes. If they want more, leave their food on the table so they know they have access to it and can have it if their body tells them they are genuinely still hungry. (Avoids power struggles)

4) Teach them how to listen to their bodies; Think of gradations of Hunger/Fullness; 1-7 from Starving, to Stuffed. Help them to Listen Carefully and EAT WHEN HUNGRY STOP WHEN DONE, OR FULL.

5) There are some foods that lend themselves to stimulating your tongue and mouth to the point where it makes it hard to flip the “Off Switch”; some salty foods, or sweet, depending on your palate. Teach your kid to just step away after some, and remind them they can have more later. (Try it yourself!)

Teaching kids HOW to WAIT and STOP, is a part of preventing eating problems from developing, and empowers them to eat well for life.

Happy Mealtime!

Donna’s Other Articles:
How Do You Teach Eating?
Starting Solids
How To Get Those Greens In
Dining Out With Children
Flatware That Is Fun
Who Wants To Eat Vegetables?
Finger Foods Strike
Yogurt For Kids With Sugar?
Finger Foods For A Baby

Donna Fish
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Donna Fish is a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in Manhattan, where she lives with her husband and three daughters, writes her own blog and blogs for The Huffington Post. With the publication of her book: Take the Fight Out of Food: How to Prevent and Solve Your Child’s Eating Problems, she has appeared on and in NPR, Parenting Magazine, Weekend Today Show, Fox News, USA Today and MSNBC and has lectured at Early Childhood Centers of Sarah Lawrence College, Wellesley College, Georgetown University and trained the Head Start Staff of NYC. She lectures to private schools in NYC: Bank street, Village Community School, Dalton, Chapin and more. Donna blogs for us every month- lucky us!

“Eating Outside the Box”

What on earth does she mean by that, you are wondering to yourself. I know, I know, There are a million diet tips out there, what could this one be?! The premise is simple in two ways, but demands some work in a different way than simply following a diet. It goes like this:

1) Connect with your body’s signals. This is called self-regulating. Unfortunately though, we can have very set ideas on how we are supposed to be eating, which may not be what works for your partiular body or mind, i.e.: “I need to eat breakfast, that is healthy, but I really don’t want to eat until 10:00 a.m. and if I do eat breakfast, I end up eating more than if I skip it.” ONE WAY OR EATING DOES NOT FIT ALL. Some thrive with structure, some rebel and end up overeating. Some people graze and would prefer to eat all day. (Many women’s blood sugar levels don’t remain as stable as those of men, which is why you might find yourself needing to eat every 2-3 hours while your boyfriend, husband can go all day).

2) Figure out how you ‘talk to yourself’ about your food. Our head can override what our body tells us to eat at a fairly early age, and the conversation continues your whole life: This is your ‘tape loop’. It is the way you talk in your head to yourself about how you have eaten, are going to eat, or are eating. Key, is figuring out what your response in terms of these conversations tends to be: Do you tune out the voice and land up overeating? How nasty is that voice? How self-congratulatory the first three days when you have dieted successfully? What about after that?

I know that from working with people on eating issues for years now, that until you can figure out not only your ‘tape loops’, your inner dialogue, but most importantly, what really tends to work for you, YOUR FIT, in terms of food and your lifestyle, then all attempts at eating in a particular way will be temporary and be harder to maintain and roll with the changes as you move through more sedentary jobs, childbearing and rearing, stressful events, and vacations and good times. I believe food should be savored, enjoyed and should fit for you; as I always say: You may not be failing your diet, your diet may be failing you. In fact, you CAN figure out how to ‘Eat Outside the Box’. FOR LIFE.

TAKE THE FIGHT OUT OF FITNESS AND FOOD: Ways To Create Successful Strategies From All Of Your Past Failures

The other day my 15 year old daughter decided to get back into exercise. She set up the Wii Fit game on our television, stepped on the platform, and was promptly told by her ‘person’: “You have gained 5 pounds, and you haven’t worked out in three months!”

What did she do? She immediately stepped off, and hasn’t gone back to the Wii Fit since.

We joked in the family about how this little ‘person’ (which she had in fact, designed!) had totally psyched her out. I thought to myself: “Do we not have enough of an inner critic when it comes to our body image? Do we really need that outside person; friend, neighbor saying: “Now dear, you really have gained some weight?” Really? Geez, I hadn’t noticed, thanks for the help!”

How you take that criticism, how you handle the accusation, whether it is self directed, or from the outside; how you handle failing or FEELING THAT YOU ARE FAILING, will have a huge impact on your motivation and ability be consistent in your goals. Some people can shrug their shoulders and take self criticism in stride, some people are motivated by harsh self criticism. When the criticism becomes excessive however, often the only response is to for duck and cover: basic avoidance of that critic by shutting down. Usually vis a vis dieting, it goes like this: “I blew it, so I will start again tomorrow. Better not really notice or think about what I am eating now.” Total shut down from that voice that is noticing what you are eating and berating you. All that ‘conscious eating, counting points, calories, carbs whatever, out the window. Anyone out there ever start and then stop a diet? How many times, right?!

I would argue however, that FEELING LIKE YOU ARE FAILING IS NORMAL AND PART OF LIFE. Making mistakes, messing up, not succeeding in exactly the way you had imagined it to be, or had set out is absolutely part and parcel of any effort and achievement.

Okay, I know FAILURE is not exactly a headline grabber, or a word that we like to use. Well, I am here to take “FEELING LIKE A FAILURE” OUT OF THE CLOSET. Again, it is totally normal and you can bet that the person you admire most in the world has felt it too. In fact not just felt it, but achieved it. I would venture to say that most successful people have failed multiple times. The difference is that they keep trying.

Your failures are DATA; this information will help you adapt and modify your efforts. In a word, you will learn what you need to about the situation, about yourself, and how you can make the necessary adjustments to create small successes. This will keep you going.

In the book “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hours; the time it takes to be able to do things well. To succeed. What is barely mentioned however, is how those people who are able to put in those 10,000 hours, cope with the days they feel they have failed. I would put money on the idea that they don’t feel successful every moment of those 10,000 hours, but they are able to handle their failures, their disappointments without abandoning their efforts entirely.

What is talked about in the book is the concept of delayed gratification. We know that in order to do this you have to be motivated to show up and keep working, to get to the gratification piece. That is the key: How do you stay motivated to show up, to keep up your efforts in the face of difficulty, failures, disappointments?

Given that failure is kind of ‘built’ in to a lot of dieting history, plenty of people have lost and gained the same 10 – 20 – 150 pounds over many years, I would venture to say that we are primed to feel like we are failing, the moment things start to go badly. Okay, let’s say it: “fail”.

So how do we keep up the efforts in the face of failure, like those ‘outliers’, to put in those 10,000 hours to ensure success? A lot of how you ‘self- talk’ and respond to your inner critic in the face of failure, will have to do with how you handle a bad day on a diet, and then how you put in the time.

Typical scenario:

You’ve joined the gym; you’ve even been working out with a trainer, or signed up and started going to those classes. You feel great! You’ve changed some of your eating habits, even started that new diet that everyone’s talking about and it is terrific! You’ve been doing it a month, and you’ve noticed your body changing; you’ve lost 8, maybe even 10 lbs.

Then you notice that the weight isn’t coming off so fast. You have a day when you are desperate to eat without thinking, without measuring, without counting, without being conscious, and boom! There you are. You wake up the next day, feeling like crap.

You say to yourself: “I have totally blown it; I will definitely start my diet tomorrow, but given how much I ate last night, I might as well ‘let go’ today too, and I will definitely re-start tomorrow. Forget the gym today”.

You spend that day eating all the things you don’t let yourself have, and you don’t let yourself notice how full you are, because you know that tomorrow you are back to the regime. What’s another day?

You go back to the gym, and you get on the scale. You of course expect that you’ve gained weight, but the next few days you are ‘good’. But you step on the scale 4 days later, and the weight still hasn’t budged. You’re really getting pissed now, and starting to think that this whole gym thing isn’t working. And this diet is obviously not working either. You feel totally discouraged. Your motivation is down, you feel like a failure, and you again are feeling fat, even though the same weight two weeks ago, felt thin. (In fact, it was thinner than you had been in 5 years!)

This happens to be one of the most common places that people tend to lose their motivation. Their enthusiasm for the diet and exercise wanes as the result doesn’t seem to be coming and what is that word again? “Failure!”

How you self talk in the face of your ‘inner mean girl or guy will have a direct result on your ability to get back to your efforts. If you are brutal to yourself, it is likely that you will totally shut down, and want to avoid this whole thing entirely; face it here you have failed again, just like all those other times!

Some options to consider:

“I needed that time off and I am going to see it as restorative. If I keep this up I am likely to continue losing as I had been doing before.”

“I know I have failed at this a million other times, but I think I need to change my current plan. I can’t get to the gym more than 2 times a week, so I will also walk to work one day.”

“I need to build in more carbs, because I can’t live like this. I know that if I eat the bread I love every day, but don’t overeat it, I can probably balance things.”

Small changes and adapting your goals keeps your motivation up as you achieve them. Always re-evaluate your diet and your fitness program to tweak things to fit your life and help you stay consistent. A few tips:

PREDICT THE PLATEAU:
EXPECT TO ‘POOP OUT’ SOME WEEKS WITH NOT JUST YOUR DIET BUT YOUR ATTEMPTS AT EXERCISE. PREDICT THEM. BUILD THEM IN.
Leave room for days here and there where you feel need to eat more than usual and hang out on the couch. Your body and mind need breaks. Let them energize you; don’t’ use them as an excuse to stop your efforts entirely

PREDICT A DAY OF EATING WHAT YOU HAVEN’T ALLOWED YOURSELF. Particularly if it s food you can’t live without. At least knowing you can have it maybe once a week, will help you from shoving it down your throat, thinking it’s your ‘last supper’ as you make promises to resume your low or no carb diet tomorrow. If limiting this food works for you, great. If it doesn’t, give it to yourself every day and then see if you really want to have it, or have less of it. It is always there tomorrow. Yes, you can lose weight eating the foods you love.

MAKE MODIFICATIONS AND CHANGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR YOURSELF IF YOU ARE FAILING:
Change some of your goals. You might have started off too big and are overwhelmed. Changing the plan to fit you is what is going to help you keep it going. Don’t worry about the endpoint. Small bits really do add up, and again, consistency is key. Your goals will keep adapting as you keep succeeding.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, YOU ARE THE BOSS AND THE EXPERT IN WHAT WILL WORK FOR YOU BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOURSELF AND YOUR LIFE.

Quick story: The other day a friend was telling me how fantastic she has been feeling having cut out all carbs and sugar for a few months. No bloating ever, no weight gain, she feels fantastic! Despite all my anti-diet preaching and beliefs, for a moment I started to think about how maybe I should try this, hey, maybe I wouldn’t wake up feeling bloated, or puffy when I eat whatever these things are that make you puffy and bloated. I have to tell you guys, that no sooner did I even have the THOUGHT to try this, did I find myself stuffing candy and bread down my throat. I was starving! What on earth was this, I was wondering after the second day I was not just failing at cutting out carbs and sugar, but hey, that was all I was eating!!!

I simply had to laugh. I think I was failing this diet big time. And I hadn’t even started. The minute I realized that this was not going to be a good idea for me, I resumed my usual eating, which feels by and large, successful to me. 80/20. It’s good enough.

I will live with my puffy days.

Happy Eating!

Teaching Confidence in Eating

Anyone who has read my book, or hears me speak, knows my basic theme; that if we can reconnect with our body’s signals, and teach our kids to stay connected to theirs and then use some common sense about nutrition, then we can maintain and/or rediscover a healthy relationship with food for life.

I thought to post this feedback to share some of how others put it, and to share another useful website; http://butterbeanskitchen.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/

This morning I had the pleasure of hearing Donna Fish speak at a school about kids and their relationship with food. She is a parent of three, a clinical social worker with a private practice in NYC, and the author of Take the Fight out of Food.

Her general approach to creating healthy relationships with and around food for kids, has less to do with food and more to do with helping children develop decision-making skills about food for life. Children can be taught, as babies she says, to think about their decisions, to check in with themselves and be body-detectives. Each of us knows better than anyone else what feels right – from the inside out. Encouraging our children to experiment and listen to the messages their bodies give them, and then encouraging them to trust their instincts, creates confidence. this is the type of confidence that will allow your child to think through their decisions, and then feel good about their decisions as they grow and are faced with peer pressures.
At Butter Beans, we do believe that food changes everything. Eating, affords many lessons that influence just about every other aspect of our life. It isn’t just about the food though. In the case of school lunch, students line up to make their plate, and there are choices to consider! Do I want soup? Do I want both sides, or do I want to save room for a salad or a sandwich? Do I want yogurt? What’s the fruit today? What is my friend going to have?
Having only good things to choose from is great, but choosing, for a timid eater, or for a student new to the lunch line, takes some getting used to. Learning to do so – to take in options and making the most appropriate ones for you on a daily basis, is an amazing life tool. Giving students support in honing this skill, is important.
How to do that? Reviewing the menu with your child before they are faced with lunch, works wonders.
Taking your child shopping and letting them pick out different types of foods, is fun and empowering for them. Donna Fish recommends talking about the food groups as they relate to your child. Protein – essential for focus – let them pick out the protein foods they like at the store.
Having supportive, friendly staff is also important – we’ve got that covered:)
The lessons don’t have to come all at once. In fact, a little at a time is probably the best way to go about it. Teaching our children to chew is a gift that literally lasts a lifetime. Chewing on our food allows for proper digestion and assimilation, and also makes it easier to connect to our body wisdom that lets us know when we have had enough, or when we need more of something. Chewing on information, is a similar process.
Our children’s number one job is to take care of their bodies. It is our responsibility to give them the tools to do so well.

New Q and A!

First off, and most importantly, I need to thank all of you who write to me and tell me how helpful “Take the Fight out of Food” has been to you and your family. I would like to open up this blog to be a place you can send in specific questions and I will respond; perhaps this can help others with similar issues, and it is a way for us to begin a conversation.

I am starting this off with a recent query I received; I am publishing it with permission and some changes to preserve anonymity which is what I will do whenever I publish anything that is written in, so no worries that anyone will recognize your identity!

Q) I have 2 sons who are picky and have multiple food allergies.  My husband is overweight . I am 39 and have a history of dieting starting in my early teens, even though I have never been more than 20 lbs. heavier than I was in high school. The dieting, as you know, led to bingeing and weight gain.  In college I started the binge/purge cycle. I did that for 2 years. I quit and was vegetarian for a while.

Due to my kids’ allergies I started reading about nutrition. Because of what I’ve read, and more, I am now vegan. I enjoy eating this way and I don’t give it much thought. My husband is not on board at all. What do I feed him and the kids?

I’m trying to get the boys off cows milk. One of them likes soy milk and drinks it, and the other is worried about heart disease.

I believe, based on my personal experience, that your way is the best way, i.e, teach them about nutrition and how to listen to their bodies. It develops a healthy relationship with food for life. However, I am having a hard time viewing foods as equal (not good or bad) when the research is telling us differently. Do I share my beliefs with my children? What do I feed them?
Cows milk vs. milk substitute, chicken vs. tofu. I don’t even know if they will eat it.

I recognize that this is an ongoing eating disorder for me. I recently read a book about orthorexia nervosa and could relate to that diagnosis. I don’t want this problem to be passed down.

A) Yikes! First off, you have your hands full with allergies and different needs! Very difficult, and whenever there are specific medical issues, it is important of course to adhere to those.
Secondly, thanks for your openness and willingness to acknowledge your own issues. It can be a lot of what we “bring to the table” along with the food and is a first step to helping us give our kids the best relationship with food, they can have.

Sounds like you are probably going to need to have the milk and soy options. Regarding your husband, I wouldn’t try to convert your husband to this if he flat out refuses, and, I would argue, drinking milk isn’t something you want your child to be worried about.

I understand your concerns with the food industry and how to protect your children the best way you know how. My daughter is a vegan and is often trying to help me and all of us in our family understand her point of view and why she feels so strongly about staying away from meat, dairy and fish.

However, that being said, she is old enough to take responsibility for making sure her body gets the additional vitamins that she is missing and she shops and often cooks her own food. (Not always, we do help out, but it is not something everyone in the family wants to eat this way all the time.) Given your husband’s reluctance to take on a vegan diet and how young your kids are and that their growing bodies do need the vitamins gotten through more easily obtained foods, I think it best to wait until they are older and let them make the decision.

I think it is easy to get really worried about all kinds of different types of food, for all kinds of reasons. I do believe in moderation though, as the best defense against not only allergies, but also obsessional thinking about food, and I think it is important to give kids the tools to help them feed their bodies well, know the variety of food groups that they need and how to take responsibility for those choices so that they are equipped to also deal with the outside world when they are on playdates, at school, and can’t always eat exactly the way you might like at home. Nothing wrong with having a vegan diet yourself, and exposing them to your meals, this may sensitize their palate and they may end up making that choice when they are older, but I wouldn’t over worry about their exposure to a non vegan diet.

Make sure they know what their bodies need. Help them figure out how to ‘balance’ the food groups that they are having, even if they are a picky eater. Teach them about the reasons the different food groups are important and what they do. One of the best things you can do to give them a healthy relationship with food is to educate them about why their bodies need calcium, protein, vitamins and vegetables. Connect the benefits to the activities they love, and help them to know their own bodies and eating styles. Even a picky eater can be getting enough within the limits and the different food groups. (Chapter 4 has specific information about what say, a 7 year old needs in terms of protein, or a 1 year old and the amounts of calcium.) Help them stay connected to their bodies, so that they don’t eat from their head, but rather from how they feel from the inside. Chapter 5 has a 1-7 Hunger Fullness Scale adapted for kids, so that they can figure out how much to eat that works for their own bodies.

Most importantly, try to help take some of their fears out of eating. You don’t want your kids developing too much anxiety over the foods that they might want to eat, or will end up needing to eat, because it is too difficult for them to limit their exposure. Try to adopt a ‘for the most part’ attitude about their eating habits, which helps deal with anxiety over needing to eat a ‘perfect’ diet. It sounds like you are doing the best you can for your kids, and they will profit from your concern to feed them healthy, you just don’t want to overdo it. You might have ongoing excessive anxiety about food that is making sense to you with all the information about the food industry, but be aware of how your anxiety may be funneled into this rationale, and how it may be spilling over into your kids; and their worries about food. Any eating disorder is accompanied by extreme anxiety, so be sure to address that, and then try to be help your kids be less worried about the foods they eat.

Eat Like a Kid

Just yesterday I was giving a talk at a New York City school, and the room was filled with caring parents who all wanted to make sure that they were doing their best to ensure that their children could have the best eating habits possible.

At one point, a mom raised a question that brought me to the goal I always have in my work with not just kids, but also adults: To be able to “Eat Like a Kid”.

Now when I say that, I don’t mean only that you eat candy, or chips, and don’t ever feel any of the aftermath that we struggle with in adulthood, like hmmm, bloating? (Anyone see Jamie Curtis in the film where she is suddenly in her daughters’ body and she’s eating fries like crazy and saying: “Hey, no bloating!”

In any case, what I do mean, is what all those books on Intuitive, or Mindful Eating refer to, and have as their goals; to basically Eat When You’re Hungry, and Stop When You’re Full.

Hey, not so easy, right?

From a fairly young age, we get a bit sidetracked from our body’s basic signals and our head starts to override those messages. We “think” ourselves out of those signals.

A couple of things that can deride our connection to our body:

1) An idea that you need to lose weight and therefore, need to limit particular foods from your diet

2) Someone else or messages from the media that lead you to believe that certain foods are going to be ‘bad’ for you this or that particular year, and they are foods you love.

Basically, in a nutshell, beginning to think that you need to eat in a way that is different than what is your habit, and/or intuitive.

So, this does not mean that you have to ignore some of these realities, but rather that they need to be re-thought.

1) Make sure that your approach to eating is realistic and that do-able.

2) Be mindful of your tendencies; Do you wait till you are starving, or tend to repetitively eat till you are totally full all the time? Experiment with eating earlier, sooner, rather than later, to stave off emergency hunger, (which leads to stuffing), and play around with eating less, but reminding yourself that you can have more later

3) Even though you might believe that some foods have control over you vs. you control over them, pick one or two to experiment with: Have access to them at all times, keep them with you in your hand and decide:
Do You need this now, or can you Wait, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour, maybe tomorrow, certainly the next day. Don’t cut yourself off of the food thinking that you CAN’T have it.

These are tips to find your way back to an eating style, that can incorporate some realities that are necessary, but perhaps can free you up to Eat Like a Kid!

Take Heart Women of America: You Can Have That Extra Sugarplum This Holiday Season!

Anyone catch Jennifer Ringer, the New York City Ballerina on the Today Show the other day? She was on to talk about the recent review in the New York Times of her dancing where she was called out by Alastair Macaulay, for looking as though she had had a few too many sugarplums. He stands by his word claiming that ballet is an art form where the aesthetic is about the body and line, and hey, if you want to go out of that standard, you can be a modern dancer.

There has been an overwhelming show of support for Ms. Ringer; not the least being that The Today Show invited her on to respond to Mr. Macaulay’s review. Perhaps they were going with the groundswell of people crying out against this particular body politic, perhaps they were doing a tie-in with the upcoming movie “The Black Swan” where Natalie Portman portrays a very very thin ballerina. (She reportedly lost 20 lbs. for the role; this from an already thin girl.)

No matter whether you are in support of the reviewer, or the public’s outcry against his comments of her body; I would wager that almost every female watching this morning were desperately searching for a sign of, well, her fat.

Even with the “television adds 20 lbs.” thing, she looked pretty trim. Ann Curry must have been muttering to herself: “And I am a big fat pig!” as Ms. Ringer sat beside her, giving us a relative point of view for size. Ms. Curry of course being quite slim, Ms. Ringer appeared smaller next to her.

Bring on the tutu though, and we are dealing with a whole different story. The standards for a ballet body in particular have always been more exacting than any other dance form, but clearly have changed some since the Balanchine days. About 18 years ago, I was brought in to consult with the School of American Ballet dorm staff who were concerned about eating disorders with their students. There was a need to balance the demand that the ballet world and in particular at that time the Balanchine aesthetic for the female dancer, with the health of the students and young professionals to be.

I must comment on the obvious expansion of New York City Ballet’s body policies. In reference to this, Ms. Ringer commented that there is a variety of ‘body types’ in the company, and that certainly she was one of the ballerinas with a more ‘womanly shape’.

Perhaps the critic is simply mourning a bit of a passing of a Balanchine aesthetic that had been such a strong part of the company. Perhaps there would not be such a range of ‘body types’ or ‘womanly figures’ were Mr. Balanchine still alive.

So women of America, take heart, eat and be merry. Have that extra sugar plum this holiday season resting assured that you will not lose your job or be critiqued in the press for those few extra pounds. As I said after having switched from my former job as a dancer: “Clothing hides a multitude of sins, and hey, no one ever fired their shrink for gaining a few pounds!”

Happy Eating!

Thinking Outside the LunchBox

It’s that time of year again, and if you pack school lunches 5 days a week, it is just the beginning of this particular job that can be just a teeny tiny bit monotonous.

Whenever I do any lectures on kids and food, concerns about lunch and school often come up.  I figured it would be a good time of year, to put these common concerns along with some tips, out there.  Feel free though to write me or send comments about your own particular worries, or questions, and I will be happy to continue this conversation.

Concern #1:

1)    My kids’ school won’t allow nuts or peanut butter; what can I give them that they might eat?

Edamame, hummus, and of course turkey and cheese are great protein alternatives if your kid will eat them.

2)    My kid never seems to eat their lunch; they always come home with their lunchbox full, or they will only eat the treat.

Don’t sweat this one.  Many kids are way to excited and busy at lunchtime to focus on the food.  They are distracted, socializing, thinking about who is sitting with whom.  Capitalize on their hunger which is always massive right after school.  Bring them a turkey sandwich, stop off for chicken rice and beans, basically in a word, if they are hungry feed them real food.  Otherwise they will be snacking until dinner and not want to eat what you serve them in the evening.  Focus less on needing to eat dinner type food at dinner and if they aren’t that hungry, they can eat cereal or yogurt.

3)    My kid is a really picky eater and doesn’t like to eat much at once.  How do I make sure they eat enough?

IF they are really picky and won’t try new things, let them have the same thing every single day.  Don’t sweat it.  Regarding amounts, think smaller; half a sandwich, a burrito, a yogurt and fruit with whole wheat crackers.  A piece of cheese.  Let them also portion out their own food, so they are feeling like they have some control over the amount of food they are eating.  They will be more likely to ask for more.  Most of the time, picky eaters are still getting what they need, and they grow out of it.   They are probably eating just right for their appetite and body.

4)    My kid always eats the other kids’ treats.  They have Ring Dings, and I want him to stay away from that kind of junk food.

You can’t protect your child from the junk world.  What you can do is teach him how to balance junk food with healthy food that does good things for his body.  Let him pick his favorite junk food and figure out when he wants to have it;  limit it to once a day but he gets to pick when.  Perhaps he can bring in his own Ring Dings and trade them for the apple if it isn’t forbidden and overvalued in his mind.

Teaching your kid balance and thinking through their own food decisions will arm them to eat well for life.  Try not to sweat the small stuff, and don’t get obsessive about healthy food.

Happy school starting!!

Are We Really THAT Pathetic?

I know I am a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to this ‘social networking’ business.  I don’t ‘twit’, I barely look at my ‘facebook’, and I just got a ‘smartphone’.

But I have to admit, that this line I caught from a website called BuyerVerse.com, kind of summed up my attitude to our obsession with ‘connecting’ and ‘contacting’ these days via the internet;  It is kind of pathetic.  I keep thinking of the saying:  “If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, did it really fall?”

I think we are all in a bit of an existential crisis.  Get the ‘sell’ line for this website;  “Confirms a person’s existence.”

Now I know they are really plugging some GPS feature where you are matched instantly with a product or price you want to pay for such product, but that line really punched to the absurdity of it all.

Who doesn’t want to be ‘popular’?  We never do get out of high school, do we?  Emotionally, anyway.  What kills me about the obsession with the social networking sites, and the need to be ‘famous’, is that it shows our need to be seen.  “I think, therefore I am”, has been replaced by:  “I am seen, twittered, networked, therefore I am.”

We don’t do very well in a vacuum.  We have done poorly in teaching our children how to exist without any outside stimulation.  They don’t have a clue how to be bored.  One analyst once said to me:  “If we are never bored, then we will never know ourselves.”

How true.  If we can never sit still long enough or be alone without connecting, or focusing our energies outward, then we will never land in our bodies and minds long enough to sort through any physical or emotional sensations.

Without the ability to ‘decompress’ to shift gears from focusing outside ourselves, to our insides, and without the ability to tolerate that downshift and emptiness that it might initially be experienced as, a lot is lost.  Creativity, a sense of self, a seat, or anchor to one’s gut, and the ability to decode information and sort through one’s emotions, rational thinking, and physical impulses, is poorly developed.

Think about this the next time you, or your kid, starts to whine:  “I’m bored.”  Seize it as a moment to shift through the slight agitation and discomfort and see where it lands you.  Approach it in a matter of fact way with your child.  Resist the idea that it is your job to ‘entertain’ or stimulate them all the time.  Keep them connected to their inner resources.

Then take a trip sitting around being bored, inside yourself.  Yes, in fact, you do exist without the outside world telling you so.  Don’t ‘twitter’ your time away.  Savor your empty spaces and boredom.  You will find something infinitely more interesting.  Yourself.

A ‘Girl’s Guide’ to Dating and Mating

Right now all three of my girls are fairly obsessed with watching reruns of “Sex and the City”.  As I watch the shows with them, (and marvel at the phenomenal writing!),  I wonder: “What is the dating show equivalent for today?”

Given that much of my practice is filled with women in their 20’s and 30’s who are either falling in, out of, or whom are on the ‘lookout’ for love, I often serve as a ‘relationship coach’ where the whole ‘mating and dating’ thing’ is up for analysis.

Yesterday in fact, Connie, (not her real name for obvious reasons), was complaining that there doesn’t seem to be any one book that single handedly deals with the prototypic New York City, or ‘Urban Woman’ looking for tips on mating.  “There are great and funny books out there, like Steve Harvey’s ‘How to Think Like a Man’, or the one written about ‘Settling’, but there are no books that really hit the nail on the head on how to figure out moving from your 20’s, when one can basically ‘date up a storm’ or go from one relationship to the next, to the 30’s at which point we are getting serious and want a longer term thing.”  

It’s the ‘age old’ quandary for women:  we have our biology to contend with.  Whether we choose to have kids or not, our hormones can be ordering us around, with the inevitable result that we start to think of ‘mating up’ by our late 20’s, early 30’s.  I figure that if our biological clocks struck midnight at 55, we’d have a much more relaxed attitude about this whole thing! But how boring that would be, right, if men and women were thinking alike and on the same time-table, take all the fun out of life, right?!!

As we Connie and I began, I asked her to make a ‘wish list’ for a mate:  “Good looks, tall, smart, funny, interesting, good family values, financially well off, ambitious,…” Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Fabulous, huh?  Who doesn’t want fabulous, or to HAVE IT ALL?  In fact, isn’t that kind of embedded into our culture, that we work and strive, and ‘workout,’ to create the ‘PERFECT LIVES’? Isn’t that the fantasy we love to buy into?  Of course the truth of it is that we all have a ‘misery loves company’ side of ourselves looking for the tarnish and tragedy along with the glitz and good fortune; that is the secret behind those celebrity magazines!  

So, here is a little, or not so little secret.  You’ve got to get the idea out of your head that you will get absolutely every single thing on your list in a man, and that there are people who HAVE IT ALL.  I can tell you that in all certainty, from the job that I do; things that appear to be FABULOUS on the outside, are not necessarily so.  Or at the very least, there are the negative aspects to any positive.  There is always the bad with any good.  No biggie.  No need for guilt, or hand-wringing.  It is not a comment on the decision you made.

 

So, rather than feed into Connie’s fantasy that of course she should ‘go for it all’, now mind you, this is a gorgeus, smart, and talented girl who you would look at and think :  “She has it all”,  I proposed the idea that she needed to figure out what piece of ‘FABULOUS’ she would be willing to trade off.  Height?  Weight?  Looks in any way?  Money, ambition, good career?  Good values, family, kindness?  Hey, it’s your dating and mating life, you get to pick the variables.

 

FIGURE OUT YOUR NON-NEGOTABLES, YOUR NEGOTIABLES, AND THE TRADERS.

Connie found this idea not only relieving, but hysterical.   She had always felt so pressured that she was supposed to HAVE IT ALL, and that if she didn’t get it, that she was a failure.

 Next step was to dig through her dating history to get some idea of what the reality was looking like.  This would give some clues to help lead Connie toward her ‘NEGOTIABLES’ that she might be willing to ‘trade-off’.  Despite putting certain qualities at the top of her list in the past, she realized now that those particular qualities had never really worked out for her, or, as she puts it:  “Those guys always turn out to be “douches’!  She began to really ‘get’, that the former attributes that had always been at the top of her list, and had drawn her in, were not necessarily looking like NON-NEGOTIABLES any more.  A NON-NEGOTIABLE was now the guy who wasn’t a “douche”!

Bad news, good news:  These answers won’t be in any self-help book, and it is where your creativity and individuality come in. This is no cookie-cutter, or “Follow this path, take these steps and you will get to your pot of gold”, kind of guide.

 But, here is the good news:  IT’S YOUR LIFE!  No apology or justification necessary. There is no need to be politically correct!  Given that truth, if you follow it, you will get the mate that really works for you, and it is doable!  Despite the odds, and the worry that there are hundreds of fabulous 30-something girls out there going for the same fabulous guys.

Here is your guide:

1)    Picture your life forward, and try to realistically imagine how you will feel given a particular scenario.  

2)    Take off your “This is how I want to see myself” glasses, and again, see yourself  HOW YOU TRULY KNOW YOURSELF TO BE.  If you are a ‘dyed in the wool’ feminist but know that you will end up wanting to kill a man who depends on you financially, don’t just fantasize that somehow it will ‘work out’, if the guy truly doesn’t have a clue or an interest in how to earn a living!  If you want to see yourself as the most open- minded girl who has dated every ethnicity out there but lands up realizing she needs to mate with a guy from a similar background, go for it! 

3)    REPEAT AFTER ME:  “I DON’T NEED TO APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT I NEED AND KNOW MYSELF TO NEED AND NEED DESPERATELY.  BUT I WILL GIVE UP SOMETHING THAT I CAN LIVE WITHOUT.”  If you know that you truly won’t mind having a companion who earns less money than you, that is your NEGOTIABLE.  If you need TALLER THAN YOU over anything else, go for it. If you don’t care so much about that but know you need someone who is financially secure, go for that.  Figure out what your non-negotiable is, that piece of ‘fabulous’ that you have to have, then pick what you can ‘live without’ and can now ‘trade-off’.

Last piece here, the column I call the ‘Traders’. This is your ‘play money’.  Your bonus chips.  These are the qualities that if you get them, you are thrilled, but you can trade them in for others.  It’s kind of like:  “I’ll take ‘paunch’ and  trade you ‘bald’. You get the picture. These are the  ‘TRADERS’.

 

Now I know I said all that “this is your life and you get to pick your choices thing,” right?  Yeah, right.  One thing I will tell you from a 30 year history with one man and raising three kids though:  Kindness needs to be  a NON-NEGOTIABLE.

 

Because you’re worth it.

Happy dating!

 

Visit me at: www.donnafish.com

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