I thought it was high time to give my last post regarding food, Learning to Eat, A History, a follow-up. In my last post I shared my own history with food; my upbringing and my struggle with an eating disorder. And since it’s a topic I’m often asked about I thought I would share our thoughts.
After Alex and I got married I began learning to eat in moderation. People use that phrase all the time and I’ve come to realize most people, even nutritionists, believe eating in moderation is a hoax. As in, no one can do it. After almost 8 years of being married to someone who does this daily I can say it can be done. It takes time. And like anything, moderation is moderation. It can’t be done perfectly. The first couple of years of our marriage I only worked part-time and the other amount of time I spent working alongside my husband in his Remodeling company. This meant that most days of the week, we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner together. We also lived in a 950 square foot house. Needless to say any backtracking into my eating disorder or smuggling food and binging would have been uncovered by my husband.
Not everyone is blessed to have that time but for me, I tell him the Lord used Him to help save me from myself. That was a huge piece of the puzzle for me. As my body adjusted to eating real, whole food and everything else in moderation, it just became a way of life for us.
There’s no way to really explain or share what we do because there is no formula. It’s not a diet or a plan. It’s a lifestyle. Both of us really enjoy food. We enjoy eating things that taste good and trying new things. We eat a lot of vegetables and whole foods and plenty of packaged foods as well. I credit our mothers in getting us here as well. My mom made almost everything from scratch. We either ate the real deal or the frozen equivalent. No canned vegetables or boxed macaroni and cheese. I’m still uncertain if it was because she disliked it or just chose not to buy it.
Since I enjoy cooking and making our meals, most of what we eat is homemade. Sometimes I make our bread but for the most part we buy it. Most of the time if I choose to make something from scratch, pitas, pizza dough, etc. it’s because not only does it taste good but I’ve planned something last minute and it’s easier than going out to grab whatever is missing. We eat white and wheat bread. We like salad and grains and pizza. We get donuts most Saturday mornings. We eat dessert after almost every dinner, although it’s usually ice cream or candy because no one besides me really enjoys baked goods? Our cheese drawer is overflowing. We are from Wisconsin. We like meat and cheese and ice cream. A love of dairy is in our blood. We don’t have any allergies or sensitivities to food.
We don’t adhere to any diet or food philosophy with the exception of Michael Pollan’s “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” His book “In Defense of Food” and Mark Bittman’s “Food Matters” were great resources. When Elizabeth came along I picked up the book “Bringing up Bebe”. And it then dawned on me that we tend to have a more French mindset when it comes to food.
Food is an experience for us. Not every meal or every morsel. We don’t sit over our food and swoon, well sometimes we do. But we enjoy it. Good food that tastes delicious. In all it’s forms. We don’t eat well all week and splurge on the weekend. We just mix everything in. We don’t tend to eat a lot of fast food but that doesn’t mean we eat perfectly.
And for us, food, eating and mealtime are all just as much a family bonding time. From the time we were married we ate most of our meals at a table, together. (Exception, our years in our apartment where we ate on the couch.) Having one eating location in our house, our dining table, was really important to me. I wanted us all as a family to be able to eat together.
Now that Elizabeth is here one of us is almost always eating with her while she has her meals, with the exception of snack time. When it came time to introduce solids, I knew we would do Baby Led weaning. I fully embrace the entire philosophy behind that approach. The only difference I made was that I incorporated pureed vegetables. Fresh or frozen so they tasted like the real thing. It was incredibly important to me to give her a taste of vegetables…not only vegetables, but vegetables in their full glory. Canned vegetables and pureed store bought vegetable baby food DO NOT taste like their fresh counterparts. That is the plain truth. (With the exception of squash.) At 2 our daughter loves just about everything with the exception of raw tomatoes. She readily snacks on raw vegetables and rarely turns her nose up at dinner. (and I’m fully aware that it could just be her and not the work we’ve done to get there)
I’ve noticed that kids who have a parent eating with them tend to eat better than those who don’t. Not only are they learning to eat by watching and experiencing but they are learning table manners, how to be patient, how to sit still, etc. After a LOT of practice we’ve finally reached the stage where she can remain in her chair for our entire mealtime. This took TIME! And that translates outside of our house as well. While she’s still a toddler and two, she can sit pretty well at a restaurant. We’ve been going 1-2 times a week since she was a year old. Sometimes somewhere quick and easy and other times somewhere a bit nicer. These were all learning experiences for her. Teaching moments, showing her how we behave and eat in a different place. And she’s caught on. At restaurants we tend to feed her off of our plates in lieu of buying a kids meal. And we lower our expectations. A restaurant is a busy and full of distraction place. We don’t fret over what gets in her belly. A restaurant is not the place to have a food battle. First of all, it’s not an enjoyable eating experience for the parents and secondly, it’s not always necessary. We tend to focus more on behavior and less on amount eaten. If we are traveling and she didn’t eat well we just give her a few things we packed from home in the car.
For Elizabeth, we don’t have any hard and fast rules. We never want food to be a battle. For us it’s not worth it. She has to try everything on her plate. Try=take a bite. IF she decides she’s done after that, she can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or nothing. We don’t force her to eat. We don’t believe in the “finishing everything on your plate” mentality. She eats breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner. She for the most part does not get treats while we are out, unless it’s snack time. We try not to bribe with food. Most nights we have dessert or fruit for dessert and she gets that regardless of whether or not she ate the main meal. We don’t reward or punish with food. The book French Kids Eat Everything is a great resource and we abide for the most part by that way of thinking. Also, I tend to do mealtimes like my mom did. She always strove to make sure there was something on the table each of us liked. If I try a new recipe I try to make sure there’s a side we all like. If I make a tomato salad that we like, I’ll often make some frozen veggies I know she will like. To me, vegetables do not garner “short order cooking”…
For us this is what has worked. This way of thinking of food and enjoying food is the only way I’ve been able to maintain my weight. I try to exercise while I can but listening to my body, eating what it’s craving, and enjoying most things in moderation has really worked for our family so far. Before getting pregnant this second time I weighed 25 pounds less than I did in high school and 10 pounds less than I did when I got married almost 8 years ago. Since I’m not a die hard exercise feign I contribute the weight loss to nursing and learning to eat and stop when I’m full.
Food is just a part of our day. We don’t tend to hype it up or make a big deal of it. Getting donuts grants just as much excitement for us all as eating fresh from the farmer’s market vegetables. Some things of course garner more excitement but for the most part, it’s just a part of our life. Sometimes I think we have the hardest time with the things we overthink and overanalyze…
God gave us food, in all it’s forms…let’s give thanks and enjoy it!