10 Tips From A Dietitian Nutritionist for Picky Eaters

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Some kids will only eat white foods. Some will only eat food topped with cheese. Some go through phases of only eating pancakes. We all want our children to eat nutritious, balanced meals so what do you do if your kid thinks vegetables are the equivalent of pond scum? These are our top 10 tips on how to handle the picky eaters in your life!

 

“I know! She eats anything! I can’t believe it!” your friend exclaims, referring to her 5-year-old daughter as she chomps away on a Salmon Avocado Roll, while your child eats “orange mac and cheese only, Mom, not the white kind!”

Is your friend’s daughter more advanced? More gifted? More mature? Not at all! Your friend’s child is simply different from yours, and that’s OK. 

Feeding troubles affect up to 25% of normally developing children and up to 35% of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. That’s a lot, right? It’s a common issue to have, but it’s not a problem — it’s something you can work with and overcome together as a family. It’s important for everyone in the family to understand what the “picky eater” is going through, so you can all help out. Many families work with a child dietitian nutritionist to help them along this tricky path, and you may want to, as well. It’s always good to seek help if something isn’t working for you or your family.

Here are 10 tips for families with picky eaters so you can understand where your child is coming from, and help them eat well in the process.

1. Establish A Routine

It’s important to have a routine. As adults, we should also look into this, because it’s been proven that our bodies are happiest when we have a specific schedule to stick to. Studies have shown that children and adults who eat at the same time every day are less likely to be obese and have lower BMIs and blood pressure than people who eat at random points throughout the day. According to Gerda Pot, a professor at King’s College London who was interviewed by the Times, appetite, digestion, and how our body processes food are actually linked to circadian rhythms. This means that our bodies follow a 24-hour pattern in relation to food, just like how our bodies need sleep. It’s so interesting! But it can be so hard to stick to a schedule…

Here are ways to feed your child in a way to encourage their appetite by establishing a routine.

  • Consistency — Serve small meals and snacks at consistent times of the day, with 2–3 hours between each meal and snack time, allowing the child to become hungry before the next meal. Young children feel most comfortable with scheduled mealtimes.
  • Beverages After — Offer milk, nutritional beverages, juice, soup, or water at the end of the meal or snack, and not before, in order to prevent filling their stomachs.
  • Duration
    • Eating should begin within 15 mins of the start of the meal.
    • Meals should last no longer than 20–30 mins.
    • When the meal is over, all food should be removed and only be offered again at the next planned meal. You should not become a short order cook!

2. Respect Your Child’s Appetite

Your kid may not be hungry! And even if they are, it’s important to never force or bribe your child into eating. Forcing or bribing creates pressure, which can lead to children eating even less in the long run. Positive tactics like praise or a gift can also create pressure, though. It’s hard to remember this when you’re trying to get your child to eat, but, believe it or not, pressure in any way makes kids like food less.

What are examples of pressuring messages or tactics?

  • Praise (“Oh my gosh, you are such a good boy for eating that! Good job!”)
  • Shame or guilt (“If you loved me then you would eat this…”)
  • Bribes (“If you eat this, I’ll give you a toy after dinner!”)
  • Distraction (“Just watch your favorite TV show while you eat this…”)
  • Threat or force (“You have to eat this or I won’t let you go to that birthday party this weekend.”)
  • Pressuring therapy (“We’re going to have to bring your nutritionist back for therapy if you don’t eat this…”)
  • Nutrition admonitions (“You need more spinach to grow stronger…”)

So what should you do?

  • Start to learn and notice your child’s hunger signals.
  • Allow your child to choose how much or how little of the offered food to eat. Don’t make them clean their plate!
  • Respect your child’s natural inner signals of hunger and fullness. They will change from day to day, so be open for differences!

3. Make Food Fun

Let your child have fun with food! Food is a glorious thing, and we should treat it as such, as long as we aren’t negatively affecting others in the process. Why not enjoy it? Cut pieces of toasts into silly shapes! Make funny faces with fruit on the plate! Make everything on the plate the same color in different shades! When we understand that food is meant to be enjoyed, we’re more apt to be curious for more options. Discover your playful side, too!

Here are some ways to make meals fun for you and your child:

  • Make Faces On Plates — Paint plates at a paint studio or buy plates with faces on them, so you can move the food around to become different parts of a person’s head. Spaghetti can be the hair, broccoli can be the nose, corn can be the teeth, and so on.
  • Be A Monster — Allow kids to act like monsters destroying and devouring their food, as long as they don’t make a mess around the house, or as long as they take responsibility for cleaning up afterwards. The spinach can be the grass in the yard, the chicken can be the house, the pasta can be the fence… and THEY ARE THE MONSTERS EATING THE NEIGHBORHOOD!
  • Grow Your Own Food — This gives kids a chance to see where it came from, and have a hand in the process. When a child plants something and watches it grow from seemingly nothing over a long period of time, it makes it rewarding to try a bite of what they saw growing on the windowsill or in the garden!
  • Watch Cooking Shows Together — Shows like “Master Chef Jr.” are a great way to get kids excited about food. When they see other children their age making food and becoming masters at cooking, it makes it more exciting. Try some of the recipes that you see on the cooking shows together! Notice what excites your kid, and incorporate that meal into your next plan.
  • Use Dips And Spreads — Get kids to eat their fruits and veggies by offering fun things to dip the food into. It’s fun to try different tastes, and the physical movement of dipping gets them connected to their food in a different way.
  • Eat A Rainbow A Day — Focusing on color is a great way to get kids to try different food groups. Encourage them to try to eat something of each color of the rainbow every day, and keep track of what they ate already!
  • Make Up Your Own Food Names — Teach children the proper names of foods, but come up with your own silly words for them, too. A green smoothie can be “monster juice” and pineapple can be a “ferris wheel.” Ask your kids to help you come up with their own funny names!
  • Make Food Into Fun Shapes — Does your kid have an obsession with the solar system? Cut things into stars and circles for the planets! Are they learning to spell? Make the food spell out their name on a plate. Make the meals look fun and enticing, and your child may be more keen to try a bite or two… or more!

4. Be Creative

Systematically introduce new food! Provide some of your child’s favorite foods together with a small amount of new food. If the child refuses a new food, offer just one bite of the new food without tricking, hiding, bribing or forcing. (If the child continues to refuse after three attempts, do not force the child.) Attempt to reintroduce the new food after a few days or weeks. A child’s preference often changes, even if it takes a few tries!

5. Minimize Distractions

Avoid allowing television, tablets, toys, electronics or books at mealtimes, as this takes away the experience of eating. Instead, engage children using food or by allowing children to self-feed.

6. Establish Rules

Don’t make a second meal if your child refuses the first one. Having a second option always available, like a salad or a bowl of cereal, takes the pressure off both parent and child, because everyone knows the child will still be able to eat something. (If your kid wants to have a sugary bowl of cereal every night, obviously this option doesn’t work for you!) Your child should know that you will not drop what you’re doing to make them what they want, even if they don’t like what’s offered.

Everyone should wait at the table until they are excused from the table. This means that if your child doesn’t want the meal, they still have to sit at the table until everyone else is finished, whether they eat or not.

Whatever your rules are, stick to them as much as you can.

7. Be Patient

Encourage independent feeding – allow for food spillage and age-appropriate mess during mealtimes; cover the floor if it makes cleaning up after meals easier.

Maintain a neutral attitude during feeding time and never become or even appear angry. Your child shouldn’t associate anger with food!

Be patient with your kid, but also be patient with yourself! This may be a trying experience for both of you, but if you give in to what your child always wants to eat, they won’t grow.

8. No Sweets As A Reward

Dessert is not a reward for eating well. This teaches your child that the dessert is the best part, and they should save room for it. It only increases your child’s desire for sweets! Think of making your family’s typical dessert fruit or yogurt, or only offering dessert once or twice a week.

9. Have Your Child Help

Ask your kid what they want! What vegetables and fruits are they craving? Have them help you pick out healthy food at the grocery store. They can help you prep the meal, too! Many kids love to help wash veggies, set the table, or stir a sauce.

10. Set A Good Example

  • Eat Together As A Family — Families should eat together as often as possible. Three-four times a week is what you should aim for, and if you can get more than that in, great! Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be dinner. It can be breakfast or lunch. It also doesn’t have to be a home cooked meal! Eating together can include ordering your favorite takeout every once in a while.
  • Try Things You Don’t Like — If there is a particular food that you yourself don’t like, tell your child you are going to try it prepared in a different fashion to see if you like it in a new way. Show your child that people can change, and it’s ok to try things again.
  • You Have To Eat Your Fruits And Veggies, Too! — Don’t tell your child to eat a nutritious meal and then only serve yourself the pasta and tomato sauce. Do what you’re asking your kid to do.

 

Should I seek the help of a CDN Certified Dietitian Nutritionist?

It’s OK to ask for help. There is a certified dietitian nutritionist in your area who has trained for this, and who may know the ups and downs better than you do. Why not seek the help of a professional?

If you want to find a dietitian nutritionist, ask your pediatrician about where to start. They can lead you in the right direction on where to look in your area.

Or, ask us! We’re always happy to help you find a dietitian or nutritionist who’s right for your family. We’ll match you with a professional specialist, and their expertise, knowledge, and planning tools will help you solve your picky eater concerns. Whether you want to seek the advice of a licensed dietitian nutritionist, a therapist, a fitness guru, or a tutor, we’re your one-stop-shop to help you and your entire family — adult or child. Contact us for more information!

 

How To Say Goodbye To An Eating Disorder: Notes From A Survivor & Mental Help Therapist

 

Life is beautiful. I know this may be hard to see when you are in the depths of an eating disorder but I promise you, it is. I got to the other side of my eating disorder and you can as well! Please ask yourself my “five questions” as you read this week’s blog and start to say goodbye to your eating disorder for good! Are you ready?

 

While it may not be easy to stop your ED, it can be done (and may even be enjoyable!). Before I get into the five questions to ask yourself that can help you get rid of your eating disorder, I am going to get you excited and inspired to become eating disorder free.

But before I even do that, a little bit about my recovery… My anorexia arrived when I was 14 years old and stuck with me for about a year and a half. I then, secretly, became bulimic for the next 8.5 years.  Without getting into too much of the horrifying details, I can tell you that it was a terrible disease that affected all parts of my life, and thankfully, I was finally able to overcome it at the age of 24. Now at age 41 and as a mother of three girls ages 6, 9 and 12, I have a new understanding of my mental illness at that age and why I was particularly vulnerable. I know now that it is possible to live a happy, healthy life without an ED, and that the steps to get there can be positive and full!

As August McLaughlin discusses in “The Silver Lining: 5 Happy Truths About Eating Disorder Recovery,” there are positive aspects in the road to recovery. Recovery leaves people “feeling lovelier, inside and out.” Individuals with eating disorders have distorted views on themselves both physically and mentally. They want to lose weight to fix their physical appearance, and they take these drastic measures to make them feel better internally. Treatment, however, teaches people how to appreciate themselves for who they are and to love each and every part of themselves.

 

Treatment leads to greater energy. Eating disorders take an extreme amount of physical and emotional energy to sustain. By letting go of an eating disorder, people will gain back their energy to do things they love and to think about something other than the eating disorder.

Treatment brings enjoyment back to food. Food is no longer as scary as it once may have seemed. By mending one’s relationship with food, a person can enjoy their favorite foods without feeling the extreme guilt before, during, and after.

Treatment leads to freedom. Eating disorders have such control over people’s lives that are living with them. By not letting the eating disorder dictate every life decision, individuals are surprised to see how much they can freely live their life, by their own rules.

Treatment comes with support. Depending on the type of treatment that one goes through, they will likely be surrounded by other people in treatment. By being surrounded by like-minded individuals, one can see that they are not alone, and that there are people out there going through the same thing as them that are also looking to get help.

Treatment leads to gratitude. Living with an eating disorder can be extremely challenging and detrimental. People in recovery living without an eating disorder can be thankful for their bodies and their minds without the eating disorder. It may be scary to think about what one’s life would be like giving up this eating disorder that has had so much control, but there is nothing to lose by giving up an eating disorder, just a beautiful life to gain.

Many people believe that when they quit something they are addicted to, they will be sacrificing something. In the case of eating disorders, a client may feel that they are missing out on something by giving up their eating disorder. To help with recovery, we must show how positive it can be to live a life without an eating disorder. There should be “nothing to fear, nothing to ‘give up’ and absolutely everything to gain.”

In order to stop ED, ask yourself the questions below. While I cannot answer these questions for you, I can answer for myself with the hopes that it will help inspire you to search for answers deep within yourself. I would even encourage you to get a piece of paper and write down your answers. Take some time with this, dig deep, and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with yourself. Tell the truth, and give yourself some kind love for taking this first step.

Question #1: What does the ED really do for me?

To ask this question in a slightly different way, you can also ask yourself, “What function/purpose does my eating disorder serve in my life?”

My anorexia helped me get attention from people, especially from family members and friends. I was 12 when I was sent to live with a foster family, and by 13, my anorexia helped me stay in control over a life that felt miserable and very much not in control. Of course at the time, I wasn’t aware of that, but I am now.

I was a very developed 13 year-old. Before I became anorexic, I was a bra size D, and had no clue which bra, if any, I was supposed to wear. No one ever spoke with me about bras or anything related to sexuality. I started developing, and, after the first sign of my period — which, by the way, I thought I had gotten hurt because I had no clue what had happened to me — the fears, anxieties, and uncertainty nudged me to become best friends with anorexia and to keep me as the sad little girl that I was. Becoming a grown woman was scary, and I wasn’t ready to enter that stage. My ED also helped me to stay isolated so I could focus on my education, which I knew would help save me from a life of poverty.

As I matured and gained weight, I was sexually assaulted by several people who took advantage of the fact that I was insecure, neglected, and vulnerable. The various other traumatic incidents that happened to most of the eating disorder people I knew as well helped perpetuate my eating disorder. This kept me in a bubble, because I was under the illusion that life with an eating disorder provided people with a feeling of safety and security. My eating disorder started out of instability, with the hope that the eating disorder would create stability. My eating disorder held great control over my life, which I grew accustomed to over time. Letting go of my eating disorder was scary, and I was under the (false) impression that it gave me a sense of control and comfort.

Question #2: Do I really enjoy it?

Once again, ask yourself this question and try to be as objective as you can be. How much joy does your eating disorder bring to your life? Do you enjoy restricting? Binging and purging? When I reflect back and ask my old anorexic or bulimic self this question, the answer is that I did enjoy being skinny or maintaining weight when I binged and purged. Of course, I didn’t know back then that when I purged, I only purged about 50% of what I binged on. I wonder if knowing that would have helped me stop binging and purging. I am not sure about the answer, but regardless, I am sure that I “enjoyed” looking the way I did, even though clearly I was not happy.   

Some people believe that eating disorders calm and soothe people. In addition to striving for thinness, individuals may use unhealthy behaviors such as dieting, starving, binging, and purging to cope with unpleasant and overwhelming emotions and stressful situations. While these behaviors may relieve anxiety and stress over a short time, in the long term they actually increase anxiety and stress, in addition to creating other complications.

Question #3: Do I really need to go through life playing with my health just to maintain my eating disorder?

Of course, at the time the answer would have been, “Of course, yes!” But if you ask yourself that question and truly think about the answer and the kind of life that you wish for yourself, you might come up with a (slightly) different answer.

I remember my first visit to my doctor when I weighed 78 pounds. I had stopped getting my period, and my doctor told me that if I kept up my anorexia, I would never be able to have children. His words stayed with me and helped me kick my anorexia (by welcoming bulimia into my life). If you are wondering about the health risks that are associated with eating disorders, I can assure you that they are real.

There are many health risks related to eating disorders. Each eating disorder has its own health consequences due to the nature of the disorders. As anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-starvation, the body is forced to live without the essential nutrients it needs for normal functioning. Anorexia can lead to abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which increases the risk for heart failure, reduction of bone density, muscle loss and weakness, severe dehydration which can result in kidney failure, fainting fatigue, overall weakness, dry hair and skin (hair loss is common). It is also possible that there is a growth of a downy layer of hair all over the body to keep the body warm.

With the binge-and-purge cycle of bulimia, the entire digestive system becomes affected, which leads to electrolyte and chemical imbalances of the body. These electrolyte imbalances can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death. This is because electrolyte imbalance is caused by dehydration and loss of potassium, sodium and chloride from the body each time the individual purges. Gastric rupture can occur during binging. Frequent vomiting can lead to inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus, tooth decay and staining from stomach acids. Abuse of laxatives can lead to chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation.

The consequences of binge eating disorder are similar to the health risks associated with clinical obesity. These include, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease due to elevated triglyceride levels, type II diabetes mellitus, and gallbladder disease.

Two other ways to ask this question are below:

  1. What am I getting out of maintaining this eating disorder?
  2. Would my life be incomplete without it?

Question #4: How can I make my life more complete so I can get rid of my eating disorder?

Can you imagine a life where you are eating disorder free? How is your life different? What are you doing? How do you feel doing what you really want to do?

Visualize this. Really think about it. Write it down. Maybe sleep on it. It doesn’t have to be only positive answers — jot down anything that comes to mind.

Question #5: How can I use the resources and people around me to help?

I am sure that for many of you, this might not even be a possibility or an option. Asking for help? That would mean that you have to let go of what is helping you “maintain your weight” and be “happy,” right? But let’s think about it more in depth and start by stating that there ARE many resources and people who CAN and WANT to help you overcome your eating disorder.

There are probably people around you who want to support you, whether you realize it or not. These people can be friends and family members who may or may not know about your disorder already who can be a good support system on your journey to recovery.

Another resource is an eating disorder specialist and/or mental help therapist. Someone who has trained in this field will be supportive, non-judgmental, experienced, kind, and knowledgeable. They can give you specific tools unique to you to help you towards a happier and healthier life! You may be asking yourself “Can I even find a good eating disorder or mental therapist near me?” The answer is almost definitely yes. If you need help in your search, LWWellness is always happy to help by matching you with someone in your area who can help you on this path.

 

How Do I Achieve My Best Personal Fitness?

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Everyone is always talking about becoming a healthier version of themselves, but often people can’t articulate what that actually looks like. Do you know what changes you can make to lead a consistent healthier lifestyle? What tools do you need to achieve your fitness goals? There is no wrong time to start the process of becoming a better you, so why not make this your year. It doesn’t matter that this year has already started, either — don’t let that be your excuse! Here are some tips and pointers on how to lead a fitter life, and how to keep it that way. It is your life, after all — why not start now?

Before you get overwhelmed, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Be strict with yourself on following through with goals, but don’t make it impossible to succeed by adding too many changes at one time. Start with incorporating small changes into your life.

Here are a few things that fit and healthy people do in their day-to-day lives that you can easily do too, with a little encouragement from others and follow-through from yourself. Once these become habits, they will start to become your daily routine, and you may be surprised you ever lived life a different way!

What Do Healthy People Do?

They Eat Well

This one’s a no brainer. But, did you know that many studies show that eating well is more important than exercising if you’re trying to lose weight? Think about this: If you eat a Snickers bar, that’s 220 calories, which is equivalent to running for 25 minutes. It’s much easier to not eat that Snickers bar than it is to run for 25 minutes. Exercise is incredibly important for our all around daily life, but eating well goes hand in hand with feeling healthy and fit. Eating nourishing foods, like lean protein and fiber, helps us feel full longer, stay more alert, and propel ourselves toward our exercise endeavors.

 

They Refrain From Fad Dieting

The word “diet” evokes a particular response in most people. You may feel like you are constantly thinking about going on a diet, but never do, or when you do, you can’t keep the weight off for long. This is because there is no “quick fix” for being healthy, although we are easily persuaded into thinking there is. Fad diets work for a short amount of time, so you may see quick results, but they are usually unsustainable in the long run, which is why we put the weight back on after we’re finished with the diet. Sometimes, we put on more weight than we lost after a fad diet, which can feel even more exhausting. Stick with small changes you can make to your daily routine, and add on new habits every week, so you can change your lifestyle, instead of quickly trying to change your body.

 

They Prioritize Sleep

This one’s a doozy. You know it. I know it. And yet we don’t do it. Why is it so hard to find time to sleep? We feel so great when we get enough of it, so why can’t we prioritize this precious commodity?

We cannot eat well or stay motivated to work out if we’re tired. I know that if I’m up late, I will often set my alarm to wake me up later and forgo the exercise to get a few more zzz’s, which in turn makes me irritated that I didn’t exercise. I’ll often eat worse throughout the day, too.

How to help? Make a bedtime schedule, and stick to it. Give yourself an extra hour in your routine as “getting ready for bedtime”, so you are in bed with the lights out at your designated sleep time. Helpful things for that hour before sleep are an epsom-salt bath, herbal tea with a book, or relaxing yoga poses. Make it fun! This is a lovely part of your day you can look forward to. And make sure to turn off your phone, because the blue light interrupts your sleep cycle. The sooner you turn off your phone and stop looking at it before bed, the better you’ll sleep.

 

They Exercise Every Day

Exercising every day is easier than you think it is. It’s not about “pushing yourself to the limit” or running for an hour every morning; it’s about incorporating activity into your everyday life. For example, if you have a dog, make it a priority to take him or her on a brisk walk for thirty minutes each day (your dog will thank you for it, too!). Or, on your lunch break, do a few flights of stairs. You’ll find that the more you exercise in the little ways, the more you’ll want to start adding movement into your life, like tacking on a yoga class at the end of your day, or getting up a bit earlier for a morning swim. Stop thinking of exercise as a negative thing, and start thinking of it as a fun way to add quality to your life!

There are a few useful ways to help keep you accountable for exercising every day.

  • Make a goal chart. Put it somewhere visible, like on your fridge. Make it for a week at a time, so it isn’t so daunting, and include one goal you have for each day. When you accomplish that goal, color that day in a fun color, so you can see your progress! It’s helpful to have a fun visual to see, and helps you stick to the plan.
  • Download a personal fitness trainer app. There are some free apps available, but paying a few bucks for one is a good investment. These help you track your progress, and help motivate you to keep going.
  • Find a personal trainer and fitness instructor. If you meet with a weekly trainer, they’ll make you want to exercise every day, because they’ll know your goals, see your progress, and reflect what they notice back to you. They’ll encourage you to work toward your full potential as your personal cheerleader. It isn’t just about you meeting your goals, it’s about someone holding you to them. Which brings me to the next item that healthy people do, which is…

 

They Meet With A Personal Fitness Trainer

You may feel like you don’t need someone to help you achieve your fitness goals, but even for the pro, a trainer is incredibly helpful. If you’re a beginner, a private personal fitness trainer will help you acknowledge what you need to change. They will help you identify and rework your eating habits. They will listen to your needs and concerns about your body, and come up with a strategy unique to you to get you where you want to be physically. They are on your team, and they want you to succeed. Check out more on our website about the personal trainers we use and let us know if you’re interested in one of them! We might be biased, but we really love them.

 

How Can I Help Myself Get There?

Make It Easier On Yourself In The Morning

If you plan to work out the next morning, set everything up the night before. I mean everything. Pick out your workout clothes, fill up a bottle of water and put it in the fridge, set out your work clothes for after your workout, and make your lunch. The less you have to think about the next morning, the more you are apt to actually get out of bed and start moving. You won’t be stressed in the morning, and it’ll make you feel better the whole day after your workout.

Learn What Your Body Needs To Eat

You don’t need to eat as much as you think you do. “Portion control” is a scary term, but it really just means that you should listen to your body. Drink two full glasses of water before you eat each meal (often we’re actually thirsty, not hungry), and slow down. Enjoy your food! Food is great, after all, so why not really take time with it? Eventually, you will start to realize what your body needs, and you may not need to eat an entire plate. Leaving food at the end of your meal is OK. Eating your whole plate is OK, too! Just make sure it’s what your body is asking for. Eating nutritious meals also helps with this, because our body craves less of it when we are getting the proper nutrition.

 

Don’t Aim For Perfection

You are not perfect. Sorry to break it to you, but you’re just not. So why pretend that you are Superwoman by expecting your body to perform miracles? Set small goals for yourself that you know you will be able to accomplish. You’ll feel better as you start to transform your daily routine, and as it starts to stick.

 

Find A Workout You Love

There is something for you! I promise! You may think you hate working out, but there is an activity that will make you feel great. You may not be jumping for joy to do it every single day, but it’s the kind of thing that once you start it, you love it. What is it for you? It could be salsa dancing, a mud run, jumping rope, swimming, or jogging with your best friend. Working out doesn’t have to be a chore; it can be something that adds joy to your day.

 

Make Working Out a Social Activity

Similar to having a personal trainer fitness instructor, a personal trainer group fitness instructor works wonders. Find a studio and a class that you love, and stick to it. You’ll meet people in the community who will expect to see you at the group classes, which will hold you accountable. You can also make it a group activity with friends: Take a weekly class together and grab a bite to eat after! Or, instead of grabbing a coffee on a friend date, suggest that you go on a walk together instead. Find social media accounts that inspire you to get up and move. You may even want to create a fitness account of your own!

 

How Do I Find My Personal Fitness Trainer?

Below are ways to find a fitness instructor and personal trainer to work with your personal fitness goals. If you are looking for a personal trainer, this might help you narrow down which type of personal fitness trainer for hire you’re looking for.

Remember, we specialize in matching you with the people you need to reach your health and fitness objectives. If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for nutritionists, dietitians, teachers, and trainers, we’ll chat with you to find the best fit!

 

Go To A Local Gym

Most gyms have many personal trainers on staff, so ask your local spot about their options. If you have a gym you already love, it’s a great place to start, because you’ll just add it to your pre-existing routine. If you don’t go to a gym regularly, this is still a great option, because a fitness gym personal trainer will teach you how to use each machine, how much weight to use to achieve your goals, and how many reps you should do. They will essentially teach you how to be able to work out on your own, while still holding you accountable. A Snap Fitness personal trainer or a 24 Hour Fitness personal trainer are both good places to start your search, and they’re available around the country.

 

Hire A Trainer To Come To Your Home

A personal fitness trainer at home is a solid option for busy schedules, because you don’t have to find extra time to make it to the gym. These trainers will often work with what you already have in your home, so it depends on the kind of workout you’re looking for to know if this is a good option for you. Yoga, kickboxing, small weights, and cardio can all work with limited equipment.

 

Meet A Trainer In A Local Park

Lots of trainers meet their clients in a local park! Wander Central Park any day of the week and you’ll see people working out with one another. This is a great way to find a space for free, be outdoors, and meet in a central location. The drawbacks are rain and… people staring at you. But hey, that might help! Check out a personal fitness trainer directory for your area by looking online to see which trainers will provide this service.

 

Work With A Trainer Online

An online personal fitness trainer can be a good option for those who prefer to stay at home but want their trainer to be a specific person. Maybe the trainer doesn’t live in your area, or maybe it’s more affordable than having the trainer come to your home. Whatever your reason, if you don’t feel like you need someone in the flesh, but you still want that extra push, look into this. Many people nowadays also use a fitness personal trainer app for their workouts.

 

Now What?

Go forth and be fit! It’s time to take your life in your hands to become the best possible version of yourself. You only live once, so what are you waiting for?

What tips and advice did we miss? Let us know below in the comments! Check out our website, email us, or call us for more information on how LW Wellness can help you in your search for fitness and nutrition!

10 Tips for a Healthy Halloween

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This week’s guest blog is written by Andrea Berez, MS, RD. Andrea is a registered dietitian and a certified specialist in pediatric nutrition.  For more information about her services and to read her bio, check out our team page at http://lwwellness.com/about/our-team/.

 

Halloween is just around the corner, and your kids can’t stop talking about how much more candy they’re going to get than their siblings or friends. Of course, all you can think about is how little candy you and your kids can get away with, so that everyone can still have their treat, but avoid sugar highs and crashes, stomachaches, and unwanted weight gain.  

 

Not only has the obesity rate tripled in children since the ‘80s; the number of cavities in children has started increasing for the first time in 40 years. The average trick-or-treater consumes 3,500-7,000 calories worth of treats alone (one to two pounds) just on Halloween, and 3 cups of sugar, the equivalent of 220 sugar packets!  

 

In order for the average 100-pound child to burn those calories, he/she would have to walk nearly 44 hours or play full-court basketball for 14.5 hours straight! We, as parents, know that will never happen!  So, the question becomes, how can you keep Halloween a treat for your kids, without it being too tricky?  Here are some tips that you and your family can try…

 

  1. Make a plan ahead of time.  Your homework as a parent is to first decide which of these tip(s) will work best for you and your family.  The goal is that each person in the household is satisfied and you feel like you can live with the choices as well.
  2. Consider being somewhat lenient on Halloween. For some parents, letting their kids indulge on that day may be okay as long as there is a discussion of how the rest of the candy will be handled.  (This will be discussed in more detail in upcoming tips.) Again, the key is that a plan should still be in place for dealing with the days prior and following Halloween.
  3. Consider handing out less sugary foods or toys.  This can benefit both the trick-or-treaters and your family. Having leftovers of healthier foods will have health benefits for you and your family in the long-run. Examples of less sugary treats include small apples, small packages of pretzels, raisins, animal crackers, whole grain cereal or crackers, mini cereal or granola bars, trail mix (not containing candy) light/low fat popcorn, Kind Bars, mini Lara bars, and Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Bug Bites.  Examples of toys that can be given out are stickers, erasers, fun straws, glow sticks, false teeth, Play Doh containers, bubbles, pens, pencils, creepy creatures, flashing rings, and small games such as card games. The American Dental Association has taken a stance against cavities with its “Stop Zombie Mouth” campaign, offering coupons for the game “Plant vs. Zombies”, as well as coupons for other items such as hats and tee-shirts that can be given out to trick-or-treaters instead of candy.  See http://www.stopzombiemouth.com.
  4. If you like to hand out candy, purchase it the day of.  That way it’s not sitting in your house ahead of time for days for all those tempting lurkers (including yourself).  Also, consider buying less than what you think you need, because, let’s face it, you usually have lots of leftovers!  Remember to make sure you buy the most mini version of the candy that you can find. You may also consider buying candy you and your family least typically crave so the leftovers are less tempting.  
  5. Fill up before trick-or-treating.  Just like you shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, you and your kids should not go out trick or treating on an empty stomach.  If you and your kids eat a family wholesome meal or filling snack ahead of time, there will be less noshing on the treats while trick-or-treating and much less over-consuming overall.  
  6. Buy back some or all of the remaining candy.  Give your child a nickel or so for each remaining piece of candy leftover.  They’ll be excited to get a big stash for their piggy bank to help save up for that special toy or activity they’ve been wanting so badly.
  7. Or donate the leftover candy.  Many dentists have a buy back program, which supports military support groups. See http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com. Your child can also donate their leftover candy to a local food bank, hospital or shelter.
  8. Don’t make Halloween an excuse to eat candy.  Just because it’s Halloween, doesn’t mean it’s the one day of the year that you and your kids should eat candy to your/their hearts and stomach’s content (which ultimately becomes a discontent!) Don’t restrict candy for days or weeks ahead of time, as this will only cause a candy binge on that day. The motto should always be everything in moderation!
  9. Be a good role model.  Whichever of these tips you decide to try and/or adopt, make sure you follow them best.  Your family will more likely do as they see. Remember, as with everything else in life, you set the bar for how you expect your children to act.
  10. Allow your children to take part in the decision-making.  Give younger children choices for the treats (or toys) your family gives out.  Allow them to make the ultimate decision so that they’re excited about what is being given out.  If you have older children or teens, encourage them to be mindful of how much candy they eat, and to stop before they feel full or sick.

Identifying Eating Disorders in Young Children: What Can You Do As A Parent?

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If you’ve read some of my recent blogs, you are probably somewhat familiar with my journey and years of struggling with an eating disorder. Most of those blogs focus on my young adult years, but these past few weeks, I’ve been approached by several moms who are concerned about their kids developing disordered eating habits or worrying that their young child might already have a serious eating disorder.

 

As a mother of three girls and as an eating disorder therapist, I’m acutely aware that the average age for children developing eating disorders has dropped from 12 to 7 in recent times. That figure sounds crazy even to me, but I know firsthand how real it is.

 

I was recently approached by a frantic mother whose 7-year-old daughter had been told by her grandfather that she shouldn’t eat the whole bagel because it would make her fat. This mom was so upset because she said she worked so hard to instill healthy eating habits in the house and avoided using the word “fat” or obsessing over body image. However, that one comment had made her daughter obsessed with the idea that she was fat and she started to use language like, “I feel really fat today.”

 

This brings up several things that parents should be aware of. First, we may think of eating disorders as something that only affects teenagers and young adults but it can actually affect children of any age — both boys and girls. Second, it’s important to realize that as a parent, we aren’t the only voice our children hear. They are susceptible to comments from family members, friends, teachers, television, and any other voice they deem trustworthy. Of course it’s essential that you model healthy eating habits and refrain from talking about your own weight or obsessing over diets around your children, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting conflicting information from somewhere else. So it’s not enough to establish healthy eating habits in your home because, let’s face it, we can’t guard kids from the outside world all the time.

 

If you hear your child make a comment about being “fat,” it’s important to ask yourself what this evokes in you as a parent. How do you feel when your child talks about this topic? This will establish awareness, which will help you best deal with the issue. Dismissing it or not acknowledging your own reaction to this as a parent will only further the problem.

 

When responding to your child, you want to give them your full attention. Make eye contact, but speak in a regular voice. While it’s not something that you want to dismiss, you also want to avoid blowing a comment out of proportion or giving it too much attention.

 

So what’s a good response to a child who says they feel fat? Start by asking a follow-up question. “When you say you feel fat, what do you mean? What are you actually feeling? Fat is not an emotion or a physical feeling so use your words to help me understand what you mean by that.” Getting your child to open up about their true feelings is an important first step. From there the conversation can continue.

 

Talk to your child about negative self-talk and steer them away from it. Children will often compare themselves to other children (“I’m heavier than my friends at school”) or make comments regarding how their clothes look on them (“I shouldn’t eat this because my shirt is too tight”). One study found that 81% of 10 year olds are “afraid of being fat,” and they are taking the issue into their own tiny hands by dieting, which can often lead to eating disorders. Additionally, with the focus on childhood obesity in this country, the way that food and weight gain are talked about in school and at home can trigger issues. We get into the idea of food and weight being good vs. bad and the fear that instills can be very powerful. I found a good explanation of this from a trusted online resource: “By temperament, most of the children at risk for anorexia are often focused on doing the right thing and doing it perfectly. They focus on the details (don’t eat bad foods) and miss the big picture (balanced diet and health).”

 

It’s also important to be aware of any major changes in your home life, as children who are experiencing anxiety, family problems, or any kind of issues with peers will sometimes turn to unhealthy eating habits as a way of gaining control in their lives.

 

Finally, the strongest advice I can give you is this: If you think you need to consult with a specialist, don’t hesitate. When problems are picked up on at a younger age it’s much easier to work through them then when unhealthy habits and thought patterns have become ingrained.

 

Being a parent is challenging and it doesn’t come with a guide. Often the issues facing your kids are much different than the ones you may have faced growing up. A good first step is to stay close to your kids and keep the dialogue open. As a parent, you want to be able to help your child but remember that it’s also OK to ask for help.

 

If you think your child might be struggling with eating disorders or body image issues, asking questions is a great first step. LW Wellness Network can provide support, counseling, and guidance for families working through these types of problems. We know that every situation is different because every child is different. Visit us at: www.lwwellness.com and on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/RecoveringTogetherEatingDisorderSupport/. Another wonderful resource is the “Parent Toolkit” from NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association). You can find this at: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sites/default/files/Toolkits/ParentToolkit.pdf.

 

I’d love to hear from other mothers with any questions, comments, or fears you might have regarding your children and establishing healthy eating habits so comment on the blog or reach out on our Facebook page!

Why I Refuse to Listen to Vanessa Hudgens for Dieting Advice

This week’s blog is written by Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW.

I open my morning newspaper and see a large picture of actress Vanessa Hudgens in bikini bottoms and a tight shirt with the headline “no carbs” in regards to how she “looks so good.” As an eating disorder therapist, this is honestly horrifying to me. Vanessa has 6 million Twitter followers and over 15 million Facebook likes. She is a role model to many people who likely will follow her dieting advice and cut out carbs to “look like Vanessa.”

 

Our society has jumped on the carb-free or gluten-free bandwagon as a quick fix to lose weight, but this is simply not true. Carbs supply much-needed energy to the body and help enable the protein you consume to break down and be used to build muscle.

 

There is also a difference between carb-free and gluten-free and this often gets confused. Going gluten-free does not mean cutting out carbs. Gluten is a combination of storage proteins found in wheat and related grains. Gluten is not in carbs such as rice, beans, quinoa, potatoes or corn so when someone cuts any of these foods out of their diet because “gluten affects them” they are misinformed.

 

In fact, the gluten-free diet is only healthier for people with gluten-related disorders, such as celiac or gluten intolerance. Individuals who have celiac disease require a gluten-free diet because gluten causes an adverse reaction in the body which damages the intestines and can lead to serious health problems.

 

Gluten alone is not related to how healthy one’s diet is. The overall food choices one makes within the diet, whether it’s gluten-free or not, are what is important. Regardless, no food group should be cut out without consulting a medical professional.

 

There is so much misinformation out there regarding health and diet that it is important to do your research before trying out any new meal plan. As a parent, you have an even bigger responsibility to set an example for your children and also open up a dialogue about nutrition and healthy eating vs. “fad diets.” There are no “quick fixes” when it comes to your health, and nutrition is about so much more than weight and looking good in a swimsuit.

If you have more questions about dieting and nutrition, check out our nutritional counseling services.

The Other Side Of Rock Bottom: Recovering From An Eating Disorder

I will never forget the day that I stopped binging and purging. In my last blog, I talked about hitting my “rock bottom” moment. That was when I realized I had a problem, but although I wanted to stop, I couldn’t completely quit. Three years later (I was 24 years old and had moved to New York), I decided to attend a seminar about eating disorders at Hunter College, where I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology. The lecturer, Sondra Kronberg, talked about eating disorders and the gap between how people with eating disorders feel and what they actually do/how they act in reality. She also talked a lot about how important it is for people suffering with an eating disorder to learn how to express their needs and how, along with therapy, it is possible for someone to overcome their problem.

 

For whatever reason, the things she said and the timing all added up in my head and from that day forward, I never binged and purged again. The day I stopped binging and purging I thought was the day my eating disorder evaporated from my life. Little did I know back then that while I had stopped abusing myself in this way, the road to my recovery was still very long. It included many more days and nights of suffering and self hatred. That day, and that lecture, were huge for me, but understanding that there was a gap between what I thought and what I actually did was only the beginning. It took months and years of practicing expressing myself and learning to say “no” for me to become the woman I strived to be — a woman with her own strong voice.

 

Soon after I stopped binging and purging, I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) and I had to find new coping mechanisms to deal with my anxiety and insecurities. I missed my family back in Israel terribly and I thought I couldn’t share this with my boyfriend because he thought that I wanted to live in the US with him. And while I did want that and I loved him and his family, I also wanted to return to my country and my family. This inability to express those feelings and thoughts and gain control over that sadness and anxiety definitely stood in the way of my full recovery.

 

So once my bulimia stopped, I dealt with those feelings in a different, but still destructive, way. I lived in fear of overeating and gaining weight. I shifted my thoughts from obsessing over buying food and eating and purging to obsessing about what exactly I was eating and making sure it was 100% healthy. I became fixated on only eating organic, non-GMO, low-calorie foods. While my battle with bulimia had stopped, my struggle with eating disorders was far from being behind me.

 

During this time, I worked hard in school and found comfort in my books and in psychology. Understanding the human mind and what stood behind the various disorders gave me great insight into my history and allowed me to have more compassion toward myself and my family.

 

I was finally able to complete the missing pieces and the question marks of the vicious cycle I was stuck in for so many years through mindfulness and affirmations. What I realized I had to do was to step back and give myself the space I needed to feel and observe my feelings. To be attentive to what I felt and understand that I can have control over these feelings,  I had to learn not to allow the feelings to control me and make me do things that were disruptive to me. I gradually understood that the only way to break the vicious cycle was to accept certain things about my life and myself as a person.

 

Now, at age 42, food no longer plays such an important role in my life. I find so much joy in working with people and helping them overcome their challenges that abusing myself and my body is no longer something I want to do. I want to be healthy for myself and for my family.

 

A few month ago, I told this story to Doctor Judith Brisman who is my dear friend and one of the top eating disorder specialist in the world. She asked me if I ever called to thank Sondra Krongberg. It occurred to me that I had never reached out, and I didn’t know why. I knew her at this point, as we’ve shared mutual clients over the years, but for some reason I didn’t think of reaching out to her to thank her for that day. After all, it was 17 years ago. I ended up calling her the next day to tell her that I never binged or purged again after hearing her speak. She was touched that I had told her my story and seemed grateful to hear that affirmation, which just reiterated for me how important it is to continue to talk about my recovery process.

 

I’ve always been fascinated by people who knew me at the time and later found out I was anorexic and bulimic because they say things like, “I always thought that you were Mrs. Perfect. You seemed to have it all together always.” No one is perfect. There is no such thing as always having everything all together, and getting rid of that notion is one of the best ways to help your mental health.

 

That box that we put people in when we label them “perfect” is constricting. The second we don’t take the time to learn more about the person behind the smile or the pretty face or the fantastic apartment with the seemingly ideal family, we are doing them a disservice. I learned through Sondra’s lecture that I was living a life that might have seemed perfect to some, but I was not yet able to express what I was really feeling on the inside.

 

For anyone struggling with an eating disorder, I encourage you to keep searching for answers, keep talking to others, keep seeking professional help. It’s not something that gets cured over night, but it is something that can be overcome.

A Note To Those Recovering From An Eating Disorder

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As a therapist, I help many people overcome challenges in their lives. There’s a common misconception among many clients I’ve treated that mental health professionals all come from a strong foundation and haven’t dealt with the thoughts and feelings they are experiencing. The truth is, though, I became a therapist because of the struggles I went through and because I know firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate life when you are dealing with challenges that seem outside your control.

One of the biggest challenges I ever faced was recovering from a severe eating disorder that plagued most of my adolescence. Overcoming my demons and eventually learning healthy coping mechanisms made me the person, the mom and the therapist I am today, but it wasn’t an easy process. I used to struggle with sharing my recovery story because it involves remembering such a dark period in my life, but then I realized opening up about my story of hitting rock bottom could help others going through something similar or simply inspire others to work through their past, which inevitably includes dark moments.

My “rock bottom” moment happened when I was working as a nanny in San Francisco and was living with my sister. I had a nervous breakdown after binging and purging for over five years. I was 21 years old, single, poor and depressed after deciding to leave my abusive and controlling boyfriend. I was working as a nanny and a tutor so that I could pay for my education.

That week I had worked for about 50 hours, in addition to being a part-time student at Golden Gate University where I studied international business. I came home on a Friday evening after I stopped at a local grocery store to stock up on food that I was going to binge on as soon as I got home. My sister was at work and I had the opportunity to eat as much as I could. I thought about the number of times that I binged and purged that day and when I counted I scared myself. It had been 15 times… my record was 30 times a day but while serving in the army I was able to reduce the binging and purging to three times a day so I was hopeful.

When I got home I knew that something was wrong but I couldn’t identify what it was. My thoughts were racing and all I could focus on was eating as much as I could and then purging. I couldn’t wait for the moment when I felt the sign of relief — which for me was lying on the bathroom floor like a drug addict and enjoying feeling high after purging everything I had eaten. All the excess noise in my head would clear for about half an hour. This relief came with a ridiculous delusion that I was somehow lighter and more powerful afterward.

I don’t want to bore you with all the details of that evening, but that night after lying on the bathroom floor for about an hour, I knew that something wasn’t right. I tried to get myself up and I wasn’t able to. My heart was racing fast and I felt like the ground was pulling me down and gravity was winning. Was this how I was going to end my life? That thought had crossed my mind many times before, but this time it felt real. I was 21 years old. I felt stupid, ugly and fat, and at that moment, I knew I had to pull myself together and write something so that I could share it with other girls who felt like me.

This moment from 21 years ago feels like it was just yesterday. I am 42 now, married to the man who I met at age 21 and I have three girls. But that moment will forever be ingrained in my mind. Somehow I pulled myself up that night and I started writing what I wanted to be my memoir. No name. Just words on a page.

I ended up writing over 100 pages that night of what I thought would be my story that would be published after I died. The beginning of my imaginary book was, “As I am writing these pages, I am dying from this horrible disease that has taken over my life for the past seven years…”

Many words followed, disclosing personal information about my family and life and horrible things that happened to me in my childhood that I had never shared with anyone. When my sister got home that night, she confronted me.

Everyone around me knew that something was terribly wrong with me. While they knew I had broken up with my boyfriend and it was a very messy breakup, no one could have imagined I was as sick as I was with bulimia and depression. I had hidden it very well.

Looking back at that time is painful, but it’s also eye-opening. This was simply the beginning of a very long process to recovery. Looking back now, I obviously see so many problems with my thoughts and behavior, but I think one of the biggest ways people can help themselves when they are nearing rock bottom is by sharing with someone you can trust. I lived with my sister and we were very close. Had I opened up to her sooner I think the recovery process would have started much sooner.

The point of me writing this note is to express to those on a similar journey that you are not alone. Everyone has a different “breaking point” so to speak, but what really helped begin to pull me out of that dark place was writing. It was the first time I was acknowledging my demons, which is the first step in any recovery efforts.

I encourage you if you are reading this and it sparks something inside you — maybe you are on a similar journey or know someone who is — to reach out and share your questions and comments.

The Dos and Don’ts Of Nutrition And Mealtime With Small Children

*This blog was written by our Director of Nutrition, Deborah Malkoff-Cohen MS, RD, CDN, CDE

Establishing healthy eating habits and proper nutrition in your children is essential from a very young age, as these will impact their overall health and relationship with food for their entire lives. A well-balanced diet is vital for your child to develop both physically and cognitively, and what you teach your children about healthy eating habits can affect their body image in the future.

Here are a few of my favorite tips when dealing with food battles.

DO

– Have family meals where your children eat their meals seated at a table with the rest of the family as often as you can

– Modify your child’s meal so their portion sizes are smaller and age-appropriate; ensure there is nothing that can be easily choked on

– Offer a meat, carb and a vegetable or fruit for all meals (Mac/cheese is not a well-balanced meal, serve alongside some chicken, fish, beef, etc. and cheddar broccoli). For breakfast, an example would be to serve oatmeal with a string cheese and some sliced banana.

– Always send your kiddos to school with a protein-filled breakfast to help keep them full until lunch. Think eggs, oatmeal, peanut butter toast, grilled cheese, etc. A carb-filled breakfast (cereal, waffles, pancakes, bagel with cream cheese) digests rapidly and can leave their bellies growling quicker, this can distract from learning.

– Taste all food before serving it to your kids to make sure it’s delicious!

– Serve a new food along with old favorites and have other family members model eating the new food in front of your child (this helps with introducing new food to picky eaters!)

– Have your child try new foods when they are hungry

– Establish regular snack times throughout the day

– Start teaching kids about nutrition, food selection, and basic food preparation from a young age

– Keep variety in your child’s meals

– Talk to a doctor about any specific health concerns

– Make sure your child is getting enough zinc, calcium, and iron as these are the nutrients most children don’t get the daily recommended values of

– If your child is dealing with weight issues, focus on behavior-changes (not weight changes)

– BE PATIENT, most kids are neophobic with new foods (scared to try something new)

– Be a good role model for your kids (Monkey-see, monkey-do). Your kiddos won’t want to eat carrots if you’re eating pretzels in front of them.

DON’T

– Feed your child in front of the TV, iPad or any electronics. Kids tend to overeat when distracted.

– Allow them to graze throughout the day on chips and other unhealthy snacks that have no nutrition

– Use food as a reward (“If you eat all your food I’ll give you cookies, etc.”)

– Force your child to clean their plate

– Get upset by messes — your child is learning fine motor skills and accidents will happen, however, they should be minimal by the time your child is in grade school

– Force your child to eat certain foods (this will have a negative impact on their desire for that food)

– Serve too many foods high in fat and sugar

– Pass your food hang-ups on your kids, offer all foods without judgment

– Provide your child with the same foods for each meal, this will only reinforce a few foods and not facilitate expanding their variety

I have been working with a family where both parents are health conscious and one goal they had early on was for their kiddos to like vegetables (every parent’s wish, right?!). They key is to introduce early on, we decided on a “green vegetable juice” at around 8 months old via a straw cup. A typical recipe might be celery, spinach, cucumber, apple and lemon. To this day their family and friends are shocked when their kids, now ages 5 and 8 eat SALAD with their dinner!!! They key is to start as early as you can, be consistent and you’ll see lifelong healthy eating habits.

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The author of this blog is our Director of Nutrition, Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, founder and owner of City Kids Nutrition, a nutritional consultation service for children living in and around New York City. Known for her innovative approach to spooning nutritional knowledge into tiny bellies, Deborah is passionate about helping kids achieve physical and emotional health. Deborah became interested in nutrition at a young age when her father was diagnosed with heart disease. Turning her interests into a career, Deborah received her Masters in Clinical Nutrition from New York University and graduated with honors from SUNY Albany with a degree in psychology.

 

On The Anniversary Of My Eating Disorder Diagnosis…

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Since yesterday was the anniversary of my eating disorder diagnosis (26 years ago!!), I got to thinking about how grateful I am for everything I’ve been through and where I am now as a mother of three. I thought it would be a good idea to blog about motherhood, gratitude and ways that we, as parents, can help prevent eating disorders/ways for us parents to promote wellness and prevent mental illness.
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My anorexia arrived when I was 14 years old and stuck with me for about a year and a half. I then, secretly, became bulimic for the next 8.5 years, and as crazy as this sounds, I considered myself to be the best bulimic ever. It was all about secrecy.  Without getting into too much of the horrifying details, I can tell you that it was a terrible disease that affected all parts of my life, and thankfully, I was finally able to overcome it at the age of 24.
Now at age 41 and as a mother of three girls ages 6, 9 and 12, I have a new understanding of my mental illness at that age and why I was particularly vulnerable.
I look at my 12-year-old who is kind, happy and confident, and I think of myself as a 12-year-old. I was a neglected, abused teen whose parents couldn’t afford to keep her and was sent to live with a foster family. Yes, in hindsight this was the best thing for me, but as a 12-year-old, it felt like the end of the world. I spent many nights crying myself to sleep as a teenager.
While instilling confidence in a child and providing a safe, loving home goes a long way, I also know that eating disorders affect people regardless of upbringing. As someone who lived with the illness and understands the mindset behind it, I know that it is one of my top priorities to prevent eating disorders in young people.
So, as a parent, what can you do?

My Top 5 Tips:

  1. Teach your kids to be grateful. Gratitude is one of the biggest mindsets I have taken away from my struggle with eating disorders. It’s something that affects your whole outlook on life and allows you to stop focusing on what you don’t have and what you can’t control (both of which fuel negative eating habits). Of course, you don’t want to be one of these annoying parents who constantly nag your kids and tell them how lucky they have it (Yes, I have been guilty of this a few times), but REMEMBER that while you think your kids “struggle” if you don’t give them a lot of “stuff,” in the end it’s our job to breed gratitude in our kids.
  2. Practice mindful eating and MUTE the media. I can’t tell you how important it is to practice eating mindfully. In today’s world where everything is electronic and our kids grow up with exposure to SO much, it is essential to keep the important moments of mealtime as mindful as possible. Specific guidelines that we have created in my family include: Enjoy the food by paying attention to what you are eating and using all your senses; Talk about the good parts of your day and the least favorite part of your day. (Talking as a family and making mealtime an activity and not something your kids dread will help everyone focus on the moment); Lastly, no electronics at the table while eating.
  3. Be a role model. Model healthy eating and healthy body talk when your kids are around. I once saw my 6-year-old  getting herself on the scale and when I asked her why she was doing that she said that “daddy gets on the scale every day…”  As adults, a lot of us are guilty of this, but who is around to see it? We are also all guilty of making various comments to friends or family related to food or weight and we don’t always pay attention to who is listening. Think about what you are saying, especially when you are around your kids. “Fat talk” is so popular, especially among women, once you start the trend of NO FAT TALK, I promise your friends will follow and you will find that you are leading a healthier lifestyle!!! Make it a blanket rule that you do not discuss diets or weight in front of your children.
  4. Educate yourself and your child. Educate yourself about the various eating disorder. 10-15% of Americans suffer from some kind of eating disorder. A new study estimates that about half million teens suffer from eating disorder or disordered eating. It’s important to recognize the signs of a developing eating disorder and know that they manifest in a ton of different ways. It’s not always that you are starving yourself…
  5. Build your child’s self-esteem. You can do that by giving them choices, let them know no one is perfect, don’t draw comparisons between children, encourage independence, assign age-appropriate household chore and spend special time with your child, focusing on his or her unique qualities and gifts.
Most importantly, if you think your child has an eating disorder or even if you suspect one may be developing, seek help as soon as you can, there are a lot of free resources out there. In addition, LW Wellness partners with Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You can find out more here.