A few weeks ago I briefly described the month-long nutrition plan I’ve been following. Today is is Day 30 of my Whole 30! My energy level is higher than it’s been in years. I have lost those last 10 pounds I’ve intended to lose since Baybay was born (2 years ago). Our family’s nutrition is on track. In addition to these benefits, I had the opportunity to reflect on my behavior related to food. Within the first few days I caught myself engaging in some unhealthy food behaviors I previously hadn’t noticed. And they all revolved around my kids. Now I’m certainly not saying that my children are responsible for my unhealthy eating habits, but having children changes your environment. As adaptive creatures, we change our behaviors to suit our environment and sustain survival. Having two children under 3, well, survival has been the name of the game for the past couple years.
1. Eating Kids’Leftovers
As I cleared the breakfast dishes the first morning I instinctively picked up a piece of leftover toast from The Bear’s plate. I stopped myself before it touched my lips, but it struck me. How often did I do this? Scavenge like a hyena after every meal? Surprisingly, I realized, it was more often than I thought. Especially when the kids turned their noses up at something new. I’d eat their portion along with my own and make them something else. Part of me felt guilty wasting food, part of me just had a problem with portion control. Either way, it had to stop. I have been taking the kids’ leftovers and putting them in the fridge for later. It’s been an effective solution to “I’m huuuuuuungry.” I’m encouraging them to try (at least a “no thank you” bite) of new foods and reintroducing it more often. I see an improvement in all of us.
2. Stress Eating During Bedtime
Oh Bedtime, you wicked beast. I could easily put away a half pound of M & Ms during bedtime. And if I was out of M & Ms then I’d find my baking chocolate chips. “I’m not tired. I don’t want to go to bed. Whaaah!” Handful of M &M’s. Stomp.Stomp.Stomp. Baybay is awakened and begins to howl. Handful of chocolate chips. “I have to go potty.” Handful. “I need a drink of water.” Handful. “Potty again.” Handful. You see there is no healthy way for this to end, but I had to cut it out of my diet completely to recognize it. Believe me, those first few bedtimes with no chocolate were sooooo stressful. I actually found myself just standing next to the pantry where the chocolate is located. Not eating any, but praying for some peace by proximity. It got better though. It pushed me to do some research and find a bedtime strategy that is really working (I give The Bear two stickers at bedtime. If he comes out of his room for anything besides a bathroom break, I get to take a sticker. If he has 1 sticker left in the morning he gets a reward. It was so easy and effective!) Stress eating pops up in many situations and can be hard to recognize. Finding my triggers (like bedtime) and completely eliminating my access to my indulgence improved my nutrition and parenting.
3. More Reasons to Celebrate
With kids comes more birthday cakes, more holiday candy, more cookies for any occasion. I thought being a teacher made it tough to avoid holiday treats, but being a parent too makes it darn well impossible. Mommymentum confession: I am the mom that eats her kids’ good Halloween candy. I know I don’t have many years to get away with it so I do it now. And by the time the Halloween candy has cleared out there is Thanksgiving pie, then Christmas cookies, then Valentine’s candy, then Easter candy and then finally there is a little break in prescribed sugar consumption until the summer birthday season. Kids bring it home from school, relatives load them up and I even feel obligated to participate out of tradition. I’m starting to put it in the deep freezer, but even then I know it’s still there. Now that I’m not going to eat it, any suggestions of what to do with it?
4. Adult Portions of Kid Snacks
Those three bad boys up there get me in trouble. I portion out a decent serving for my kids, but again with the handfuls. Because they are quick and a carb punch in the groggy late afternoon, I found myself snacking on these kids’ snacks more than the kids. I cut way back and try to offer fruit that we all eat together. It is slowly catching on. Sometimes I have to bribe them. “Eat your blueberries and then you can have Cheez-Its.” Whatever works, right?
5. E.W.E. (Eating When Exhausted)
Daddysaurus says I get a certain look in my eye and when he sees it he knows not to ask “What’s for dinner?” but instead “Can we order pizza?” After a long week, Friday nights feel like the anti-cooking night. Returning from a vacation or any activity that throws off a schedule and wears me out immediately makes me want to blow off healthy food. There is something so comforting about French fries, isn’t there? I’ve started making a conscious effort to power through and eat something healthy. And it’s hard. Really hard. Luckily, one of the big benefits of eating healthier is that I have a lot more energy so I’m not faced with that exhaustion quite as much (even with a 1 year-old who thinks 4 a.m. is a decent time to demand milk).
Everyone is on a different place in their parenthood journey. These 5 behavior changes have improved our family’s nutrition and quality of life. A year ago, there was no way I could have considered this as I was just trying to keep my head above water. Now I’ve got a little more flexibility with each child being year older and a little more independent. It’s nice to be here!
Do any of these behaviors resonate with you? Are you at a place to make a change? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section or on our Facebook page.
*Images from office.microsoft.com, cheezit.com, snydersofhanover.com, and pepperidgefarm.com