“I could never eat like you do!”

veggies_gettyNic, my son Tennyson’s buddy, was watching me load up my Nike duffel bag with snacks for my 24 hours of flights to Milan, Italy, to stay at Paracelsus al Ronc.

He shook his head as he watched, and we had this conversation.

Nic:  Robyn, I could never eat like you do. I don’t like that stuff.

Me:  I didn’t either, when I was your age, Nicky. But then I got fat. And really sick. I had, like, 20 diseases.

bite size trainingNic:  Whoa!

Me:  Yeah. And so, when I ate stuff like this, I felt better. And then foods like these tasted good to me, too, after a while. It takes eating something for a little while to get used to it.

Tell your kids a story that’s on their level. About why you make the choices you do. Tomorrow, tell them another one. It’s the “drip method” of parenting. No lectures. Just bite-sized information they need.

You may not have won the war yet. But most kids, most of the time, follow their parents’ habits, for life. Good or bad.

My friends Jamie and Karma

When things get rough, my friend Jamie writes everyone she loves a group text. You’d have to know Jamie to know why this is funny: she’s the sweetest, kindest person on the planet. Gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, loves every living thing. This thing she says is code for her having a bad day and no one—NO ONE—takes it seriously. It always says the same thing:

“I HATE EVERYONE!!”

sunshine2Stuff isn’t always sunshine and lollipops around here. I try to write things that will lift your hopes and help you choose things that elevate life. Only true things, of course.

I’ve shared a number of times that I realize that despite the opposition and eye rolling, my kids mostly LIKE that they are fed crazy-healthy food and are crazy-healthy as a consequence. I like to tell you some of the times my kids actually seek out the good habits I’ve taught them.

But just so you know? It isn’t always like that. I have moments of wanting to send out a text to the universe saying I HATE EVERYONE. Sometimes my son says mean things and I feel like a failure. Like, “I’m sick of green smoothie life! I don’t want to eat the weird brown bread with yellow and brown seeds in it! People make fun of me at school.”

He then begins cataloguing the breads I buy that he likes, and the ones he doesn’t, and I get cranky, too, and tell him I’m not particularly interested in the catalogue rankings.

I seriously doubt this idea that kids make fun of Tennyson for BREAD. Or, maybe I don’t doubt it, and actually I’m just totally insensitive to the plight of people who are mocked for having brown bread in their lunch. Maybe I think that being made fun of for stupid things, and surviving it, builds character.

One day last week Tennyson texted me an SOS:

“Come check me out of school PLEEEEEEASE! Someone wrote me a mean note and called me gay for NO REASON!”

People say girls are drama. Not at my house. The wailing, hypersensitive, emotional person at my house is…..a boy.

Sometimes I might even say mean stuff back, when I’ve had it up to my eyebrows with wailing about dumb data I can’t conjure up any sympathy for. I may or may not have once said,

“Yeah? You don’t like it? Go over to your dad’s house. Start walkin’. There’s a whole bunch of junk food over there.”

(I hate when I’m a master manipulator. Because that stops him cold in his tracks. He’d much rather be here, so he caves in and says so, and I feel both smug and guilty.)

So what I’m saying is, I am in the trenches with you. Sometimes I get a ridiculous amount of whining about The Program here. One thing I’ve learned, through parenting, and marriage, and divorce, and life in the fast lane…..is that just because today is LAME doesn’t mean tomorrow won’t be AWESOME.

karmaIf you put a lot of awesome out there, a lot of awesome comes back. It’s Ecclesiastes 11:1. “Cast your bread upon the water. And after many days, it will come back to you.” The law of karma.

Last week I played a tennis match with a teammate who has been sidelined by injury and a busy life for SEVEN YEARS. Her first match back on the court. Little bit rusty! All three sets went to tie breakers.

In the third tiebreaker, we were up 10-9. The winner is the first to 10, and you must win by 2 points. So, it was MATCH POINT. I served the ball, and we rallied for a while, and I put the ball away neatly inside the baseline. The game was over.

Except our opponent yelled, “OUT!” I looked at my teammate in horror. The other team has the right to make calls on their side of the net. You can throw a fit, but there’s no line judge, so what’s the point?

I didn’t say a word. No need to expend pointless negative energy. I went back and served my next point, and we won it. Now we were up 11-10.

It was the other team’s service. We’d struggled to return the serve of our opponent who was up—she’d aced us once, and we’d struggled to return her slicing serve the whole match. Consistent, never a double-fault.

She served it into the net. Second serve, she tosses it up. And……serves it into the net again.

The match is over. Her face is horrified–her only double-fault of the day–and what a time for it to happen!

Welcome to the Land of Karma, baby.

gumballIf you put bad stuff out there, bad stuff comes back. Let’s don’t be concrete about this, because it’s an abstract concept:

If you put a lot of good stuff out there, it’s not like a gumball machine. Sometimes you put the quarter in and nothing comes out. Or a sharp nail, or a pointy rock, or even a gooey booger, comes out, instead of the pretty orange gumball you wanted. (It’s a METAPHOR. Hang in with me.)

But most of the time a gumball comes out. Sometimes TWO! If you made a line graph of it, putting quarters in gumball machines gets a LOT more gumballs than boogers!

Awesomeness tends to beget more awesomeness. Awesome people are attracted to other awesome people. Sick people (emotionally or physically) are attracted to other sick people.

On the average, I’d place big fat bets on karma. I’d place more bets on karma than Lady Luck in Las Vegas, or anything else. Most of the time, good is rewarded and bad is punished.

Apply it to parenting. Apply it to nutrition habits. Apply it to attitude.

Victim behavior and negative talk makes bad stuff flow my direction like a magnet. I stay away from it.

And when I’m tossing all kinds of good bread out on the water? The brown bread with yellow amaranth and brown flax seeds in it, which people apparently make fun of in 7th grade?

I totally expect big helpings of good stuff, eventually.

Give karma a big hug for me, when you see her.

Nutrition and single parents….part 3 of 3

Thank you, single parents who commented on my two-part blog series a couple of weeks ago.

I’m quoting Amanda from that blog series because what she said merits front-and-center attention:

“Robyn, I know what you’re going through, and thanks so much for writing on this critical topic! There’s very little information online about how to handle this problem.

Due to school and distance issues, my 11-year-old boy lives with his dad during the week and is with me on the weekends. One of the reasons we divorced is over the issue of nutrition. The dad is one of those poor folks who believes the ketchup on a Big Mac counts as a vegetable, and he’s not interested in learning anything different. If the FDA says it’s OK for us, then where’s the problem, right?

I recently heard from my son that he’s being made to take fluoride pills at night because their RO water treatment filters it out of the tap water. I asked, why do you think your system does that??? But dad heard from the dentist that if you don’t get “enough” fluoride, all your teeth will decay and fall out. If a doctor says it’s true, that’s all the proof he needs. Never mind the evidence I present to the contrary. I’m not a doctor, so my information can’t be valid, apparently.

So Robyn, I look forward to your entry tomorrow on how you deal with this emotionally. All I can do (without bad-talking his dad, which I understand is detrimental to my son’s emotional health) is present alternative information while he’s here, and hope that it somehow sinks in.

One ray of hope is this: I was raised by a hippie health food mom who shopped at co-ops and knew way ahead of time how important whole-food nutrition is. In fact, I was the only kid in my neighborhood who had a whole-wheat birthday cake every year. (OK, I have some trauma around that. :) When I finally “got free” from her influence and went off to college, I narrowed my nutritional plan to two food groups: beer and pizza, in that order. I gained 25 pounds and developed some weird blood pressure problem that had me passing out after a flight of stairs. Man, I felt and looked like crap.

Here’s the good news: now, 25 years later, I’m a natural health researcher and a passionate and committed servant of anyone who asks for my input on nutritional or health issues. My mom’s lessons stayed with me through those turbulent years, and although I got off track now and then, her love and persistence paid off.

So will ours as we continue to deliver this important information to our children in a compassionate and loving way. Stay strong! My suggestion: don’t meet resistance with more resistance, but trust that your message will get through. Children are very sensitive creatures, and instinctively lean toward messages delivered with love and a high vibration. Encourage them to feel the contrast in themselves between different foods and ideas, and they’ll often correct course naturally.

Much love to Robyn and all you GSG readers! Keep up the good work!”

From Robyn:

Believe it or not, we had no conflict over diet or how to raise the kids, when I was married!

Nothing has honed my communication skills more than being divorced! Trying to inoculate your child against bad information without criticizing the source of that information…..that’s the tightrope single parents walk.

I have my hat off in great respect for all the divorced parents who try very hard to show respect to the other parent. After all, the child knows he is HALF his father. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of saying or doing something for the cheap grab at “favorite parent” status. It’s just a bad thing to do on every level.

I love what Amanda says: to just trust that the message is getting through, even if a period of beer-and-pizza might take place. Me, too: my entire sophomore year of college was spent eating almost nothing but Top Ramen and bananas. The year I was pregnant with my first son, right before I bottomed out and turned it around, I ate mostly burgers and fries, Ben ‘N Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream, 7-11 Nachos, and I drank all the liquid out of pickle jars. But eventually my mom’s good teachings and example kicked in, with a vengeance!

Nutrition and single moms, part 2 of 2

Even though I am doing the very best I can for my kids’ health, even though I run a health-oriented web site and write books and speak all over the U.S., full time……even though there is no junk food in my house….I cannot control everything my children eat.

“Controlling” what the kids eat is a really great idea when kids are young. It is a word mostly excised from your vocabulary, as the kids get older. I control the food that I purchase and make, still. I don’t buy junk food. But “control” what teenagers eat away from home? No can do.

I certainly will not compete for “Most Favored Parent Status” (ask any divorced parent about that game, which I refuse to play) by turning into Pop-Tart Mom.

These are ways I remain happy despite the fact that I sometimes have to watch my children being fed a meal of Skittles and hamburgers. Despite that fact that I can’t influence their father and his wife to stop feeding them harmful chemicals.

I remind myself that I have done the best I could, and I have educated my kids about what I know. This dramatically increases the likelihood that they’ll have a healthy lifestyle for life despite living in a polarized “food schizophrenia” now. My one child who does not live with me comes home while she’s at athletic camps or tryouts, so I can feed her well, for energy and peak performance. This is initiated by her, not me.

I take some satisfaction in knowing that, while they tell me they often don’t have healthy options when they’re not with me, and I know not all their choices are good ones, on the other hand, they know what’s good and bad and they make better choices than the rest of America. All four of my kids love salad. They all love fruit. They are not afraid of green food.

(That said? Last night a friend brought us his “raw soup.” It was pea pods, red peppers, cucumbers, and avocado blended smooth. I thought it was fine. The kids didn’t like it but the oldest two just ate it. The third gave me some grief.

The fourth? He wailed and sobbed, he gagged, choked, begged, pretended to puke, rolled his eyes back in his head, claimed he was going to die, begged for salt, then cycled through all those tactics again. Ridiculous. I told him to get up and walk away, several times, but he wanted the whole-wheat zucchini bread his sister was making, so he stuck it out. And he curled up in my lap, after, and cried as if he was made to eat a bowl of wiggling termites on Fear Factor.

I tell you this so you’re reminded that I’m a Mom In the Trenches, too. Makes for some good laughs later, though! The drama could win an Oscar. This boy of mine is officially the most emotional human I’ve ever known.)

The point is, the rewards aren’t all being achieved right now.   It pays off over a lifetime, to teach our kids while they’re in our home, what good nutrition is. And then practice it right in front of them, making good choices ourselves.

After all, I had wonderful examples in my parents and my maternal grandparents. And yet I spent the entire decade of my 20’s eating mostly junk.

I have observed that my friends who are the most open minded to what I feed them when they come over (sprouted, living, raw stuff) always tell me how their moms baked homemade whole-wheat everything, and juiced carrots and celery or made green drinks, and shopped at a health food store.

And my friends who won’t try anything and make funny faces because they say “I have a strong gag reflex!” or whatever? They’re universally the ones who were raised on the Standard American Diet.

Some of the benefits of my children having a good example, a lot of childhood education, and far better nutrition than other kids in America transcend the nutrition they get today. They will be adults who aren’t squeamish and avoidant of natural colors (like green!) and textures and new foods.   Flax crackers and baby-turnip stir-fry and edamame for a snack and raw-vegetable soup will seem like home, instead of crazy-people food.

These are ways, mostly self-talk, that I find helps me not hyperventilate about things I cannot do anything about related to my kids’ nutrition. Gone are the days that I can take alternative treats to the pre-school teacher and ask the children’s organization at church not to feed my kids candy. My kids will make their own way and make their own choices. Moving more gracefully, rather than less so, into that space of parenting teens and young adults, helps me let go and allows them to learn from experience.

If you have tips, I’m sure some single moms would appreciate more of them!

How much plant food does America eat?

Check out this story from USA Today, below. Go ahead and gloat that if your child is drinking even a pint of green smoothie daily even with NO other fruit and vegetable intake, he is ahead of at least 90.5 percent of American teenagers.

(My guess is that you’re outpacing more like 99% of teens, since kids were self-reporting in this study and counting things like pasteurized fruit juice, which don’t rate next to a raw apple and stalk of celery.) YOUR child is getting nutritional standouts like kale, spinach, and collards in her 7.5 servings in a pint of GS. That’s instead of lightweight French fries, ketchup, and iceberg lettuce that “count” in these studies.

Way to go, GSG parents. Thank you for changing the way America’s children eat. You’re a force for good. You’re up against a LOT of opposition, I know! (Read the comments on this blog over the past two years, for people’s horror stories of how tough it can be to do the right thing when family, friends, and the culture oppose you. Be strong.)

My children’s other parent doesn’t approve of my practice of letting the kids trick or treat and then paying them $20 to dump all the candy. He believes an open-cupboard policy with lots of candy and junk food is part of a happy childhood, and that it’s all good as long as you serve a salad at dinner with your meat-and-potatoes main dish. (Refer to my recent “Oprah” blog entry about how we believe at a very fundamental/emotional level that the way we were raised is the RIGHT way.)

By the way, my kids do have a choice. They always make sure they KNOW they have a choice, but in the end they have always chosen the cash, without exception! Why? Because they know the candy makes them sick and isn’t worth close to $20! (They know this because I explain it every year and remind them what $20 buys.) And I do let them have a couple things before dumping it.

Not only do you parents rock out loud for doing the GS thing, but I know that many of you are doing more than just green smoothies. I’m on record many times saying that the USRDA recommendation of 5 servings of fruits and vegs is woefully inadequate. Setting the bar that low leaves far too much room for eating antibiotic-injected, sickly animal carcasses, processed flour and sugar, and other inferior “food.” The USRDA reqs are the nutritional equivalent of “dumbing down” our education. We should be getting 20+ servings. Those serving sizes are so small–I routinely get 20-27 servings of fruits/vegs daily.

Here’s the link to the story, and the full text below it, in case your link doesn’t work:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-09-29-fruits-veggies-high-school-kids_N.htm?csp=24&RM_Exclude=Juno

Only 14% of adults eat the recommended number of servings of fruit and vegetables a day, says a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 33% of adults meet the recommendation of two or more servings of fruits a day; 27% eat the recommended three or more servings of vegetables.

Washington, D.C., leads the nation in eating fruits and vegetables: 20.1% of adults report they meet both daily recommendations. Mississippi sits at the bottom with 8.8%.

Three of the top states are in New England, and three of the bottom states are in the Southeast. The disparity could be a result of the lack of farmers markets in the Southeast and policies that promote healthful foods in schools and communities, says Heidi Blanck, senior scientist for the CDC.

High school students fare worse than adults: 9.5% report they eat two or more fruits and three or more vegetables a day. About the same number of students (32%) as adults say they meet the fruit recommendation, but only 13% say they eat at least three servings of vegetables a day.

The Healthy People 2010 objective from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services aims to have 75% of the U.S. population meeting the daily fruit recommendations and 50% meeting the daily vegetable recommendations.

“At the current rate, the goal won’t be met,” Blanck says.

To raise the percentage of people meeting the goals, the CDC suggests grocery stores increase their stock of “high-quality” fruits and vegetables and encourages states to form food policy councils that evaluate the access to fresh produce.

It also suggests schools provide more fruits and vegetables in cafeterias and vending machines.

Oprah, raw food, and parenting (part 2 of 2)

I have started meeting with a good friend of mine this week whose wife asked for my help with nutrition counseling. My friend is a regionally renowned musician whose family is going through some seriously tough times. He is amazingly well read, brilliant, educated with an advanced degree, a church leader, fantastic dad, and one of the finest human beings I know. And still, his wife says he is like most of America in one sense at least. He knows nothing about nutrition. He did the Atkins Diet religiously for a long period of time before suffering the consequences of that regimen (health lost, weight regained). He was raised in a fairly chaotic environment and simply doesn’t know.

What a gift we give any child who is raised with a whole-foods, plant-based diet, even while the larger culture around him has gone insane. (Even a child will be gripped by the very visual and easily documented results when quasi-vegetarian Morgan Spurlock, in the documentary SuperSize Me, eats at McDonald’s for 30 days. But unfortunately you have to access the child-friendly version of the movie that they showed at my kids’ school, since the regular version inexplicably contains the F word.)

I got a very long email yesterday from someone who read my intro to 12 Steps and told me that my attitude toward children is “disrespectful” because I state that children generally need adults to help with their nutrition because they make choices based on what tastes good rather than what’s good for them. (Feel free to sound off on this blog about your opinions on that, which are welcome!) The writer said that her children always choose vibrant whole, raw foods and loathe any processed junk food.

When she writes a book about how exactly she achieved that (if in fact she didn’t just get lucky with perfect children), I do hope it outsells 12 Steps. I’ll be the first in line to buy it, because that is not my observation of the vast majority of American children. I speak positively about whole plant foods in my home and attempt to make appealing dishes, and two of my children are vegetarian by choice. However, most of my children will eat fruits and veggies but otherwise make poor choices if left to their own devices at food-related events outside my home.

I wish they wouldn’t, just like I wish I wouldn’t have ever made bad choices. But I honor their choices even if I “require” things of them (and make no apologies about it, while you, reading this, are free to reject my way of thinking and doing things). For instance, when I buy them dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, their first plate of food has to be a giant green salad. In the long run, I trust that their tastes have been “set” to enjoy green and raw plant foods, and their experience with good health because of their diet will be a powerful motivator in the future.