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!

Nutrition and single moms, part 1 of 2

Today I’m going to tell some personal things about my divorce and raising children with a divorced co-parent who has radically different nutrition opinions than a GSG does.

This topic is something I normally don’t talk about. If it has the potential to offend you, please don’t read it. I write about it today because we get a lot of emails from people whose spouses sabotage their nutrition efforts. We also get a lot of email from parents who are divorced and concerned about what happens at the other parent’s house.

I am living in that “real world” too.

First, let me ask this: who are the people most open-minded about eating healthy?

Answer: Usually they’re the people whose mamas fed them healthy food when they were little. This should give you comfort if you’re doing pretty well, but you’re raising kids and you can’t control everything they eat.

Last year, I went into mediation with my ex-husband. I had my $250/hr. attorney, he had his, and a $250/hr. mediator’s bill was split down the middle. I thought it was stupid. I wanted to just sit down and talk it out ourselves. But he didn’t want to. So, several thousand dollars later…..

I lost big on just one issue.

I’d begged him to eliminate monosodium glutamate from my son’s diet because my son starting having occasional headaches accompanied by vision problems when we got divorced and he went to his dad’s one night a week and every other weekend. Generally I don’t ask what they’re fed there, because I don’t want to know. (There’s not a darn thing I can do about it.) Stepmom gives Tennyson Tylenol for the headache, and feeds my older son Ibuprofen for his shoulder after pitching a long game.

But even with my “don’t ask” policy, sometimes I see these things, and it’s painful. At ball games, I see my children fed snack-shack hamburgers and Skittles as a meal. It makes me feel like all my hard work is being undone. It makes me feel like I’ve failed to protect my children. I’ve educated myself far past the ability to stick my head in the sand about the consequences of that diet, even for the 15% of the time they spend eating it. Some of the consequences of eating that way are plain to the naked eye. My children’s father has gained about 50 lbs. since our divorce less than 3 years ago. I cannot help but worry about the effect on my kids of the fast food and junk food.

I have to wall it off and think about the fact that I’m blessed to have full custody and therefore I get to provide the food 85% of the time. I have a litany of other positives I go through in my mind, to survive it. I’ll tell you those tomorrow.

My daughters will sometimes walk over to my house from their dad and his wife’s house (they live five minutes away on foot) and ask for a green smoothie, or Hot Pink, some fruit, or veggies and hummus, or whatever I have on hand. A few of the kids have reported that there often aren’t healthy options to eat at their dad’s. At first he did green smoothies, homemade kefir, and a salad as the biggest thing on the plate. But six months post-divorce, especially after he remarried, those habits were gone for good.

You get the picture: our values and habits in the areas of nutrition and how to deal with health issues are very different.

I had learned that the kids were being fed MSG in Top Ramen and other foods.

In mediation, my children’s father refused to consider eliminating that deadly neurotoxin from his home–or even from Tennyson’s diet.

I had brought a letter to mediation from a pediatrician recommending elimination of MSG from Tennyson’s diet. The letter was accompanied by a half-inch-thick stack of that doctor’s research on the harm that can result from eating foods with MSG. Including headaches.

I won, in mediation, in almost all the issues I had brought, all of which were about my children’s welfare and best interests. But my children’s father was intractable about eliminating MSG, even under pressure from a skilled mediator.

To this day, I don’t know why feeding my son monosodium glutamate was and is important to him. I have had to wall it off in my mind because it’s so painful to me. Painful that I have no choice, every other weekend, about my kids being fed boxed mac-n-cheese, hot dogs, and/or neurotoxins that I feel are deadly — but which he feels are necessary to make them “normal.”

My point? How to survive it? That’s tomorrow.

(But p.s. My son has not complained of a headache in the 8 months since our mediation. I hope that even though he was not legally compelled to, my son’s father may have cut MSG out. Sometimes in the situation single moms are in, prayer is the only thing left! And even research bears out that it can be effective!)

Are “eating healthy” and “obsessed” synonymous? Part 3 of 3

If you feel you are annoying your family, go ahead and transfer their feelings to me if you want!

If it helps you, you can say,

“Green Smoothie Girl says my ‘obsession’ is normal and that it’s just a phase. She had that phase, too. The only way through it is THROUGH it! Now she’s way past it and doesn’t really even talk about food unless someone asks.”

Even when someone asked, back in my “OBSESSIVE” (read: hyper-learning) phase, I said too much. I overestimated people’s interest routinely. In fact, I remember one member of my former husband’s family asking me questions that I *knew* intuitively were really just bait. They were passive aggression, edged with sarcasm.

But I’d take the questions as legitimate, and I’d answer them at length, from my recently acquired knowledge. (Knowledge no one trusted yet, because just a month before, I ate just like they did!)

In my gut, I knew the “bait” questions were designed to be socially acceptable criticism, statements more than questions. But I purposefully ignored it to further my agenda. I think my agenda was pure: I wanted THEM to acquire the health benefits that were occurring for us. I wanted them to validate and enjoy the exciting things happening in my family. But my methods were suspect:

“Here, this is the path I’m on, so you better get on it, too! Let me ram some information down your throat! You can FEEL my disapproval as I change the rules we’ve always lived by!”

Well, hindsight is 20/20. I look back and feel pretty chagrined. I’ve learned (the hard way!) to answer questions briefly. Then wait for another question rather than deliver a long, unwanted lecture.

I’ve also learned that many folks who are “health nuts” are actually perennially obsessive people, and people who live in a place of fear. (They don’t do us any favors, trying to convert the world to whole foods.)

I know that if you’re living in the fear place, or you’re feeling like thoughts about food and food shopping/preparation have taken over your life, it might be time for a little introspection.

I *started* in the fear place. You may know my story: I thought my 18-month old son might die. I was having panic attacks and not sleeping, consequently.

I am in the OPPOSITE place now. I know that I’ve put building blocks in place that minimize my disease risk….so I do not worry and wring my hands about the health problems others my age are virtually all suffering from.

Am I immune from health problems? No. I’m just much less susceptible to them than everyone else around me, and there’s no need to fear, because I’m doing what I can reasonably do.

The meditations I’m working on will address these fears that, I’m afraid, attract a lot of people to this site and to my program. It’s natural that people suffering from anxiety will attach that anxiety to what goes in their mouth.

But it’s a MUCH nicer place to be to be ENJOYING the journey, doing it out of a positive love place rather than a dark fear place.

This is a good time to check yourself and ask, “Am I in a natural first part of a journey, where it’s natural to get a little out of balance because I’m gobbling up information and it’s blowing my mind? Or am I STUCK in food obsession and fear?”

Big, big difference.

Any thoughts about this, feel free to share!

So your sex drive isn’t what it used to be?

A few tips for those suffering from lack of libido (or maybe it’s your partner whose sex drive doesn’t match yours). (You know that I was trained as a sex therapist in my graduate studies? Hope you don’t mind if I mix in a little of that, along with nutrition ideas.)

1.           Maca. Add it to a green smoothie. It’s the “Peruvian ginseng,” a root vegetable prized by the Incans for thousands of years for its ability to improve athletic endurance and sexual stamina.

2.           Bee pollen. Look what it does for the queen bee! It’s a powerful aphrodisiac. Try one grain to make sure you’re not allergic, then two grains the next day. Take a teaspoon a day when you’ve ascertained you don’t have a sensitivity to it. Eat a spoonful or put it in a smoothie. It also has a potentially helpful effect on seasonal allergies, and immune function!

3.           Figure out what your time of day is, and take advantage of that. Some people are simply more interested in sex in the morning, rather than at night. It’s a truism that many folks are either “night people” or “morning people.” Nothing wrong with that–you might have to compromise if your partner is the opposite.

4.           Women, get a full blood-panel workup at a specialized hormone clinic (generally these are run by nurse practitioners) to find out if progesterone or female testosterone is the root of the problem. More and more women are suffering from endocrine disruption and imbalance, probably partly because of things like soy in all our foods, hormones in our animal proteins, etc. A little yam-based progesterone or hormone cream may work wonders. (However, you want this only if it’s warranted by your test results!) Testosterone cream is appropriate only if you are 40 or older. Other remedies your natural-care practitioner may recommend, like DHEA, or flax oil, could be easily located at a health-food store.

5.           Realize that, according to research, even 10 lbs. of extra weight can dramatically affect your sex drive. Not only because you are less confident and feel less sexy–and libido has everything to do with self-confidence or self-esteem, too–but also because of the unbalancing effect on your hormones. Progressing with whole foods to your ideal weight, then, has even more upside potential.

p.s. to yesterday’s blog

I had this phone convo with my dad yesterday:

Me: Dad, remember how you sprayed pesticides in your grampa’s cherry orchard when you worked for him, and a few times you got sprayed right in the face with no mask?

Dad: Sweetheart, I got sprayed many, many times in the face, not a few. Occasionally I’d tie a bandana around my face, but then I’d get hot and take it off and end up with chemicals in my face AGAIN.

[He tells a long story about how his uncle was once adjusting a nozzle and turned, as the pesticide was in a solid, high-pressure stream, and hit my dad in the face when Dad’s mouth was open. He swallowed lots of it.]

Me: Wow. Okay, I was thinking the pesticide was Malathion. No?

Dad: Well, we did use Malathion. But no, the main ones we used were DDT and Parathion. Both of them have been banned for many years.

[Side note: The muckraking book Silent Spring linked DDT to massive human endocrine damage as well as wildlife devastation. The resurgence of the near-extinct bald eagle is linked to DDT being pulled from the market in approximately 1970, and the uproar over the chemical gave rise to today’s environmentalist movement.]

Dad: All that pesticide I breathed and swallowed and soaked through my skin, for years, is the reason your mom thinks I’m gonna die before I turn 70.

Me: No you’re not! I need you around until you’re at least 90.

Dad: Well, the life my dad is living isn’t a life I really want. And my mother’s side….nobody lived to 60!

[He goes sideways with a long story about my grampa, 91 and senile, a recovered alcoholic/chain smoker who lives in a rest home. My brother Glen, named after my grampa, called him on his 90th birthday and said, “Hi Grampa, I’m Glen Openshaw, your grandson.” And my grampa said, “Glen Openshaw?! That’s MY name!”]

Me: You should read the China Study, about how cancer can be turned on or off depending on the fuel you choose to eat. Your heredity doesn’t doom you. Neither does toxicity exposure. Eat lots of plant food, okay Dad? Especially greens.

Dad: I have taken a lot of supplements and done a lot of detox to eliminate heavy metals. And yes, I eat a LOT of greens. Your mom makes green smoothies that you could cut with a knife. But yesterday the one she made was so good, I had seconds. Today I ate a huge salad at Texas Roadhouse Grill.

Me: Go you! Better than a steak! And, just add water to that smoothie.

Dad: The two guys I was with had a steak.

Me: Just one of the reasons you’re my hero, Dad. You go out to eat with GUYS, to a STEAKHOUSE of all places, and you order a salad! You’re the bomb.

[My dad then tells me about how he has questioned God for a long time about why He allows someone like my Grampa to far outlive his ability to progress. Dad believes it’s so that all the people who interact with Grampa get an opportunity to prove who they are, with the way they treat him. For instance, the night employee at the rest home, who can choose to sit and watch TV, or provide love and care when no one is watching, to a lonely old man who doesn’t appear to know the difference.]

I thought about that all day. My dad is so dang cool.

“I love my body,” part 3 of 4

My heart got broken earlier this year–-but that very same heart kept on beating. It pumps blood every second, to my brain, to every extremity, perfectly. Every minute of the past 43 years. When I sleep, my heart miraculously never skips a pulse. I should be on my knees thanking God every day for my beautiful body.

“My body serves me well.”

In a thousand ways. I am going to record a meditation CD about this, to go along with 12 Steps to Whole Foods, in 2011. (Keep my feet to the fire about this! I have a lot of plans for 2011!) At the end of the meditation I am working on, I want you to feel awed by your gorgeous body. (Which then will translate into your making good choices to treat it with respect.)

Tell yourself, “I love my body. It serves me well” every day. Repetition is key. (Thus the need for the meditation I’m working on.) If you think what I’m telling you here is ridiculous, that’s okay. Just do it anyway.

Since you’re a woman, I’m not going to bother trying to get you to talk like a man. (My 17-y.o. son said last week:

“I poned that basketball today!”

and

“I was DOPE at practice, Mom–I’m maxing the bench press!”

I don’t know how you pone something or what exactly dope has to do with the bench press. But male culture allows, even demands, macho bravado–and confidence. Ours doesn’t.)

In all reality, if you’re a woman, I’m not going to get you to talk about yourself this way. You didn’t create the system for girls–you just operate in it. I get that.

But there are ways you CAN love your body that are socially acceptable. Will you commit to saying this:

“I love my body. It serves me well.” Or something LIKE that, every day several times, when you catch yourself thinking negatively about yourself? Say it a thousand times, until you believe it. (It took me a long time before I believed it.) Then say it, still, to reinforce that knowledge.

I think you are beautiful. I don’t care that you have stretch marks or your breasts sag or whatever. When you show up in my class or on my blog, I know you are a seeker of truth. You’re a goddess with unlimited potential. You are many things to many people who love you. You are good at your core and have a divine source, which endows you with divinity. You aren’t perfect, but your imperfection makes you relateable. I hope you believe that, let it sink deep until you begin to tap your potential.

As you do, you will find yourself refusing to engage in behaviors that abuse your beautiful body.

And if you eat something that makes you feel ill rather than well, choose not to guilt-trip yourself. One of my grad-school professors used to repeat often, “Guilt is a useless emotion.”

I agree. Do you love your body more when you pound on yourself about every less-than-optimal choice? Just because you ate those frosted sugar cookies today doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you can’t make good choices tomorrow. It means you’re human.

(I teach my kids: “Sin is not a tragedy.” It’s inevitable and it’s how we grow.)

During this holiday season, there are so many opportunities to abuse our bodies. So please start now in nurturing self-talk and spend some time meditating on how blessed you are to inhabit your own skin.

This really can translate into a strong desire to honor your body that transcends addiction and self-medication.