Do your family dinners count?
I was 33 and I had five major dreams attained. Handsome husband, check. Three beautiful kids, check. A design company of my own, check. Home owner, check. A white picket fence, check.
These were dreams embedded deep in my soul, since the days of lemonade stands and doll play, and 90210 episodes.
But all the sudden they felt not enough.
My dreams were changing.
I was struggling in my role of mom.
I was exhausted.
I did not know how to cook, and I was being tested by a long list of home items that simply did not exist before kids.
My new dreams included a full night’s sleep, 10 minutes to take a shower without being interrupted, a day away (anywhere) from my family, I'm kidding, a little, but really, what I most wanted was a personal chef..., who would feed all of us and wash the dishes. But somehow those dreams felt wrong. I was a mom, and moms happily make dinner.
The thing I have not mentioned is I gained 85 pounds in my first pregnancy and did not lose it.
One day at my office, at about 3pm. I remember looking up at a stack of Starbucks cups — maybe five — that had collected over the course of the day. I remember thinking I have to get home soon to the kids. I remember wondering what they should have for dinner. I remember feeling exhausted and wondering how that was possible after all that coffee.
I remember knowing that something had to change.
So that day, staring at the coffee cups, I decided to tackle the one thing that felt tangible, my weight.
And the next day — with a little help from a coach — I changed my food.
I had been on a few diets in my life, but this one was different.
I was eating real food.
I tell people the weight melted off. but I am not sure that it was that it happened so fast or it just did not matter.
Within days, I was off 3 medicines that I took daily, and my energy was off the charts (with no coffee!)
I understood for the first time in my life that what I ate was attached to how I feel.
How could I not have known this?
I had added in foods that I had not known existed 2 weeks prior, or if I did, I would have definitely not known what to do with them - kale, collards, cacoa, nori, saurerkraut. .
I needed to get my oxygen mask on first, and once it was securely on, I turned my eyes and heart to my 4-year old daughter who was not thriving.
She did not pay attention in school, she had a hard time sleeping, and she was covered in eczema. And nothing that doctors were prescribing was working — from therapy or cream.
Luckily, I was able to turn to food. One week after no dairy and no gluten, we had a different child. She was rash free, and her teacher felt she had a new child in the classroom.
Meanwhile, I had dove into the world of food. I did this by talking to every health “guru” who would take my call. I learned so much about food and ingredients from this group, but the thing that stuck out to me most was that lots of their kids rebelled and left the house to eat crap.
And this is when I realized my work as a mom was one part food and one part parenting. My goal became learning how to raise kids who would someday become healthy adults.
And to be clear, by healthy I mean mean using all the tools that are in our control and come from the natural world to avoid sickness and brain fog — food, sleep, water, exercise to name a few.
We almost always look at what we need to eliminate when we think of getting healthy, whether it’s our health, our kids health or our family’s health, but it is also important to think about what we are putting in — from fruits and veggies to our day to day experiences.
I know the minute I talk about “adding” anything it can feel overwhelming. Who has time to add one more thing? And it’s that concern that is at the very heart of what I want to share with you today.
The food you eat really does make a difference to your health.
Nine servings of fruits and veggies a day. That's the latest recommendation from the new dietary guidelines released by the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.
Lots of research suggests that a diet high in fruits and veggies can lower blood pressure. 1 in 3 American Adults suffer from high blood pressure.
In fact, studies show that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar which can help keep appetite in check. (Harvard School of Public Health)
Remember how I said eventually the weight did not matter? Let me explain.
My entire teen and adult life I took a hormone medicine to get my period that made me super depressed. 5 days after I changed my diet, I got a period and it has been regular ever since.
Everyday of my adult life, I took medicine for seasonal allergies, so my drooping puffy eyes would not affect my business. One week in, no more allergy medicine.
Energy off the charts.
A year in, I had not taken an antibiotic for my chronic ear infections. In fact, I had not had an ear infection. It has been 7 years now that I’ve been ear infection free.
I know that it can feel difficult to add fruits and veggies when we aren’t in a fruit and veggie culture. We are living in a narrative that says organic cheezy bunny crackers are good for us, donuts are awesome, and why deprive a kid of their childhood?
In fact why would we prevent our kids from little league, ballet, art class, or a playdate? Or any of the 100 other activities that keep us busy, and may be preventing us from getting dinner on the table.
Which leads me to the second thing we need — a way to add in more quality time with our families through meals.
This is a big deal.
According to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, kids and teens who share family dinners three or more times per week:
- Are less likely to be overweight
- Are more likely to eat healthy food
- Perform better academically
- Are less likely to engage in risky behaviors (drugs, alcohol, sexual activity)
- Have better relationships with their parents
Whether good or bad, my guess is you can map some of your food habits back to the kitchen you grew up in.
In my case, we always had dinner together, but I grew up when microwaves came out, TV dinners were the rage, and take out and fast food were a novelty. So we indulged in all of them! It was not about the food.
My guess is that if you are anything like me, food and family dinners can feel like a full-time job assignment, but we don’t have full-time hours to assign to this task.
And if you are really like me, you might not even want to spend those hours in the kitchen, even if you had them!
And that’s what I’m excited to share with you. A way to make all of this happen that works for you, that works for your family.
We don’t have to do all of this at once. In fact, we are far more likely to have success in the long run if we take on one doable change at a time, and focus how to do or consume our doable change in a way that fots into our calendar and lifestyle. You do have to try to fit it.
Experiment with one healthy change a week that will help you change your mind about food or time.
I have expanded of 7 of my doable change:
- 101 Doable Changes
- 7 Doable Mindset Changes
- 7 Doable Kitchen Changes
- 7 Doable Planning Changes
- 7 Doable Family-focused Changes
- 7 Doable Food Changes
- 7 Doable Changes of the 2.0 Variety
Focusing on something each week creates momentum.
I have a feeling that you already knew that a clean diet that consists of lots of fruits and veggies is the way to go before I started talking.
We grew up with the phase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Or “eat your veggies before leaving the table.”
Many of us grew up eating as a family around a table.
Somewhere our parents made it look easy, or maybe too hard. Somewhere along the line the grocery store got really complicated with 100s of breakfast cereals, each more exciting than the next to a child’s eye. Somewhere, we got too busy.
But we know the positive impact of fruits and vegetables and coming together each night.
And if I, a non-cooking mom, who had never tried kale or sushi before age 30, who escaped to work in the early days of motherhood to have a break, can make healthy work in my kitchen, then I promise so can you.
Now that you have some strategies that you can start experimenting with in your home, I need you to take a step back and really feel why you want to be healthier and happier in the first place.
I need you to want to step into this role. I need you to understand the importance that dinner at your table will have on your future, your kids future and your larger community.
It is a ripple effect.
Imagine that you feel amazing because of the food you are feeding your body. That means you have energy with or without a cup of coffee. You rarely get sick, but when you do, you bounce back quickly. Your mind feels clear.
Imagine that throwing together a meal is not stressful. Not because you have miraculously turned into June Cleaver or Martha Stewart but because you feel great and you know what you have to do and when you have to do it!
Imagine that dinners are a time you look forward to because you get to connect with your kids. And even when you have a bad day, you know what an impact this 30 minutes has on your children’s future — emotionally and healthwise. Heck, if you are really present and honest, it has this effect on you.
I am not saying this path is easy.
But it is important.
And it can be simple.
What is your next doable change?
What one think will you focus on next week?
That is all you need to know right now.
And then you just have to play with it, and make it work in your life.
If you have gotten this far, you will want to sign up for the calendar cleanse. It is free, and will guide you with a simple calendar prompt each day that will give you time for food — time you already have but got lost in the shuffle of parenting.