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Sunday, 17 July 2011

Give them water

I was a teenager when my mother started buying coca cola by the dozen and I can actually remember that this is when I started to put on weight. Before that, we were just given water. When diet sodas arrived on the market, we thought we had it solved. Nothing could be further from the truth. Diet sodas contain aspartame or other sweeteners that can have dire consequences on our health let alone on our children. When you know that aspartame was initially a substance used to embalm corpses, it makes you wonder who is the absolutely mad person who had the idea it was suitable for consumption. Perhaps you do not know that when your child's favorite squash or juice proudly states that there are "no sugar added" it doesn't mean that nothing else is added. Usually what is added to that juice is both sweetener and flavours: an explosive cocktail that induces both health problems in the long term and hyperactivity in the short term.

And this is where the big food industry is at: they don't care if they destroy the lives and health of their customers, they are after big money and when big money is involved, ethics are a distant memory from the past. You cannot trust that agencies regulating food are doing their jobs because the power is in the hand of money and very often the regulators come from the food industry, as was so brilliantly demonstrated by the documentary Food Inc.

To go back on what our children drink, I believe that fruit juices (even the most healthy), squashes and fizzy drinks pave the way for their obesity. Let me explain. When your child drinks something as sweet tasting as a fruit juice (even if it is sweetener based) it accustoms their taste buds to very strong tastes. Have you noticed how bland baby food seems to our adult taste buds? That is because there is no sugar, salt, additives or flavouring added (yet). How have we gone from appreciating food that has not been tempered to food packed with things that make it "palatable" but that also make us overweight: sugar, corn syrup, salt, fat, flavourings, colouring, etc. Even a piece of meat usually contains colouring when you buy it from the supermarket because by the time it gets there, it usually would have turned grey and nobody would eat it. This is especially true of ham. So we have gradually been used to food that is more and more engineered and packaged to make us eat more. The food industry is for the most part not one bit interested in your health, it is interested in you eating more and more and more. Salt and sugar are their best friends. And this is why it is so hard for those of us who have been used to process food to eat reasonable amounts of food: it is addictive and it is meant to be addictive. The cheaper it is, the more addictive it is been engineered to be because the food industry need to keep their margin and they can only make money in big amounts as they have squeezed the margins to the extreme. Now you know their agenda.

So fruit juices are packed with sugar and encourage our children to eat more.

When our children drink healthy fruit juices that promise us that it is nothing but the juice, we live in the illusion that we are giving them vitamins and good things. I believe we are fooling ourselves. First of all, any fruit juice, unless in a smoothie made in front of you (and unfortunately they usually add yogurt or ice cream), contains no easily digestible vitamin. It is definitely not a substitute for giving your children fruit to eat. What remains in the "healthy" fruit juice that you give them is basically liquid and sugar. And fructose, the sugar found in fruit, is probably one of the worse sugars to ingest when separated from the pulp as it is more sweet than other types of naturally available sweet foods. The vitamins that products brag they contain do not come from nature, they are added afterwards (as every one who knows a little about nutrition knows that as soon as a fruit is pressed, the vitamins start to disappear). You might think that it is OK but actually the food industry cannot add "natural" vitamins (although that word is used very loosely in the food industry since it is not regulated). What is added is chemically produced vitamins that are a lot harder for your body to digest and that in some case can actually cause you harm (I hope this will encourage you to reconsider your vitamin policy if you pick up a box of vitamins for you or your child at your supermarket on the way to the check out because to be frank you are wasting your money and living in the illusion that you are eating healthily which is a very dangerous thing to do -  by the way this is exactly what I did for years until I decided to educate myself around food issues so there is no judgment in what I write).

Fruit juices are also known to sit in the mouth nicely and to rot teeth. Oranges, apples, kiwis and other fruits don't plus they are an excellent source of fiber which is good for at least two reasons: it fills us up and makes us eat less of whatever it is we are eating and it helps us to get rid of toxins and waste in our bodies.

To get to my point, if you want to avoid your children becoming obese or at least unhealthy later on in life, make them drink water. I did precisely that with my children probably eight years ago when I started to brush up my eating habits and of course they weren't very happy. I had weeks of "Mum, when are you going to buy us juice?" but over time these demands lessened until finally they are very happy drinking water. They are allowed one glass of juice or fizzy drink a day at week-ends and that's it.

When one drinks water almost exclusively, one realizes that actually water has a taste. Yes it does. Where I come from, in France, we are proud of the pure water that comes from our mountains and we know that the different brands of water (I am not going to mention them here) do not have the same taste nor do they contain the same minerals because it depends on where they are collected. Not all waters are created equal. In our house, we filter tap water because it would be far to expensive and actually not environmentally friendly to buy it bottled (think of all the plastic bottles).

Water is essential for life and health. Hydration is essential. You might not think this has anything to do with obesity but by the time they reach adult life, most people tend to confuse hunger and thirst and reach for food before they reach for a drink. And when they reach for a drink but quench their thirst with anything but water or herbal tea, they are actually not necessarily hydrating their bodies. They live under the illusion that their bodies have had the water that it needs. Dr Batmanghelidj, an Iranian doctor, did a fascinating study which lead him to conclude that almost all of our ailments can be cured by drinking the right amount of water. His book "Your body's cries for water" is a real eye opener. Without water, our bodies cannot eliminate waste and a body that is toxic will be heavier and fatter than a body that is "clean" because the body stores toxicity in fat cells.

Now you know why giving water to drink to your children will help them keep slim. I was particularly proud of myself when six months into the water diet that I gave my children, my son who was then eight years old came back from his holiday at his grand parents saying: "you know the water at granny and grandpa doesn't taste as good as the one at home" and he rushed to the fridge to help himself to a glass of home filtered water (which we store in glass bottles).

Blessings of lightness

Anges de Lumiere

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Could the way PE and sports are taught lead the way to obesity?

This is my next before last post on childhood obesity as the week on childhood obesity is about to close. It's been a great week and I have thoroughly enjoyed blogging about how to help children be healthy eaters and have a healthy attitude to food. Today I want to develop the idea that despite the best intentions of the government and the educational system and even the parents, the way physical education and sport is taught in schools and even structured could very well be the reason some children become obese and in any event, how it makes things worse for the children who are instead of better.

I will illustrate my point with my own very story.

As a child, I loved to dance. I had a passion for it. I would dance and hum at every occasion I could grasp. My mother signed me up for dances classes and took me regularly to the dance studio that was located in a basement of a modern building in Paris with a glass front door. The dance teacher was quite progressive: no pink tutus for the girls. It was a white bodysuit and a little red skirt. We danced barefooted.  So far, so good. I remember with great tenderness and a mushy feeling every step I took from my home in to the dance studio. I loved the fact that it was always at the same time (don't children love routine and predictability). I loved the glass door, the changing rooms which greeted us right at the bottom of the steps leading to the dance studio which opened to a huge room full of light as one entire wall of that room was made of windows overlooking a garden and the rest were the classic mirrored walls with rails. I could not wait for these classes. My whole life revolved around those classes. It was my breath of fresh air from a life of bullying and boredom in school. Yet from one day, I pretended that I couldn't care less and I refused to continue to go. I got into a head conflict with my mother who insisted that I finish the year. She never understood what happened that day.

What happened that day was the following: as the wonderful Miss Choquette (I have changed names for the sake of anonymity) asked me to do a demonstration to the class of a specific movement (I was the teacher's pet) I looked at her with the pride of a child who knows she is talented and who loves her teacher for encouraging her and... my eyes crossed in the most obvious fashion on her. I felt her cringe at the sight. Not only that, the entire class laughed in embarrassment and I wished to vanish into the earth into a secret opening in the floor. The magic was gone. I was no longer her prized pupil, I was an ugly little girl who had pretended she was talented at something that was clearly beyond her reach due to her... let's face it, handicap. Not only that, I had faced the ultimate humiliation of being laughed at by the entire class and the teacher did nothing to say to the other children how wrong this was. They all pretended nothing had happened but they all knew something very important had happened and I could bet that a lot of those little girls in that room that day rejoiced at the fact the teacher's pet had been demoted from the teacher's pedestal at the blink of an eye (if you will excuse the pun). Not only that, as I changed in the so loved corridor at the end of the class, Miss Choquette asked for a private talk with my mother and said over my head: "Oh my God, that poor child, her eyes. It is so sad. I had no idea. Blah blah. blah." My mother as the extremely polite and the people pleaser that she was engaged in the conversation "over my head" and I heard every word that these women uttered about me and something in me froze to death. My desire to dance, my feeling of being beautiful and talented, my specialness, the very reason that kept me wanting to live despite all the abuse I was going through, flew out the window in one instant and was replaced by a numbness that was to stay with me for many years trapped into my body. I suddenly realised that my dream didn't match society's expectation. I was wearing very thick social security glasses that I hid in my dance bag before getting to classes but my handicap had caught up with me. Even if the teacher had been more understanding and less obsessed with physical appearance (she was after all an ex ballerina), I had a strong built and heavy bones. That would have disqualified me later on in life if I had wanted to pursue my dream of being a ballerina. Strangely enough, my mother never allowed me to grow my hair long either, which was my dream, but I am digressing quite a bit. Life had granted me with a physique that contained a huge contradiction in it: whenever I managed not to wear my glasses, I was an extremely beautiful little girl with curly blond hair and porcelain blue eyes and delicate features, but in school, where I had to wear my glasses, I would turn into a todd, with extremely thick glasses with heavy frames that ate my face (we were in the seventies and choices for children's glasses were extremely limited) which make my eyes look enormous and to make matters worse my right eye would randomly get stuck inside, next to my nose. I don't need to tell you how cruel children are especially at that time when glasses were still a rarity.

Fast forward four years, I start secondary school and take part in PE classes. I am a year younger than everyone else. I have started to become a little podgy, my mother has started to enrol me in her mad diets to help me to curb what she believes is an overweight "nature" and I have to undress in the presence of my peers in one big room. I feel awkward. I hate having to be compared to other children without the comfort of my own clothes. I am forced to run on a track with everyone else and invariably finish LAST looking hot and bothered, red with my glasses steamed up and feeling absolutely horrible. Not to mention the name calling that I hear and the laughter as I make it last on the track for the... let's face it, hundredth time. Considering I still love dancing and dancing is what makes me happy, why am I forced to run on a track in total humiliation. Why am I forced to be timed when perhaps if I wasn't put in a race with my peers, I might just enjoy running for the joy of it? I end school loathing physical exercise and embrace the intellectual life of University with very little physical activity. I still enjoy dancing socially, but the desire for regular exercise and moving my body has been literally drained out of my body through years of humiliation and being taught that my body is not good enough and certainly not as good as others, through countless of measurements, comparisons, etc.

Fast forward thirty two years: at forty two years of age, after asking the angels to help me find a way to keep slim forever (having battled with my weight for all that time and despite the fact that I was a perfectly normal and slim child until that fatal day at the dance studio) I wake up the next morning with an irrepressible desire to run. This is so bizarre that my partner wonders what has been happening and my ex husband does not believe my children when they later tell him that I have become a runner. Before that prayer to the angels, I would not even run for a bus or a train even if it meant being left behind on a family holiday. Running was forever associated with humiliation, feeling sweaty, red, embarrassed and terribly inadequate. What the angels did, as an answer to my prayer, was to restore me to what I call "my factory settings". They erased the damage done by "education". And I have been running ever since. I call it a miracle. But it's almost beside the point. PE and the way men look at sports and organise it in schools and gyms has completely drained me of any desire to exercise. I believe however that this desire came at birth as it does for every child born on this planet.

My elder son is the same. He actually told me when I tried to organise sports activities outside school for him to encourage him to be more physical after he had been enrolled into school: that he wouldn't mind doing it but he doesn't want anyone around him and no competition whatsoever. We have not been able to find a single activity in the ten years I tried to encourage him to be physical that met his criteria. I am hoping to enrol him to come running with me over the summer when I break gently back into running after having had my baby girl.

Isn't it time we changed the way we looked at sports and took away the competitiveness, the pressure, the group settings so that every child, no matter what his built and physical appearance could enjoy moving their bodies and as a result keep the desire to move which comes as a birth right. A quick look at little children until the time they start school shows that there absolutely no need to organise gym or dance classes for little ones: they know how to move, they enjoy it and you cannot actually stop them from moving.

Then they go to school and are forced to sit at desks or stay still for most of their waking hours and once a week, for one hour, are required to move in a certain controlled way. Instead of being able to kick a ball as nature intended them and by organising rules among themselves (as they would be perfectly capable of doing given the change by adults to do so) they are taught to follow rules which for the most part will kill creativity and the incredibly powerful desire to move their bodies.

You would think that things had changed since I was a child, but my son's sports day only a few weeks back has reminded me that nothing has changed in the way things are organised. Children who have physiques who are out of the ordinary and who are perhaps less talented than their peers are still pushed into races and hear the laughter of adults and other children as they make mistakes and struggle with the tasks. What is the matter with us? Can't we see what we are doing to our children. I ended up wishing and praying to the angels that my beautiful son who just started school this year won one race so that his beautiful confidence in his own body wouldn't be crushed by society. It so happens that my youngest son is physically gifted and he did win one race but what if he hadn't? What about all the other children who didn't? What about the children who always come last, like I did as a child? What will happen to them. I left sports day with great sadness in my heart and more prayers to the angels that something be changed.

Blessings of lightness

Anges de Lumiere

Friday, 15 July 2011

Give up control over what your children eat

One of the reasons why our children might become obese but also have eating disorders is if we are over controlling of what they eat. And to be frank parents have done this for so long that I am surprised we haven't had an obesity crisis earlier than we have. Perhaps the reason it took so long is that in our parents generation there wasn't so much food, let alone processed food so it was harder to overfeed children. And children weren't fed so much rubbish. In my days (listen to me talking, I am not that old, hey), pizzas and chips were a "treat" that you had perhaps six times a year. Now, I gather a guess that people eat them several times a week. Fried food is the norm for most people so our food is generally more fattening and we tend to eat a lot less vegetables and fruits because we don't want to have to shop every day. But our parents and their parents had to shop almost every day or every other day because there were no supermarkets in those days so the food was a lot fresher and as a result healthier. They also ate a lot less meat (and not meat that had been pumped with hormones and pesticides) so that was healthier too, because meat was a luxury.

But the control issue was always there. How many times have we heard "eat your peas" "finish your plate" "if you don't come eat now you won't have any dinner at all" "with all the children who are dying of hunger in the world" etc. These are so common threats that we don't think much of them all. However I am here to tell you that they will drive your children to become overweight. Perhaps not whilst they live with you but gradually the fat will build up in their bodies and by the time they are middle age, they will become clients of mine. Why?

One of the golden rules of the Journey of the Slim Soul is to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. It is so simple sometimes my clients laugh at me when I explain how important it is. And yet, the vast majority of them fail to do so. They don't seem to be able to resist eating when food is presented to them, either out of fear of not having enough food or because they have been so well trained at doing what they are told and ignoring the perfectly tuned signals of hunger that their bodies send them, including what they should be eating. As I sometimes explain to them: they are eating with their minds, not with their stomachs. Have you ever seen an animal do that? Well some pets are so well trained into being humans that some end up doing exactly that. But when they haven't been messed up by humans they don't. And I have certainly never seen a mama cat force her little ones to eat. The mind can mess up things big time when it's disconnected from the wisdom of the body.

Every person is different. Some people need several small meals a day. Others eat big meals and go hours without eating. Some need breakfast, others don't. We are all different. We all have different eating needs. And your children are no different.

Although well intended, but mostly we do this for our own good (not the good of our children), controlling how much, when and what our children eat is ultimately detrimental to our children because it cuts them off the signals of their bodies and their own body wisdom and paves the way for them to consider that they can't be trusted around food. Again this can lead to two opposite results: obesity or eating disorders. As I said in my previous blog, these problems are like two sides of a coin. I understand that you want your life to be simple as a parent and not have to cook different things for your children (especially if you have more than one) and perhaps you hate waste and want them to eat their dinner and that for convenience you want them to eat when you can fit it in. I am asking you to introduce a lot of flexibility into this. That is, of course, if you want your children to grow up as adults that are confident and healthy eaters. Because ultimately the way we eat is a huge part of our lifestyle and has an enormous impact on our health. Food is one of those things that is "neutral", it is not good or bad, it is how we humans use it that can be good and bad.

Let your child lead the way in terms of what they want to eat. That is, of course, if you offer them healthy foods. If you feed them with processed foods, chips, pizzas, colas and crisps, they are very likely to overeat anyway because these foods are packed with substances (natural and not so natural) that have been engineered by the food industry to induce you to eat more than nature had intended. Home made pizzas are not unhealthy but first of all they are better if the base is made with wholemeal flour as opposed to white flour. And if they are packed with vegetables instead of just coated with massive amounts of cheese, then they are definitely healthier. But I am digressing here. Getting to my earlier point, if you overfeed your kids with broccoli, the consequences are not dire. They are in fact almost laughable although the habit of being overfed might back fire on your kids later in life especially if at one point in their lives they have a lot of stress or their lives get too busy and they fall for the sirens of processed food.

Learn to cook less. Learn to not overfeed your kids. Learn to be OK with throwing food away. Forcing your kids to finish their plates because there are children dying of hunger thousands of miles away from you won't make those hungry children any less hungry, but it will make your children obese, if not now, in the long run. And this is also what happens with obesity: it doesn't happen overnight. It is a succession of overeating on a regular basis and once your stomach gets bigger than it was originally intended to be, then you are genuinely more hungry than your body needs. You need to restore your body back to factory settings by starting to eat less and in the beginning that is uncomfortable.

My advice is to let your children eat when they are hungry and let them eat what they fancy. Involve them in food choices. What's the point of forcing them to eat something they don't like.  It doesn't mean that you shouldn't offer new food regularly. As I mentioned in a previous post, children need to be presented a new food ten times before they will really know if they like it or not. And children's tastes vary over time so it an be maddening for a parent never to know if what you cook is going to be eaten. Perhaps the secret is to cook in smaller quantities and to have mezze types of meal: meals where several little portions of different foods are offered. It's a small price to pay for the good of your children. And perhaps too, if you didn't cook something different for your children than what you eat, you wouldn't feel like it's such a hassle to cook for them because whatever they don't eat, you can have or the other way round. My children have surprised me by what they have liked eating over the years. My daughter for example had a passion for mild curry at two years old. She absolutely licked her plate. She also loved sushi. My son, on the other hand, liked blue cheese and crackers. They are all different. Their bodies have different needs. Trying to force feed into them food that fits them all is not going to serve them in the short term nor in the long run.

Blessings of lightness

Anges de Lumiere

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Our children need a healthy body image

I don't believe we can separate obesity from eating disorders in our young. As my friend Monika Mumonthebrink mentioned, they are two sides of a coin. I couldn't agree more with her. When faced with the avalanche of sickly thin models that are plastered all over our towns and printed papers and who seem younger and younger (to the point where they would definitely be under-aged if it wasn't advertising), how can our children, particularly our daughters resists feeling inadequate?

My own daughter was only eight when a girl who had been prepped by her parents to take part in TV talent shows and who wore make up and straightened her hair dared her to stop eating to be as thin as she was. My daughter is naturally slim and has a small appetite to start with so when I noticed she was almost not eating at all, I started to worry. I asked her what was wrong. She said nothing. But me and my daughter are very close so she could not hold it very long: she spilled the beans about the dare. I looked at her petrified but tried not to show any panic. I sat down with her and said to her, very calmly: "Darling, do you know what will happen to you if you don't eat well?" She looked at me with her huge green eyes and said: "No". I answered back: "What will happen, honey, is that your teeth will fall out, your hair too, your organs will shut down and you are going to die". And to my relief, she ran to the fridge and smiled at me and said: "Mummy I am hungry" And I let out a sight of relief. We were out of the woods. My daughter had just had a narrow escape at her first anorexic episode at eight years of age.

Eight years of age???????

This shook me so deeply that it is what motivated me to write my book the Journey of the Slim Soul. I knew I had to do something to stop this madness. I had to do something about dieting and eating disorders. In my own case, it is my mother who put me on a diet when I was twelve because she was afraid I would end up overweight and as a result of her putting me on a diet, I started to put on weight steadily. Before she started to try to fix me, I was an ordinary slim kid. But I was of a slightly stronger built than my sister so I was considered the "fat one" and my mother was almost constantly trying the most bizarre diets and I guess she was lonely so she used me as a companion for her sad journeys. My sister was never asked anything because she was considered slim. As a result, the gap of "weight" between us got bigger and bigger. Don't tell me that obesity and dieting are two different things. In my case one led to the other. Anything that comes in the way of healthy eating and healthy body image and self worth must be put right. And this is why I am writing this blog.

It is by projecting our insecurities and our own sick thinking that we mess up our children. Fast forward four years and my daughter is now twelve years old. She is still perfect in every way with probably not an ounce of fat on her body, although there would be nothing wrong with her if she had. She comes back from school depressed. She is usually quite perky and bubbly. I ask her: "What is the matter honey?" We are still very close and we talk things through. She answers: "Today, in science, our teacher asked us to weigh ourselves to do statistics. Mum, why is it that I weigh ten kilos more than a girl in my class that is two inches taller than me?" I sit her down opposite me at the dinning table and say: "Honey, you are perfect as you are. You are not a number. Why would your weigh be so important to you? There is nothing wrong with you." This time, it is a science teacher. And I am going to complain about this. What was this woman thinking of? For God's sake. Who is going to stop these mindless adults destroying our children??????

I have no doubt that my beautiful daughter is going to continue to be the target of comments and circumstances that will make her feel inadequate despite the fact that she has no weight issue whatsoever. She eats when she is hungry and stops when she is full. But I consider it a miracle that she does. And I am going to make sure with every remaining breath that I have that she does and that no dieting nonsense is every knocked into her. But I am determined to do more than that. I want to be there for all the other girls of her age that are daily destroyed by peer pressure, diets, glossy magazines, chats, facebook pressures, etc to be thinner than nature ever intended them to be.

We must stop weighing and measuring our children. They are perfect as they are. We all have different body shapes and weights and statistics can create more damage than good. We are not numbers. We are not what we weight. Why do we weight our children from the time they are born? Going back to the moment of the birth of my daughter: one of her relatives, seeing her lovely pudgy and adorable little baby legs said: "She is going to be obese" and something in me wanted to scream at her "You are a very sick woman". How many women think this way? How many women hate themselves so much they project their insanity onto their daughters? And by the way, that woman was what you would consider medically obese.

Childhood obesity is just the other side of the coin. There are many causes of childhood obesity but I wouldn't be surprised if one of them was: "I can't meet those impossible standards of slimness, so I might as well eat as much as I want and forget about wanting to be slim". And so the child comforts herself in food... and lets go of a dream that could destroy her but only to feel depressed about getting bigger and bigger than she wants to be. I could be wrong. To me, however, childhood obesity cannot be separated from eating disorders in our young and it cannot be tackled by just applying the superficial command of eat less move more. Those commands only make those children feel even more inadequate. We are the ones who need to change first. Not them. What we are doing is criminal.

Blessings of lightness

Anges de Lumiere

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

How to help our children be slim and healthy?

Toddlers are like mini-teenagers. They want their independence and fight for it. They don't want to be treated like babies and it is often the start of a war over food with parents with huge control battles from both parts. This is where parents have to act like adults and not make it a battle of wills. Let your toddler lead the way but offer healthy options. If they don't like broccoli today, they might like it in a few days time. Keep offering. And even if you, as you read this blog, realize that your food options are not that good, it's OK, you can change things.

I had not much understanding about feeding myself and my children to start with but learning along the way is perfectly possible. And even thought your kids might complain at first if you change the way you eat and offer them different options, they will get used to it. Remember that with little ones, you have to constantly offer new things. But please remember that you have to offer something new probably ten times before you are sure they are not going to like it. It could be that they hate grated carrots but they love them steamed or pan fried in a little butter. And they will suddenly go off their favourite foods all of a sudden. Think of it this way, our bodies know what we need at any point in time in terms of food and that is why we have likes and dislikes that evolve over time. The more I have learnt about nutrition the more it has confirmed that my body intuitively knows exactly what it needs to eat. If I crave for certain foods, a bit of research will always  show that that particular food contained something I was missing. We tend to notice this in pregnancy, but it actually happens all the time. Your children's bodies know what food they need or at least know what they don't need.

Use food as close as possible to what nature has intended. And if you have to use cheats, always prefer using frozen foods and canned foods over processed foods. Make soups and ask your children to help you cut and prepare the vegetables. Invest in a good blender to smooth the soups to your children's liking. This way instead of feeling that you are slaving away in the kitchen it can become a new activity for you and your children. I used to think of cooking as a chore until someone told me: "Since you have to do it anyway, why not enjoy it and even possibly make it a meditation practice". Don't only involve your children to make cakes. Involve them to make salads (and no salads are not only green leaves), pies, soups and more. My youngest boy started helping me cutting the vegetables in the kitchen when he was just under three years old. He was so proud of being able to help.

If they see you eating it, they will want it. There are two things that can help. One is to eat with them as much as possible. Family dinners are unique in creating love around food. You probably eat less because you talk laugh and interact more. Don't make it a war over manners though (at least not when they are small - always remember to request things of them that they are capable of doing for their developmental age). The second is to eat what you want them to eat, but always keep it tasty. It doesn't take a chef to make good food. Even a jacket potato with melted butter (organic preferably) and a serving of vegetables is better than a pizza from the supermarket. Now if you want to make the pizza yourself, that can be a healthy option. I would suggest you use wholemeal flour.

I have gradually replaced all white bread with wholemeal bread and even thought the children complained about it, they have learnt to love it all the same. It doesn't mean we never eat white bread, it just means it is not part of our staple food. We have also replaced sugar by more healthy options such as agave syrup, maple syrup, honey (but not under two years old) etc or even molasses. If nothing else, toddlers love fruit. Fresh fruits.

What it does mean, however is a bit of planning and to let go of the dream that food shopping is only going to happen once a week. The reason for this is that if the food you buy keeps for a week or over, then it probably has very little in terms of nutrients. And even vegetables need to be bought and eaten as fresh as possible. What you could opt for, and which makes it so simple that you no longer have any excuses is to subscribe to a VegBox scheme. Your local farmers will deliver to your door, the vegetables and fruits in season and if they are customer friendly, the box will come with the recipes. In addition to that, when you eat the vegetables that are in season where you live you will get the nutrients that are right for the season you are going through (salads are not as good in winter where you need warm foods with complex carbohydrates to fight off that cold). I have to admit still having some progress to do in this respect as I am not always aware of what season is good for what vegetable and fruit. Take it step by step. As with all change, baby steps led to a better progress than trying to change it all in one go. What matters is to head in the right direction.

I used to find it really intimidating to cook new foods. But now, I take it as an adventure in my own kitchen. I actually force myself to try a new recipe per fortnight. It's actually important in many ways. First of all it introduces diversity. And for the cook sometimes the worse is repetition and boredom. If you make a mess of your food, you can laugh about it and perhaps think of an alternative plan: I love soft boiled eggs with soldiers (toast with butter cut in strips) as a plan B. I have found however that I have very rarely failed at a new recipe and it has built my confidence. And all it is is confidence. We are afraid of change because we don't know how well we do but once we have done it, what a feeling of satisfaction and we often wonder why we waited so long.

With little children, I find that finger food often is a great winner. And if the food is raw and brightly coloured, even better. Please avoid crisps, chocolate bars, fizzy drinks and squashes that are full of not only additives but added sugars and salt which are both addictive and which give no nutrients to your children. The way I manage it with my own children is to have some in the house BUT they are only eaten on week-ends. I would rather do without them all together but I will let you onto a little secret (well not really a secret but a fact that most people overlook): what is forbidden always sounds better than it is. If you forbid crisps, your children might become obsessed about them. They will scoff them down when they are at friends or perhaps at their grand parents (yes, you can't control all the aspects of their lives even if you would like to) and perhaps out of defiance when they turn teenagers they might eat only that just to roll you up.

If there is one rule that I think goes a long way to help eat healthy is to keep it varied as much as possible. And it means you will have to constantly find new ideas on how to feed your kids as they will invariably change their likes and dislikes. I remember at one point being almost discouraged because my kids always seem to like different things and as soon as one had begun to like something the other would stop liking it.

At one point, we had a family committee and I told them that they could not always eat what they liked best and that they had to take turns. We would do a rota of each child's favourite foods so that they each got a turn at eating what they like best but compromised for other meals and agreed to eat even if it wasn't their favourite.

There will be a period of time, however, where they will want one thing and nothing else. Don't worry about it. It's best to let them lead the way rather than want to have a perfectly nutritious meal. It's not worth the battle, especially with toddlers. They will grow out of it. You are building a long term strategy of healthy eating and sometimes you have to give into the short term goals to earn your children's trust and love. And no nutrition will ever replace that. And if you offer healthy snacks on the side, then they will be fine. Ideas of healthy snacks are fresh cut up fruit (you can prepare a batch in advance and make it a family bonding time), bits of raw vegetables such as cucumber, bell peppers (we prefer red, orange and yellow ones over green ones), sticks of celery, cottage cheese with crackers, dried fruits, nuts (consider allergies and age appropriateness and never let your child eat them without supervision - and take a good first aid course to know what to do in case of choking but don't let the fear of them choking prevent them from exploring food options)... bits of cheese in cubes. All these are better options than crisps, cakes, biscuits and chocolate bars. And do try to give the taste of dark chocolate to your children. Dark chocolate actually has nutrients that are good in it and is not pumped up with sugar and powdered cow's milk so it has as little nasties as possible.

And as they grow up, make THEM responsible for making sure they get all the nutrition that they need. Print a copy of the healthy plate and put them in charge of making sure they get the balance right. I find that with my teenagers, it works wonders.

Blessings of lightness

Anges de Lumiere

Bottle feeding paves the way to child obesity, could it be true?

I read not long ago that breastfeeding babies had less chances in life to be obese than bottle fed babies. This got me thinking. Why? I sat in my breastfeeding throne the other day, with my tiara on my head, looking into my gorgeous baby girl's eyes, and meditated on it. Breastfeeding babies have less chances in life to be obese than bottle fed babies: why?

Here is the answer that I got. The reason why breastfeeding babies have less chances of becoming obese is because it is very hard to force a baby to breastfeed AND breast milk is perfect for the baby and varies according to the baby's needs. I am not a lactacting expert but I have met a couple recently and read books and they all tell me that the milk that a mother produces for her baby is always perfectly adjusted to the baby's needs. If the weather's hot and the baby is thirsty the milk will be more "runny" and watery. It adapts to the baby's needs at any point and at any moment of the day, and even to its needs if it's unwell. It evolves as the child grows and so the milk a mother produces for a new born is not the same as the milk she might produce when her child is eighteen months old or even two years old. How does this happen? Apparently (and again I have to hold up my hand I say, hey, I am not an expert just a four time mum who is more and more fascinated by breastfeeding) the breast analyses the saliva from the baby and produces what's needed on the basis of it. I can't prove it. I don't know the science behind it and would really love to hear more about this. But this mere fact is fascinating me.

Powdered milk on the other hand is.... let's face reality cows' milk. Cows have calves (am I using the right word here? Yes you know I am French so bear with my English please) and their milk is adapted to cows. I love stating the obvious. Now what are the needs of calves compared to a human baby? Calves need to grow very fast and are already running around literally hours after they are born. Look I am a city girl as well as being in French so if anyone knows more about calves than me (it won't be difficult) come to my rescue. However, it doesn't take a degree in farming to know that as a consequence the milk produced by cows is very fattening and extremely rich... and frankly probably not the best milk suited for our babies. Now I really don't mean to make mums who bottle fed their babies feel bad at this point because I stopped breastfeeding my first three at eight weeks and then moved onto the bottle, but if you have not switched yet OR if you are pregnant, please continue reading this and really look at your options. Think twice before you reach for that bottle. Also think twice before you supplement your milk with a bottle (as I am told that it can compromise your milk production AND cause nipple confusion) as this might make breastfeeding more difficult for you and your baby (dummies, too by the way).

You might also want to read my other blog about breastfeeding My Gentle Birth which looks into whether bottle feeding is really that much easier than breastfeeding because I am here to blast a few myths here. And in terms of child rearing, and feeding there are masses of myths that need to be blasted.

So this is the first reason why cow's milk can produce obese babies and later on toddlers. It is too rich, not adapted to our babies... and not adapted to their brain development. It is not only that. Powdered milk (infant formula) is really processed milk. Now I don't need to write a treaty about food to make you realise that processed food is always more fattening and not as healthy as natural food straight from the source as mother nature's intended it. Again, I don't mean to make mums who bottle feed their babies guilty or bad. It is however a fact. There is no pussy footing about it. It doesn't meant that all bottle fed babies will end up obese but it will probably take mums who bottle feed their babies a lot more work to prevent their babies becoming obese than the ones who breastfeed them.

In terms of slimming, and I am an advocate of natural holistic slimming, any processed food is a baddie. It is always too fattening, lots of things are added to it and basically the natural nutrients of the milk have been pretty much destroyed by all that pasteurisation plus the process to make it into powder. How can it be compared to the real thing? My advice is: please avoid feeding your children formula milk if you can.

If it wasn't enough.... the third reason why bottle fed babies have more chances of becoming obese is very simple. Bottle fed babies have more chances of being overfed. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that mums who bottle feed their babies tend to rely a lot on experts to tell them how much their babies need to eat and on charts of growth and possibly also on baby monitoring to find out if they babies eat as much as they should. And the problem is... they have a way of measuring how much their babies eat. Why is that a problem may you ask? Well, as the author of the journey of the slim soul, I can tell you that the best way to stay slim is to eat when you are hungry and to stop when you are full (this is actually Golden Rule Number 3 of the Seven Golden Rules of slimming that I describe in my book). And we learn that from... as young as being a baby. Now what do we do to bottle fed babies? It's not as bad as in the days of my mother who exclusively bottle fed me (I do touch upon that in my book) and on schedule, but we do tend to go by the book instead of trusting our instinct or even worse instead of listening to our babies. And there is a danger that we overfeed our babies. Whereas in my experience, it is very difficult, although not impossible, but in any case much more difficult to overfeed a breastfeeding baby. And even if you did, the consequences are not as... dire (see above about breast milk being healthier anyway).

If you combine all of the above, you can still have a child that is bottle fed which is not obese later on in life, but the likelihood is... it is not giving him or her a very good start. She (or he) will already have a taste for processed foods... for things that are not natural. A lot of milks are enriched.... but they are still artificial.

And this is the reason why I have, as an expert in holistic slimming and complementary therapies and a mother (not as a nutritionist nor a lactation consultant but I do listen to experts who make sense to me), I am fairly confident in stating that when we choose to bottle feed our babies, we run the risk of them being overweight later on in life. I know the studies prove it, but I haven't read them and I am not a scientist - although I nearly was one (I was really good at science as a child).

I want to finish this blog with this quote that fell on my lap a few days ago:

"Whilst breastfeeding may not seem the right choice for every parent, it is the best choice for every baby" Amy Spangler

Blessings of lightness

Anges de Lumiere

Monday, 11 July 2011

It starts with the dummy

Looking at childhood obesity, we can trace it back to the moment our babies start crying. Using dummies (pacifiers) can lead to childhood obesity. Why would a bit of plastic lead to obesity? After all dummies have no calories, right?

Let me explain. Dummies are dangerous devices. They tend to muffle the emotions of our babies. They tend to be used by most parents (and I was one of them) as devices to silence our babies when they cry and are used as a first port of call when babies show discomfort. What consequences does it have?

A baby's cries can be caused by several things (when baby is healthy, of course) apologies to parents of a baby boy but I have used the feminine gender for baby to simplify my point:

  • baby is hungry - feed her
  • baby is tired - rock her to sleep
  • baby has a dirty nappy (diaper) - change her nappy
  • baby needs a cuddle - cuddle her
  • baby is upset - cuddle her
  • baby is uncomfortable - pick her up and engage with her
  • baby is bored - play with her
The danger of dummies is to use it for all of the above, when really each of the above should trigger a specific response of its own (shown in green). Dummies are dangerous because they are easy to use as a solution to it all. Dummies are dangerous because they teach your baby that the response to all of the above is to put something in your mouth. And there starts the conditioning of putting something in your mouth to soothe yourself. Later on in life, that baby will be tempted when things go pear shaped in her life, to use food, alcohol or tobacco as a crutch. 

Dummies are dangerous because unlike a mother's breast or a thumb, they can be forced upon a child. It is a lot harder to force a breast into a child's mouth (although not impossible) or her own thumb than to stick a dummy in a baby's mouth. Dummies are dangerous because they are so easy to use.  Dummies are dangerous because they numb your emotions and your needs by responding to all of them with sucking and with mindlessness. They are a short term solution. And they can cause issues with speech and communication. Dummies are also dangerous when you breastfeed as they cause nipple confusion and can lead to a child not eating enough or refusing to nurse. This in turn will lead to supplementing a mother's milk which can lead to the need to stop breastfeeding all together. And breastfeeding is one of the best start for our children in the quest for a healthy and slim lifestyle. 

Dummies... are shortcuts in dealing with babies emotions and can set bad habits for life. They are tempting us parents to go for the easy option instead of spending all our waking hours engaged in the lives of our little ones and tending to their needs. Dummies are convenient for parents but can be developmentally damaging for babies. I was led to believe that dummies were better than thumbs for teeth and the palate of babies, but I think the cons largely override the pros. 

In short, avoid dummies in your children if you want to give them the best start on their slim journeys. 

Tomorrow, we will discuss why bottle fed children are at higher risk of obesity than other children. 

Blessings of lightness

Anges de Lumiere

Sunday, 10 July 2011

National child obesity week - lets get started

My good friend Mumonthebrink told me it was Childhood obesity week this week and although I think it is a wonderful thing to bring awareness to what we can do to keep our children healthy, I cringe at the same time because I am going to hear so much of the eat less and exercise more motto which I have heard all my life and which I have not found helpful at all.

First of all, I think our children are born to be slim. Yes, let me repeat "born to be slim". Obesity is a learnt habit that happens one bite at a time or should I say one thought at a time. Let me explain. If you observe babies and toddlers, they do not need at all to be encouraged to eat healthy and to exercise, it is the parents that do. And guess how children learn? Through example. They do not listen to your words, they watch what you do and they copy. So instead of telling them what to do, why don't we listen to what they have to tell us. They know how to be slim, whereas we have unlearned how to be slim.

On Childhood Obesity Week let's tackle our issues with food and do everything we can not to force our children to repeat our mistakes:

- let's eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full
- let's drink water when we are thirsty (and not fizzy drinks, squashes or soft drinks - and let's not be fooled by the no sugar added squashes which are packed with artificial sweeteners)
- let's not eat food just because it is served and let's not finish our plates regardless of whether we are still hungry or not
- let's learn to cook and enjoy home made food and take the time to cook with our children
- let's enjoy more raw food (this way there is no excuse if we don't like to cook)
- let's not add salt or sugar to our food
- let's ditch the processed foods that are riddled with sugar and salt
- let's show our children where fruits and vegetables come from and eat plenty of... so they want to imitate us
- let's slow down so that they can get out of prams, cots, bouncers, rocking chairs, and all the things that make them not interrupt our very important adult activities and let them run around free to explore and use their wonderful little bodies and let's us adult play the game of trying to keep up with them. How is that?

No one should need to go to a gym or to an artificially organised activity that costs money. If you get to that point, it is because you are repressing the natural need and desire to move that children have. We start when we strap our children in push chairs... and continue when we force them to sit down in a class for hours on end. And then, without taking any consideration of whether it feels fun for them, we force them to do PE where physical activity is competitive instead of being a pleasure and a joy. Is this crazy? Thirty hours of the week in school we request that they sit down when they want to move and then force them to move when they might want to rest and compete with other children so they feel humiliated if they are not the best of their class.

What if, for once, we let them move freely as nature has intended them to do? What if we didn't interfere by telling them how they are supposed to play with a ball or how they are supposed to dance. Let's just put the music on and boggie. What if we got our children out of classrooms? What if children took part of their parents lives and were not parked in "children customized activities" and just were part of real life.

We are tackling childhood obesity from the wrong angle when the damage is already done. Let's take a step back and look at us instead of looking at the children that we have created. We can't say "do what I say not what I do". It's about time we walked the talk. No excuses. No short cuts. And it's also about time we celebrated as adults the diversity of our children's bodies. Isn't it amazing that kids come in all sizes: round, square, long, short, thin, rotund, sturdy, chunky... and I could probably go on for more but not being a native speaker, I might have to get my dictionary out. Let's celebrate diversity instead of advertising images of bodies that are not realistic and that make our bigger kids totally inadequate? Let's chastise advertisers for the damage they do to our children's body image. Pressure to be thin... only makes people bigger. Why? The pursuit of an unrealistic goals of slimness makes you feel like a failure and then you reach out for food for comfort. Tada.... it's called reverse psychology.

Let's all learn about reverse psychology and realise that if we don't walk the talk, then it would be best not to say anything at all.

To your children's health and natural slimness

Anges de Lumiere

Monday, 4 July 2011

Eat when you are hungry, stop when you're full

Eat when you are hungry and stop when you're full is one of the 7 Golden Rules of slimming as explained in my book, the Journey of the Slim Soul. It might sound obvious to some, but not to most slimmers. Let me explain.

Before I started my own journey of the slim soul and started to unlearn the things I learnt about how to diet, I used to eat when I was told, how much other people suggested me to eat and even what they suggested me to eat, regardless of whether my body said anything different. In fact, I was so out of touch with my body that I don't think I really knew what hunger meant anymore. My hunger radar had been jammed.

How did that happen? First of all, it started as a child when my mother, as was the fashion then, fed me at set times when the doctor had told her to feed me. And believe me, I weight my words when I say "fashion". For the grazer that I am, her type of feeding really didn't work. I was starting most of the time and when I finally got to have some food, I had gone off it. My body had adapted and switched off my hunger radar because it was too painful to feel the natural calls of my body. The method worked so well that I remember vividly (this was one of my haha moments on my journey of the slim soul) being terrified to miss lunch time at work in case there would no longer be serving food, regardless of whether I was hungry or not. When you approach food this way, the problem is that because you start off eating when you are not hungry, you obviously don't get a clue to stop when you are no longer hungry. The other big issue is that you feed your body when it doesn't need food so it will obviously store it as fat, regardless of how "well" you eat.

Anyone who has been brought up like this, or by people who confuse food with love and who use food as a currency, will come across that hurdle when trying to slim. And this is also the reason so many people rush too diet gurus. Again, they are missing the point: as long as they continue to give their power over to someone else to tell them how to slim, they will struggle to do so.

The recipe for success is so simple most people ignore it: because really it can't be that simple. Dieting MUST be hard, or it won't work. The recipe for success however is extra simple: eat when you are hungry and stop when you are not. It's all in the art of understanding how to apply that golden rule and I talk a lot more about how to do that in my book. I'll give you one of the tips though: avoid foods that are loaded with refined sugar, salt and fat (as in processed foods) because you won't be able to stop that easily. Guess what: it's done on purpose. The food industry is not stupid: it adds all these "naughties" because it knows you will eat more. Be wiser than they are, learn to cook from scratch. Even if you don't like it, you are worth it. Besides, you can change your attitude to cooking.

Blessings of lightness

Anges de Lumiere

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Life detox

My computer has been attacked by a very nasty Trojan which has forced me to take a back step from all my online networking, blogging... browsing and let it be said: my internet addiction. This is wonderfully ironic as I preach in my book to do so and was perhaps a little guilty of not completely walking the talk. Well, now thanks to the Universe, I have been put on a forced electronic device detox.

I have only limited access to a computer and I am focusing mainly on writing my blogs, and yet again, not as madly as I was before. And even my smartphone is being used in moderation. How refreshing. This has enabled me to live at a different pace and spend much more time outdoors and with my friends. I have met an incredible group of local mums at a baby massage class. I have gone for a walk in the woods with a dear writer and poet friend of mine. I have taken my son to play after school at the local park. Why did I have to wait for my computer to be hacked to do all this? Isn't what living is all about?

I highly recommend, and I am going to continue, an electronic device detox on your journey of slimming because it will enable you to change your life for the better and to realise how these devices can take over our lives. They also tend to make us very sedentary and keep us indoors. We then live in our heads as opposed to our bodies, which is never a good thing on the journey of the slim soul. What these devices do, and that includes the TV, is to numb us and distract us from our feelings. As a result we can tend to live and eat mindlessly.

Blessings of lightness

Anges de Lumiere