In today’s episode, I’m speaking with certified intuitive eating counselor, Unyime Oguta! She is committed to providing compassionate, holistic, evidence-based nutrition care to mothers and their families worldwide through her virtual nutrition coaching practice and her podcast, The Thriving Mom Podcast. We’re talking about everything, kids and food. Get ready to take notes, this conversation is so good! Let’s dive in!
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Mom life. We’re surrounded by the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. We’re supposed to get through it. Survive. Cling on by the last little thread. And at the same time, Carpe Diem—enjoy every moment because it’s going to go by so fast. The typical mom culture that sends us all kinds of mixed, typically negative messages. We shouldn’t take care of ourselves; it’s selfish. The more ragged you run yourself, the bigger your badge of honor. But also, ditch your mom bod and work out. Don’t yell. Make more money. Show up. Be better, but not at the expense of time with your kids. I am putting a hard stop to all of this. While being a mom, running a business, and whatever else you might have going on is hard, it is a lot and there’s lots of giving of yourself, the idea that motherhood means living a joyless, nonstop-hustle-with-zero-balance kind of life, where you give and give and give and never take, needs to stop.
I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime (at least most days). Stop the mom guilt and shame game. Stop cleaning up after your kids’ childhood and start being present for it. I want to help you thrive in work, home and life. I believe in John 10:10 that we are called to living an abundant life and I know moms are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, some business and life hacks, spirituality and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood. I’m Allie Casazza and this is The Purpose Show.
Hi, beauties! Welcome to The Purpose Show podcast. I have a guest for you today who is amazing! She is giving you an episode that you all have requested for so long that has yet to be a topic here on The Purpose Show.
Unymie is a speaker. She’s a certified intuitive eating counselor and a non-diet nutrition coach. She’s also a mom of three kids. She is committed to providing compassionate, holistic, evidence-based nutrition care to mothers and their families worldwide through her virtual nutrition coaching practice and her podcast, The Thriving Mom Podcast.
She’s super passionate about helping busy, overwhelmed moms transform their relationship with food so they can stop obsessing about it, gain freedom, and feel empowered to raise kids who have a good relationship with food and their bodies as well.
Unyime is a well of wisdom and you’ll hear that here on this episode. I asked her all the questions that I’ve been DM-ing you guys about for years and it’s so, so good.
Enjoy this conversation. Get ready to take notes. Stick around because at the end, after my conversation with Unyime, I kind of take over a little bit and walk you through some practical things you can do to shift and really take action on what Unyime shares with us today, so stick around for that at the end.
ALLIE: All right, friend, Welcome! Thank you so much for being here with me Unyime.
UNYIME: Thank you, Allie. I’m so excited to be here.
ALLIE: You guys, before we recorded, we were talking and laughing because I was telling Unyime that you guys have requested this episode, this very topic, for years and my podcast manager is always pushing me to do this episode and I didn’t want to do it. It just feels like it would be boring.
My family and I have had our process with eating and it is what it is. As soon I could, oh my God, as soon as I freaking could, I delegated making my kids’ food because it’s so time consuming. It’s my least favorite thing to do. I have other ways that I can connect with them and take care of them, so I got that off my plate.
Now I’m not even really doing this very often, so I don’t know what to say. I need someone else to come in and shine here and here you are. This is going to be amazing. Thank you for being willing to come on here and share your expertise.
UNYIME: Oh, thank you. I’m really excited about it. It’s actually one of my favorite topics to talk about because I’m in this place and I used to be that kid. So, I apologize to all the moms ahead of time, but yes, it is a struggle and I’m so happy to just dive into this topic with you, Allie.
ALLIE: Okay, cool.
First let’s start by telling us your story with your health and everything. You have an amazing story and I would love to just let people connect through that first.
I’m a mom who, like most of us, wanted the best for her kids. The funny thing is I never wanted to have kids. Then I got married and of course I had one child and two.
When you’re a new mom, you start to hear stories about chasing balance, how you can balance everything in your life, chase your dreams, and have all these things.
I actually thought I was doing pretty good until I was at a time of my life when I was so busy. I was trying to finish up my second degree in nutrition. My husband was working, I was working, raising a toddler and things were just really crazy. But I was still trying to balance everything because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do as a mom?
I remember over the course of six months, I started having so many issues. I wasn’t sleeping well. Then of course I wasn’t eating properly. My digestive system just took a huge hit. My doctor and I did a lot of tests and I was diagnosed with a few conditions. Nothing was working. I was taking all the medications, probiotics, off and on medications, doing several tests and nothing was working.
Finally she said, “I think we need to have you go do a colonoscopy.” She was diagnosing me with IBS and for people who’ve been diagnosed with IBS, usually they will use a colonoscopy to confirm whether or not that’s the case. That was when I asked for a week to just think about it.
I never went back to have that conversation with her because I was so afraid. I do not like hospitals. I was so worried about what would happen if I went down that route, so I asked for a week to think about things, try and figure out what I could do to help myself.
Through that time, I realized that a lot of the things I was doing were based on expectations of me as a mom. They were the things I was trying to do because I was pleasing people. They were the things I was trying to do because I wanted to be the mom who had everything.
The word ‘stress’ just kept coming up. So, of course, I started researching how stress comes and shows up in our bodies and wouldn’t you know it, IBS symptoms was one of the underlying issues.
I went back to her and we started talking about it and she said, “So what are you willing to give up?” And I cried.
When your life is built around this image of who you are, what people think about you, and someone asks you to give that up, it’s like, what do you mean? I’m no longer going to exist. So I cried. She said, “You really have to do something or else we’re going to have to put you on medication because this is a lot for you to handle.”
I started taking things off my plate. First, I had to learn how to say ‘no’ because again, I was really deep in people pleasing. I didn’t know how to say ‘no’ to things. I was volunteering because who else is going to do it? I started saying no. I started blocking off my time.
I actually stepped back from work, which I recognize is a privilege for me. I had to cut back on my work hours because school was a priority. I was pregnant, so of course my baby’s health was important to me. I cut back on my hours and over a few weeks to months, my symptoms started to go away.
And I thought, well, if I’m going through this, that means there are a lot of other moms who are going through this.
The funny thing is, and I think this is where your story, Allie, really resonates with me. I talked to moms who were older than I was, moms who had older kids, that were more experienced and they just kept telling me, “Oh, it’s going to be fine. You just go with it.”
And I felt, well, I don’t want to go with it because this is not the way I want to live my life. I was miserable. I was sad. I was unhappy. I thought, if this is what it is, then I need to be speaking up more for more moms.
I decided I’m going to talk about this. I will use my platform, whatever voice I have, to share this message.
And here I am now. I’m supporting moms in my business. I’m talking about it on my podcast. I’ve been getting so many messages from moms telling me how happy they are that I’m actually talking about these things that we’re afraid to talk about.
ALLIE: The whole message of ‘you just have to kind of get through it’ is so depressing. It’s missing hope of any kind.
This does not need to be our story. It’s accepted by most, but it does not need to be accepted by us.
There are so many layers to this. I love that you have a very similar story to me, but yours is very health focused. I didn’t get to that point. Mine was stuff, stress and my space. The health stuff came later. I am even going through it again now. It’s a similar thing – IBS, acne, bacteria in my stomach making me sick, Hashimoto’s, PCOS. Some things I don’t even have any more because of really doing the work to heal.
And you’re right when you say it is a privilege to be able to step back from things. How sad is it that in our society it is so expensive and requires privilege to heal.
Most people are overstressed. They’re either overeating because that’s how they cope with life or undereating. They can’t afford healthy food. Some people just say that to themselves and that’s not actually true, but many people really, really can’t. It is expensive to take care of yourself. It’s so sad.
I think that anyone who can take just one next right step in bettering their health, taking care of themselves just a little bit, reducing stress, even if you have to work a ton, working from a place of rest, which is something that I try to teach whenever I can is just one next right thing to better yourself, and to exit that running yourself into the ground, hot mess, mom culture. It’s so toxic.
UNYIME: Absolutely. I think that you’re right with that one next step. What’s the one thing I can do that’s going to make a difference today? We’re not thinking about tomorrow. We’re not thinking about in two weeks. What’s the one thing I can do right now just to ease up a little bit?
Stress is a huge issue when it comes to moms. Sometimes we don’t even recognize it because we’ve been in it for so long, but when we can just step back and realize, okay, I need to do something and I just need one step, then it makes such a huge difference.
ALLIE: That’s so good.
One of the stresses that we’re going to talk about today is the stress of feeding kids. It’s so many times a day, every frigging day. They’re always hungry. The frustration of needing to feed your kids so often, the stress of that, the stress of having to show up that often, the stress of having to prepare food that often, the stress of balancing the budget side of it. And on top of that wanting to raise healthy kids who like veggies and know what good food is so they don’t have health issues like you and I have had to go through on top of everything else.
Can you dive in for us on the frustrations of feeding kids?
UNYIME: That’s a big one and we’re going to unpack as much as we can.
I always remind moms, when you think about feeding your kids, the biggest thing, which I think is a myth that is floating around in the mom space, is that you can’t get your kids to eat. And that’s not necessarily true because all children are born with the ability to know how to eat. When you have a baby, if they’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding doesn’t matter, they will eat as long as there’s nothing wrong with them, there’s nothing trying to interrupt that feeding ability.
They know when they’re hungry. A baby will start to suck on their thumb. They might suck under their lips a little bit to let you know they’re hungry. When they’re full, they’ll turn their head away. They’ll show you or push you back so that you know they’re full.
The issue is because we, as a society, are putting so much pressure on mom to get everything right. We tend to feel like it is the mom’s job to get the child to eat. That’s where the stress comes from.
When you think about your mindset, when you’re approaching feeding your child, what is at the root of your mind? What are you thinking of? Do you believe that a good mom has kids who eat all the time? Because if that’s your belief, then you’re going to pressure your kids to want to eat food all the time, to want to eat good foods versus bad foods.
I don’t typically subscribe to that. I encourage people not to put food with the labels of good or bad, because that is putting a level of morality on the foods. Foods are neutral. They’re neither good nor bad. Depending on what the function is in your body, that’s how the food functions.
For instance, some people might drink something that someone else sees as bad, and that’s what their body needs versus you who drinks the same thing and it doesn’t function the same way for you. That doesn’t necessarily mean the food is bad. It just means that it’s not the food for you. And that’s fine.
Let’s go back to what our mindsets are when we’re approaching feeding. If you believe that it’s your job to get your kids to eat, that’s when you start to pressure them. That’s when you start to do things within your power to try and force your child to eat. And that pressure doesn’t have to be negative. Sometimes when we praise our kids (and I’ll dig a little bit more into this) for eating the foods that we term appropriate for them and that’s encouraging them.
But at the same time, it’s a level of pressure, because guess what? Every time they eat, they’re performing for you because they know when they eat, mom’s happy, so I’m going to eat this, even if I don’t like it. When they do that, you’re taking away their autonomy from them. You’re taking away that sense of agency from them.
That’s one thing I really want our moms to pay attention to. Don’t think that you can get your child to eat. It is their responsibility. When we talk about the child’s responsibility, Ellyn Satter is a family therapist and eating specialist that I follow and I practice from her framework when it comes to feeding kids. I love it because it actually looks at how you can give autonomy to your children. She talks about the division of responsibility.
In the division of responsibility, the parents decide what to feed the kids. You’re responsible for what you bring in your home. You’re responsible for what you decide to give to your children.
Parents decide where. Whether we’re sitting at the table or we’re sitting on the ground. Are we going for a picnic? Are we going to eat in the car, in the drive-through?
Parents also decide when we get to eat. When we get to eat is all about providing the structure. Are we doing three meals a day? Are we going to have snacks in between? What does that look like? You’re responsible for all of that.
When you focus on those three things, it’s easy for you to build that framework. Think about it as building a house. You’re not going to be able to build a house if you don’t have the wall structure. There are not going to be any doors, no windows, if you don’t have that first wall structure. And that’s what your role is.
Now, your kids get to decide if they choose to eat and how much. I’m laughing, because it’s really hard for us to understand that. Especially if you have older kids that you’ve really been involved in their eating.
Think about it this way. Your child gets to decide if they eat. You present the food; they can choose to eat. They can choose not to. They also get to decide how much of that food they want to eat.
When you start talking about things like cleaning your plates, again that’s bringing pressure. That’s you crossing the line because that’s not your responsibility to get them to cross and decide how much they want to eat.
ALLIE: I’m glad you said that. I was going to ask you about that. It’s such a common thing, “You’re wasting food. Finish your plate,” but I don’t finish my plate because I’m listening to my body.
UNYIME: There you go. Exactly.
If we as adults know that, why aren’t we extending that to our kids? Why can’t we trust them to know that they’re full when they say they’re full?
This might not apply to all children, but you know your kids best. There’s some kids that might say they’re full because of different circumstances. But for the most part, if we teach them that we’re going to trust them, then it’s easy for them to start being themselves around the dinner table.
Going back to how much they eat, once you’re able to do your part, your child is able to build the confidence to start doing their part when they eat.
I always encourage moms that when you practice from a place of modeling, (because our children always want to copy us, they want to model what we’re doing) when you come from a place of, “This is how we treat food. This is what a good relationship with food should look like,” then your child is able to copy that.
That will make such a difference, way more different than you keep instructing them and teaching them about nutrition and teaching them all these things. They’d rather learn from you than everything else that you teach them. You teach them by modeling.
For example, we’re so busy as moms, it’s really rare to see moms sit down and eat with their kids. I know that sometimes this might be a thing of privilege, but even if it’s one meal a day, one meal over a few days, just sitting down and connecting. You might not eat, but just being at the table with them and having that conversation, seeing how they’re responding to the food will help you pay attention to what’s going on. It’ll help you pay attention to the things that are important to your kids when it comes to food.
I’ll give you a story. When I had my first child, I remember very clearly whenever we would eat, I would not use my hands. I would use cutlery. But then we would eat our traditional foods, which you had to use hands. She was really struggling with the cutlery and I didn’t notice until I started eating with her often.
Then we started talking about, “Oh, is that difficult for you?” “Oh yes. I can’t get the thing in the soup. How do I get it in the soup?” Then I started using my hands to eat because I wanted to show her that this is how we eat the traditional foods. Once she was able to grasp that, it was so much easier for her to just eat.
There were times before that, she would just say, “I’m full. I’m not hungry.”
ALLIE: From just being overwhelmed.
UNYIME: Exactly. It was so much work for her and she couldn’t just speak or say anything because the whole time I was busy washing dishes and I wasn’t paying attention.
But because I was sitting at the table with her, I was able to see she was struggling and that’s how I was able to help her.
When we start to pay attention and we’re present, it’s so much easier for kids to feel relaxed for one. And then we can start seeing places where we can help them.
Let’s talk about picky eating.
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ALLIE: I have a quick question, really quick before we get into that about what you were saying that I’m dying to ask you.
My kids at this time are 12, 10, about to be 9 and 6. The older three make food for themselves during the day and then my assistant helps make dinner, so she handles their dinner. For breakfast and lunch, they make their own food and the older two will make food for the younger one.
I have noticed this one child always goes for carbs. Basically all they’re eating is carbs, carbs, carbs, with fruits and veggies on the side and stuff, but so much starch, carbs, and bread.
And I’m just thinking, okay, you’re getting a little older now. I definitely want to guide, but I don’t want to make them have an eating disorder or something. And I don’t want to shame. So we’ve been talking about balance, radical fats, healthy fats, the different types of fruits and not just having bananas and bread, bananas and bread. How do you approach teaching them about nutrition and teaching them about balance without it leading into frustration and, “Gosh can’t I just eat?” Or them growing up and being like, “My mom gave me an eating disorder because she tried to control my carb intake.” You know what I mean?
UNYIME: Thank you for that question. I think that’s something that a lot of us moms struggle with, but you’re doing a great job recognizing that you don’t want to interfere with that, which is a good place to start.
I’m sure there are moms who can relate to this. I would encourage you to talk to them about it. Just say, “What is it about these foods that you like a lot? I notice that these are the foods you tend to eat. And even though we have all these other foods, you don’t really like them.” That’s a good place to start because I think at that age, they’re old enough to understand and know how to express themselves.
Have that conversation with them. You’d be surprised at what they tell you. And then you build on that.
What is it about this food that you like? Is it just because it’s bland, which is something that a lot of kids tend to gravitate towards. They don’t really like intense flavors, so they tend to stay with the starchy foods which are mild in taste. What is it about that? Could we try to include this? What do you think about it?
Then maybe a vegetable that your family enjoys and everyone likes to eat. How about we include this?
Because you’ve got the three who are able to make their own food and this one who’s trying to figure out this is what I like to eat, how about we all sit at the same table? Could we serve food family style, and then invite everyone to just try out different things from everyone’s plates? No pressure. We’re just like, okay, we’re all sitting. Would you like to try this out? No? Okay. That’s fine. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to, but you’re welcome to eat it if you want.
And there’s no saying, “One polite bite.” I know that’s one thing that a lot of parents do. We think, oh, if we just tell them to have a polite bite, but that’s also a form of pressure. If your child expects that when they come to the table you’re going to ask them to take a polite bite, guess what they’re coming to the table with? Anxiety. They’re already worried about coming to the table and that doesn’t really help the body while you’re trying to eat and digest your food because your body’s trying to fight off the stress from this anxiety that you’re experiencing.
It’s better to just create the table. Let’s sit down. Would you like to try this? Okay. You don’t want to eat it. That’s fine. And you let it go. Keep trying that.
Consistency is key, which is where I think a lot of us struggle with because we try one or two times and oh well, the experts say they should have been able to try it by now, but it’s not working, so we give up.
Create opportunities. Maybe not at the dining table. Are we going through the drive-through? Oh, would you like to try my food? Okay, that’s fine. You don’t have to eat it.
Another opportunity presents itself. Would you like to try it? No? Okay. That’s fine.
Over time, they get to understand that mom is not going to cross her boundary when it comes to me eating. Now I can give myself the freedom to try it out.
Children’s tastes always change with the growing body, with just the way their metabolism is. Sometimes they gravitate more towards some kinds of foods because that’s what their bodies want. And then other times their bodies might need something else and they might gravitate towards that as well.
It all just comes down to you working with your child. There is no one size fits all approach because everything is based on the child and the way their body is growing.
ALLIE: Okay. That’s so helpful.
What you said about them coming to the table with anxiety, that’s not aligned with how I want their relationship with food to be, their relationship with their bodies and fueling their bodies. It’s not worth it.
If you look at a lot of stories that we have around food, so many older women would tell you, I don’t like this food because when I think about it the emotions that come up, that’s what prevents them from wanting to eat.
I’ve had clients who, when they think about particular foods, they actually want to throw up and it’s not because of anything. It’s more about the emotional atmosphere that surrounds that history in their minds and that’s what’s coming up, so it’s difficult for them to eat that food. And for most of them it’s vegetables. Then we have to relearn how to make sure that vegetables are safe. Vegetables were never a problem. It was more the emotional atmosphere around the vegetables at the table that caused this. We have to just make sure that we’re paying attention to that.
ALLIE: Now, picky eaters. When you have a kid that won’t eat.
I remember when I was growing up, my cousin, who was much younger than me, would not eat anything except for corn dogs and chicken nuggets. And that’s it. And my aunt and uncle, that’s just where they landed, “This is all he’ll eat.” I don’t think he ate anything else until he was 25. I’m not kidding.
What do you do if you have a really picky eater and you don’t want that to be your path?
UNYIME: I have good and bad news. So the bad news is picky eating is something that a lot of children go through, especially at that toddler stage, when they’re starting to walk and experience their life and starting to eat solid foods up until about 3 or 4.
This is really important for moms who have kids at that age now because remember how we talked about children being born with the ability to regulate their own appetite? Once they start eating solids, start walking, and discovering their environment, food is no longer a priority.
Now they’re discovering that, oh, I can actually walk. Look at my toes. What’s that thing over there? Why does that make noise? They’re really engaged in their environment. Food no longer becomes a priority.
And that’s the thing that we get really anxious about, because then we’re like, oh, what did I do?
And of course, when you start checking social media and you check on Google where it says your kid needs to be eating this, this and this. And you look at your friend’s kid, who’s busy eating all the foods and yours isn’t, you start to get pressured.
Of course the mom’s story is that I’m not a good mom. I don’t know how to feed my kids. There are all these things that your mind goes through.
But what I would encourage you to know is that you’re the best person to raise that child. If your child is at that age, that’s fine. Create the structure. Remember we talked about creating the structure. Decide what you’re going to feed them. Then when it’s time for the table, see what the child is doing and encourage them. That’s for when they’re just starting out.
Now, if they’re already at that stage where they have solidified that behavior, I would encourage you to be very patient.
One thing I want to say before I keep going, which I should have said right at the top, the label ‘picky eater’ is actually not helpful to your child. I’ll tell you why. I used to be labeled as a picky eater. My mom would tell you stories of all the things that she went through because I was a ‘picky eater.’
Picky eater is a label that we’re giving our children based on their food behavior. Our children don’t know the difference between what we’re trying to say and who they are when they’re very young. Once you label them a picky eater, they take on that persona. They become the picky eater. And what does a picky eater do? They struggle at meal times. They don’t want to try foods. They want to fight with the parents. They reject the foods. These are the things that picky eaters do.
And it’s not because they choose to, but that’s the attributes that go with picky eating.
ALLIE: It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy, speaking those words over them.
UNYIME: Exactly. So you keep repeating those words. You talk to another mom, “Well, my child is a picky eater.” The child takes on that persona and they keep doing that. And over time it just becomes who they are.
This was my story. And I saw that happen with my 9-year-old, who’s going to be 10 soon. It was the very same thing.
The funny thing is I actually knew Ellyn Satter when I had my child because I was in community nutrition, but I did not know how to apply it because again, my mindset was that a good mom has children who eat all the foods.
This is again where your mindset really needs to be addressed. And of course, because I was calling her a picky eater, I didn’t recognize how I was also impacting her and trying to force her to eat.
A time came when I was talking to one of the moms and she was talking about all the struggles that she was having with her kid. When I got off the phone, my daughter said, “Well, why were you encouraging her and telling her that her child is not picky while you call me a picky eater?”
That was the moment where I was like, oh man, I really did bad.
ALLIE: She called you out.
UNYIME: She totally called me out on that. Then she went on to say, “Well, so I’m not going to eat this food because I’m a picky eater.” This child is Type A, really strong-willed and just wants to put her foot in the sand. So that was all her fights, “I’m a picky eater, so I’m not eating that.” She would rub it in my face. And I thought, “You know what? I need to start all over.”
If this is you, I’ll tell you what we did. We had a conversation, “I’m learning something new. I recognize how calling you a picky eater has impacted how you engage with food. Would you forgive me?” Which is really hard. Even thinking about it now just makes me feel like I want to cry because it took a lot of vulnerability. We don’t want to be in that space. But it took me asking her to forgive me because I knew that I had hurt her by labeling her with this name.
Let’s drop the picky eating name. What you can say instead is, “My child is learning to like this food. My child doesn’t eat this food yet. My child is discovering new foods.” These are words that you can use.
When you talk to other people about your children, be your child’s advocate. Don’t start feeling negative about the way your child eats. If this mom is talking about, “My child eats all the vegetables. They’re a good eater,” and all of this, that’s fine. Okay. That’s great. Well, “My child is still discovering what she likes. I’m letting her experience and develop her own relationship with food and her body.” That’s it. You don’t need to explain. I know as moms we want to start explaining our reasoning. No. Noone needs to know that. This is your decision and you move on.
ALLIE: It’s so cool because it’s breaking down the power of our words, the power of our body language, our facial expressions around our kids when they’re around food, these are the kinds of things that define how girls feel about food, how they feel about fueling their bodies, how they feel about their bodies themselves.
And boys too. Boys struggle with eating disorders and food issues just as often. It’s just less talked about and it looks a little different.
I think it’s so beautiful that you’ve really thought this through and broken it down for us. It’s so, so helpful.
I would like to touch on some super practical things that the moms listening can do. Maybe we can start with, and anything that you suggest I’m open to talking about, but maybe we could start with practically, how do you feed your kids and prepare their meals without it feeling overwhelming. You have no frigging time. It’s like a full-time job to get the groceries, prepare them, put them together into meals and then you put it in Tupperwares, put it in the fridge and then they don’t want to eat it sometimes. Could you offer some simplicity on that?
UNYIME: Yeah. That’s a great question.
There’s so many nuances with that because it depends on your child’s age. What a 3-year-old needs might be different from what a 12-year-old needs.
12-year-olds are more capable of doing things than a 3-year-old. What I would encourage the mom to do is again, go back to the mindset. What is your mindset about your responsibility as a mom? Do you believe that it is your job to plan the meals, to cook the meals, to do all the things so that your children will eat?
If that is your mindset, then you’re going to struggle because guess what? You are trying to prove that it is your job. What if you could think of helping and supporting your family with meals as this thing where it’s a family affair? We’re all living together. It’s a team effort.
If your child is still at that stage where they’re depending on you, obviously there’s not a lot that 3-year-olds require. How do you approach it? Could you try to include meal planning as a part of your rhythm?
When I’m talking about meal planning, this is not about Pinterest worthy or Instagram worthy organization of things in Tupperware. What is the simplest thing that you can do to get your family on the table or wherever you need to sit down to eat? What are the foods that you like eating? What are the things that are common?
In my program, what I always teach moms when it comes to meal planning is to have a list of all the foods that your family loves to eat. Foods that you don’t need to look at recipes for. Their favorites. It might just be two to three meals and that’s good enough.
Now look at your weeks that are coming up. How do you incorporate those foods?
For instance, I’ll share one with you. My kids love chicken fingers and fries a lot. They don’t like it when I make it from scratch, so I’ve depended on convenience box chicken fingers. But how do I sort of bulk up that meal? We have a salad with that. The salad is where my husband and I come in. And then usually I would have a roast chicken for both of us while the kids have the chicken fingers and fries. The salad is what connects both meals. We have fries as well, and that’s where we all connect. The chicken is what’s different. They get their boxed chicken fingers. We get our own roast chicken. It’s still the meal, but I didn’t have to go and do all these other things.
If your children are older, ask them what are the foods that they liked to eat? Add that onto the list.
How can we make it simple? How can we make it easy for everyone to eat? Dinner is always the big thing. So when you’re planning your meals, I always encourage people to focus a lot more on dinner because that’s where we tend to struggle.
Can you have one or two dinners during the week? Can you batch cook something like a sauce that would help you to put it on some grains during the day? And then you can use that as part of a soup or something later? How can you multiply that food so that you’re not having to cook a whole bunch of things?
Stay away from Pinterest until you’ve gotten this down pat. Because when you don’t have this down pat, you go on Pinterest, and then you go into that rabbit hole of, oh, this looks good, that looks good. Then you’re confused and overwhelmed.
Get your list ready. Once you have that list, think about how you can incorporate it into your family. If your kids tell you, “Well, we like fries and we like chicken fingers,” like my kids. I know that the foods that they tend to gravitate towards are foods that are crispy. Then I start to think about other foods that are crispy that we could include in our eating and in our diets that don’t need to take too much work.
Because they like crispy foods, that means it will not be as much effort for me to encourage them to try out those foods. So then if they like chicken fingers and they like fries, what else can we do? Perhaps fish with crust on it because it’s still crispy. Then we include that and they try it out. Hmm. Okay. Well, this is crispy. We like this. And then they eat that. If it’s not, that’s fine too.
What about sauces? We tend to think about things that are way out there. Can you use one sauce on different things? If you cook a big thing of beef stew or chili, can you put that on rice? Can you use that with pasta? One sauce, different things. Can you use it with steamed vegetables? Can you use it with steamed potatoes? One thing can be used with multiple meals.
ALLIE: That’s so simple and so brilliant.
UNYIME: We have to keep it easy for ourselves, right? We don’t need to make these elaborate meals.
Again, it’s mindset. Many of us grew up in homes where our moms made elaborate meals every dinner, so now we think we have to.
Well, if your mom was a stay at home mom and she wasn’t having to work, all she had to do was just take care of you guys, she may have had more time than you who is working 30/40 hours a week, maybe a second job. Maybe you’re the only parent. You don’t have the time to be making elaborate meals for your kids.
That’s the thing we have to remember. What works? Look at your situation and think about what works in your situation and in your season. Now in your season with a 3-year-old, your foods might look really bland and boring, but then they start to grow and by 6 they’re trying different foods and things will change. Then you adapt.
That’s what I encourage moms to do. Always ask the children, keep a list of foods that you love to eat and work from those lists. Then when you want to try new recipes, start from that list and check it out.
Again, we talked about the one thing. What’s the one thing that matters? That’s what we need to focus on. I think those are probably my favorite tips that I like to share.
ALLIE: So good. So practical and so helpful. I love that you just weave in the way you’re thinking about feeding your family and the mindset aspect of it. So important.
Can you tell us where you want people to connect with you? I know you do coaching. Tell us how to connect with you in terms of social media, but also your programs and what you’ve created.
UNYIME: Absolutely. Thank you.
People can find me, since we’re on a podcast, I have a podcast, The Thriving Mom Podcast and that’s to help moms who are ready to let go of dieting and food, stress, and obsession, and also to help them gain food and body freedom while they’re raising healthy, competent eaters. That’s a weekly podcast. We’re on most podcast apps. You can check it out. We air every Sunday.
I have a coaching program where I help moms to let go of dieting, let go of food stress and obsession, and also raise healthy, competent eaters. All of my work surrounds supporting the moms.
With my coaching program, we have a three-month coaching education where we go through all the mindset work. We do a lot of work that surrounds your mindset and your history with food. We talk about intuitive eating, we talk about Ellyn Satter’s competent eating model, because my goal is to help moms build a trust-based relationship with food.
Sometimes intuitive eating is not accessible to all people and then it’s difficult for them to understand, so then we have to weave in the competent eating framework to make sure that we compound all of that. We support the moms in that process.
That’s a very comprehensive program that we go through. We talk about meal planning. We talk about handling stress and building structures in place to support yourself.
That would be the two places.
My website is oliveandbliss.ca if anyone is wanting to check out my programs and know more about me.
ALLIE: Amazing. You are amazing. The way that you speak and present information is very doable, tangible, and you break it down so well. I’m really grateful for you. Thank you for coming on here and talking with us.
UMYIME: Thank you, Allie. This has been awesome.
ALLIE: Okay. Friends. That was an incredible conversation. I’m so grateful for Unyime and everything that she brought to the table for us, so generous and so good.
There was a lot about what she said that got my own brain wheels spinning and had me grateful for so much of my own journey, my own process with food, health, my kids and what I’ve passed on to them.
I was periodically, through the conversation, feeling really proud, really grateful, and sending myself so much love for the journey that I’ve gone through and the good things that I’ve done with my kids and food. But also battling a bit of shame and the natural coming up of, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that way,” or, “Oh, I wish I’d been better about this,” or, “Oh, I shouldn’t have talked to them about food this way.”
And if that’s you too, I just want to encourage you. You’re doing a great job and like Maya Angelou says, “We know better, then we do better.”
With this episode, let it be something that we learned and something that we now know, so we can move on and go and do better.
And again, as always, I don’t want this episode to be something that we just learn, get inspired, and listen while we drive or clean up and then be like, “Cool! Moving on,” and then back to normal.
I want to go over a couple of things that Unyime said that we can take to the next level, sit with, and allow to really shift us internally. Because if we’re shifting internally, then our external circumstances are also going to shift.
The first thing I want to revisit with you is how she talked about really just the power of our words. We know this. We know that our words are powerful. Here on The Purpose Show we’ve had multiple episodes on the power of words in your relationships. The Power Of Words For Your Kids is one of the most downloaded episodes that we’ve had of all time here on the podcast. We’ve talked about this.
I found it so interesting and beautiful how Unyime brought that up in terms of our kids and their relationship with food. Maybe just sit with this next question here, pause this and sit with it. Meditate on it for a couple minutes. I want you to ask yourself what words are we saying to our kids about who they are as it relates to their eating, food, and their bodies that are not serving our kids?
Maybe there’s words that you say, like, “You’re a picky eater,” or, “Oh my gosh, you’re so picky,” or, “Oh my gosh, you just don’t eat anything,” or, “Oh my gosh, that’s way too many carbs,” or whatever it is. What words are we saying that are not serving our kids’ relationship with food or their bodies?
Another thing that I think we can sit with is what is your relationship with your kids’ eating? I think what came up for me when I was listening to Unyime speak was sometimes there are expectations on my kids, expectations in social settings for them to appear polite so that other people will think I’m a good mom. That’s a very ego based way of thinking and being, and I’m really making it all about me. How does it reflect on me if my kids don’t finish the dinner that somebody made them?
Reflect on that and the expectations that come from this very regular and very recurring issue of eating. It’s so often. It’s every day and multiple, multiple times a day. When there’s expectations around that, or there’s a negative relationship that we have with that, with our kids eating, it’s really seeping through our relationship with them day after day, over and over again. I think that that really gives it a lot of power.
It’s funny because I’ve literally never thought about my relationship to my kids’ eating. It seems even kind of silly or maybe a little dramatic to talk about it that way, but because we do eat so often, because we’re eating with our kids and our kids are eating around us so often, and we want to raise kids who are healthy and have a healthy mindset about who they are and their bodies and the food they’re eating, it’s something that we actually should be taking a good look at. I’ve literally never heard anyone talk about this.
Maybe sit with that. What is your relationship with your kids’ eating? Are there any expectations or anything that you’re making about you and kind of projecting onto them when it comes to their bodies or the food they eat?
I also felt like maybe my identity as a mom, through my kids’ eating, kind of similar to the expectations of what are people gonna think about me if my child is not eating this way, or if my kid shows up with junk food somewhere and all the other kids are eating healthy, or vice versa, if I’m like the healthy crunchy mom or whatever, and getting judged for that.
So much of our identity as mothers comes through what our kids are eating, how much they eat, and what their bodies look like.
Maybe pause here and just sit with that. Meditate on what comes up for you when I ask you that. Is it healthy? Is it serving you? What do you need to release?
The last thing that came up for me that I just want you to think about is, do you have older kids who can do more? This is less of an internal thing and more of a practical thing.
We have our kids, and for most of us, unless you’ve adopted your child older, we have these babies and they need us. We start the journey of raising them. They’re completely dependent on us. And sometimes, in some areas, we don’t fully release that. We’ll blink twice and then we have a 10-year-old but they ask us, “What’s for lunch? What’s my next snack?” And they rely on us a little too much. We really could kind of delegate to them and put them in charge of feeding themselves.
Do you have an older kid that can help out a little bit more? That can be more in charge of their eating? Is this something that you maybe just haven’t thought of before or didn’t realize you were at that phase of motherhood, and you could release pressure from yourself and give your child the freedom of just deciding what they eat?
Maybe you could have some things prepared that are easy and healthy or whatever, but you put it on them to put their lunch together, put their breakfast together in the morning, get their own snack, make their own decisions?
Then it’s an opportunity for you to notice what judgment or feelings come up in you as you watch them pick their food.
It’s just something that I thought would be worth mentioning. Just checking in. If you don’t have super little kids, can you give your kids a little bit more power over what they’re eating and creating their own meals?
And if not, and that’s not the phase you’re in, that’s fine, but it’s definitely something that I thought would be worth looking at. I think sometimes we get to those phases of parenthood and we don’t really realize we’re there because life is so busy and go, go, go.
This was amazing. Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for making space for Unyime and her amazing message and the way she speaks.
I hope that just sitting with these questions and conversation starters for yourself after Unyime spoke was really helpful for you.
I love you so much. You are so supported. You were made for this. You’re doing an amazing job! Have an amazing day!
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Thank you so much for tuning in! If you’d like to learn more about me, how I can help you, how you can implement all these things and more into your life to make it simpler, better, and more abundant, head to alliecasazza.com. There are free downloads, online courses, programs, and other resources to help you create the life you really want.
I am always rooting for you, friend! See you next time! I’m Allie Casazza and this is The Purpose Show.
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