This one thing goes in every school lunch.

Right about when my kids start “sleeping in” until 8, it is time to send them back to school. I already miss the lazy days of summer!

This may surprise you: I too dread packing school lunches. 

Just ask my partner, Kevin, because he hears my complaints every night around 10 pm. I am tired and can’t fathom making another decision as I pack them each night. I could say I pack them with love (it is still there) yet it doesn’t look like that while I am packing them!

I am raising my kids to know no good or bad food yet school has quickly taught them the rules. We are managing somewhat to navigate this disordered eating world with open communication yet I still like to stay one step ahead.

My youngest started pre-k this year with a new-to-us teacher. Since I didn’t know her or her assistants yet, I decided to pack this note in his lunch box:


I appreciate child care providers have so much love in their hearts and only want our kids to be safe and healthy. Unfortunately, our fat phobic world and normalized disordered eating lead us to this common preschool lunch talk:

  • “Eat your growing foods first.”
  • “Make it a happy plate.”
  • “You didn’t eat your lunch so no dessert.”

I want to avoid teaching diets with every cell of my being. 

I know I can’t fully avoid them yet will face them as they come. I hope this lunch box note, from The Feeding Doctor Katja Rowell’s work found here, prevents some of the diet talk directed toward my youngest child. I have used this card before and have found them helpful.

Have you tried to include these cards? What has been the reaction?

So far my wishes have been respected. And, I am poised to intervene when not.

This week’s Love Food Podcast episode features a letter from someone struggling with the urge to binge. I invited Isabel Foxen Duke to help me answer the letter and we discussed how much dieting and fat phobia contribute to binge eating behavior.

Those very common preschool lunch directions come from internalized fat phobia. I hope the notecard fights back.

Have you listened to this week’s episode? It is a great one! Catch up here.

As you transition to fall schedules and events, I hope it is energizing and engaging for you.

Have a great week friend.



p.s. I am SOOOOO stinking excited to share what I have been working on for the last 6 months. I will be finally spilling the beans in the next month and I am about to BURST. Details soon…..

3 Reasons to Ditch that Halloween Switch Witch

On my Facebook page, a community member asked:

 What do you think about all these Switch Witch shenanigans?

I have been living under a rock lately and looked it up. If you have been a recluse too, this popular Switch Witch wants to rid kids of terrifying candy (boo!).

Candy Loot
Joyfully sorting and tasting the candy.

The witch hangs out with the family starting October first and disappears on Halloween, candy in tow. When the kids awaken the next day, the candy is gone yet they are all smiles with shiny new toys. Parents do not have to deal with the food fights. Everyone wins.

Sounds like a great solution, right?

Uh, no. Let me explain.

1.) Allowing Halloween candy helps your child practice how to be around all foods.

Like it or not, we live in a world with many different foods. Children are limited by what parents allow into the home and the structure they provide. We are required by law to feed our children and that makes them grow up. They leave us for college or trade school or when we get tired of each other and they move out. And the world will be their oyster. Or candy bar. They get to decide which foods they will have in their dwelling. Seinfeld speaks this awesome truth here:

If a child was never taught how to experience highly palatable (*I won’t use the word junk here*) food, he will learn later in life. A young adult never exposed to fun food will have a tough time eating them without shame. Shame never promotes health. This food relationship produces an adult who feels out of control around certain foods. For many, this develops into bingeing and secret eating. These are typical eating disorder behaviors. Oh what a web we weave.

2) Keeping Halloween candy out of the house has more to say about the adult’s inability to be around the food than keeping a child healthy.

Fun foods taste gooooood. And that is why we adults yearn for ideas like the Switch Witch. We don’t trust ourselves around the food and feel shame when we can’t stop eating them. So we avoid the candy or other yummy treats. Our solution: keep it out of the house. Then, when a special holiday food comes around (helloooo candy corn!), we feel guilt free enough to “indulge” and curse the candy when we succumb to the tummy ache alarm to stop noshing. This is not the food’s fault. This is the basic law of food deprivation. When we are around a novel food, our brains light up with interest. Sometimes even obsess. ¹ When we finally allow a bite, it is always hard to stop.

Allowing Halloween candy to remain around models how we as grown ups can navigate different types of food. Too scary? You are not alone.

There is a way to heal this. It is called unconditional permission to eat. When a person has true permission to choose any food in any amount, eating according to physical hunger and fullness cues is the norm. This won’t work if “permission” is tangled up with one of these familiar sabotaging statements:

Trick or treat!
Trick or treat!
  • I will just have one.
  • I will save up my calories to have candy tonight.
  • I will exercise off calories to have candy tonight.

When we view food choices with permission, we begin to experience healthy ways of relating to food. This concept is from Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch. Life changing work is done within its framework. I encourage you to check it out for yourself and your children.

3) Keeping the Halloween candy around will teach your children to not let food have more power than it deserves.

Imagine if you took your child into a room full of toys and said, “Play with any toy you like….except this one.” Even if the toy is a smelly old shoe, it will cause a 30 minute temper tantrum until the child is allowed to play with it. Go ahead try for yourself. I dare you.

Deciding which Halloween candy she enjoys.
Deciding which Halloween candy she enjoys.

Having a witch magically steal your child’s candy let’s them know these foods are forbidden. And a house that forbids food gives that food 100 times more power than it deserves. My clients affected by eating disorders spend too much time and energy thinking about forbidden foods. To the point they will not go to parties, or on dates. Their social life suffers. Some won’t even leave the house in fear they will have to face a forbidden food. I appreciate this is a strong statement and my work with eating disorder clients allows me to believe it: making candy a forbidden food is setting children up to experience disordered eating pathology. And, yes, that is very serious.

Where can we find help navigating the parental decisions around Halloween candy? Ellyn Satter has the best recommendations. I reread them every year. Spend time reading her recommendations here. And ditch that witch.

Footnote (i.e. best part of any blog post) ¹ This may bring up food addiction for many. You don’t have to send me articles or scholarly journals on food addiction since I am keeping up with the research. Until they control for food deprivation, the research means nothing unless you are a robot without free will.

Don’t Let the Freshman 15 Hype Harm You

Roommate disputes, all night study sessions, and the Freshman 15: one of these does not belong! (Pic is my Freshman year dorm at Ohio U.)

Which of these are to be expected the first year of college:

  1. roommate battles
  2. all night study sessions
  3. an extra 15 pounds+ around the middle
  4. All of the above
  5. 1 and 2 yet not 3
  6. I plead the fifth since it’s the first week of class

Roommate battles and all nighters are a part of the college experience yet weight gain is not a sure thing. I want to spend a few moments clarifying the Freshman 15 myth.

Yes, it is a myth. Started somewhere around 1985 during our nonfat hysteria. And, just like the kidney heist and other urban legends, it now has a feel of fact when it is not.

Adolescent development includes increases in height and weight with corresponding increased energy needs. For many, there are periods of rapid weight gain prior to the height increases and vice versa. For example, most girls gain 30 to 50 pounds during the 2 years before and after starting menarche. This is to be expected and it is very important. Without it, the girl will have impaired estrogen thus impaired bone health, impacted height, and possibly impacted fertility. Lower estrogen can even affect her mood making her susceptible to feelings of depression. Literally, not gaining enough weight affects her mind and body.

Move in day at my Graduate School, UNCG

Surprising factoid: adolescence is through the age of 23. And, during the last part of puberty (18 to 23 years of age), the average adolescent is supposed to gain 7 to 10 pounds. Let’s put this together: typical adolescent graduates high school and transitions to college somewhere between 17 and 19. Adolescent spends 4ish years there. Is college to blame for a weight change if any? Or even more importantly, why are we punishing the college student’s own biology just trying to do her requirements for adequate development?

This is why I make a stink about this: high school students start worrying about the Freshman 15 somewhere between 10th and 11th grade. Worried and panicked because they think their body will spiral out of their control like it or not and there is nothing to do about it. That is what they hear when they read the media’s Freshman 15 articles. Many start to monitor and restrict their foods in preparation YEARS in advance.

I see more new eating disorder clients during July, August, and September than any of other time of year. This transition to college is a huge change and that alone can place someone at risk for developing a mental health concern. Changes are tough! So, combine this tough change with all the food talk and worry POOF! an eating disorder is born.

Let’s put the Freshman 15 panic aside where it belongs. Panic promotes impulsive choices that can often do more harm than good. Instead, let’s talk about how to maintain mental and physical health while you transition to college:

  • Trust your body. Your body has the knowledge to keep your body promoting health.When you experience physical hunger, eat. When you feel fullness and satisfaction, end the meal. For more on how to do this, look into this.
  • You will experience more symbolic hunger with this transition to college. Symbolic hungers (a term I learned from Dr. Barbara Birsinger RD) are your unmet needs. Notice what you need and explore different ways to meet them.
  • Notice how your body wants to move. College offers more choices in movement and what a great time to try yoga, meditation, rock climbing, or zumba. Check in with what your body enjoys and what helps it feel better (more relaxed or more energized). Cool bonus: great way to meet friends!
  • If you feel yourself craving food outside of hunger, consider it a gentle sign of unmet needs. Cravings need not be ignored or shamed away.