Posts for Rachel Cole

Why My Daughter Eats Kale and Candy, Amaranth and Cheetos

Self-care - Allison Kenny - March 1, 2017

There are no bad foods. That’s what my time recovering from many years of disordered eating has taught me. I spent most of my adulthood resisting more food items than I would eat. Not just gluten and sugar. Eventually meat, dairy, tomatoes, peppers, caffeine, and all processed foods were off the list as well. Restricting this way lead me to binge on these very forbidden foods. Over and over again. This binge-restrict cycle kept me so busy that my career, relationships and sense of freedom or agency took the back seat. My food issues were all-consuming.

When my wife and I decided to adopt a six-year-old girl, I knew that wanted her food journey to be easier. My hope for my her- and all of us who suffer with compulsive eating- would be to experience food as nourishing and pleasurable. After a decade of diets, a 12 step program and too many tears, I found Intuitive Eating and Rachel Cole. I slowly learned to trust my body and accept myself at any size. I put down perfectionism and picked up compassion.  I wanted to model this kind of body-trust for my new little girl and lay the foundation for her to love her own body…no matter what.


More: If Your Daughter Fears Being Fat

So, I read up on Ellen Satter’s how to’s and took charge of when and what my daughter ate. I let her stay in charge of how much. I kept her favorite foods in the rotation, including hot Cheetos, Cup-O-Noodles, and spaghetti with hot sauce. I added smoked tofu, homemade chicken strips, and kale salad. We made granola together. We went to the Farmer’s Market so she could taste everything. I asked her, “what would make you happy to eat this week?” before I put together the shopping list and I bought those things. We set the table together and often include candles, flowers and special dishes.

We say “play food” instead of “junk food” and talk about how some food is full of nutrition and other food is just for fun. They are all okay. I ask her to guess which vegetables I put into her egg pie or identify the fruits in our salad. Enjoying play food is never a reward or a consequence. A little bit is offered each day alongside the rest of the meal. She asks for another “sweet treat.” I say, “Of course! I can add some to your lunch tomorrow.” She can count on a sweet serving every single day. Every once & awhile, I give her unlimited sweets. We do this on a day when her brain and body are super regulated & strong. If any of us are eating too fast at the table, we remind each other to breathe. We talk about how the food tastes and how we made it. Other times, we go through a drive-through or eat cereal for dinner in front of the tv. On Valentine’s Day, we had so much fun decorating cookies together that I didn’t have enough energy to make dinner. We had cookies and frosting and yogurt and fruit for dinner.  All of this is okay.

So far, it doesn’t seem like my history of food rules or body shame is affecting my daughter. As she grows up and my healing deepens, I know things will evolve. But making my home a safe space to enjoy food was a big goal for me. So far…so good.

More: “My Mama Has a Big Butt That Jiggles”

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20 “Good Enough” Self Care Practices for Parents

Self-care - Allison Kenny - March 20, 2015

Al in Mexico squareThe pressure for moms to be perfect is killing me. Not only are we expected to look perfect, parent perfectly, and be perfect wives and mothers at the top of our career, we’re also told that self-care is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING and we should do that perfectly, too.

These expectations make me want to do nothing but binge watch Empire and eat Girl Scout Cookies.

One idea that gets me off the couch and into the world is permission to be “good enough.” When being a foster parent is so overwhelming that I feel myself spinning with the pressure to be and do everything my child never got, I know it’s time for self-care.  Not perfect self-care: daily meditation, power yoga, facials, paleo diet and impeccable organizational systems. But self-care that is “good enough”.

Here’s my current list of things that help me feel just 10% better than I did before.

1. Do No Wrong Day- Well-Fed Woman, Rachel Cole first introduced me to the idea that one day a week could be set aside as “Do No Wrong Day.” We can say to ourselves- “no matter what choice I make or how things turn out, today…I can do no wrong.” I love this and claim it more than once a week if I remember.

2. Three Breaths- Sitting to meditate is like mental torture for me these days but I can almost always take 3 deep breaths. Bonus if I remember to feel my feet on the floor. Amazing how this little action can give my nervous system a break.

3. Lying in the Sun- After school, “The Squirrel” might be running around in circles but I lay down on the picnic blanket in our backyard and feel the sun on my skin. No matter what has happened in our day, the sun is still shining (it is in Oakland anyway) – proof that the bigger world still exists and my big life change is only a speck of dust inside it.

4. Spreadsheets- My dear friend is a master project manager with a big, generous heart. After weeks of seeing Lynn & me in a state of total overwhelm, she asked us “what do you need?” We told her. She put our needs in a spreadsheet and shared it with our community as a Google doc. Now we have friends calling & texting, bringing dinner, babysitting, taking us out, sending gift cards for Munchery or Good Eggs, and even treating us to massages. LIFE CHANGING.

5. Tell the Truth- When people I trust ask how I am, I tell them. Usually my answer is “overwhelmed” or “sad.” Occasionally it’s “like a bad-ass.” Telling the truth about this process has been really important. Most folks who love me assume I’m doing great because they have such faith in me. They aren’t picturing that the friend they think so highly of could be struggling. When I tell them, I feel better and can be open to help.

6. Go Away- I started with leaving 2 nights a week to go swim at the Y or out to dinner with a friend. Sure, at first “The Squirrel” screamed her head off and had to be physically removed from my body so I could get out the door but it was worth it. Now she kisses me on the cheek and says, “Have fun Mommy” before I go. I even took 2 nights away with my best friend and actually relaxed enough to do the yoga and meditation that used to be my norm.

7. Dance with my Kid- Put on music and dance. That’s it.

8. Hug my Dog- Finding comfort in the smallest places.

9. Discipline My Child- Meeting disrespectful behavior with “I turn my ears right off when people talk to me like that” has been my most powerful self-care practice. We draw a hard line against rudeness or violence of any kind in our home. This has been 90% of my self-care in the 5 months of foster parenting.  It’s exhausting but also empowering. I never had to consistently stand up for myself like this before.

10. Pay People to Help Me- We get our house cleaned every other week and pay a neighbor to mow our lawn. Budget priorities for me.

11.  Let Friends Do my Dishes- We love hosting friends and their kids for dinners and playdates every weekend. When they offer to unload our dishwasher, get their own food or even make me a drink, I say “Yes. I’ll let you do that for me.”

12.  Tell Grandma she has to come- Grandmas are magic. Even though ours are far away, we called and asked for the help- “You have to come now!” Letting grandmas show up helps our whole family.

13.  Learn to Say, “Let’s Talk About Something Else”- Some folks love telling every traumatic story they’ve ever heard about foster kids in an effort to connect. Other friends want to hear the nitty gritty about our parenting journey when all I want to do is take a break. Either way, this simple boundary does the trick.

14.  Drink Water- Since my caffeine and sugar intake has gone up quite a bit, this is big one. I like a big plastic cup with a straw.

15.  Take to the Bed Like I Have Tuberculosis – If you know me well, you’ve seen me wave my hand through the air dramatically as I inform you that “I’m taking to bed like I have tuberculosis.” Perhaps I’ve even left you standing in our living room at the end of a super fun evening or I’ve just put “The Squirrel” to bed and it’s only 8:00. Mama needs her sleep! Or maybe I’m just going to read my book or do a little restorative yoga in the bed. Either way…I’m out!

16.  Sing Karaoke in my Living Room- Our kid’s greatest talent is sleeping through anything, including amplified karaoke that we sing just a few feet away from where her head hits the pillow.  Our karaoke set up is very simple.  Lynn bought this little amp and a mic on Amazon.  Then, we just look up the karaoke versions of songs on YouTube, pour some wine, and sing.

17.  Play “Cards against Humanity”- My sister sent this game for Christmas and we’ve never laughed so hard in our lives. Laughing= major self-care.

18.  Get a Cute Haircut- I get compliments on my hair almost every time I leave the house. It helps. That’s it.

19.  Remind Myself How Tired I Am- When I start thinking about how bad I am as a parent or how my kid might never succeed in school or how hard this transition will be on my marriage…I interrupt the thinking with “Oh honey, you are just so tired” and I immediately take to the bed as if I have tuberculosis. For me, negative thinking almost always means I need rest. Reminding myself that I’m just tired takes away the temptation to believe those thoughts are true.

20.  Binge Watch Empire and Eat Girl Scout Cookies- That’s what I did last night and today I have the energy and focus to sit down and write this blog post. I even paid some bills earlier and picked up the house.

See? Good enough self-care. Boom.



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