I don't count calories

I don't count calories. I don't look at how many grams of sugar is in a serving of any single food. I don't generally pay attention to the amount of fat or the percent of my daily recommended amount of carbohydrates I will consume. 

There was a time in my life when I paid close attention to all these things. I kept close track - always making sure to balance the "calories in" with "calories out" - and food decisions were often made based on the information I could find in that little Nutrition Fact Panel box. But I'll let you in on a little secret about that habit: it's exhausting. When you count calories - er, when *I* counted calories - I could never turn it off. I was always counting; making sure that I had the running tally correct.  What's more, I found I was making food decisions for the wrong reasons: because the numbers were right and not because it tasted right. Or felt right.

So I stopped counting calories. And I don't do it for my family anymore either. I want to teach my kids another way to think about food. This is what we do instead:  

  • We limit the foods that we consume that come labeled with nutrition information. That's not to say that the nutrition breakdown of an orange is not available, it's just not branded right there on the fruit itself. And much of our food comes from local growers and producers, who don't provide the saturated fat content on their package of homemade pork sausages.  
  • We eat a variety of foods and, to the best of our ability, don't eat the same thing twice in a row. This is a little trick I learned from a friend and comes in handy for me particularly at breakfast. "You want that Barbara's Multigrain Cereal again this morning? Did you have it yesterday? Well, then, today we'll chose something else and you can have it again tomorrow." The one exemption to this is my husband, who tends to eat the same smoothie for breakfast everyday.
  • We favor ingredient lists over nutrition facts panels. This is one thing that I do pay close attention to, especially when we are trying something new. Rather than learn how many grams of sugar a potential new granola has per serving I read the ingredient list. I look for foods that are free of synthetic colors and flavors, favor shorter over longer ingredient lists, and tend to avoid foods with a lot of preservatives (although I realize it's not necessarily possible - or advisable - to avoid them entirely).   

I know that there are a lot of people out there for whom calorie counting has made all the difference in achieving weight or health goals. Without reservation, I think this is fantastic. For many people, paying attention to their caloric intake is the first step to simply paying attention - which is a HUGE step in the right direction. But there is more to a meal than it's caloric content: there are aromas, textures, temperatures, flavor combinations to think about and experience.  Different foods sits differently in your stomach; it can give you energy or zap you of it.

Counting calories may be something you view as necessary in your own life, but I don't pay much attention to the specific nutrients in my food and I challenge you to do the same thing - even if just for a single meal.

late for tomorrow

I can't write. And I don't mean the general "I am not a great writer and would like to improve" kind of I can't write, I mean the specific right now "I have these really important thoughts that I want to get out and they just keep bumping around in my head, trying to find their way to the page but never quiet getting there" kind of I can't write. 

I realize that in the grand scheme of life this is an absurd thing to complain about. The world has never felt so chaotic as it has in the last several months and what I want to say will not change that. But when I have this feeling that I'm on the verge of something great, and I just can't execute, it leaves me feeling anxious. And that low-grade anxiety, which becomes my daily soundtrack, quietly playing in the background, distracts me from everything else that's important in life. 

Sometimes it helps if I talk about it, which I tried to do last night. In the midst of our conversation my (extremely well intentioned) husband asked "But so what's your message? What is it you're all about?" which didn't help at all. Mostly because my answer left him unsatisfied and it left me feeling like I was no closer to finding my purpose and message than i was almost two years ago (when I started working with a professional coach in an attempt to find my purpose and message). Sigh.

I know that I need to be patient with myself. I know that if I keep tossing these ideas around eventually the connections between the random set of thoughts will become clear. And once the idea has fully matured, it'll be easier to grab hold of and pull down to paper. But what I want to talk about feels very time sensitive, and I'm afraid that if I loose this window of opportunity it won't open again.  So anxiety creeps back in and begins to tug at my shirt. 

I keep thinking that if I go for a long run, or get a good night's sleep, or turn the radio off in the car to make space for thoughts to materialize, then I will have that "Ah ha!" moment. But so far I've not had any luck. And I'm left feeling late for tomorrow.

{image via}

a revolution in care

A very brave Virginia Tech senior wrote an open letter to the University's new president a couple of days ago echoing a sentiment that is felt all over town: there is a shortage of childcare options in town and the university should do something to become a part of the solution. 

I am proud to say that the Executive Director of the school where my two youngest attend, and where I am lucky enough to serve as the Director of Nutrition, wrote a letter to the editor supporting this student and her call for a revolution in childcare. A slightly extended version is reproduced here, with permission from the author:

"I want to applaud Emily for her fearless letter to the Collegiate Times calling for a revolution in childcare.  It touched me very personally and I couldn’t agree more.
In the few short years that I have been in Blacksburg, there is one this that I know to be true: there is a crisis of availability when it comes to childcare, especially for infants.  And it’s not for lack of interest. Year after year surveys are distributed across campus soliciting faculty and staff input about the challenges they face, and repeatedly, “access to childcare” rises to the top of the list. What’s more, because of these limited options we – as a community – cannot engage in deeper conversations about expanding the type of care and educational opportunities that are available to parents.
I also believe that we need a revolution in childcare:  one that places equal value on supporting children, families, and the providers that give care. Caring for our children’s caregivers ensures that our kids get the best care that they can.  Like you, Emily, many childcare providers can’t even afford for their own children the care that they give to others. If the community and university can come together to innovate and lead this revolution then families, caregivers, and university administration will no longer be at odds with one another.
I am expanding a Montessori school in town. It has been a long and challenging road. Many doors have closed, and few have opened. But a handful of dedicated individuals and advocates have helped me make this vision a reality. And in a couple of weeks we will open our doors to the community and for the community.
I agree with your letter to President Sans, Emily, that what is needed is a more sustainable system of childcare and thoughtful attention to the early childhood education experience for everyone involved. And I know that together we can create one."

A revolution in childcare. Imagine it. Imagine a revolution that brings together an entire community to rally around it's most vulnerable citizens and cares as much about providing for them as it does the people who care for them. Imagine a revolution that see the child as a whole person - who needs more than just a set of eyes to watch over them, but rather needs a guide for how to be in the world; one that will engage his curiosities and interests, and support his  learning in all matters intellectual, emotional, and social. A revolution that pays childcare providers a decent wage, and gives them benefits so they can afford the same high-quality care for their own children. imagine a revolution that teaches kids lifelong habits - around food, conflict resolution, and self-care - beginning when they are only babies.

Can you imagine that revolution? I can. And it's amazing.