My younger sister Nancy spent a week visiting us from Oakland and arrived on Christmas Eve. During this wonderful holiday week, as we enjoyed and indulged in many cookies and an overabundance of sugary treats (some I made, others were gifts), Dave sarcastically came up with this slogan, “A Healthier Wei – Just Not Today”. I have to admit we all had a good chuckle, but now it’s not as funny anymore. Whenever Claire and I disagree over whether or not she should have another bite of sweets, my little darling looks at me and repeats this phrase with pride! (why do our children know how and where our buttons are!)
While I did pretend to be slightly annoyed at Dave for his clever spin on my message, for the past couple of weeks I have reflected on the importance of being completely honest with myself and my readers about the realities of our lives vs. “A Healthier Wei”. First, those who read my book will know right away that my book is not about telling mothers how to be “perfect” in how we feed out children, nor is it about the “perfect” diet, eating at the “perfect times”, nor eating the “perfect” snacks. Quite the contrary. My message and book IS all about our realities, our challenges and struggles as moms to feed our children to the best of our abilities, what we believe to be nutricious and good for them. Except it’s not that simple is it. The reality of feeding children looks something like this: “hurry up, you’ve been sitting here for 40 minutes, we are all done eating except for you!”, or this, “Stop playing, sit in your chair and stay there, take another bite,”, or “you have 10 minutes to finish your breakfast before it’s time for school”. Other realities of our day and nights: leaving work later than expected, calling spouse and hoping he actually thought about dinner and has a plan instead of just waiting for you, or, forgetting to defrost the protein which you were going to make for dinner. As I have always said to close friends, many divorces may have been prevented if only meat would defrost itself!
Everyone’s reality looks different, and how we feed our children are based on very deeply rooted personal, familial, socioeconomic, and so many other factors. How we feed our children is also influenced by what he/she seems to like/dislike to eat and how they react to us when we try to feed them. It’s just so hard so often. The conversation I am having every day with patients and their families is about feeding and eating in the context of their reality. Suggestions I make have to fit with your values and your family’s schedule and what you believe to be important for your child’s health. It is absolutely not reasonable to suggest that children simply never eat after 7pm, since it’s not even possible for me to promise myself that I will be free of my CheetosTM addiction forever. I don’t even dare make a bet with Dave, whom I would do just about anything to prove that I am right, that I won’t touch that spicy “Shin” ramen from a package that makes me feel so sick the next morning yet a few times a year I go ahead and make it at night and add an egg to it, like all good Asians do to their ramen!
My reality at home with Claire has always been about moderation. Now that she is getting older, I have realized I have to be even more conscious and help her become very aware of her own choices, instead of choosing for her. She continues to ask me if she can have sweets instead of just going to the cupboard/pantry to get it for herself. She has free access to food and snacks, but we’ve trained her to snack once at school (like all others, usually pretzels or crackers), and immediately after school (when she’s likely allowed junk/sugar). Our reality is that when friends come over for dinner and/or parties, she is allowed dessert and sugar in the evenings (still before 7 or 7:30 and not before bedtime). Our reality is that sometimes, when I am busy, I forget or give in more than I should. However, our other reality is that I roasted beets tonight, and sweet potatoes for meals later this week, and she was able to look at the beets and ask, “mommy, are those beets?” as she watched me peel them and stain my fingers red. Our reality is that I reminded her she will go grocery shopping with me next weekend and help me decide what to buy for our family meals for the week.(This should be really fun, my way of quizzing her to see how well she knows her produce and have listened to what I have been saying).
This past Saturday, Claire and I enjoyed rare “mommy and I” time at Barnes and Nobles close to our house. As I proudly flipped open the January issue of our local 435 South Magazine, which features an article about me and my book, we spent our hour reading magazines, she about fairies and I read all cooking magazines. Anyone who walked by would have noticed I bought her a sugar cookie with sprinkles and a cup of hot chocolate. Clearly, they would have caught us in “A Healthier Wei – Just Not Today” moment. If anyone saw me and wanted to say , “Aha, busted!”, I would have just smiled and told them that well, at least it was 4:15pm and not bedtime J
Somedays will better than others, but everyday is a new beginning and a chance to do better, eat better, live healthier, and feel better! Every decision matters, at every meal, every snack time, and this is how it begins. It’s not being aware and conscious about the food decisions that hurt us. I hope that by continuing to support Claire and allow her to at least have a chance to make a choice, she will get the practice she needs to live “A Healtheir Wei”.
Dr. Julie Wei is a pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist and the author of A Healthier Wei. As a mother herself, Dr. Wei is a passionate advocate for improving children's health through better diet and dietary habits. She has been committed to helping parents learn how to eliminate their child's ear, nose, and throat problems simply by reducing excessive sugar and dairy intake, as well as minimizing habitual late night snacking. She hopes to raise awareness for the need for accountability by both medical professionals and parents to ensure that children are not prescribed or take unnecessary medications long term.
When she is not in the clinic, operating room, or conducting research, you will find her in the kitchen preparing food with love along with her daughter Claire. If you sit next to her on the plane, she will likely share with you information about how to minimize choking hazards in young children, and many other tips for improving your child's health.