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Sometimes We Eat Fast Food... And That's Okay

Sometimes I feed my three-year-old daughter McDonald’s. And by sometimes, I don’t mean occasionally or rarely. I mean about once a week. And what’s worse? I eat fast food about three times as often as she does.

Writing those sentences just now gave me some serious anxiety. Because in a world of Paleo diets, organic freezer meals and green smoothies, I feel like I might as well have just told you that I feed my family drain cleaner. And some of you are probably thinking, “Well, she’s not too far off!”

See, therein lies the problem.

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Major judgment and mom shaming about the food we eat, and especially the food we feed our kids, is rampant. As usual with this sort of thing, it’s rare that I hear dads called out on it. Moms are usually the ones getting flack. And social media is where the boldest, meanest shaming usually takes place. The other day I read a Facebook comment that said, “I want to call child protective services to report the people who take their kids to Burger King.” Wow, for real? And while I think that we’ve all learned that posting pictures of yourself working out at the gym is a bit overdone, the photos and posts about detoxing and clean eating only seem to be multiplying.

Just to be clear, I think it’s great that many of us are becoming more mindful about what we put in our bodies, and especially our kids’ bodies. But a friend of mine recently reminded me that we tend to go to extremes – cutting out entire food groups, sticking to certain diets and plans at all costs, doing bizarre cleanses that border on insanity. What about balance? What about just doing our best? Even if sometimes our best includes shouting our order at a speaker from our car and then pulling up to the first window.

I want them to avoid the shame and guilt that come along with labeling some foods “all good” and others “all bad.” And when they are grown, I want them to feel freedom and joy around food.

Obviously, allergies and intolerances are a whole different deal. I’m not talking about that stuff. But for the rest of us, if there’s one thing I learned from working at a residence for women struggling with eating disorders, it’s that when it comes to food, variety is good. Freedom is good. Shame, guilt and rigidity are not good at all. And as parents, we need to remember that we pass all of that stuff on to our kids, whether we mean to or not.

So when I hand my daughter a cookie, I do it with a smile and ask her if it’s yummy, the same way I would if I’d handed her a bowl of her most favorite food – fresh cherry tomatoes. I don’t hand it to her with a look of defeat on my face or with the words, “I guess you can have it, but only one!” Because I want her to enjoy that cookie and not receive a message that she’s bad for wanting it or that I’m bad for giving it to her. I want my kids to sample a wide variety of foods. I want them to avoid the shame and guilt that come along with labeling some foods “all good” and others “all bad.” And when they are grown, I want them to feel freedom and joy around food.

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The other day, I told my friends – healthy friends who use essential oils, buy their milk and produce directly from local farmers and are successful at keeping sugar out of their diets – that I had buffalo chicken dip for lunch and my daughter had spaghettiOs. And the looks on their faces didn’t say, “You poor, ignorant fool” or “No wonder you’re wearing that bulky sweater.” The looks on their faces said, “Yeah, we’re not surprised and we don’t care at all…and you’re a good mom.” Because they truly don’t care. And they know that right now, in this season of my life, there are a million things that I’d love to be doing, that I need to be doing. Healthier, more intentional eating is one of them. But I just can’t do it all. And they know that there are other things about my life and my parenting that are wonderful and admirable, so they don’t shame me for having another grilled cheese sandwich or talk endlessly about the latest food documentary they watched.

Now if only everybody else in my newsfeed could catch on to that.

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