"I just want my daughter to have a healthier relationship with food + her body than I have."
In honor of Mother's Day coming up, today's episode will teach you how to leverage your uniquely powerful influence as a mom to raise a daughter that never has to "heal" her relationship with food!
Amelia Sherry, registered dietitian (RD) is the author of - Diet Proof Your Daughter: A Mother’s Guide to Raising Girls who Have Happy, Healthy Relationships with Food and Body.
She is also the founder of NourishHer.com, an online space dedicated to helping mothers raise girls who have positive relationships with food and their bodies.
As a mom of 3 daughters, Amelia knows there is so much more baggage surrounding body image as a woman in our modern-day culture. This is one of those episodes that offers priceless insight into creating the outcomes that matter most to our kids decades from now!
IN THIS EPISODE, WE COVERED...
// MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE //
Book: I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
// CONNECT WITH AMELIA SHERRY //
**FREE on AMAZON May 9-11th, 2023**
Ebook: Diet-Proof Your Daughter: A Mother's Guide to Raising Girls Who Have Happy, Healthy Relationships with Food and Body
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Amelia Sherry 0:00
That happened, you know, multiple times I really was wake up to it where she was asking me for more food for more toast in particular. And she came to me with this just, you know, she was really timid about it and shy and looking down at the floor and I just realized that she felt uncomfortable and ashamed to ask me for more food...
Danielle Bettmann 0:25
Ever feel like you suck at this job? Motherhood, I mean? Have too much anxiety, and not enough patience. Too much yelling, not enough play. There's no manual, no village, no guarantees. The stakes are high. We want so badly to get it right. But this is survival mode. We're just trying to make it to bedtime. So if you're full of mom guilt, your temper scares you. You feel like you're screwing everything up. And you're afraid to admit any of those things out loud. This podcast is for you.
Danielle Bettmann 0:59
This is Failing Motherhood. I'm Danielle Bettmann. And each week we'll chat with a mom ready to be real. Sharing her insecurities, her fears, her failures and her wins. We do not have it all figured out. That's not the goal. The goal is to remind you, you are the mom your kids need. They need what you have. You are good enough and you're not alone. I hope you pop in earbuds, somehow sneak away and get ready to hear some hope from the trenches. You belong here, friend, we're so glad you're here.
Danielle Bettmann 1:39
Hey, it's Danielle. It's statistically quite likely, at some point in your life, you have counted calories or restricted your eating in some way. Maybe it was to lose weight. Maybe it was to alter your body. Maybe it was to supplement a fitness goal. Either way, you may not have fully realized or deconstructed your relationship with your body or culture or food until you are speaking to your daughter about what she's eating. Today we're here to talk about what truly matters for your kids relationship with food and how to leverage your uniquely powerful influence as their mom. Today I'm talking to Amelia Sherry, a registered dietician who practices using a non diet weight inclusive approach. She is the author of the book, Diet Proof Your Daughter: a mother's guide to raising girls who have happy healthy relationships with food and body. She is also the founder of NourishHer.com, an online space dedicated to helping mothers raise girls who have positive relationships with food and their bodies. Prior to founding NourishHer, Amelia worked in the department of pediatric endocrinology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, where she provided nutrition therapy to hundreds of families struggling with issues related to diabetes growth and weight. When Amelia first found out she was having a daughter, she sobbed. There is so much more baggage surrounding body image as a woman and our modern day culture. In our conversation together, she is quick to offer so much compassion so you don't become overwhelmed with the pressure and the responsibility to get this right.
Danielle Bettmann 3:15
I asked her to describe the truly holistic description of becoming a quote healthy eater. And what that means we dive into several of her books main takeaways, including health is based on habits, not weight. Dieting is linked to eating disorders, and that mothers are uniquely positioned to support girls. I also asked her to share how we can tangibly take shame out of the equation in our conversations. What to do if an older generation is making uncomfortable comments about your child's body or the food choices, as well as a forecast of what to anticipate and expect when your daughter approaches puberty and how to explain and normalize that to them as well. This is one of those episodes that offers priceless insight into creating the outcomes that will matter to your kids decades from now. So I hope you take notes, find Amelia's book to learn more, and share this episode with your partner or a friend. Let's dive in.
Danielle Bettmann 4:25
Welcome to Failing Motherhood My name is Danielle Bettmann and on today's episode I'm joined by Amelia Sherry. Welcome! Thank you so much for coming.
Amelia Sherry 4:34
Thanks for having me Danielle. I'm really excited to talk to you today.
Danielle Bettmann 4:38
I am too. This topic has come highly requested from listeners and clients alike genuinely and I'm so excited to dive in. This episode is for any mom who wants to have her daughter have a better relationship with food or her body then they might have in school and I know a lot of them are may listeners because they care so much they're taking their parenting seriously and they are all ears. I can't wait. Go ahead and introduce yourself. Who are you and who's in your family?
Amelia Sherry 5:09
Well, like you said, my name is Amelia. I'm a pediatric dietitian, the founder of a space called Nourish Her. I have a darling husband who's outside tearing apart our front porch as we speak. I have a seven year old daughter, an 11 year old daughter and a 21 year old stepdaughter. And you live in New York. Yep. I live in a suburb of New York City. Right up the Hudson River.
Danielle Bettmann 5:36
Nice. Okay, so I have to prequalify, Have you ever felt like you were failing motherhood?
Amelia Sherry 5:43
Yes. You know, where should I start? Every day? There's a moment where I'm like, Oh, my gosh, you know, and I have to think about how and when I'm going to ask for forgiveness for my kids for something I just really mocked up. So yeah, that happens a lot.
Danielle Bettmann 5:58
Okay, well, then you're part of the club. Even when you're an expert, you may or may not yell sometimes, right?
Amelia Sherry 6:04
Oh, yeah. Working on it.
Danielle Bettmann 6:08
We love to hear it. Because we are real over here on this podcast. So I know that there was one moment you mentioned in your book that you felt like you were failing your daughter when it came to food. When she was asking. For more. Tell us that quick story.
Amelia Sherry 6:25
Yeah, actually, it is the opening to my book, it was so pivotal for me, my daughter who's 11. Now maybe when she was seven or eight, you know, I just promised myself I would be so good with her with food. And I would never limit or restrict or make her feel embarrassed or ashamed mostly as a reaction to the way I grew up with food and just constantly be concerned about it. And getting a lot of pressure from my mom and my aunts and things like that to sort of watch it and came from the best possible place. I always like to say they're really watching out for me in their minds at that. But I promised to never do this to my daughter. And there was a moment and I've talked about one moment in the book. But to be honest, it happened, you know, multiple times, I really was wake up to it, where she was asking me for more food for more toasts in particular. And she came to me with this, just, you know, she was really timid about it and shy and looking down at the floor. And I just realized that she felt uncomfortable and ashamed to ask me for more food. And even though on the surface, I felt like I was doing my best to not let that happen. Somehow I realized I was still communicating to her that, you know, I disapproved of her wanting more. And it just, it gutted me no, never wanted to feel like that. So I had to really start doing a deep dive into you know, what was it communicating? What was I saying? I talked to my husband about it. And he's like, yes, sometimes you do, give off this, you know, like the meals over before it's over. So that was a big moment for me for sure.
Danielle Bettmann 8:00
So give us a little more backstory of your personal journey with food. And what that kind of led up to, you know, finding yourself then professionally in this field. Sure. So I had been dieting and really focused on my weight since the time I was in middle school. I never had a clinically diagnosed eating disorder. But now as a dietitian, and I guess eating professional looking back on my behaviors, particularly in high school, you know, very could easily have been diagnosed as an eating disorder. It continued on as I got older in my 20s. I was still always dieting it was more, you know, I became a little more savvy about it. And the sense of I was pursuing it because I wanted to be fit and healthy and not so much. Because I just wanted to be as thin as possible. Although I had no problem saying that either, you know, and it pursued me. You know, in my career, I thought I was going to law school. And then I made a big pivot and said, No, I want to work in magazines and women's magazines. And I was just writing about fitness and health constantly. And at a certain point in my late 20s It just kind of blew up in my face. I was living by myself, my friends were getting married, and I was just pretty much still obsessed with my eating and my weight. It was working out all the time and things like that. So I had another turning point where I started to reexamine my relationship with food and how much time I was investing in it. I discovered intuitive eating and I reshaped that and gotten a lot healthier place a much more balanced place. Then I became a mom my body changed in a lot of different ways that made me uncomfortable and it really wasn't as healed as I thought it was. I guess by the time my daughter was old enough to you know, where she was sort of taking a little more control over her eating, you know, pass the baby stage past the toddler stage. Things started shifting and I just realized that maybe my relationship with food wasn't as healed as I thought it was. As in comments like that, you know, even though I had in my mind, I never want my daughter to suffer this way, I never want her to be on a diet. You know, that moment I just described you like, you know, it was a real waking point that even though that was my intention, and wasn't really pulling it off that well. So by that time, I had also shifted my career and start pursuing nutrition full time became a dietitian, right around the time I became a mom. And it started to, you know, really press into how I was practicing nutrition with the families I was working in to, because I was practicing all these parents and moms like we can't put our kids in diets, we can't limit them. There are a lot of best practices and feeding kids to help them have positive relationships with food. So I really needed to start practicing what I was preaching to and kind of unravel, it was a lot more complicated than I think many of us realize, or even want to admit, because you know, it's a bag of worms, right? You open it up, and you're like, Oh, what do I really think you know, what I really think about this food? What do we really think about how much my child's eating or their weight or their love of ice cream? You know, like, what is really going on behind all that?
Danielle Bettmann 11:09
Yes, I know, I've definitely found myself in very similar moments where my daughter is helping herself to a second heaping bowl of ice cream, or, you know, getting to a place where she's not eating enough fiber, and she's constipated. I'm trying to like navigate this conversation and like a really just intricate way. And I'm trying to get it right. But I feel like I'm always getting it wrong. And yeah, I have two daughters myself. So this is a really relevant conversation, I really want to be able to dive into some of the pragmatically overall things so that moms feel like they have something to run with by the end of this episode. But before we get there, I just want to normalize that this is a very common struggle for moms, especially moms with daughters. And I saw a statistic in your book that said of 4000, women surveyed 25, to 45, as many as 70%, experienced disordered eating in some capacity, and a third spent over half their lives over the age of 18 counting calories. So just speak to how many families you have worked with where this is a very prevalent, dynamic.
Amelia Sherry 12:16
Yeah, I also think that those statistics and are probably even underestimated, they come from many different sources. And there's some that are even much higher in terms of how many women in particular have died at some point in their life. And it is it does cross the gap, the gender gap, as well, all different genders and gender identities are now struggling with this. I mean, I'm a little slanted or I have like a slightly different point of view, because I know that everyone that comes to me is already aware that this is causing trouble in their home, right. So everyone I see struggles with it, I think what people might not realize is normal. And I want to sort of normalize it is that a lot of the concerns people have or parents have, they come to me with concerns about and I'm using air quotes, how healthy their child is eating, or they just want their child to be healthy. And when we start to unwrap that and unravel it, what we really find underneath all that is, unfortunately, a lot of concerns about their weight. And that is hard to admit. And I think admitting that is really where we get into really figuring things out in a way that's going to support you and your child. Because if we keep making it about health, but we're really concerned about weight, we're not getting there because actually many habits and eating behaviors, that they are very healthy that they may lead to maybe weight gain or being a little heavier than you might be comfortable with. Or they may be in your mind like woowoo. And aren't we not supposed to be doing that, like, for example, eating ice cream or eating cookies. And the thing is, that's okay to eat ice cream and cookie, they taste delicious PS, your kids need a lot of calories, they're growing, they're moving around, what really we might be stumbling over is the idea that oh, that can cause weight gain. And then we kind of lean in with more like restriction or control or rules or dis-ease around the foods. And that actually, is what starts to trigger and create turmoil and chaos. You know, there's a lot of internal chaos for your child like, this tastes really good. Why is mom freaking out? And not just mom, dads as well? Why are they getting so upset about it? And then, you know, it starts to get a bigger and bigger issue and I can explain more how that starts to kind of sort of morph into this huge issue. So I think understanding like where that's one of the main things in my book, and something I always start out in session is like, really what do you want for your child and getting really intentional? So we need to know is it really when you say you want them to be healthy, what do you actually mean is that you want them to be thin? You want them to look a certain way that appears healthy, but when in actuality when maybe isn't that unhealthy because they've got all these like, you know, rules, and there's taboos around food that so they can actually function correctly and get a lot of variety. Sorry, went off in a little tangent there?
Danielle Bettmann 15:12
Nope, we're gonna follow the tangent because I think being able to even clarify even more and bring to our attention if we haven't spent a whole lot of time, you know, diving into maybe the deeper layers are kind of like peeling back that onion. What are some of like the maybe core fears at the root? Is it you know, bullying? Or is it not wanting to repeat an experience that you had 20 years ago and just doing anything you can, that seems to be able to avoid that? What do you see as some of those maybe more emotional motivators or fears.
Amelia Sherry 15:48
So there's a lot of conflict, because our fears are sometimes like working against each other. So in one sense, you might be really fearful that your daughter is going to end up on this long trajectory of dieting, dieting and wearing all the time, then on the other side in conflict with that is the concern that her weight, his or her body is going to grow and change in ways that are against what is considered ideal in society, and that's going to cause her stress. So that's why we get just so conflicted internally, and where we have to really start unpacking what our concerns are, which one of those concerns we really want to prioritize and pursue over the long term. And that's where from, and this is something personal to every parent, from my point of view, prioritizing your daughter, and your son and yourself, having a positive, balanced relationship with food that supports you physically, yes, but also emotionally and socially is much more important and can really help you thrive in your life in many, many ways, than pursuing that thin ideal, or the body type that will match up with what society says is, you know, valuable, those values there, don't hold water over time, you know, yes, they've been ever present in our culture. But pursuing them can be very damaging, in my opinion, and also research there have tons of research in the book, but pursuing, you know, if your body doesn't align with that, naturally pursuing these diets, and constantly working on constantly limiting, chasing all these new eating, sort of regimes can cause so much suffering, and it's just not worth it, you know, it can harm your health, physically, especially in children, we can see malnutrition, it can harm you emotionally, so much stress, so much anxiety, it can harm your relationships, especially if you're feeling the pressure of doing it. Because of a parent. Now you've damaged you know, as a parent, your relationship with your child is getting harmed because you're applying pressure to them to conform to some norm that not be natural to them. And when you have to come to that idea on your own, though, as a parent, so that's something you need to decide on your own, when you're ready to sort of pursue this healthier relationship with food as opposed to looking a certain way, then that's the work I do with women and moms and parents. Because even once you make that decision, it can still be really hard. Because you might have a doctor coming in and saying, hey, you know, the BMI isn't exactly where I want it to be. You need to have tools to understand where to put that information, and how to respond to it. So there's a lot there.
Danielle Bettmann 18:26
Oh, yeah, yeah. And I think just being able to shed light on some of that might help another mom understand her own behavior, maybe a little bit more, and be able to have more mindfulness or intentionality about just looking at it in a new light. And I don't want moms to walk away feeling even more guilty, because I'm sure that they have heard plenty of things of what to do and what not to do and feel like they've messed up already. So can you just offer a little bit of compassion? For a mom who feels overwhelmed already?
Amelia Sherry 19:00
Oh, yeah. Well, first of all, my main main takeaway from everything I ever say is that you your child is going to be a much healthier eater, now and over the long term for the rest of their life, if you could be more relaxed about food, then if you come in with more rules and regulations, so the more relaxed we can get about things, the better off your child's going to be, the better off you're going to be because you're not stressing and feel like you need to micromanage everything. And also, the better your relationship with each other is going to be you know, meal times have so much value aside from the food we're putting in our mouth. And so to really make sure that you're you know, focus on protecting that time and having a nice time with your child at the table when you're having the privilege of actually you know, having that time together. It's gonna get you and her a lot farther and in a lot better place than coming to that table and having you know, worrying about things or having an agenda about how much is eaten or which foods are eating. So I want to definitely reassure moms, first of all, that we're all have a lot of stuff going on in our heads, number one, and number two, if we can just take a deep breath and relax and just enjoy time with our child, as a very first step, which is hard, it is hard that you're going to get you're going to be just doing your daughter, all your children and yourself such a bigger favor than coming in and trying to think okay, but what am I supposed to say? What am I supposed to do? Does that help or make sense? Yes, yes. Because if we're aiming for that, I have to get this right, I have to say the right thing, then we're going to stay in a very kind of paralyzed state. And if we just take that pressure off, and like, there isn't just only one way that I can explain, you know, food, or that we can have a conversation about it, then I think that can just create a more relaxed, open minded perspective moving forward. And so that's exactly what I wanted to be able to speak to just think, to just think, from your daughter, your child's perspective, like, you know, they are clean slates in a lot of ways. So like, if your daughter senses that, you know, you're arriving to the table with a lot they sense, like, if you are stressed and tense and have a lot on your mind, they're going to come to the table and know, hey, this is a time when mom's stress like, This is stressful for her. I don't know what your daughter or son is going to think. But often, they can start to think it is about them possibly, or just to know that this is a tense thing. And maybe eating is harder than I think it is, you know, and actually, the truth is, like, probably wouldn't have been that hard for my daughter, it was me that was bringing a lot of the baggage to the table, you know, a lot of worries, a lot of concerns. And it was weight driven by me when I was younger, but parents are under so much pressure, even if weight isn't a concern, just the health, you know, which is a very vague term, but just thinking that my child has to be a healthy eater, and everything that they do, and all the foods they like or don't like is based on me, you know, that is so much pressure. So that's another reason just think, hey, if I can show up with a lot more confidence that ultimately my child probably is going to be a pretty good eater. Without me even doing anything except for just having the ability to provide, you know, food, a variety of food and letting it go at that, then that's again, just going to help so much. So wearing less and just showing up more with, like a positive expectation is great.
Danielle Bettmann 22:34
Yes, yes, kind of trusting the process a little bit or giving them more benefit of the doubt and more credit for being able to figure that out. And they're not relying 100% on us to instill every single skill, it's, you know, if we allow them to truly just tap into their intuition that a lot can happen, despite their without.
Amelia Sherry 22:56
Yeah, and eating I talk a lot about like eating is a skill we develop over time, you know, the intuitive part we have when we're first born. And I break that up in the book and talk about it a lot too. And of course, as I do, like, the knowing how much or how little isn't comes from intuitive place of really listening to your body and my full and my not Do I enjoy it, or do I not. But those other parts of eating like learning to like new foods or planning meals, knowing I need to pack a snack, if I'm going to be gone for a while, knowing that my plate really should have some variety on it, or even, maybe not today, because it was impossible. But over the course of a week, let's make sure I get some ready. Those are skills that your child, you know, learns over time, just like anything else, not something they just know. And just because they're not getting it right or not appreciating what you're putting out, you know right now or this week or this month does not mean that they won't get it over time. And again, just being a little more relaxed and showing up and modeling that kind of thing for them is going to help a lot more than you don't really need to say anything unless they ask you you know, for information and then you can provide it in an age appropriate way. For sure. Yeah, we develop these skills with experience and information. But over time, over a lot lots of time we have from now till they are you know, leaving for college to get it to get some experience, you know for them.
Danielle Bettmann 24:22
Yes, there's plenty of runway. That is reassuring to hear for sure. So that word healthy. Let's dive into that a little bit to kind of deconstruct that. So what does it really mean? To be a healthy eater?
Amelia Sherry 24:37
To be a healthy eater is to take pleasure in food, it's to have flexibility with food. By that I mean being really rigid with food or not finding certain foods acceptable not just in taste, but maybe because it's not, quote unquote healthy enough. That actually is not a great way to approach eating and I like to give examples to like for example I have a lot of rules in my mind, like, say my dieting self did like, you know, Doritos are off limits, I can't eat any whole milk because it's saturated fat, I can't do XY and Z with food that actually limits what you're able to eat. So if you get into a situation, like I like to give an example, and I was in my dieting days, like, going to a party, if I showed up somewhere, you know, I was younger in my 20s. And I wasn't always well, like smart enough to know I needed to eat ahead of time show up there, I'm starving. And now there's like nothing there that I find acceptable to my diet, you know, to my calorie, whatever was going on, which was different at different times. In my mind, now I have to go multiple hours without eating that is not normal. And it's not a good way to take care of yourself, right. So when I say being flexible, I mean, okay, maybe this isn't the best thing or my favorite thing to eat. And, but I can make do with this food right now to make sure that I get fed, because getting fed is the most important thing over anything. And we always have to remind ourselves that like making sure your child is actually nourished, and getting food is much more important than making sure it's only like one particular type of food or like just in one specific amount. Even going back a step before that is thinking about what healthy eating might look like I think in our country, when we've been trained to think about healthy eating, as eating in ways that support us physically, like our ideal physical state, like we want to keep, you know, foods that are low in sodium, so our blood pressure's like, you know, lower, and we want to make sure there's no saturated fat because of the risk of heart disease. And I'm not saying anyone needs to do any of that, I'm just saying these are the ideas that get in our mind, or we can have anything processed, because there might be chemicals in it, and that we've been like, vaguely know, like, oh, that isn't good, you know, but these notions really limit us because now we've just what I just cut out, like so many different foods or like low carb, I have to eat low carb, because otherwise, I'm gonna put on too much fat or my blood sugar is gonna go like without even understanding exactly what that means. Now we've just cut out all these grains, right from our diet and starchy fruits and vegetables and things. However, healthy is much broader. So I like to think of health in a more broad definition of like, I have a background in public health. So we think of health as also our emotional well being and our social well being. So eating a healthy eater, in my mind is not just someone who eats purely based on health recommendations and the threat of you know, a disease down the road, it's someone who eats yes, we want our physical health to be promoted with our diet. However, we also want to feel emotionally positive, reassured, non anxious, calm, relaxed, when we start eating, again, falling a lot of rules for our health can make us stressed-out weary, distracted. So if we are eating just to promote physical health at the expense of now being stressed out and distracted, that's not really healthy eating, right. So we need to lighten up on some of those rules, so that we can eat in a way that we're comfortable with and happy with as well. And there's that social part of our health. So having positive relationships is also a part of being healthy and well and having good relationships, like we're talking about at the table is really important as well. So thinking about eating in a way that supports all of those parts of our health is more important than just eating the, you know, least amount of sorry, I'm picking on saturated fat, but somebody's got to be the poster child. So it's gonna be that today. That fat today.
Danielle Bettmann 29:04
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Danielle Bettmann 31:29
I think being able to just broaden that description to one that is more holistic or comprehensive, is a really healthy way of looking at that. And it does help us be able to put into play all of the different facets of our kids' relationship with food that we might not have been valuing as much or even seen as being a part of the equation. So I really, really like that and want to make sure that listeners sit with that. You mention like some of the three big takeaways from your book, which I'll mention the title of because then we'll connect to it at the end. It's called Diet Proofing your Daughter: a mothers guide to raising girls who have happy, healthy relationships with their food and bodies. And one of those main takeaways is health is based on habits, not weight. Can you speak to that a little bit more?
Amelia Sherry 32:20
Sure. So we live in a very weight centric country, our health care is very what we call weight centric, meaning that if you're a patient and your BMI or body weight, isn't were, say, studies or statistics deem that it is meant to be or ought to be, then we're considered unhealthy. And we have are very sort of that bias like country, you know, like we there's just in our culture to assume that if you're in a larger body, that there's something wrong with you. And there's something wrong with your health, right? That is very unfortunate and very untrue. So, when I work with families, adults or children, the parent might come in with a big concern about the child's weight. But what we really need to look at is the child's habits. This is for adults and children as well that your habits are really what define your health, not your BMI or your weight. And when we do try to focus on weight and use this sort of weight centric model or sort of approach, we get in a lot of trouble. Because if we're trying to push down or weight for example, say with dieting, we end up with a lot of disordered eating and a very unbalanced unhealthy relationship with food. And we know from research as well, we don't end up in a smaller body either. So now we have you know, we don't get really any benefit from it. We feel stigmatized, we feel negative about our natural body, we now have these really unbalanced behaviors around food that usually revolve around restriction, which over time usually results in binging. So anyway, we want to stop focusing on weed and start focusing on things that will actually improve or protect our health. You know, for example, being more active, not for the sake of changing your body weight, but being more active for the sake of how it helps you feel the energy you get the better sleep, you're better, you're more resilient in the face of stress. You know, things like that is a much better place to focus on having regular meals, you know, with. So we know family meals have many, many benefits physically and socially. And emotionally. So focusing on just showing up to the table and having that positive experience as opposed to coming there thinking okay, what can I eat to make sure my wheat is a specific place, right, which gets us in a lot of trouble, like I just said, yeah, there's so many behaviors that we could focus on having more variety in our diet, as opposed to cutting things out. You know, having all getting all those especially think of children like they need so many vitamins and minerals. They're growing in so many ways. And the way to do that is to include a variety of foods so that they can capture all those nutrients as opposed to, oh, wait, wait, wait, you can have that because of this. And you can have this because of that. That is more your habit as opposed to thinking, you know, always was your way. It's like a default way of thinking. I think, especially for me, as a woman, I don't know how you feel about it. But growing up, I mean, that was really priority number one with all my eating, unfortunately, was, it was always, you know, with the end goal of managing my weight, and it didn't do me any favors, at all, you know?
Danielle Bettmann 35:33
Yeah, I really liked that. And the second takeaway is that dieting is linked to eating disorders. So tell us more about that connection.
Amelia Sherry 35:45
So the number one risk factor for eating disorders is dieting. It's so it's low body satisfaction and dieting. So that is really what I'm trying to, the message I have is just we really want to protect our daughters from this notion that they need to be in a certain body, a to be healthy, or even to, you know, be to feel happy. Because this is such a huge risk factor. And for all those reasons, I just said, when we start to eat in a way, with the goal of trying to manipulate our bodyweight, we end up with a lot of issues. And anyone who has been on a diet probably knows what I'm talking about. It is very stressful. It is really hard on our self esteem is extremely distracting. It takes such a huge, you know, we have like a limited capacity to think about things in our brain from day to day as moms we experienced that all the time. I mean, I didn't even know my limits until I became a mom and was like, what? Yep, there they are. I can't think about 16 things at one time. It's like impossible. And that's why something's always slipping off the radar. Maybe that's why I had to like, you know, kick dieting out there. Because I was like, There's no room for you right now in here. Yeah, yeah. But we don't want to have that burden our mind. We don't want to have it in our kid's mind. There's no upside to it. And I think one of the things that can be talked about a lot, probably not right now, but to think about too, is how we think about okay, well, my daughter's not dieting, and I'm not dieting, but we do need to be healthy. That's where we really need to kind of go deeper and be like, cool, but what does health to you? You know, because as we unpack layers, weight is in there for many people. And that's the thing that so many dietitians are talking about, you know why when that idea is in there, where, you know, how does it cause problems for us in so many different ways? And how can we just kind of put it to the side and stop making it an issue? Yeah, it's heavy.
Danielle Bettmann 37:41
Yeah, that's a big piece. I just read a couple of weeks ago, Jennette McCurdy's memoir, called, I'm Glad My Mom Died. And in the book, she describes her onset of her eating disorders, and kind of how she felt throughout it, and then eventually, how she works to heal from them. And I found it very insightful for her to describe the thoughts and feelings that she had, while attempting to eat as she healed from the disorder, and just how she described, it was really, you know, really, really crippling amounts of shame, that she felt when looking at something quite benign, like spaghetti. And because I haven't had that personal experience, it was really eye opening for me to be able to see that it's not that the spaghetti itself is the problem. It was all of the meaning behind it that she had gotten from her mom's relationship with food and all of the things that she had told her and said, and like, if that's something that would be helpful perspective, I'd definitely recommend that book, but speak to a little bit more of kind of taking how we can take shame out of our conversations around food, if that is like a goal that we have.
Amelia Sherry 39:07
Yeah, for sure. So the way we get shame is by telling our not just I don't want to keep saying, you know, mothers and daughters, this is it. But even ourselves like these foods are off limits. This isn't good. For us. This isn't healthy, even if we're not. So in our culture, thinness is equated with health all the time. And our kids are picking up on that from a very, very young age, whether we're saying it to them or not. We have research on that five and six year old girls saying they're unhappy with their body and their weight with like, where did they get that from? So it's out there. So what we want to do is to the way shame starts is by sort of associating Well, if I eat this or take pleasure in that, then there's something wrong with me that something bad's gonna happen to me right? And we become we feel the thing is that we don't not want to eat those foods anymore. We still want to eat them, but now we just have a lot of conflict about it right? Right. So making sure that you have a more neutral attitude towards foods. And there aren't these like taboo foods and off limit foods and foods that are going to be really harmful for you like getting rid of that language with food or good and bad sort of thing, like a very binary way of looking at food for your child could be really helpful, because then they can be more open minded, and not associate like, this is bad, you know, doughnuts are bad. So does that mean I'm bad, if I want to eat them, it's going to make my body change in bad ways. Like, we have to get rid of that language, because, again, doughnuts are out there, and we're gonna eat them and enjoy them. But now we're just gonna kind of internalize all of this, meaning that we've attributed to it in front of our child, or maybe not even us, that's why we might have to even work harder, because it might not be us saying it, but our child's still picking up on it, you know, teachers say things, there's things in media, of course, people say things without realizing the weight of it, you know, and they're so entrenched in it, it's in the air, you know, we're all breathing all the time. So they might not be thinking twice about it the way I am. Because I'm, you know, that's my job. I'm a dietician. But other people might think But that's the way you know, you talk about these foods, and they're bad for you, and you shouldn't eat them, because they're bad for you, because I want to help you and protect you, but it's actually not helping at all. It's doing just what you describe, where we're still going to eat them. But now we're just going to feel really bad about it, right. And we want to protect our kids from that. And it is a practical, to bring it down to more practical is to sort of have a more neutral attitude towards foods. And a lot of what I do, being a dietitian is help parents understand like, what basic nutrition is, and that, you know, a donut has sugar in it, yeah, but also has carbs your child need carbs. And it really isn't the horrible thing that diet culture makes it out to be. And our child might get a lot more out of it if we incorporated donut into their diet, here and there, or whatever makes sense for you. So that they can kind of be very blase and nonchalant about it, as well. There's a lot of trust in there, there's a lot of things that have to go in, you have to trust your child to be able to eat it in a calm way, you have to stay calm, so they can stay calm.
Amelia Sherry 42:14
Yeah, there's definitely a lot there. But we want I think, just what you brought up about kind of getting rid of helping, you know, to not have those strong feelings about it so that your foods is really helpful so that our children don't internalize those feelings, right and get, that's where eating becomes very sort of not healthy and abnormal. It's really the relationship with food. Right? Not the food itself.
Danielle Bettmann 42:40
Yes, yeah, that sums it up really well. And I know that there's a listener here that says Like my mother in law, is having those comments and saying those things without really thinking about it's not intentional to be harmful, but it's coming up, and it's making me uncomfortable because I'm working on this. Do you have any language that you'd recommend that mom use to help create some, like teamwork around that?
Amelia Sherry 43:08
Sure, do you want to roleplay? Do you have something like something that someone might have said, I mean, I hear this all the time, you know, from parents I work with, what do I say? It's always the mother in law. Sometimes it's not. Actually sometimes it is. Often mom's mom, too. I've had that experience where, unfortunately, you know, my mom has passed away, but she has sisters. They're still there. You know, it actually stings even worse, from my experience when it comes from someone that was saying it to you when you were younger, you know, so like, hearing my I tell a story on my blog of like, hearing my mother's sister who I adore and love so much, but say things to my daughter that I had heard and were really felt a lot of pain from when I was younger, just stings even more probably, then I think I could blow off a mother in law comment more than I could, you know, with my own family. Have you ever been in that situation yourself? Like where you've had another family member say something that you didn't really jive with in terms of food?
Danielle Bettmann 44:14
Personally, I have tried to get ahead of it, where we had a specific boundary setting conversation with grandparents that said, like, hey, these conversations are off topics. And when you're around our kids, we don't want to hear anything about commenting on their body or commenting on what they're eating or not eating. And you know, we shared a little bit of that outside of the context of it happening in person and in real time. And I know that's obviously the ideal is to be able to have a back and forth when it doesn't feel emotionally triggering. But I've definitely had those questions from my clients where they were in a situation they didn't know what to say. And then they come to me afterwards like what should I have said because I really wanted to stand up to you know, for my daughter but I didn't know how to handle it because I was just emotionally triggered and had to go like calm myself down. And you know, it's always helpful when you feel a lot more confident when you have at least like one sentence in your back pocket.
Amelia Sherry 45:11
Yeah, for sure. Well, I don't have one sentence, but I do see I do talk in my book about like, just taking positive immediate action. So for example, you know, being maybe at dessert time, a lot of people, especially around the holidays, will say, like, oh, I shouldn't have this I shouldn't you know, or this is too many calories. But one positive action would just be to take the food yourself and enjoy it, you know, I tell a story about watching my cousin just cut into cheesecake, you know, the older cousin who I just adored, you know, cut into a piece of cheesecake and serve it yourself and just eat it, you know, and say how delicious it was without making apologies to anyone about anything. So sort of taking positive action and countering what they're saying about the food. And living it yourself by saying, you know, maybe if you're not hungry, you have to eat the hole. That way you could just cutting it, putting it in place. This is so good. I love it. I feel so great to have this today. Because especially holidays are a tough time because there's all of our favorite foods all at once that we don't get to eat often all year long. So it's definitely a ripe time for eating, you know, too much, which also normalize, hey, it's kind of normal to overeat on this day, because these are my eight favorite desserts that I haven't seen since last, you know, Thanksgiving or what have you.
Danielle Bettmann 46:23
Yeah, and revaluing the social aspect around it?
Amelia Sherry 46:26
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, these are important things. It's like rituals in your family, maybe to have it. I also think it's important to think about when you have these issues of who the person is. So I've, I think it's in my book, and also on the blog with like, is this a person that is sort of flexible? We were talking about flexibility before? And what a strength that is, and if I talk to them privately, are they going to see my point of view where I say, Hey, we're really trying not, you know, not to comment on bodies to preserve our child's body, you know, image or feeling good about their body or food, whatever, you know, whatever your thing is that you have going, that you're invested in right now, or are they the kind of person that's not going to change at all, you know, not flexible at all, because one thing that's good to remind yourself is, like, I always remind myself that I'm not here at this meal, or in this family situation to change people's minds about diet culture, or food or their own body, you know, heal my mother in law's old relationship with her body. Like, that's not my agenda, my agenda is to protect my daughter. So I don't need to waste energy, because a lot of my clients get involved in having these very big discussions with their in laws and in about diet, culture, and food. And I think that that's actually the wrong way to go. Because your real goal, you have to focus on your goal, right is to protect your child. So if you think it's worthwhile to explain it to them, and they're flexible, and they'll be like, Oh, wow, that's so interesting. I'm on board. If not, don't waste your time, set a boundary, like you say, we don't talk about this. And I'm sorry, it's off limits. And if they break it, then say, hey, remember, we talked about this, okay? The next step is, unfortunately, we're not gonna be able to eat with you anymore. And we love spending time with you. But we're not going to be able to have meals together. If you know, this is what we're talking about. And it's hard, definitely hard to set those rules. But you can remind yourself, like, my wish to protect my daughter so much and want her, you know, to feel good about her body no matter what, I'm really committed to that. So I'm willing to say, hey, we're not going to come for dinner anymore. Like, we'll go for a walk, we'll do whatever, but we're not going to eat here. Those are tough things.
Danielle Bettmann 48:32
Yeah, you have permission to take that step if you feel like it's necessary. And, you know, hopefully take steps before that, that creates a more successful relationship. But yeah, I mean, that you're right, I love being able to re clarify what your role is. Because our role is not to change everyone's minds, our role is to protect our kids, with every effort we can that are with that is within our control, and being able to find then what feels like the right next step for our family in this situation is going to give you a lot more clarity with your intuition.
Amelia Sherry 49:03
Yeah, and I mean, sometimes it could be if it's someone you don't eat with a lot, too, you might want to take that perspective of someone you're eating with a lot, you're gonna take a lot firmer stance and make a much stronger boundary. If it's someone you see, once a year, maybe you just talk to your child. After you take that cheesecake, you take immediate positive action. And then you talk to your child after about like, Hey, that's not the way I don't value you because of the way you look. And I'm so happy you're able to enjoy this food. You know, you can also do just some little repair work and reframing with them after.
Danielle Bettmann 49:35
Yeah, no, so, so good. And the last takeaway I wanted to circle back to from your book is that mothers are uniquely positioned to support girls or their daughters. And so since we're around Mother's Day, I'd love for you to be able to speak to why exactly that is.
Amelia Sherry 49:55
You are the most powerful, influential person in your life, daughter's life, especially when they're younger, probably for the rest of their lives, for good or for bad. And it's going to be for good because the fact that you're even investing time and listening to a parenting podcast just shows how incredibly invested you are in this relationship. And if you are women raising another student to be woman she's looking at you for as a role model for many things. So you have the power to help her see the world in a way that you know, that you want her to see it and to protect her, give her that it sort of empower her to rally against, you know, what pressures are out there that just aren't going to serve her? Yeah, I think don't ever underestimate, it can be intimidating. But don't ever underestimate the influence you have over your daughter. And don't feel discouraged by the negative things that are out there. I mean, you know, you can overcome those things by just constantly reassuring her and constantly modeling for her the things that you want, you know, to offer her, like the other perspective and lean into that as much as you can. And it will be amazing. She's already like I said, if you're invested in listening something like this, then she's already got a great, great role model right there for sure.
Danielle Bettmann 51:20
Yes, commend yourself for just that amount of mental energy and effort you are putting into learning and doing differently. And that's so So, so valuable. Yeah, you just have to remind yourself of that, because we can look at the one out of the nine things that went positively the one thing you didn't say right or do right. I know, I was beating myself up last night because my daughter asked like, Oh, Mom, do you think I could do this in life and I just the first thing out of my mouth was not helpful. I was like, criticizing myself after like Darn it, Come on. Like I had the opportunity. And she just knocked up a softball and I knocked it right down. But okay, I can easily offer an apology and say what I should have said, and instead, you know, move forward with that repair in our relationship. And it's okay. And that is always possible.
Amelia Sherry 52:09
I mean, I also think like the fact that you just gave your daughter another like, Danielle, oh, my gosh, you just gave her another valuable thing is like, Hey, I screwed up. Can I apologize? And can I make it right? Like that also is a great like lesson to model for her not even a lesson but just a way of being. And that's so valuable. I mean, I apologize to my especially my 11 year old probably like I think of something you know, I could have, but I'm really showing her, hey, you know what, it's okay to make mistakes and come back and say, you know, I wish I hadn't done that. I wish I did this. I think that's a great skill to give her so she's easier on herself, right? When she like, does, maybe what she perceives to have messed something up in the future. And as far as what you say, I always tell my parents that I work with and myself, like when I feel like I've messed up, there's no one thing you can say your child that is going to ruin their relationship with food or with their body or with any of these things. It's little, like micro things that happen over and over and over and on the micro things that are happening over and over and over are primarily you know, going right? Because you're coming at it right with this attitude. So there is no you can't really mess things up that much by making a mistake here and there. Right.
Danielle Bettmann 53:21
Yeah, that is good to hear. Definitely. So for moms that are on the front side of their child going through puberty, I know a lot of the families that listen to this podcast have younger children. So I'd love to be able to forecast just a quick understanding of what to expect before it occurs. So when girls are going through puberty, how does that affect their relationship with their body?
Amelia Sherry 53:49
Yeah, so pre pubescent girls will gain it's normal to gain fat, the fat can tend to accumulate in the abdomen. So your daughter might get a little pouchy belly. And it's really important to stay calm. First of all, the reason it's challenging is because your body may be changing against what our culture thinks is valuable, which is like thin and flat tummy's right. So that can be a hard change for your daughter, if she's, for some reason, very focused on the way she looks. Many girls I find at that age actually aren't. But many parents might notice that change. And we saw this a lot during the pandemic because it was most intensified, I guess, by being with your child more somehow thinking that that body changes are a reflection of their eating mistakes with their eating or mistakes with their feeding. And absolutely, it is absolutely not. So just knowing that your daughter's body is going to change. It's going to increase in fat stores that is absolutely healthy and normal. And if you're being challenged by it mentally or she is acknowledged that it's because it is going against what we see out there as being told is perfect, that's a problem with culture, not a problem with our daughter. And so being able to understand that I think can help make it a little can make it easier. So that that stress doesn't show up. But like at the meal or at the table, her appetite will increase for sure. You know that that definitely happen. And we want to just again, normalize that and be prepared for it. And if your daughter is starting to notice these changes and becoming self conscious about it, it's really helpful to normalize it for her, you know, to say, Hey, this is happening. I'm gonna ask, be curious, you know, how are you feeling about it? Or if she says she's unhappy, saying, you know, What makes you say that we don't want to assume either, because we don't know. And we get so much good information when we just, I think approach things with curiosity, and just, you know, ask them for input as opposed to assuming, like, we know what they're feeling or thinking maybe their weight isn't even the thing that's bothering them, or their body changes. Yeah.
Danielle Bettmann 55:56
Yeah, yeah. Cuz you don't want to project either, we want to be curious. And that's huge. Okay, oh, my gosh, so much good insight, I am going to make my husband listen to this one, he usually supports me and listens along, but I'll make sure that he makes a point because he is the chef at our house, we are spoiled. But I know that if this resonated with you, and if this is important to you, send it to your partner, because the more that you can be hearing the same things at the same time, that creates a lot of powerful understanding of supporting your kids. So now that we'll wrap up, how can listeners connect with you and your work?
Amelia Sherry 56:35
Yep. Well, if you're a reader, you can definitely check out my book. And I'm not so great in interviews, that giving really good specific action advice, which you are so good at Danielle. But in the book, I made a very specific effort to do that. So there's a lot of like, especially with the food, because we didn't talk about foods specifically, you know, two very specific things you can do in terms of meal planning, or things to say or ways to approach things. So if you like to read, a lot of people don't like to read. So you can come to my website, it's nourish her. So it's NourishHer.com. And you can find I have free resources there. There's a free download on protecting your daughter from diet culture, like an audio guide. You could take a free course body image, you can take a paid course where we work together. That's the best place. There's a blog there if you just want to look at short articles. And you can always email me if you have a question about anything I answer. And I have a free like discovery call to if you just want to see what resources are out there for you. I also, you know, refer people out all the time. So reach out, because these are really important things. And you can make a big difference to your own sanity and feeling just more confident yourself by saying out loud that question that you might not want to feel comfortable. Ask it you can ask me? Yes, yes. Oh, that's huge when you can just feel more equipped to handle those conversations and turn that around.
Danielle Bettmann 58:02
So good. Okay, I'll put that on the show notes. And the last question I asked every guest I have on is how are you, the mom your kids need?
Amelia Sherry 58:10
Well, I definitely am stepping up to the plate in terms of being the mom that I needed around food and weight and body acceptance. I might be failing in multiple other areas. But I'm poured a lot, a lot of energy into sort of healing with this one and trying to be better at it with this one. Yeah, I might want to loop around and see a lot of the things my mom did, right. So I can do those things as well. But that's one way. I'm sure that's what came more intuitively. Yeah, hopefully. Hopefully. I'm I picked up on that stuff, too. Yeah.
Danielle Bettmann 58:44
No, that's great. They're lucky to have you very sure. Thank you. Anyone that's putting that much mental energy even to that reflection has grown leaps and bounds. And that's huge. So thank you again, for all of your expertise and your insight and for taking the time to share it with us. It's truly invaluable for how it will impact our relationship with our daughters. And thank you. Thank you so much. It's so needed.
Amelia Sherry 59:07
Thank you, Danielle. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Danielle Bettmann 59:15
Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of Failing Motherhood. Your kids are so lucky to have you. If you loved this episode, take a screenshot right now and share it in your Instagram stories and tag me. If you're loving the podcast, be sure that you've subscribed and leave a review so we can help more moms know they are not alone if they feel like they're failing motherhood on a daily basis. And if you're ready to transform your relationship with your strong willed child, and invest in the support you need to make it happen, schedule your free consultation using the link in the show notes. I can't wait to meet you. Thanks for coming on this journey with me. I believe in you, and I'm cheering you on.
Learn how to confidently parent your strong-willed child without threats or bribes so you can finally break free of power struggles, guilt + self-doubt
Confidently parent your strong-willed child without caving in or dimming their spark so you can finally break free of power struggles, guilt + self-doubt!