Interacting with conscious human beings doing delicious things in the world is one of the greatest joys and pleasures in being a solopreneur. Interviewing these men and women gives me an opportunity to bring YOU beautiful insights to ponder. It gives ME an opportunity to learn from, and grow with, people who are leaving a luscious legacy both at their tables and in their work.
Carrie Contey is a prenatal, perinatal psychologist. Not your typical parenting expert. Her background offers a unique perspective on children, parenting, family life and what it means to be a healthy, happy, whole human being. Carrie guides, supports and inspires her clients to live with a wide-open and courageous heart so that they can approach parenting with both skill and spaciousness. To learn more about Carrie’s work and her upcoming Evolve 2013 program or to obtain a FREE copy of her latest ebook, 5 Simple Steps to a more PEACE-FULL family life with young children., click the icon below.
We all have a story. Can you tell us a little bit about your food history? Where did your nourishment story begin?
I was marinated in a womb that was very tuned into food. My mother is of Armenian and Assyrian decent and my father is of Italian and Polish decent. All of these cultures are very food-centric. For our family, food was the centerpiece of celebrations. And celebrations were the centerpiece of family life. Everything was celebrated—birthdays, baptisms, holidays, graduations—with elaborate, joy-filled parties where the most delicious ethnic foods, were the main event.
What did you learn from your family about food and body image?
Early on I learned that food was pleasure, food was entertainment, food was comfort and food was love. I also learned that food was dangerous and we are not to trust ourselves around it. Can you say, “mixed messages”? I fully absorbed all of those messages and as a child I would over-indulge. I remember my mother saying, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach,” because I loved food so much and would eat quite a bit. This caught up to me and around the age of five I began to carry an extra 20 pounds. My parents considered themselves overweight and would constantly be on and off of diets. When I was eight years old my mother re-started Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time and I asked if I could go with her. I jumped on that train and for the next 20 years I was on an endless cycle of overindulging, feeling disgusted with my body, getting on a diet, feeling excited about making some progress, feeling tempted by food, falling off the wagon, gaining weight and feeling disgusted again. Yuck.
How has that influenced your relationship with food and your body today?
There are still vestiges of this old way of being in my reality. However, I’ve come a LONG way in the past fifteen years. When I was in my late 20’s I started to examine my relationship with food and my body. I was in graduate school and I was doing a lot of therapy. I started to understand the deeper emotional, generational, spiritual, mental, and physiological roots of my eating habits and self-loathing. It was a powerful time. I had moved to Santa Barbara and I was living with a family helping them care for their newborn twins while I was in school. The mother of the family had struggled with an eating disorder and she was working with a well-known and well-respected endocrinologist, Dr. Schwarzbein. The principles of Dr. Schwarzbein’s program were simple and practical—eat whole foods, make sure you are getting good fats, avoid processed carbohydrates but don’t cut out healthy carbs, exercise, etc. While living with the family, I embraced a whole new lifestyle. It was the first time in my life that I gave myself freedom around food. And at first I gained weight. Which was scary. However, after a couple of years I had become much less afraid of food and much more in touch with what my body needed to be healthy. At that point, I began to drop the extra weight. Today I am twenty pounds thinner and much more able to tune into what works for me and what causes me to feel like I’m heading back into the cycle of despair, diet, elation, disappointment. It’s definitely an ongoing journey but at least now I know how to nourish myself.
Carrie, based on the rich work you do with parents and families, what suggestions do you have for parents in helping their children develop healthy habits around food?
My best suggestion is to do the work to become conscious of your own beliefs, habits, early programming and fears around food. As several others have shared on this page, children are not just paying attention to what the adults around them say and do. They are emotionally, energetically and neurologically tuned into our beingness and they are absorbing both the conscious and unconscious messages that are getting communicated. Certainly talking about eating healthy foods, providing healthy foods and modeling good behaviors like exercise and tuning into one’s body sensations are essential. AND, parents must realize that their subconscious thoughts and beliefs are also being “heard” by their children. Taking the time to uncover these long hidden beliefs will transform the adults’ own lives and help their child have a cleaner lens around nourishment. In my work, I help parents shine the light on what they were programmed with in early life (that may still be unconscious) so they can make conscious choices in their own behaviors and convey a more conscious message to their children. It’s a win win!
You have worked with so many women in your role as an early parenting coach and human development specialist. In your opinion, what is the biggest struggle women face in nourishing both themselves and their families?
Most of my clients and workshop participants are mothers with young children. When they find me, they are often exhausted and emotionally fried. And as a result, they feel extremely overwhelmed by family life and parenting. After providing them with a warm hug and buckets of empathy, one of the first things I explain is why they are feeling so awful. I give them a very clear and simple picture of how the human brain and nervous system works. I help them understand that their emotional and physical energy is no longer their own. When children arrive they are whole, conscious people in little vulnerable bodies. Their brains and regulatory systems are very immature. The little ones are not equipped to manage their emotional experiences without emotional fuel from their caregivers, mainly their mothers. So, while a woman is tending all of the physical needs of herself and her family, she is also constantly feeding her children with her own emotional energy. If she is not regularly refueling it’s likely that she will find herself total depleted and totally exhausted. The solution to this dilemma is making self-care one’s top priority. I tell these mothers (and fathers, too) “parental self care is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.” If the family regulator goes down, the emotional and physiological alarms (both in the adults and the children) start sounding and everything is much harder. I also help them understand that a little goes a long way. It’s likely that parents of young children will not have big chunks of time to practice self-care and because of that often feel like it’s just not worth doing any at all. I encourage them to find ways to micro-nourish themselves. Little 30-60 second fill ups that, when practiced regularly and consistently, can start to add up. And, this definitely includes healthy physical nourishment. Once women understand this, and realize they probably didn’t receive great modeling around self-care from their own mothers, they usually get to work and family life starts to turn around. It’s quite beautiful to watch. How just a little personal nourishment can completely re-shift their attitudes toward themselves, their partner, their role as a mother and their connection with their children. In my opinion and experience, it’s the cornerstone of healthy, happy family life.
What are some of your favorite go-to meals and how do you organize your meal planning?
I tend to be a creature of habit when I’m home and save my indulgences for social situations. I typically start my day with eggs (I love eggs!) and then snack on fruit and either soup or salad with protein throughout the day. I’m a huge soup eater. I have two or three variations on the same soup—veggies, chicken broth, ground beef/turkey or bison, stewed tomatoes, spices and sometimes beans—that I eat all winter long. I never get tired of it. Usually I’ll prepare a big pot on Sunday and then eat it all week. In the summer I switch to big salads with protein. My challenge is that I spend a lot of time with friends and we all love to eat so even though I keep it simple and basic at home, with a few treats like chocolate and popcorn, I’m still learning how to regulate myself in social situations. Learning. Always learning.
I offer tea and popcorn to my class participants. My popcorn has become a bit legendary in Austin because it’s so delicious and so many folks have eaten it. Here’s the recipe:
1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil
1 cup of organic yellow or white popcorn
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Sea salt or truffle salt to taste
Heat the coconut oil in a large stock pot on medium high heat
(Note: I’ve experimented with different types of pots – Le Creuset, All-Clad and Revere Ware – and I’m slightly embarrassed to say that the cheap Revere Ware pot makes the best batches.)
Toss three kernels in while the oil is heating and cover.
Once the kernels pop toss in the cup of kernels
Pick the whole pot off the burner and shake for 20-30 seconds
Set the pot back on the stove and allow the kernels to pop
Once the popping slows down to almost nothing, take it off the burner
Open the lid, appreciate your fine work!
Toss in 1/2 of the oil and some salt
Pour the popcorn into a big bowl and add the rest of the oil and a bit more salt to taste
So simple and so delicious.