Mama Doc Philosophies

All Articles in the Category ‘Mama Doc Philosophies’

Can Soda Companies Help Fight Obesity?

Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 10.38.06 AMI’m curious what you think. Do you think companies that make, sell, and market soda can improve the challenges we face with obesity? I’m asking sincerely. I was struck by the Coca-Cola ad (below) recently released. I’m a pediatrician and I’ve never worked for a beverage company or any company that sells products to children. I don’t like that these companies market salty, fatty, sugary products to children. As a pediatrician, I would suggest I’m very biased. The food industry spends $15 BILLION marketing and advertising to children every year. Food advertising, directly to children, is known to increase rates of obesity. Even familiarity with fast-food ads has been found to be problematic. As parents, this isn’t hard to believe; I’ve seen my boys introduced to a product on TV and then ask for it at the grocery store. Because of my bias, I’m asking you—do you think companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi can help?

As the obesity problem persists, strategies have turned to protocols and regulation. Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released it’s first policy on managing weight-related diabetes. And in the past few years, the American Heart Association released a statement asking for increased regulation on advertising high-calorie, low nutrient-dense (“junk”) foods to children. In 2006, The Institutes of Medicine (IOM) said, “Food marketing intentionally targets children who are too young to distinguish advertising from truth and induces them to eat high-calorie, low-nutrient (but highly profitable) “junk” foods; companies succeed so well in this effort that business-as-usual cannot be allowed to continue.”  Similar sentiments are shared by the American Psychological Association, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Children Now, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The public, too. Last fall, the majority (67%) of international readers polled in The New England Journal of Medicine believed we should regulate sugary-beverage consumption. This on the heels of New York’s regulation banning sale of large sugary drinks. This isn’t just about a tax. Can these companies help? Read full post »

Mindful Parenting

mindful and the skyThere was a moment, just after President Obama was sworn into the office earlier this week, that I’ve been returning to in my thoughts relentlessly. He turned amidst the regal archway of The Capital and stopped. His accompanying family and tribe of lawmakers waited. He said something like, “I want to take a look one more time.” And then he looked back upon The Mall and seemed to take it all in. A few seconds, maybe 1/2 a minute or so. Not long, no, but the moment seemed to take up enormous space. Quietly, eyes wide open, he looked out to the millions that had come to celebrate and bear witness to his honor and his responsibility. Instead of looking at him, my eyes migrated to his daughter, Malia. I saw her watching.

It may have been mindfulness.

It’s of course never clear to an outsider who is mindful or not. Thinking and spending energy to be more present is a passtime that I was introduced to as a medical student because of the work of Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn. I use lessons from his work in my personal and professional life on a daily basis. Therefore, it was a sincere joy last night to sit amidst 1000 other parents and hear Jon Kabat-Zinn and his wife Myla talk about, “Mindful Parenting.” I was surrounded by my husband and friends, many colleagues and pediatricians, and I was lucky enough to sit near parents of my patients. It was community. To me it felt like a needed touchstone and a hearty reminder of how nicely being mindful fits into a busy, reflective, hectic, and imperfect life.

5 Lessons From Kabat-Zinns On Mindful Parenting:

  • Mindfulness is not the antithesis of anything. There is no single ill or evil that impedes it. In fact, the last question on the night from the audience begged The Kabat-Zinns to detail the biggest obstacle to mindfulness. They couldn’t answer it really. All this, precisely because mindfulness in its simplicity is openness, compassion, and love. At the opening of the talk, Jon helped us recognize the work that it took to bring us there, amidst the heavy Thursday raindrops, rush hour traffic, busy workweeks, needy toddlers or teens at home, and the truth that there was potentially something else we really should be doing. He reminded us all that is was LOVE that had brought us together to listen to ideas about mindful parenting. This we all share. This is why mindfulness is possible for everyone at every time in their life. Each new moment is evolving into something entirely new.
  • At one point, Dr Kabat-Zinn looked down at his watch. At first glance it appeared he was tracking the timing of his talk and then he burst out, “If you check your watch, it’s now again.”  A hilarious reminder that each and every moment that unfolds is always now. We have a chance to bear witness to time indefinitely. We are offered up the opportunity to be mindful, open, and present with an infinite number of “do-overs.” Oh, wow–it’s now again. Myla furthered this saying, “Every moment is the possibility of a new beginning.” Every single moment is a new chance to be aware. Read full post »

Renewal, Intent, Intimacy, Reflection

Screen Shot 2013-01-04 at 12.36.15 PMI’ve self-prescribed a year of renewal, intent, intimacy, and reflection for 2013. Although I’m unable to etch those 4 words onto my forearm, I’d really like to keep them at the helm. Resolutions are exceedingly difficult to maintain. The bar is often too high, there’s little trigger to make a desired behavior happen every day, and the resolutions we choose typically demand profound change. I learned much of that from BJ Fogg and because I believe in his model, my 2013 resolution will have the aforementioned 4 prongs: renewal, intent, intimacy, and reflection.

This year, I’m easing into these resolutions by gradually making changes to how I work and how I live. I spent the end of 2012 bearing witness to our limited days on earth, reaping the bounty of commitment that family and friends give me, and sorting out my own role as a caregiver, writer, and advocate. However obvious it is that life is precious and limited, there are the rare instructive days in our lives that preach it to us. One for me unfolded in August. Read full post »

More Than A Dozen Children Died At School Today

The news of the shooting in Newtown, Conneticut this morning is beyond horrific. Nauseating and troubling, it’s left me sobbing at my computer to think of the anguish families face. And the lesser anguish we all feel right now. To think of the lost hope and the lost efforts of all those that work so hard to protect children and those who work to educate them. And the loss of safety in another school.

The news from Newtown is agonizing. The loss is unthinkable.

And I’ll tell you this: there are days I wake up and wonder, “Am I doing this right?” or “How can I balance my life and work to improve the lives of children ?” or “Can I really speak my mind?” And then there are moments like this, where it’s clear.

Here’s my mind:

  • I believe we have an obligation to fight to protect children from guns in the hands of the crazy, the wild, the intolerant, and the careless.
  • I believe it’s really difficult to figure out who is crazy, wild, intolerant, and careless.
  • I believe gun control should have been yesterday’s topic, not today’s. Lives could have been saved. I believe politicians must put politics aside and create a safer United States now.
  • I believe the President of the United States has a moment to make change.
  • I believe that guns have no place in our homes.
  • I believe we must keep demanding improved understanding and education for we parents about how to get automatic weapons out of civilian hands.
  • I believe I am hardly alone on this. Even so, when I write about gun control I get angry responses.
  • I believe this: WE ALL WANT THE SAME THING—safe communities, healthy children, and opportunity for long lives.

Tell me what I can do to make a bigger difference. And please tell me what you’re going to do.

Tips from Pediatrician Dr Besser on talking with children about tragedy (this was filmed after Aurora shooting) and tips from Dr Robert Hilt at Seattle Children’s. Easiest first step is likely to just turn off the news…

When Parenthood Exceeds Expectations

We surfaced the other day, my husband and me. Bobbed up after having been submerged in the challenges and complexities of stress, tantrums, hectic schedules, holiday crunch time, and career responsibilities. When we surfaced we found ourselves in one of the most luxurious moments of life. It was one of those spells I want to compound. More than just burning it on my brain, I want to relive that memory again and again. I want to hit play and repeat…I suppose that’s part of why I’m sharing it here.

Here’s what I mean: Have you had one of those meals or nights or walks or adventures with your children recently where you realize there is simply nothing better? Where you wake up in a moment and consider that it is for this moment, this one space in the continuum of time, that you were made to be? When you come to feel like it’s why you’re alive?

In my opinion it happens to all of us in profoundly new ways when we are lucky enough to raise children. And it’s usually unexpected. These pristine, magical moments with our children and family don’t come with proper planning. They don’t usually happen on vacation, at the fancy meal, or at the picnic we’ve planned for 2 weeks. We often don’t have our fancy shoes on. The moments tumble into our lives when we least expect it with absolutely zero material value. But like falling in love for the first time, these moments sweep us up off our feet and arrive without a hint of warning.

This is, I believe, the gift of the season of our lives. When parenthood exceeds expectations.

Recently I was talking with a good friend about these rare moments. The ones that happen where your children are enticed by conversation, fully engaged in a game or meal, where they get along with each other, and you realize there is nothing more precious or intimate. Often it seems these moments follow illness or fear. But sometimes it doesn’t take a trigger or challenge. Recently a moment appeared for my friend when she and her husband had cancelled a date night. They were too exhausted, decided to stay home and have dinner with their children and just crash. And it happened–the moment–they connected, their children were angels at dinner, delighted and laughing, present and mindful. She and her husband looked up at each other and realized they were woven into one of those meals they wouldn’t trade the world for. Really.

For us it happened late Thursday night on the floor of our living room. Our six year-old had received Mastermind (a board game) for his birthday and the four of us teamed up to play. It was the first time I’d played in 25 years and each of us presented to the game with excitement. We were enticed to win, eager, and we each giggled as we navigated and explored ways to outsmart the others.

And there we were, lying on a hard wooden floor, surrounded by the darkness of winter entirely together with only little plastic playing pieces between us. Momentous connection and family intimacy. I can barely articulate why and how I knew it was one of those moments except that I realized this is really as good as it gets.

Teasing Out Self-Talk: Our Inner Critic


I had the good fortune to hear Jim Webb, PhD give a lecture on the emotional needs for children.

During his talk he mentioned children and their self-talk. You know what that is, yes? Self-talk is that voice that constantly evaluates how you’re doing things, how the world is playing out, and ultimately how you feel about it. Dr Webb shared the tip that we can tease out and bring to light the inner critic our children have, too. Not only can we mention that this self-talk exists, we can demonstrate and model that voice for our children. We can show them we also have a voice that hovers to illuminate what we do wrong or what we do well.

Dr Webb made me realize we identify this self-talk early and help children acknowledge and own it. If I remember correctly, no one taught me about my self-talk growing up. I wonder if they had if my critic would be a bit more forgiving or generous…Maybe we can help our children identify their inner-critic and help them shape their critic into a more productive coach. Just knowing self-talk exists and bearing witness to this critic could be a great start to insight…

Teach Children About Self-Talk Early

  1. Teach children that self-talk exists. Once children are in school, start mentioning and letting them know that their voice and inner-critic is there. Help them recognize the self-talk they are participating in and ask them how it helps them during they day. Ask them if it trips them up. Read full post »

Engage With Grace

It is the wonder of life that makes this beautiful day so remarkable. A national day, every year, to give thanks and prioritize togetherness. Happy Thanksgiving!

May we be so brave that we can live with integrity, with love, and with compassion as we raise our children. May we find ways to revolutionize things, too.

One team is trying to do just that with end of life challenges.

On this day, when you are together with those you love and trust the very most, can you embark on a journey to share a universal human experience more thoughtfully? Please consider the Engage with Grace discussion today. Share with loved ones around the fire, around the table, or on the walk what it is you value most about your life and what you value most about your death.

Print out the 5 questions ahead of time. Speak openly as best you can and listen intently. Engage with Grace with all those at the table, teens included.

More info here in a guest post from the Engage With Grace team, and more about this project in a previous post I’ve written (great video included).

I am thankful for you all and will do my best to Engage with Grace today, too.

Vote With Your Children

Four years ago I took an early discharge from the hospital to go home and vote on election day. My son O had just been born. We were both stable (me after a c-section and he after a brief stay in the NICU).  Things were going well enough that although the medical team suggested I consider staying another night at the hospital, I was determined to get out of there and cast my vote. Fortunately the medical team agreed. I remember thinking it was the beginning of ensuring that O knew how marvelous and luxurious it is to be heard. Voting is quite possibly the loudest thing we do.

There is nothing else to say today but that I urge you to vote. As my kindergartner left for school–his voter registration in hand for the mock election– I felt hopeful. Hopeful that we’ll increase election engagement, that we’ll advance the gift of democracy by increasing the vote, and that our children’s generation will be active, vocal stewards for the truth. Today I’m excited that we can raise children who spend energy working to improve equality of all people, improve access to health care for all people, and bring equal rights for all families.

We’re remarkably privileged to live in a time where all adults can vote. As parents we often vote on behalf of our children–how can we think of the future without them?

Facebook and Twitter are aflutter today with parents posting their election experiences with their children. Just as our children learn to speak by listening and by echoing what we say, our children can learn to vote by joining us.

Imprint the power of your vote…grab onto the hand of your child or steady yourself with the handle on the stroller or the car seat.

I say do anything and everything you can today to cast your vote. And make sure you bring those little ones along.

Helmets Or Health Or Happiness?

A recent piece in the New York Times highlighted the reality that some cities are ditching required bike helmets to encourage bike riding, even here in the US.  Too much of an inconvenience, I guess. Too much of a hassle and impediment. Public planners all over the world don’t want helmets to get in the way of, ummm, health.

And it got me thinking, in places like Europe where cycling is far more mainstream, and where helmet-wearing isn’t, are they just that much more laid back? Are they healthier and/or possibly happier, too?

Does zooming out and thinking of the crowd (better active population, lower BMI, less diabetes, less rules) while avoiding the thought of the catastrophic realities of few individuals (those who suffer harm from traumatic brain injury) make us healthier and happier as a community?

The question of course can only be answered if we agree on a definition of health and if we agree on one for happiness, too. And if we’re not the one whose child is injured.

But just this week three things happened that made me wonder if there are competing goals when I spend time chatting about bike & sports helmets and on using carseats properly, too. The issues are somewhat similar. A study last year found that the majority of parents don’t take pediatricians’ advice with car seats and another found parents are far more lax with booster seats when they carpool, too. And it was these 3 things that got me thinking on this again: Read full post »

BPOD: A New Acronym

This may be the best decision I’ve made in a decade. In August, we came up with a new acronym around our home and a tradition was born. Our boys take this very seriously now. Consider starting one at your home, too? Gratitude is powerful stuff.