Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Young Children and Eating Disorders

Today I was reading an article about a ten year old child who had almost died of Anorexia.  Ten years old!   To think that our society is so preoccupied with body image that preteen children could actually starve themselves to death.  The struggle this mother and father went through trying to save their child's life was heartbreaking.  The young girl, Shelia, had been in gymnastics and when she dropped out she started gaining weight - just a pound or two at first.   But that pound or two began to bother Sheila. "I'd been around all these older girls at the gym who were always saying things like 'Oh, I'm so fat,' and I started to worry that once I quit gymnastics, I would get fat, too," Sheila, now 13, remembers.

Over the next six months, worry gradually turned into obsession as she cut out sweets and chips, then dairy and meat and finally everything but salad.  She began exercising excessively.  Her mom felt there was a problem when she began to drop weight, but a wellness checkup showed that she was still within her normal weight range and was beginning to show early signs of puberty - signs that a pediatrician would normally see in a girl her age.  The pediatrician explained to her about the importance of eating from all the food groups and Shelia said she understood.

But she continued losing weight.  A rush trip to the doctor revealed that Sheila had lost 17 pounds -- almost a quarter of her body weight -- in the six weeks since her well-child visit. Her body temperature was only 94 degrees, her heart rate was low and she was severely dehydrated. With hospitalization and psychiatric help, this child finally overcame the illness but not without consequences.  Anorexia in a child this age can permanently affect their development and can often damage vital organs even when the eating disorder is eventually successfully treated.

This story struck a sympathetic chord with me.  Our family suffered a terrible loss almost twenty years ago when our eighteen year old niece died of complications of Anorexia two weeks before she would have graduated from high school.  Our lives are full of "what if's".  What if we had not complimented her on her weight loss when she started losing weight after years of being slightly overweight?  What if there had been earlier intervention?  The world of internet and social media has brought more attention to this disease and people are more aware of it now than twenty years ago.  They know what to look for.  Here is a link to some of the early warning signs of eating disorders:

 How can I tell if my child might have an eating disorder?
Look for these behaviors, signs and symptoms:
  • Eating tiny portions or refusing to eat
  • Intense fear of being fat
  • Distorted body image girl staring at plate
  • Strenuous exercising (for more than an hour)
  • Hoarding and hiding food
  • Eating in secret
  • Disappearing after eating—often to the bathroom
  • Large changes in weight, both up and down
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Hiding weight loss by wearing bulky clothes
  • Little concern over extreme weight loss 
  • Obsessive reading food labels for calorie/fat content of food. 
  • Stomach cramps
  • Menstrual irregularities—missing periods
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Sleep problems
  • Cuts and calluses across the top of finger joints (from sticking finger down throat to cause vomiting)
  • Dry skin
  • Puffy face
  • Fine hair on body
  • Thinning of hair on head, dry and brittle hair
  • Cavities, or discoloration of teeth, from vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Yellow skin
  • Cold, mottled hands and feet or swelling of feet
If your child has some of these signs, you should bring them to the doctor right away.  Your doctor can rule out diseases that can appear to be eating disorders.  If an eating disorder is not treated, it can become life threatening.

 We can set examples for healthy eating.   Experts recommend teaching by doing. Stay away from using food as a punishment or reward - this sets up an unhealthy relationship with food.  Also, don't label foods as "good foods" or "bad foods" since this might lead to bingeing.

Children observe and follow us.  Parents should set an example and be careful not to obsess over food or their own weight in front of their children.

But at the end of the day, it is not the fault of the parent if a child has an eating disorder.  Anorexia and bulimia are serious mental disorders and as with all mental illnesses should be treated by professionals.

When I read this, I thought of my own ten year old granddaughter and her healthy little developing body.  We take our children's health for granted.  I feel the pain and heartbreak of mothers dealing with their child's illnesses of any kind, but one that seems that it should be so easy to fix - one where you think just eating normal amounts of food would cure it!  But it doesn't work that way, does it?  But it is an illness that can be fixed, - early intervention helps.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Homemade Classic-Cinnabons / Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

When I saw this recipe posted on Shine-Yahoo, my mouth started watering and my tummy started growling!  Isn't it amazing the signals sent to our brains by images of yummy food?

When I pass by Cinnabons in our local shopping mall, the aroma of the fresh baked cinnamon rolls beckon me to the counter.  They're almost irresistible.  I say "almost" because the price tag of close to $4 for one roll makes it a little easier to pass it by.

I haven't tried the recipe yet, but when I saw 442 calories per serving versus Cinnabon's 880 calories and 6 grams of fat versus Cinnabon's 36, I'm all for giving it a try. Devin Alexander, author of Fast Food Fix and the Biggest Loser series of cookbooks developed this recipe. She says:

"My version of the Cinnabon has also become the recipe in the book [Fast Food Fix] that I've used to prove to skeptics that, in fact, these [fast- food] recipes can be duplicated to satisfy cravings with a fraction of the fat and calories of their original counterparts. Though I believe many of the [other] recipes [in the book] truly duel the originals, this one happens to travel much better than many since it doesn't need to be hot. The rolls are just fine if they sit at room temperature for several hours."

Here's the recipe for those of you who may want to indulge in a lower calorie version of the Cinnabon.

Cinnabon Classic Cinnamon Roll Recipe
- Devin Alexander, Fast Food Fix

For the frosting:

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons reduced-fat Neufchâtel
3 tablespoons light butter from a stick, softened
1/2 tablespoon fat-free milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the buns:
Butter-flavored cooking spray
2 tablespoons light butter from a stick
1 cup fat-free milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup artificially sweetened fat-free vanilla yogurt
1 egg
1 egg white
One 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast
4 cups unbleached flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons corn syrup
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting:

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, Neufchâtel, butter, milk, and vanilla extract. Mix on low speed with an electric mixer fitted with beaters or stir with a spoon until combined, about 1 minute. If using a mixer, increase the speed to high.

Beat or stir vigorously until smooth, about 30 seconds. Allow the frosting to set for at least 10 minutes. Place in an airtight plastic container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Just before using, stir well with a spoon.

For the buns:
Lightly mist a large bowl with cooking spray. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the butter to soften.

In a large microwavable measuring cup or a medium-sized microwavable bowl, combine the milk, granulated sugar, and the remaining butter. Microwave on high power until the milk is hot (130 degrees), 2 minutes.

Add the yogurt. Whisk until the sugar dissolves (some small lumps of yogurt may be visible). Add the egg and egg white. Whisk to beat well. Add the yeast. Whisk until dissolved.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the salt.

Mix or stir by hand with a wooden spoon to blend. Add the milk mixture. Mix on medium power or stir vigorously to blend. (The mixture will be very sticky.) Add the remaining flour, mixing or stirring until absorbed.

Lightly flour a work surface. Turn the dough onto the work surface. (A plastic dough scraper or brittle plastic spatula is helpful for getting out all of the dough and starting the kneading.)

Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Add scant amounts of flour as needed. (The dough should be soft but not sticky.) Place in the reserved bowl. Lightly mist with cooking spray. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the corn syrup, brown sugar, the remaining cinnamon, and the vanilla extract. Stir to blend well. Set aside.

When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down and place it on the lightly floured surface. Knead for about 1 minute. Dust lightly with flour. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Lightly mist an 11-by-7-inch nonstick baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside. Using your hands or a floured rolling pin, press or roll the dough into an 18-by-12-inch rectangle.

With a butter knife, evenly spread the softened butter over the dough. Drizzle on the filling. With a knife or spatula, spread it evenly to the edges. Starting at one shorter side, roll the dough, jelly-roll fashion, into a tube, ending seam side down. Cut into 8 equal pieces. Place, spiral side up, in the reserved dish.

Cover the dish with a damp kitchen towel and place in a warm spot. Let the rolls rise for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake until very lightly browned but slightly doughy in the center, 22-28 minutes. With a spatula, transfer 1 roll to a plate. Using a butter knife, spread 1 ½ tablespoons of frosting over the top and ½ tablespoon down the sides. Repeat with the other 7 rolls.

Makes 8 cinnamon buns

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Tithing Jar - A lesson learned

Image borrowed from

Its importance was obvious as it commanded its own shelf – the top shelf of a little corner unit built on the backside of the kitchen cabinet facing the family room.  Its size seemed to change with the seasons – the quart size during the growing season and a smaller pint size during the winter months.  I suppose Mom didn’t want the quart size’s contents to look so meager during the leaner months of the year.   It was the tithing jar and it held the Lord’s portion of the money earned by the hard work, sweat, and tears from our family’s small farm during my growing up years.
The life of a farmer had its ups and downs during the 1950’s and ‘60’s just as it does now.  A good year was when the weather cooperated.  A cold snap in late Spring could kill off tender crops that would have to be replanted.  Too much rain could delay planting – not enough rain would reduce the harvest.  It was a fickle life the farmer led, controlled by nature, hard work and prayers. It was always a gamble, much like a poker game -- the difference between a royal flush and two of a kind.   The twelve-month calendars would stack up with dates and dollar amounts entered and labeled good years and bad years.  But the tithing jar was a constant in our lives and there was always something in it.

The tithing jar was a visual aid for us children.  It was a learning tool that my parents used to convey what mere words could not.  The sale of produce was carefully counted on the kitchen table and exactly one-tenth went into the jar.  When the cotton crop was tallied up at the end of the season, the jar held tens and twenties instead of ones, fives and loose change.  Mom’s check from working in a department store was cashed and its share went into the jar.  On Sunday mornings, the contents were removed from the jar, put in a white envelope and placed in the offering plate at church.  Mother handled this money reverently because after all, it was the portion that belonged to God.

The image of the jar on the shelf has stayed with me all of my life.  It is a gentle reminder that all we have is the Lord’s.  He asks only for a small portion in return.  A dollar earned, a dime in the jar – it was as simple as that.   The tithing jar -  I never saw it being filled begrudgingly - it was filled with gratitude.  And for that lesson learned, I am grateful.