Pediatrician Dr. Mona Amin on The Impact of Focusing on Children's Weight


00:00:00    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village and today I get to hang out with Dr. Mona Amin. She is a board -certified general pediatrician, a lactation educator, parenting coach, and a mom. She's been featured on Parents .com, Good Morning America, ABC Nightly News, Romper, Condé Nast Traveler, Very Well Family, and NBC News. We got to chat on the impact of focusing focusing on children's weight. She works in private practice, and her passions include early childhood development, focusing on the impact of healthy sleep, a healthy relationship with food, and healthy coping skills in the first seven years of a child's life. She has parenting and how -to courses to guide parents from birth to four years, including social media channels on Instagram and TikTok, a top 50 parenting podcast that your girl's going to be on, and a YouTube channel. Through her handle, PedsDocTalk, P -E -D -S -D -O -C -T -A -L -K, her goal is to provide relatable and easy -to -digest education for the modern parent regarding the health, safety, and wellness of their child so they can have a more confident and calm parenting journey. I felt this conversation so deeply, and it's been interesting. I noted this in the conversation but Mila was born 9 pounds 12 ounces like an almost 10 pound baby and it has been so interesting to like hear the way people talk about her body right now as a baby and like oh she's so healthy and what they mean is like she's got rolls she's a chunky little peanut but this idea of like because she's such a meaty little babe and that she is healthy, right? And then as you get older, how that shifts. And when we see humans who have fat on their bodies, there's this belief that it means they're unhealthy and just wild, like how early these conversations start. And Dr. Mona and I got to dive into that really like huge impact that it can have on kids and ways that you can be an advocate for them at the pediatric office. If this podcast is serving you, if it has been helpful for you in any capacity, please take a minute to rate and review it. It helps other folks find this podcast so that they can have access to free information to guide them on their journey as well. I'm so grateful for y 'all. I love this village so much and I'm jazzed that I get to hang out with you and have these really important conversations and that we get to bring incredible experts in to have these convos. All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:02:53    Alyssa

Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a master's degree in early childhood education and co -creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing Method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together. 


00:03:15    Alyssa

I'm so glad that we're at this point of getting to hang out because I have been following you for years now. I was trying to think back at like, when did I start following you? And it's been so long, I don't remember at this point, but truly utilize your Instagram platform for my own personal, like, okay, what do I do in this instance, Dr. Mona, 


00:03:37    Dr. Mona

I love it. 


00:03:38    Alyssa

Constantly like scrolling. The only thing I wish Instagram had was like a search filter, like search her feed for ear infections, right? Like whatever. 


00:03:48    Dr. Mona

That's why I started my blog and my YouTube, right? Because the fact that you cannot search on Insta was driving me nuts because so many people would be like, Hey, I saw this post. So I literally move everything to blogs and YouTube form because it has a searchable filter. And that was one of the main reasons because there's so much content there. It's just, you can't ever find it once it goes down the feed. I mean, it's not easy, you know, even if you put things in little highlights, it's not always so easy to find. So yeah, I appreciate that. Yeah. 


00:04:17    Alyssa

Yeah. I've checked out your YouTube a couple of times for that reason where I'm like, I need to be able to search and find this. So thank you. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and expertise with us. 


00:04:29    Dr. Mona

Right back at you. I'm so proud of you and the book that, you know, you, the fact that you wrote a book, had a baby. I mean, it's just like a lot of my I'm already like, wow, but I love it. I'm so excited for you and your journey as well. So the feeling, the mutual admiration is, is there. So I really appreciate that. 


00:04:47    Alyssa

Thank you. Well, this topic today is really pertinent. I feel like it's been it's interesting because I had so Sage and Mila were both born at home. Sage was eight pounds, six ounces, kind of, you know, not a small baby, but not like huge, kind of run of the mill here. And Mila was almost 10 pounds. And I have found myself now, like, just noticing how people talk about them differently. That, like, people, it's so interesting. There's been a shift in terminology where people will say, like, wow, she's so healthy. And I'm like, oh, what you mean is, like, she's a meaty baby. Right? Like, she's got rolls for days and they're delicious. But there's still this idea of like, oh, we can tell health by looking at her, by her size. And just noticing that difference now that I do have this like deliciously roll -filled babe and having a different experience this time around and how the rest of the world perceives her. 


00:05:52    Dr. Mona

Oh, absolutely. I mean, who doesn't love, let's be real, who doesn't love a rolly baby? I mean, it is very cute, but yes, you are right, that from the beginning the baby is born there is this sort of expectation of what a body should look like. And I say this and I know people are like, it's too much, like you're getting too deep into this, but we're already looking at newborns as a chunkier baby is more healthy than a petite baby. And then that narrative switches when that child becomes older and all of a sudden societal expectation says, well, no, now you need to be more lean and petite and you cannot be on the higher percentile. And so it's so interesting how weight is just perceived by society and health is perceived by weight, which is not always equitable. So it's definitely a really important conversation and one that I always like to have on my platforms because it can cause a lot of anxiety and, you know, pressure from parents as well when it comes to food and also negative body image. So it's a really important conversation. 


00:06:49    Alyssa

Yeah. And it's so interesting to look at like this dichotomy of me right now in a postpartum body that feels heavier and larger than I'm used to. And then her in these like meaty rolls. And we look at her and just as you pointed out, we're like, wow, she's so healthy. She's thriving. This is delicious. And then I see it in front of the mirror and I'm like, oh, well, why do I have a different narrative about the body I'm in right now? 


00:07:13    Dr. Mona

Yeah, I can show you my rolls. What do you think about it? 


00:07:15    Alyssa



00:07:16    Dr. Mona

I mean, literally, but you're so, you're so true. And it's because of what society has told us about what is beautiful. And, you know, I think, I was a nineties kid. And so all of that messaging that literally was given to us on magazines at the checkout counter, everywhere we go, cellulite isn't a good thing. You know, having rolls isn't a good thing. And that is the female body. And also this will apply to male bodies as well, but it is such a reality. And we don't give the same love and compassion to our bodies as we do our children for sure. 


00:07:45    Alyssa

But I think this focus on like weight and percentiles and I guess what we can measure, starts right from the jump, you know. And now even in utero where people will be like, Oh, yeah, I just had a friend who was like, I'm getting induced because my baby is going to be on the bigger side. And I was like, Oh, wow, okay, we're like, doing this before the baby's here. And just like the impact. But I'm curious, from your professional lens, like, when are percentiles useful? Like, is there a use case for them? 


00:08:20    Dr. Mona

I love it. And you are right that it begins in utero at those visits. I had an MFM, so maternal fetal medicine doctor, because of complications. I had gestational diabetes and there was already this built -in anxiety when you have a medical condition and I did IVF and I would go to those visits and they would measure the baby. I had an amazing MFM who was like, listen, I don't care what percentile this baby's on. I just want to make sure that there is a trajectory of growth. And that is how I approach it outside when the baby comes out into the world. So percentiles, I don't think we should completely say they're useless because for me it is a part of the puzzle of health and what it can show me is really more so the trend, right? So you'll hear, hopefully, clinicians talk about your baby's percentile trend versus the number. So what I found is that so many families will come in if they've never met me before and they'll say well what number is my child on? I'm like, what do you mean, what number? And I had a family one time that was like, yeah, I wanna know what number. And I'm like, you mean percentile. And I was like, oh, I don't normally tell you the percentile but I'm happy to. Your child's on the 58th percentile. And the dad looked at it and said, well, how do I get him to the 100th? And I looked at him and I'm like, this isn't the goal. The goal isn't for your child to be on a certain percentile. 


00:09:37    Alyssa

To get an A. 


00:09:38    Dr. Mona

Yes, and that is what it feels like, right? Because when you hear percentile, the basis of a percentile is when you look at a number, so let's say 58th percentile, and it's a boy. So a boy and a girl has different curves, right, percentile curves. So 50th percentile on a boy curve, that says that compared to boys of that same age, you are larger than 58 % of those babies, right? But that doesn't account for genetic variation. That doesn't account for a lot of familial history because the most recent percentile curves are from 2000 in the United States, and they revamped it because before that, it was from 1977, it was only white children who were formula -fed. So in 2000, they broadened and introduced a little more diversity in ethnic diversity, and also formula -fed and breastfed babies. But even that being said, we are using a metric sometimes that is fed in comparison, right? Because you have two different babies, right? Genetics are there. One was eight pounds, one was 10 pounds, same. I had a seven pound, 12 ounce boy and a six pound, eight ounce girl. And their trajectory has also looked different, right? Both are very healthy, just like your babies, right? But their weight, my daughter is way more slower to gain weight than my son was at this age. And they have two, same parents, but they, even though they're siblings, they're gonna have different genetic outcomes or different growth curves. So when we look at a growth curve, The utility is trend. So if I start to see a child at the 10th percentile, and then over the next two visits, I'm seeing them drop, 8th percentile, 5th percentile, 3rd percentile, or I see a child who's on the 50th percentile, and all of a sudden the next visit is jumping to the 90th or the 100th, I'm going to have this family follow up closely with me because it is important for us to see the trend because if we see a stark increase, then it could be a sign of an endocrine disorder, right? Like, is there thyroid issues? Is there diabetes? Why is this child all of a sudden jumping percentile curves? Is the family overfeeding, right? That's always an issue for me early on. With solid foods, are they creating a routine? Are they allowing the child to eat whenever the child wants? Are they doing some sort of structure? All of that matters. And then for that younger, the lower percentile child, if that child is starting to drop, I'm gonna be asking more questions. Well, how is breastfeeding going if they're breastfeeding? Are you formula feeding? Does the child latch to the bottle, to the nipple? So it's going to give us some information, but it's not an automatic, well, oh, your child's lower percentile. This means that they're failure to thrive. Or your child's a higher percentile. This means that they're obese, which I think so many times in the medical field, we start to equate higher and lower numbers with this sort of, OK, well, you must be like this, or you must be like this, when in actuality there's a lot of other factors like genetics that play a huge role in our body physique. 


00:12:42    Alyssa

Yeah. Okay. This is so helpful. It made me think of, I have twin niece and nephew who, uh, boy, girl twins, and the boy was about seven and change seven pounds and change. And she was three 14, three pounds, 14 ounces. And she was this teeny little peanut and was thriving. They went home together. She was in the NICU for two days and then went home and it was just like so lucky, so fortunate. And she's forever been a little peanut. And my sister -in -law, I remember early on saying that she was so grateful for her pediatrician because on the very first visit, they said, listen, they're going to be on different growth curves. Our goal is not that she gets to where he is. It's that we're looking at them as individuals and saying like, she might never even hit that first, second percentile, is she growing? Is she healthy? Is she capable of like doing X, Y, and Z? And as long as she was, that was gonna be her growth path. And he was on a whole different one, right? And I, like that feels pertinent here. And now you look at them and like, still she's built like my sister -in -law who's very tall and thin, and that's how Emma's built. And genetics are like so very clear. It's like copy paste. And she is just going to be on her own growth curve though. And I think when we can get so bogged down in the numbers, they're like, what number are they? Right. As that parent was coming in asking you and that goal of like, how do we increase it? Or how do we get it to a certain optimal number? I think it takes away a big part of the picture and it can be so stressful as a parent of like, okay, are we feeding enough? Are we feeding too much? When am I doing this? How is that? The ability to obsess over feeding a young child is already very present. I think we can like add to that sometimes. 


00:14:47    Dr. Mona

Well, I love that you gave the example of your sister -in -law who has a more petite child, because we tend to always think about body image and weight, which people who are on the higher end of percentiles, when in my experience, and also being Indian American, I see a lot of petite children that get over -labeled as failure to thrive, and that actually can create body image issues as well. So we have to remember, we have to remember that there is body image issues, whatever weight you are, you could be the 50th percentile, 100th percentile, third percentile, those body image issues can be created by the adults in that child's life. And I'm gonna be very clear on this. And I already love that you told me that your sister -in -law had a pediatrician that was very clear from the beginning, because that's where this starts, right? A vulnerable mother, for example, who's sleep -deprived, all she wants to do is do the best for her baby, right? Whether that's breast, formula feeding, approaching sleep. If they're being told by their child's clinician, you are not doing enough, your child is failing to thrive. I hate that diagnosis, by the way. It leads to a path of anxiety, like you said. It leads to worry that I am not doing enough for my baby. My job was to nourish this child, and now I'm being told that it's not enough. And that not only can lead to a tank in milk production if someone's breastfeeding, but it also can lead to what you said is anxiety. So from the beginning, how we as medical professionals approach these conversations is really key. And the words that we use, oh my gosh, what's going on with your feeding? Versus, hey, you know what? But let's look at this together. I'm noticing that your child was on this part of the curve, and I'm noticing over the last two visits, we've kind of dropped a little bit. Tell me more about how feeding is going for you. Do you feel like your child's satisfied? Does your child get stretches of sleep? Is your child developing appropriately in your eyes? Because that is when we're approaching percentiles as a holistic approach versus a, ooh, bad, bad. Because I think, I see this a lot, that a lot of clinicians can tend to get pigeonholed into this number game, right? The BMI, the percentiles, and don't even get me started on BMI, and that can have a huge disservice to that parent and subsequently how they approach newborn feeding and then eventually introduction of solids and solid foods in their toddler years as well. 


00:17:07    Alyssa

Yeah, okay, hugely important. And now I think as we're moving into, like from that infancy into toddlerhood, you know, I think of like my three -year -old when we go to visits, now it starts to shift in terms of what he's hearing, what he's being exposed to, what he's gonna take in. And I've just been really mindful of it over these last couple of years of like, ooh, what do I want him to hear or think about what weight means and what health is? And I'm curious from your standpoint, what are things that we can do as parents to advocate for our kids in doctor's offices and as we're going through, you know, even just a well visit where we're gonna do a weight check. Or is BMI something that eventually is gonna be discussed? Is that something I should be prepared for as a parent? Like, you know what I mean? If you could walk us through like as they're getting older, what are ways we can advocate for our kids? 


00:18:01    Dr. Mona

I love that. And you know, in terms of that BMI comment, BMI, we could do a whole episode about BMI. I don't find it very useful in any way. And a lot of it has a lot of racial bias because BMI doesn't account for some people could just have more muscle density and thus their weight could be higher, leading to a higher BMI. So BMI does not always equate to obesity, right? And I think a lot of the reason why clinicians use a lot of BMI is that, okay, obesity is something that we should be aware of, right? We know that a high obesity rate can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes and other endocrine disorders. But that being said, we need to also look at the child in front of us, the family history, the family body type, and also discuss, again, the nutrition, the exercise, the lifestyle. How can we advocate? So how I would approach this phase by phase, right? Because of course, like you said, a younger child is not going to really hear the words that we use, although I think it is important. But yes, a four -year -old, a five -year -old is starting to really listen and internalize the way that we discuss body. So from the beginning, in my ideal world, I would want a clinician and a family to discuss trends. Rather than saying, you know, your child is on the da -da -da percentile, I would love for it to be like, hey, welcome to the office. How is everything going? Before we talk about weight, how are you doing? Da -da -da, chit -chat. So the focus isn't immediately on, hey, welcome to my office. Your child gained this much weight, right? Because then already we're putting that as the primary pedestal. So first we're going to talk about the child. How is everything going? How are you feeling? Lovely. Let's go through the basic things I have to go through, which is weight trajectory and height, right? Because height is also something that a metric that we're looking at. And for younger kids, head circumference is something that we're looking at. So with the weight, I want to look at trends. And so when I talk to a family, I'll say, hey, everything looks great with your weight trend and your height trend. I'm very pleased. If there's a concern, what I usually do is I flip the screen and I show the curve and I say, hey, I just want to show you how your child's growing. You can see here that there's a little dip here, I want to explain why I'm not concerned, or if there's an increase, I'll explain why I'm not concerned, or I'll ask more questions. And I think when we start to focus on that big picture, like I've already mentioned, of how is feeding going, how is sleep going, how is exercise as the child gets older, that's really key. Now let's take the child who may be on the higher end of a percentile, right? And this is the child's body build. They eat well, they exercise, they are just built larger than their peers. With that can come some internalized insecurity, and that can be created by the parent, and that can also be created by the clinician. So in this situation, to advocate, what you can do is write on a note before you go into the office, or if you know your pediatrician well, say in private, hey, I love you. I would just love that we do not talk about numbers or weight at our visits. We can talk about how they're eating well, and this and that, but I don't want to talk about numbers. And if you're not able to speak about that before the visit, write it on a note, hand it to the MA to tell the pediatrician, or give it to the pediatrician as the doctor walks into the room. And that should be something that cues them to say, I need to pivot the conversations that I have. And that is how we're going to have that sort of advocacy that you're talking about. The terminology that I do not like and I think can lead to a negative body image are things like using the terms your child is overweight. Are you not concerned about your child? Like I've heard this said, you know, like do you not think this is important? Like shameful language, right? Like and if the child is eating certain foods or drinking sugary drinks, you know you're not supposed to be doing that versus hey let's talk about why I would love for you to prioritize water as your primary source of drink versus sugary drinks because we know that sugary drinks are not healthy for us on a routine basis. That's across the board I'm not gonna even deny that, but the way we approach it. And then also the foods I love my snacks I love chips. I love cookies. It's so yummy. What other foods are you eating? You know talking about again the nutrition as a whole. Yeah, I also love cookies and snacks, too but I also really love my veggies and then the key terminology is we talk about strength. You are looking so strong. You are looking look at how strong you've gotten-- Let me see your muscles, even if they don't have muscles, right? Like they can show your muscles because we want to show the child that I don't care what number you are on that scale I want to know how you're feeling. How are you feeling today? How are you feeling emotionally today? How are you feeling? You are looking strong versus, oh, you look like you gained a little bit of weight or it looks like you lost a little weight. All of that can really lend to that child saying, I am strong, whether I'm in a larger body or a more petite frame, I am strong because I can run and I can do this. And I'm so grateful to have the ability to have a body that moves, you know? And so it's really important to kind of shift the way we use that terminology. And that goes back to parents as well, right? Like how we instill that and a lot of that goes with how we perceive our bodies, right? If a parent is always talking negatively about their body. Oh, I hate my rolls. I I don't want to wear this swimsuit. I look so fat. I look this, I hate it. That child sees their role model now say well wow, you're my mommy, you're my daddy and I look like you and that must not be good enough because you don't like the way your body looks. So I'm not gonna like the way my body looks. And that is where this all starts in the home and also from the way doctors and clinicians approach these conversations and remove the worth of a person's identity from how they look. You know, how do you feel? How strong do you feel? I'd love, tell me more about your interests that is how we really create worth that when they're standing in that aisle at the grocery store and see the magazine of celebrities with cellulite, they can just look at that and be like, oh, that doesn't matter. I know my worth is more than cellulite. I know my worth is more than where I look and stand on that percentile curve. 


00:24:24    Alyssa

Yeah, love this. One of the ways that we've been talking about food and our bodies with Sage is around energy. Like what gives us energy? And I, well, like we just had his third birthday party. And so I said, I was like, you know what, buddy? After nap, we're going to have some energy snacks out, we're going to have some food that's going to give us good energy to play, be able to play for a long time and have a lot of fun and run around. We have these activities happening. And then later we're going to have some cake to celebrate your birthday. And then we'll have some dinner after that. Right. But like just trying to like help him understand that there are certain foods that give us energy to play. And there are certain foods that don't give us as much energy to play and run. And same with I, as I started like working out again, postpartum and he was asking questions about it. And I was like, I want to make my muscles really strong so that I can run with you and play and throw you up in the air. And I, my body worked really hard to grow Mila. And now I have to build my muscles back to being strong again so that I can run around with you and helping to hopefully instill that. Like for me, it's about lifestyle. And that's what personally, like that's where my strength goals are. It's like, what do I want to be able to do? And then from the nutrition side, it's for me, like, how do I want to feel? Do I want to like crash after this? Do I want to be able to pay attention to this thing, et cetera, and that there are different foods that make me feel differently, and helping hopefully him understand that part of it without shame around like, yeah, and I'm going to have the cake at your birthday, even though it doesn't give me a lot of energy to play, it's delicious. And I'm going to have some, you know, like that balance piece of this. 


00:26:21    Dr. Mona

Exactly. Oh, I love it. And I love that you brought up the cake and also the energy, that terminology of energy. And we're the same. I mean, I will go to parties. We will have cupcakes and I actually you know don't create limits on the cupcakes I say hey have as many as you feel and how your tummy feels like listen to your body. You know and that's another thing that we talked about when it comes to food and body image and all of this is that listen to your body. And as the child gets older they will say oh I'm full and it's interesting because the we've started that principle so early that now I'll give him a like a bowl of maybe a sugary snack and after two bites. He's like mom I'm good." Because we've created this sort of lack of pedestal, hey, openness that, hey, we can have cookies sometimes, we'll have a cupcake sometimes, listen to your body for any food, not just cookies and sweets. And I know we're talking about body image and weight and all of that, but the sad reality is we have really equated how someone looks with the foods that they're eating. And I like to bring this up because thin people can also eat not so great, right? We tend to have these conversations in offices, right? Like I look at my colleagues, they tend to have more of these sort of diet conversations, right? What are you eating? Are you eating a lot of sweets, sugary drinks with the child who is on the higher end of the percentile curve. Because there's a bias and assumption that if you're on a higher weight, you must be eating unhealthy, quote unquote. When in reality, speaking from personal experience, being a petite, thin Indian American woman and growing up in that household where food was shoved down your mouth because they wanted you to gain weight because it shows that you're well taken care of, cultural, I know that it doesn't always equate, that we have even petite people in this world that could be better at balancing that lifestyle, right? Exercising more, looking at nutrition as a whole, because I'm not gonna sit here and deny that it doesn't matter, right? We know how important nutrition and exercise is. So I will never say, oh yeah, have all the sweets in the world, eat all the processed food in the world, because we know that it's not completely healthy for us every day, all day, right? But we don't need to shame those things, like you said, right, we don't need to say, well, you can never have this stuff, but it is about understanding that there is that bias sometimes that we assume that a higher end percentile child must be not eating healthy, and a lower percentile child, that conversation is not even happening. And I would say and argue that we should be having nutrition and lifestyle conversations with every patient that comes into our office because it matters for everybody, regardless of percentile. 


00:29:00    Alyssa

Yeah, I think that's so huge. A few examples just popped up. Like one of my best friends lives in a bigger body than me, is frankly way more active and eats way more nutritious food than I do. And we have different builds. Like we, and my sister -in -law that I was talking about, like is tall and thin. I will never live in her body. Like I could do all the things I'm never going to have her body type. We have different bodies. And then another, we have a team member on our team who had stage four cancer and got more compliments about her body and how great she looked before she got that diagnosis when she was literally like ridden with cancer. And we just didn't know it yet. 


00:29:42    Dr. Mona

Oh, oh wow.


00:29:43    Alyssa

And she was like, but she was thin. And so she heard about it all the time, how great she looked, etc. And then turns out had a cancer ridden body, right? Like that. But it's this perception that bias of yes, thin is healthy. And then how that how young that plays in to our kids and what they're hearing and what they're exposed to and noticing our own biases as parents to have, like, are those things coming up for us? Are we looking at our kids and thinking like, oh, I have to restrict this thing or that thing. And would we feel that same urge or pull if they lived in a different body type? And just like, you know, challenging our own biases there, building awareness of them. 


00:30:29    Dr. Mona

And a lot of that comes from how we were raised, right? I mean, my husband and I we're Indian American. We were both very lean. And my husband, he won't be upset that I talk about this. My husband is 6 '2", but weighs less than I do, okay? Because of just the way he's built. And I think he has an amazing body. He's a European model body. Okay, fine. It's like he's lean, but he's not built like a, what we see the muscle man, you know, like, and I bring this up because again, as I've talked about how we tend to equate higher body, higher percentiles, having more body image issues than lower, men also struggle with body image issues. I would say even more than women. And we just don't realize it. And I bring that up because he is 41 years old and he still goes to my mother -in -law's house and she comments on his weight. You're so skinny. You're so thin. And we are now in a protective mode because Ryan is going to hear that, right? Like you've talked about, our child's four, and it's my son. He's following that same amazing, healthy, lean body. And he's healthy, not because he's lean, but because he eats a varied nutrition diet. He exercises, he runs around. He's just a content child. And so that is health, right? And so we have to kind of now set these boundaries again and also remind Ryan of how amazing his body is. He went to school and he he came back one day and he said daddy I'm so skinny. And we don't use that word in our house and we're like sweetie, where did you hear that word? He's like someone at school called me skinny, and so it opened up this sort of trigger for us right that ooh, we don't like being called skinny, scrawny, gangly. Those terms really hurt us growing up. And my husband went into defense mode in his brain, but he had to rein back and say, okay, how am I going to communicate this? And we had a long talk. And I told him during our debriefs that night, I want you to remind Ryan how strong he is, how proud of him you are of his, you know, the way he shows up and you know, work runs around and all the things that he is versus the fact that he looks a certain way, you know, like bring the worth back into who the child is versus how they look all the time. Whenever they're feeling it, validate it, but also say, I love you because you are kind. I love you because you do this, whatever, rather than, yeah, you're so skinny. You need to eat more. Oh, you're over, you weigh too much. You need to hold back on that sweet. I mean, that is so harmful. And it is not something that's going to allow that child to be raised in an environment that celebrates the joy of food and also celebrates who they are, which sadly, a large part of our identity has been created by how we look, which I wish wasn't the case. 


00:33:11    Alyssa

100%. And even like devaluing the words like skinny or fat or whatever, like, yeah, you are skinny. You are thin. And that's not a bad thing that, yeah, that's how your body works. Just like that's how daddy's body works. That when food goes in, here's what happens. And everybody's body does different things or looks differently. How cool is that? And I think like kind of taking that value out of the words skinny and fat and et cetera, that yeah, we all have fat and some people live in bodies that are fatter than other people's bodies. And we don't know anything else about them from that, right? All we know is that that's what their body looks like. And just literally like that of, yeah, you are skinny. How does that feel for you? What does that mean to you? 


00:34:03    Dr. Mona



00:34:04    Alyssa

That somebody else doesn't get to assign that meaning for us. That I think we can kind of own that and help our kids own it of like, yeah, what does that mean for you? 


00:34:15    Dr. Mona

Absolutely. And I think when I saw my husband getting triggered, I knew that it was coming from a place of what he heard his entire life, right? A hundred percent. You are right on. Like I don't get worked up about when people call me skinny even though I've been teased my entire life, my childhood life about it, because I've created a lot of self -worth about my worth not being tied to body image. But I know that I'm who I am, and I love my body, and I love what it's done, and I've just learned that. But my husband, who still struggles with that because of that narrative being shoved down his throat, of course is going to get defensive. And that brings back to that point you made earlier about the way we were raised and the way that we show up, and really holding and taking that pause before we start to get like, you're not skinny. Don't let anyone like, yeah, really pausing and saying, where is this trigger coming from? This is coming from the way I was spoken to my mom, my dad, my aunt, my whoever. And I don't want to do the same thing for my child. And I want to, like you said, celebrate the child for being different and for being in a unique body. And that's the beauty of our bodies and that they're all beautiful and they're all different and they all do different things. And I just think, again, I share that sentiment so much with you about celebrating versus shaming, right? It's so huge.


00:35:29    Alyssa

It's huge. And one of the things we talk about in our work and with teachers in schools is how to like help kids ask the right questions of themselves too, especially as they get older, like our kiddos are young, but as they get older and to be able to say like, I wonder what that person was trying to do. I wonder if they wanted to connect or if they weren't feeling seen or, you know, they were feeling out of control or didn't feel like they had power or control and so they were trying to say-- I wonder what they were trying to do? And helping our children see that like really somebody else's comments aren't about us at all. It's really about this other human. And so you get to define what does that word mean for you and also then I think it can breed empathy of what else could we do to connect with that person. That person sounds like they're feeling lonely I wonder how we can connect with them. 


00:36:25    Dr. Mona

Yeah. Oh, gosh. I love it. Yeah. That's so true. 


00:36:29    Alyssa

But taking those words, they only have power if we give them power. 


00:36:33    Dr. Mona

Yes, exactly. 


00:36:35    Alyssa

But I think those words have so much power, you're right, for so many of us. I mean, yeah, I grew up hearing how much my mom hated her legs and her stomach and guess who I look like? I know. 


00:36:48    Dr. Mona

Surprise, surprise, right? 


00:36:49    Alyssa

And so I'm like, okay, cool. now I've got a lifetime of like that narrative living inside me and getting to hear it in over and over and having to do the work of rewriting that and I'm like oh man yeah it's a doozy to come to adulthood and realize all the things we get to bring into parenthood. 


00:37:09    Dr. Mona

Yes and trying to simultaneously work on our own triggers and parent the kids is like as you know the work, the lifelong process of being a parent which I enjoy. I look at it with such excitement that okay, I need to realize and know what I'm bringing to the table here. But first, it can be very hard, as we know, and it's not an easy, oh, yeah, I just need to be aware of it. It's, it's like, it's undoing, maybe 20, 30, 40 years of things that were told to you or that you were, you know, exposed to and that's not easy work to undo narratives. 


00:37:39    Alyssa

Yeah. Before we wrap up today, I'm curious, is there anything that you hope to see shift in our modern healthcare system that has or can potentially have a negative impact on body image as it stands now that we haven't mentioned? 


00:37:55    Dr. Mona

Yeah, I mean, my dream is to start my own practice one day and it's gonna happen, it's just, there's so much variables right now in my life. But in my ideal practice and also have a message for any reason any other clinicians are listening to this, we would discuss, we would have the time in a modern healthcare system, which we do not, and that's the hard reality, to discuss nutrition, physical activity, reduction of screens, and again, I'm not shaming screens, I'm just saying, hey, are we prioritizing physical activity? Screens are fine, but are we getting out there into sunlight, are we doing things? And also family history at every visit in detail. So this is so important for me to look at the socioeconomic status of the family, look at what are they able to do. You know, I will never, ever say that all the recommendations can be approached to all people, right? Because if a family comes from a lower socioeconomic status, they may not have access to a safe parks.  They may not have access to safe outdoor environments because of pollution, right? We have to understand that there's variables, right? And also access to fresh vegetables from Whole Foods or other places, like you gotta remember, like what can we do in the mean? So really looking at nutrition, physical activity, socioeconomic status, and making this like we talked about, about health, lifestyle, and building the child's worth up outside of how they look. And this goes even beyond weight. This goes about talking about who they are versus, oh, your dress is so pretty, or your shoes are this, like really creating their worth around their actions and around their identity of who they are and how they feel. And my other hope is that we would abandon BMI discussions. We would abandon percentile naming and saying, oh, 30th percentile. I'm happy to allow families to know that information, but really reminding the family, hey, yeah, I can tell you what percent all your child's on but as a reminder, what I care about is that your child's trending and that your child is loved healthy thriving and developmentally, you feel everything's appropriate for what you think, I want us to discuss that as a lifestyle versus the numbers on the scale. So that would be so important to me and I just think you know this goes so downstream into childhood because I take care of a lot of children of different ages and I love my teenagers. I don't talk a lot about teenagers on my platform, but it is my second favorite group after the first five years, I would say the first seven years. But getting to talk to that teenager about their identity, about their self -worth, outside of how they look, outside of social media, what they're seeing on filters, all of that. We have such a role, and I think we as medical professionals can do such a better job of bringing in that discussion, but what we need is the insurance companies to give us more time to talk to the families because I guarantee there's so many of us that feel so strongly about these issues, right? I could talk an hour to each patient of mine and really get into the nitty -gritty of all the issues that they have, but we don't always get that time. But in an ideal world, we would, and we would be able to approach health holistically, which truly means looking at, okay, weight, fine, but also how are you feeling, mental health, physical health, physical movement, all of that matters to a child's health and not just that number on the scale. 


00:41:15    Alyssa

Yeah, I love it. I love that approach. Thank you so much. Dr. Mona, where can people find you, follow you, learn more about your work? 


00:41:23    Dr. Mona

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. This was an amazing conversation. It's something that as you can tell, I'm very passionate about. Everyone can go to So that's P -E -D -S -D -O -C -T -A -L -K, like the pediatrician doc talking to you. That's my hub for everything. I have a YouTube channel, I have an Instagram, I have courses, podcast myself, the Peds Doc Talk podcast. So really all over every social media platform is @PedsDocTalk. But the website and my Instagram @PedsDocTalk is where you can find the majority and stay connected and really be a part of this amazing community that wants to continue this narrative for their children. 


00:41:57    Alyssa

Thank you so much. 


00:41:58    Dr. Mona

Thank you! 


00:42:04    Alyssa

So I didn't give you a little life update yet, but I have my doctor appointment today. I go to this practice that has like four naturopaths and one of them sees both my kids and I love her so much and I like want her to be my doctor and I essentially just like went around my doctor to her for this appointment and it was everything I hoped it would be. And now I'm just going to slide right in and have her be my primary care physician. 


00:42:36    Rachel

Yeah. Just a casual transition. 


00:42:38    Alyssa

Yeah. I'm going to tell nobody and then in future appointments, I'm just going to be like, oh yeah, can you schedule me with her? Yeah, yeah, yeah. She's my PCP. I'm just going to. 


00:42:48    Rachel



00:42:49    Alyssa

But it was great. So we had done the DUTCH hormone test, which is actually really helpful to have that information now because we had an 18 months ago. And I was like, my cortisol levels were really low. And she was like, basically what I'm seeing from the test you did 18 months ago is that you were like heading towards adrenal fatigue, if not in it. And makes sense. She was like, you had miscarriage, miscarriage, pregnancy, nursing, and then your body probably would have just rebounded from it when you stopped nursing. And then you got pregnant six weeks after stopping nursing. And she was like, so I think what we're seeing here is probably adrenal fatigue. And we're doing another, like we're doing a blood test for now for the hormone panel to check. But yeah, she was like, if you're open to an SSRI while we figure this out, let's do that and run this blood work and see. But she was like, if it is adrenal fatigue, there are supplements you can take that'll help with that for now. 


00:43:56    Rachel



00:43:57    Alyssa

So great. And I was like, oh, that makes sense. And like, she listed off all the things that she was like, adrenal fatigue can show up as like mood stuff, energy, fatigue, like just like dissociation, disconnection, weight gain, the ability to like lose weight, or the inability to lose weight, where it's just like you kind of plateau where your body, She's like, your body basically goes into like conservation mode. 


00:44:24    Rachel

Yeah. I mean, it's similar to when you are having thyroid dysfunction. And remember we thought at first we were like, this has to be thyroid dysfunction. Like it checks all the boxes. 


00:44:32    Alyssa



00:44:33    Rachel

Then your thyroid was normal and we were both like, hmm. 


00:44:37    Alyssa

Yeah. And so I was like, okay, that's helpful. So I'm starting SSRI and going to get the blood work and go from there. But it felt like the most like hopeful, also to just to be in a doctor's appointment and feel so hurt is so rad. 


00:44:52    Rachel

1000 % when I, I still see my psychiatrist that I started seeing for postpartum depression with Abel and like I don't really need to see her at this point but like I can't let her go because in like these really short sessions that I had with her she gave me more insight into I don't actually have issues with anxiety all of my like issues that I labeled as general anxiety are all OCD, but I don't have a lot of compulsions. I like didn't realize that. Anyway, there's this subset of OCD called pure O, which is essentially like your brain gets stuck in these repetitive thoughts. And she described it as like, you think about in a car, the brake pedal not being connected to the actual brakes. And that's what's happening in your brain. And it is connected to your serotonin and your dopamine pathways and they like misfire. And she, I have been dealing this since I was eight years old and she was the first practitioner because I was like I've lifestyled the crap out of this and I always end up back on an SSRI and I feel like that that's not right like lifestyle should be fixing this and she was basically like yeah for generalized anxiety a lot of times like lifestyle can get it under control. She's like we're talking about like your brain misfiring with certain like neurotransmitters and chemicals and like not going to lifestyle your way out of that. And I was just like, okay. 


00:46:15    Alyssa

Thank you. This reminds me of like Ellen Vora's book, The Anatomy of Anxiety, where she has true anxiety and false anxiety, which I think is triggering for a lot of people to hear it in those ways. But the false anxiety is something that you can often lifestyle your way out. It's like, yeah, I'm sleep deprived or it's diet related or movement or whatever, at sensory systems related. And then there's true anxiety, which is, could be trauma related. It could be like we're working with here where it's like biochemical. 


00:46:46    Rachel



00:46:47    Alyssa

And that's what I said in this appointment today where I was like, listen, I have lifestyled my way through this. It's not emotion processing. I've been doing that. Love my therapist. It is biochemical and I'm so sure of it. And she was like, yeah, I believe you. She was like, you are doing all these things and it doesn't make sense to be where you are doing all those things. 


00:47:10    Rachel

Yeah. And it's just so validating to hear that. I think especially when you're immersed in emotional development, we talk about the brain all the time. 


00:47:21    Alyssa

All the time


00:47:21    Rachel

Right? And so it's like, at least for me, I have these narratives coming up of like, I should be able to figure this out. Like, you know, and really I'm 32 and I think my symptoms started when I was eight. I met my psychiatrist when I was 27. So almost 20 years of thinking that like something was inherently wrong about how I was dealing with it. I was a failure or whatever for her to be like, yeah, no, you actually don't have anxiety. You have OCD and let's talk about what that means. 


00:47:51    Alyssa

 And here's why, because also OCD can be, it can be like a trauma response. It can be anxiety related, right? But to hear like, you can't emotion process your way out of this. You can't do all the things to get out of it, that it's biochemical. Like these neurotransmitters aren't working the way that they're supposed to or whatever. Like that is so, I feel like relieving. 


00:48:20    Rachel

It is, it is. And obviously there are other like treatment modalities for OCD and her and I have talked about, I think in a different season of life, I would be wanting to try them. One of them is like exposure therapy. And like, that just feels like a lot for me to take on right now. 


00:48:37    Alyssa



00:48:38    Rachel

And you have to like really be committed to the process. And I'm just like, yeah, if I'm being honest, like I don't have the capacity for that. And she was like, if I'm being honest, even a lot of my patients who do that therapy still need an SSRI. And she's like, so if the goal of the therapy is to get off the SSRI, you might need to reframe that. And I was just like, okay, interesting. Yeah. 


00:48:57    Alyssa

Also a little bit like YOLO, and if an SSRI helps you feel good about this life in the day -to -day, cheers. And I'm not a Band -Aid on a bullet hole person, so that's what I said today, I was like, she was like, are you open to an SSRI? And I was like, yes, I'm not open to it long -term for me because I know my baseline and this isn't it, right? Like I have gone 35 years and sure, there's been ups and downs in the 35 years, but not biochemically. That for me, like emotion processing was a tool I had to build and understanding my sensory systems and navigating trauma and all that jazz. And so I've had anxiety from trauma -related anxiety, but not biochemically. 


00:49:51    Rachel



00:49:52    Alyssa

And so I was like, this is something that for me I know is not my baseline norm. And she was like, totally. Great. She's like, let's do it. As long as it's helping and working while we figure out other things, and then we make a plan for not being on it anymore. 


00:50:12    Rachel

Yeah. That's awesome. 


00:50:14    Alyssa

Yeah. I felt so good. I felt so heard. 


00:50:17    Rachel

Which is so, so key. 


00:50:21    Alyssa

So key. 


00:50:21    Rachel

When you're experiencing postpartum depression. 


00:50:24    Alyssa

And also maybe just all the time. 


00:50:26    Rachel

I mean, yes, but I think there's something really isolating about postpartum depression. It's not like garden variety depression, which I'm not saying isn't isolating, but it's like there's a lot of layers to it because you're also like in charge of keeping a small human alive while navigating it and it just. 


00:50:45    Alyssa

And I think culturally people have like narratives around of like, you're just tired, you're whatever. This is just what the like adjustment is to adding this kid to your family, whatever, that it's really easy to be like, yeah, I shouldn't be feeling this way. 


00:50:59    Rachel

Yeah, it reminds me of that meme that's like me when I say I'm tired and you know, the old lady in my life is like, oh, enjoy every moment. And it's like, yeah, I'm not saying I don't enjoy my kids, Janet, I'm just fucking tired, you know? 


00:51:15    Alyssa



00:51:16    Rachel

Yeah. There are definitely narratives around postpartum depression and even like, yeah, there's like stigma around it. I remember feeling like, man, I'm really not crushing this right now. I'm not crushing this role as a mom of two. I'm actually totally blowing it. And of course I wasn't, but that's how I felt. 


00:51:36    Alyssa

I feel you, man. I feel you. Who are we chatting about today, by the way? 


00:51:41    Rachel

Yeah, whoopsie. 


00:51:43    Alyssa

No, I think this is valuable for people to, um, we're not the only ones who have ever had postpartum depression. So. 


00:51:50    Rachel

Totally. Um, okay. So we're talking about Dr. Mona. 


00:51:55    Alyssa

Oh, great. 


00:51:56    Rachel

Yeah. This was a great episode. 


00:51:59    Alyssa

Yeah, for sure. On brand with the doctors and feeling heard. 


00:52:03    Rachel

1000%. I think like what I want to kind of break down with you is like you guys talked about this in the interview, but as I'm thinking about real -life application with my kids, there's always this like back -and -forth between me not wanting them to place value on words like skinny or fat and also knowing that we live in a world that does, so like I want them to know that if they call somebody fat it might hurt their feelings but that doesn't mean that being fat is bad. That's just what our culture has like ingrained in us. And like, it's this dance of like, I don't want to perpetuate those ideas. And I also know that in a lot of places, those ideas are perpetuated and those words could cause harm. So let's, let's talk about that. 


00:52:51    Alyssa

I also am in this space of like, not totally sure what to do, because I want to also be real about the fact that everybody has fat and that fat isn't a bad thing inherently on its own. We all need it, in fact, and that for, I think the idea of like, cause there's a part of me that wants to be like, yeah, talking about someone's appearance is just off limits and it's the least interesting thing about them. And we're just not going to talk about how people look and that part shows up. And then but there's other parts like, okay, but that's not real. Like people do all look different and the kids are going to say things about it. They're gonna notice how people look. It's how we operate as humans. And I want them to be able to say things and know things like, oh yeah, that person lives in a bigger body or in a fatter body or in a skinnier body or in a thinner body. And just for them to know that that doesn't mean anything. Like that's just an observation of their body, but that it doesn't mean anything about their health. It doesn't mean anything about their worth. It doesn't mean, you know, and I want them to know that, but also, yeah, I guess that social context of you can't just go up and say like, hey, you live in a fatter body. Like-- 


00:54:17    Rachel

Right. Thats not ok to say.


00:54:17    Alyssa

You can't do that. No. And like, why is, yeah. So I guess you're right. That's the part where it's like teaching about the harm. 


00:54:25    Rachel

Yeah. And it's hard because, I mean, I think about just like how my responses are and would be in private versus how they are in the different feelings that I have. Like a couple days ago, we were, I can't remember where we were, but Abel noticed that somebody was fat and I was just kind of like, yep, it looks like his body's storing his extra energy that way and just kind of moved on with the conversation, but like nobody heard the conversation. So I didn't feel like under pressure and I wasn't like, oh my gosh, I can't believe he said that. I was just like, yep, you noticed something about his body. Then I've talked to the kids about how like fat isn't bad. But I also remember a time when Abel was like three and we were in a restaurant and he pointed at somebody and really loudly was like, mama, why is that guy so huge? And I was just like, why? 


00:55:15    Alyssa

I want to die right now. 


00:55:17    Rachel

Legit, like, yeah. And so it's that and I did kind of say the same thing about how like different bodies come in different sizes and that's how we store energy and you can be healthy and be this size and be healthy and be that size, whatever. But I also felt this like pressure to be like, you can't say that. 


00:55:36    Alyssa

Yeah. Well, I think that's also kind of okay. Like I was thinking about, we've been having this conversation with Sage, he's three years old and he'll say things like, I don't want that person at our house. And they're there, they're here, right? They're over for a play date or whatever. And I'm like, we can't say that. And so we've been having this discussion outside of those moments about how it's not kind to say all the things that come into our head in front of everybody. And that you can tell me or dada anything. You can tell us anything. Not everything is appropriate to say around somebody else. And he's like starting to get this now, where he will say to us, like before they come over, I don't want them to come over. And then he'll ask, what can I do if I don't want them to come over when they're here? We'll let him know, like, okay, if you don't want them to come over when they're here, you can say, mom, I need to tell you something. And then we can go and we can talk about it. And so we'll go to a space where it because I want him to be aware of the fact like he's not responsible for other people's feelings and also your words and actions have impact and can hurt other people's feelings. And, you know, similar to the discussion we were having in the team meeting the other day of like while we're seeing I'm going to put bullying in quotes, like when we're seeing behavior where it's if it's directed toward or about somebody else, like how do we help the person who is on that receiving end while that other kid's building skills. And so for me, I was like, I want him to still have an outlet for this. He needs to know what he can do. And I don't think it's appropriate for him to be like, wish that person wasn't here, but they're here. 


00:57:29    Rachel

But we've all felt it, right? Like, it's a way to feel that it's just like, how can he express that in a way that's not going to cause harm? 


00:57:35    Alyssa

But so like, same here of like fat, I think what I feel inclined to do is say like, Hey bud, yeah, earlier today, you navigate it in the moment, we'll say the thing. And then afterwards saying like earlier, when you said that person was huge, I just wanted you to know that for some people, they don't like it when you talk about their bodies. And so when we're out, if you notice something and you're curious about something with somebody's body, you can always ask me quietly or you can say, mom, I have a question to ask you. And I'll come down and you can ask me so that you and I can have a conversation about it and I'm happy to talk to you. 


00:58:17    Rachel

Yeah, I love that. I also, as I was like thinking over all of this, had an initial thought that was like, yeah, I just want my kids to know that like it's not okay to talk about other people's bodies, but then like, that's not what I'm modeling for them because I'm always like, oh my gosh, you're getting so tall and like, oh, I noticed that you're growing or like Abel, I noticed that your legs are looking really strong, or I'll even just be like, you're so cute, like, I just want to squeeze your cheeks, you know? So it's like, I'm going to say that to them all the time and then be like, oh, wait, guys, by the way, you're not allowed to comment on people's bodies, even though I model that for you a lot. 


00:58:52    Alyssa

And frankly, I'm probably not going to stop. 


00:58:54    Rachel

I'm not going to stop. They are cute and they are strong. And like, yeah, I'm going to say I want to squeeze your cheeks because you're so freaking cute. I can't stand it. 


00:59:03    Alyssa

Yeah, 100%. But Sagey, actually it was like right after he and I were in conflict. And in my head, we are still in conflict and he was ready to come out of conflict. And he was like trying to reconnect with me and he was like, mom, I really like your shirt. I really like those pants today. I like your shoes. Those are my favorite socks. He literally just kept complimenting what I was wearing. And in an effort to connect, I wasn't even wearing socks, I was wearing slides. And he was like, I'm gonna name anything I can name. I'm just trying to, and I was like, thanks, buddy. Thanks, thanks. And I'm like clearly still not connecting though. I'm not ready yet. And he's like, I'll just keep naming all your things. And I was like, oh, I have done this where he'll walk by me and I'll be like, hey bud, I really like those pants on you. Or, wow that shirt's so soft, you look so cozy in it. And he was like, okay, I know this is a tool. Let me try and reconnect with mom. 


01:00:04    Rachel

Oh, that is so good. But yeah, that's what comes up for me is like, I'm not going to stop doing that. And I don't think that it's harmful to do that. And it can be a way to connect, but it's like teaching them sort of like where that's appropriate, in what relationships it's appropriate, and then like in what relationships it wouldn't be appropriate. 


01:00:24    Alyssa

Yeah. And I think like in those outside of the moment conversations, it just feels so important to me that I'm letting them know that size doesn't tell us anything.


01:00:35    Rachel



01:00:35    Alyssa

And that everybody's body is different sizes and that it'll ebb and flow and change. And it's been an interesting thing as I'm like in this body right now, where I think the outside world that doesn't know me would be like, oh, yeah, just like postpartum, like this is just like you're, you had a baby and you're coming back from it. And I'm like, I can't stress to you how much this is not my body. 


01:01:06    Rachel



01:01:07    Alyssa

And it is so like interesting. You know, I've thought of we have a family member who was really sick with Lyme and mold toxicity and was so thin. And on the outside, everyone's like, wow, she's in such great shape. She's so beautiful. She's whatever. And she was so sick. 


01:01:31    Rachel



01:01:31    Alyssa

Right. And how like we, it, these messages are still all around us about what our bodies are supposed to look like and what is healthy and what's valued. And I really want them to know that they know their body best and homeostasis best and what feels best in their body and that it has nothing to do with their size. 


01:01:56    Rachel

Yeah. I, so Nora is nine and is starting to like be more aware of body differences. And, you know, she said something, I don't know, it was a couple of months ago about like being glad that she was skinny. And I was like, oh, interesting. Like, where is that coming from? And so she was just talking about conversations that had happened at school among her peer group, and I said, you know what, None, when I had cancer, I got really thin, and I got tons of compliments from people, and one of the most common things that people would say was that I looked so healthy. And you were a baby, so people were like impressed that I had like had a baby, and then quote, bounced back so quickly. I had never been so thin in my adult life and it was like, obviously, unintentional weight loss. And I was super, super sick. So like, for me, when my body gets really thin, that's actually a bad thing. It's actually like my body giving off an alarm system, like something's not right. And so being skinny doesn't always mean that your body is in its best condition or that like your health is exactly where it's supposed to be or whatever. And like, it's important for her to know that skinny doesn't always equal like good, 


01:03:17    Alyssa



01:03:18    Rachel

But that's the messaging that she's already getting at age nine. 


01:03:22    Alyssa

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we were chatting about this with our book and how we talk about food and grateful to have folks like Jennifer Anderson from Kids Eat in Color as a reference for this. It's like, how do we talk about bodies? How do we talk about food? It's one of those where I for so many of us, it was triggering and we've learned it's triggering. And now we have to raise kids in a culture where, you know, I think of like Trystan Reece where he was like, raise them in the culture that is, with the tools to change it. But raising them in the culture that is, is so hard when you're like, no, I just want it to be different. 


01:03:57    Rachel

Totally. And like, I almost like hesitate to say this because I feel some guilt around this feeling, but like part of me is like, I'm grateful that she's naturally thin because I wasn't and I am very much like midsize. Like I don't consider myself to have a big body, but I'm also not like naturally a beanpole. 


01:04:15    Alyssa



01:04:16    Rachel

My body likes to have like meat on my bones. Like I'm just never gonna be a tiny girl. And I was one of those kids that kind of like grew out before I grew tall as I was like going through my growth spurt so I had these periods of development where like I was chubby and I was called fat at school for years. And it was like really hard for me and painful. And there's a part of me that's like, I'm so glad she's not gonna experience that. And it's so effed up that that's the reality that like, that's my thought process. But there's a part of me that feels that way. 


01:04:50    Alyssa

Of course, because you're like, I'm so glad she might not have to experience that pain that I experienced. What do you wish the adults around you would have done differently in that season? 


01:05:04    Rachel

I think that my parents did the best they could. It was a little tricky because it was this situation where like they would meet with the school and with the parents of the other kids. And like, it would feel like a solution had been found but really what it did was like kind of perpetuate the situation where then like the kids were mad at me for quote, getting them in trouble. 


01:05:26    Alyssa



01:05:27    Rachel

The behaviors increased. And so then I kind of said to my parents, like, you can't keep doing this because it's just making it worse. And I think in that time, the administration at my school was doing what they thought was right. And we had a lot less information about all of this at that time. And so I think, I wish there had been more like oversight in the classroom, but then it's like logistically one teacher with 20 kids. How is that possible? 


01:05:57    Alyssa

Sure, sure. Classroom size is a real issue there. 


01:06:01    Rachel

And so, I think - 


01:06:02    Alyssa

Were there times where adults heard it said? 


01:06:05    Rachel



01:06:06    Alyssa

And what was their response? 


01:06:08    Rachel

Very much like a punishment, sort of like, say you're sorry, and if you do that again, X,Y,Z. 


01:06:15    Alyssa



01:06:16    Rachel

So, like, no framing for the child who was instigating of like, oh, I wonder what's going on for you that's making this behavior come up. And also like, I wonder what's happening for her when she hears those words from you. There was never any of that. It was just like, stop or you're going to be punished. And so I'm actually - 


01:06:39    Alyssa

Just behaviorist. 


01:06:39    Rachel

Right, I'm excited to dive into this chapter together in the book. Cause I don't think there's a clear cut answer. Cause if there was then like, this wouldn't be a thing anymore. But I do think that like discussing it with nuance is part of like moving us forward. 


01:06:56    Alyssa

Agreed, and I think the ability for the adults, I think it's so triggering for us as adults, we're like, we just want this behavior to stop, right? So we're like, you need to stop or this is the punishment. I think it's harder to slow down and say, oh, wow, that wasn't a kind thing to say. I wonder how she's feeling after you said that. And then pausing and being able to say, I wonder why you're saying that? I wonder if you wanted to feel powerful or if you were feeling lonely or left out? I wonder if you wanted her to notice you? I'm curious what's coming up for you, bud. But to be able to directly and pointedly say that, I think helps then the kid who is perpetrating this, say, oh, wow, this might be a me thing, even subconsciously. And the like, if I do say this, the response from the adult is going to shine a light on me in a way that might be uncomfortable for me. 


01:08:02    Rachel



01:08:02    Alyssa

Way more uncomfortable than a punishment. 


01:08:06    Rachel

Yeah, and looking back too, especially now that I've been doing this work, and a lot of our work at Seed is focused on supporting teachers, and I feel so much compassion for teachers who are navigating this, not just like the logistical reality of managing a classroom of a lot of kids, but also some of the ideologies that are present right now in education that are so focused on behavior, and also put an incredible amount of pressure on teachers to just like shut things down. It's almost like an appearance thing, right? Like appear like you're in control. 


01:08:41    Alyssa



01:08:43    Rachel

And it's like, they don't always have the space, grace, capacity to slow down and have that conversation with the child who's perpetrating, right? And so there's just so many layers to this to work through. And definitely there were like failures that happened in how it was managed as I was a child, but I don't place... 


01:09:05    Alyssa

And mostly like how do we learn from that? You know, like that's in my mind. 


01:09:08    Rachel

Yeah, how do we move forward.


01:09:10    Alyssa

Right. because that's gonna keep happening today. It's happening in every classroom right now in some capacity. There is some sort of interaction where one child is feeling badly about themselves because another child is saying or doing something because they don't have other tools. 


01:09:30    Rachel

Yeah, and to kind of connect this back to Dr. Mona, like how do we get to a place where like thin privilege isn't a thing? 


01:09:37    Alyssa

Yeah, totally. Well, I don't know, because I think media has been helpful and is I don't know if you saw the Barbie movie, but we recently saw it. And Maddie Blask always makes fun of me because I'm always forever behind on things that are hip, where I was like, oh, my gosh, did you see this cool new movie? And she's like, yeah, it's from four years ago. And I was like, oh, my gosh, can we talk about Barbie? And everyone around me is like, yeah, talked about it. That's very last summer. But I just around to watching it.


01:10:09    Rachel

 When you have small kids, you're just not consuming media when it's hot, okay? You're not consuming it when it's fresh off the press. 


01:10:18    Alyssa

So not. Also, for the record, it took us two nights to get through it because we started it and then had to pause and go to bed because I was tired. Yeah, just that I feel like it's in conversation more. I grew up with every magazine at the checkout counter is like, look at this cellulite, this person's a terrible person, right? Like, while I had cellulite on my legs since I was 12 as an athlete, and I'm like, what, you know? So I'm hopeful that like there weren't, there just weren't examples I think of, you know, even brands and how representation is like, it's way cooler now to have untouched images than it is to have retouched images. And when you think of like Outdoor Voices, that brand that Tyler Haney started that when one of their campaigns went viral on social and it was a girl in running shorts who had cellulite on her legs and was like working out. So it was just a normal human working out, but they didn't take the cellulite off the image. And that went viral because people were like, oh, my gosh, I see myself in this. How bold of this brand to show cellulite. And it's like, whoa, what a bummer that that's revolutionary. But hopefully, we're moving in that direction where our kids are going to see more normal bodies and not just this one ideal. 


01:11:49    Rachel

Yeah. Just recently, I had lifted up my shirt to do something and I have stretch marks and whatever. I had two kids. I've also had like huge weight fluctuations from being sick. I have some of these like lovely skin discolorations from chemo, like there's a whole lot going on. And Nora was just like, um, mom, your stomach kind of looked weird when you lifted up your shirt. And Nora seems to be going through this phase where like, I don't know if it's like her understanding of like morality is really like happening right now, because she's like painfully honest right now. And not like in a malicious way at all. So I'm like, all right, something's happening developmentally for you. Anyway, leading to this conversation about how weird my stomach looks. Awesome. And I had to like, have this internal moment of like, okay, am I going to let this trigger me? Am I going to like, take it personally and get defensive about my body, which has happened before? Or can I just normalize for her that like, sometimes when you've had babies or you've had illnesses, like bodies can look like this and it's super normal and I'm fine with it. 


01:13:03    Alyssa

A hundred percent. There's a part of me that's like, buckle up, sis. Just you wait. You want to have a baby? This is what you're looking at. 


01:13:13    Rachel

She's a little bodybuilder with an eight pack right now. Right? So she's like, hmm, your stomach doesn't quite match mine. 


01:13:19    Alyssa

I mean, Nones, no one's does. Also wait, I feel like this needs to live on in the podcast the other day at the team meeting when you referred to your boobs as seasoned nursing boobs. And I was like, I'm forever using this. 


01:13:39    Rachel



01:13:39    Alyssa

Because all of us who have nursed know exactly, we have the exact visual. 


01:13:45    Rachel

Yeah. And she's also had questions about that. And I'm just like, yep, I chose to feed you from my body, and because of that, this is what they look like now. 


01:13:57    Alyssa

Thanks a lot, Nones. 


01:13:59    Rachel

Yeah, and I'm like, and honestly, like, I wouldn't go back and change it. Like, knowing that this is what they look like now, I still would choose to nurse you. This is just something that... 


01:14:09    Alyssa

It's a byproduct, my friend. This is a byproduct. Yeah, but that's, it's a cool, like, opportunity to, to like, normalize bodies for kids. And I think that what's so key in what you were just saying is us noticing our own reaction and trigger and finding that pause where we get to say, am I gonna let this guide the rest of this? 


01:14:35    Rachel

Right. Yeah, cause there was a part of me that wanted to be like, don't say that about my body. Like don't comment on that. 


01:14:42    Alyssa



01:14:42    Rachel

As if like having a stretched out stomach with stretch marks is something that's like inherently bad. And that's not the messaging I want her to have. So, yeah. 


01:14:52    Alyssa

Woo, what a doozy this whole raising kids thing is. 


01:14:58    Rachel

And body stuff, it's one of my big triggers. I have to be really mindful of how I talk about it. 


01:15:04    Alyssa

Yeah, that makes sense. It's a trigger for me, too. Oh, Beaners is coming. Oh my god, look at this outfit right now. She has a little, yeah, she's coming down here. She's got a little denim chambray, I don't know what you call it, jumper. Come on that way. Hey beans. 


01:15:27    Rachel

Oh my goodness. Her fashion lately has been so good. 


01:15:31    Alyssa

You know what it is? I, so much of the like newborn, zero to three stuff is like what people got us. And then beyond that was a lot of what I have picked out. And so I just get to like style her now versus just whatever it was. 


01:15:46    Rachel

The 30 seconds she fit into newborn clothes. 


01:15:50    Alyssa

Not even, I don't think she fit into newborn clothes. 


01:15:52    Rachel

She was born ready for zero to three. She was three months old, straight out the gate. 


01:15:57    Alyssa

Hey girl. You see auntie Rach? 


01:16:01    Rachel

Hi baby. 


01:16:02    Alyssa

Just chewing on her tongue. 


01:16:04    Rachel

I think you guys actually mentioned this in the episode, how like when we see a baby like Mila, so delicious and chubby, we're like, oh my gosh, what a healthy baby. And then at some point that like shifts.  And then we see like an older child who's chubby and we're like, oh, this isn't right. Like, we got to do something about this. 


01:16:20    Alyssa

They're so unhealthy. Yeah, exactly. And just like how much people comment on her body. 


01:16:25    Rachel



01:16:26    Alyssa

Because she's meaty. 


01:16:28    Rachel

Uh -huh. 


01:16:29    Alyssa

Like, wow, that's just interesting to navigate. Checking it all out, babe. 


01:16:34    Rachel

She's so Zach. 


01:16:36    Alyssa

Oh, my God. They're twins. 


01:16:37    Rachel

Like, her face. 


01:16:39    Alyssa

Yeah. It's interesting because the kids look like the one that they have the opposite, that like she has my nervous system and Zach's looks, and Sage's like a Blask. Well, thank you. Thanks for diving into bodies. Beans, we're learning so many things. 


01:16:57    Rachel

So many things. 


01:16:58    Alyssa

Buckle up. I'm sure you'll have many a comment about my body that I get to lovingly navigate down the road. 


01:17:07    Rachel

Wow, yeah. I feel like I'm only at the beginning of it too. 


01:17:11    Alyssa

I'm glad I get to learn from you before a minute. Thanks. 


01:17:14    Rachel

I'm glad you get to watch me make mistakes and learn from those. 


01:17:17    Alyssa

That's what I'm saying. Thank you. Love you. 


01:17:22    Rachel

Love you. 


01:17:24    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at S -E -W. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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