I am a child and adolescent therapist by training, as well as a former foster carer and, last but by no means least, mum to three girls. I live with my husband, daughters and assorted animals in the countryside on the Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire border in the UK.
In January, 2014 I published War & Peas, a book for parents of picky eaters. I am passionate about writing and never more so than when my writing can have a positive impact on families.
Writing War & Peas took me deep into the world of feeding research, but I have always been interested in scientific studies, especially in the fields of psychotherapy and psychology - I published a paper in a peer reviewed journal several years ago and have ambitions to return to academia at some point in the future.
I enjoy reading the latest research (on food, feeding and parenting) and making it accessible to parents. I believe that all too often, parenting resources are dumbed down; I know many parents who, like me, are interested in theory, not just sound-bites.
I love counselling – being present for a person and really tuning into them is a powerful thing and I use these skills when I work with families of picky eaters.
My background as a therapist allows me to see the big picture; to pull together all the threads that interweave to form family life and to help clients understand how to move forward with their child’s eating. It is extremely rewarding work and I feel privileged to do it.
What I don't do
I don't tell parents what to feed their children - most people already know what they want their child to eat and don't need me to tell them. I don't advise about nutrition because this is not my area of expertise. My work is all about the emotional, behavioural and psychological factors that underpin picky eating.
Qualifications and professional affiliation
I have a Masters degree in counselling from the University of Nottingham (with distinction) and am a registered member of the BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy). I am bound by the BACP's code of ethics.
About Emotionally Aware Feeding (EAF)
EAF is short for Emotionally Aware Feeding; it is my unique approach to helping families move from feeling anxious about their child's eating to enjoying stress-free, relaxed mealtimes.
EAF turns conventional parenting techniques on their head, offering instead a whole new way of looking at feeding children that will help you make picky eating a thing of the past.
Where did it all begin?
I became interesting in feeding almost a decade ago, by accident more than by design. When my youngest daughter was a toddler and I was a trainee therapist, I had a placement at CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) working therapeutically with young people.
Several of my young clients had eating disorders and as I began to understand more about the role of power and control in their disordered eating, I noticed similarities in the way my little daughter was using food.
Her eating was not disordered but there were parallels; her search for autonomy and boundary testing that every parent of a toddler will recognise often happened at mealtimes. I realised that I needed to find a way to take the power dynamic away from the dinner table, and I began to read.
I was absolutely fascinated by all the research that I read - so much of it pointed to the role of emotions in picky or fussy eating. I realised that as a culture, our attitude to feeding our children has gone awry.
Somewhere along the road, we have lost our way and the result is parents treating eating as a behaviour that they want their children to ‘perform’ rather than children eating because their appetite directs them to. This is because feelings get in the way; the parents’ feelings, the children’s feelings and the intersection where these meet and multiply.
Having figured out what I thought the problem was, I began to work on a solution and Emotionally Aware Feeding (EAF) was born. This is my model whereby I teach parents how to interact with food and feeding in a way that takes emotions out of the equation and facilitates children eating a wide and varied diet, but more importantly, children and their parents having happy, stress-free mealtimes.
Picky eating is such a common problem and I realised that parents and professionals alike, are extremely anxious to have the tools to tackle it in a meaningful way. My approach combines theory (so parents can understand what lies behind their child’s problematic eating) and practical, useable techniques that will make mealtimes relaxed and positive and help children accept and enjoy a much wider variety of food.