In this episode, Small Steps Living member Jane Davis talks to Lisa about how small changes have made a huge difference to her children’s health and moods; and how if you’re obsessing about food, you’re wasting energy that you could be spending on having an awesome life.
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
Lisa: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of the podcast! And for what is becoming my absolute favourite thing to do on the podcast, which is interview my amazing Small Steppers. I have a really interesting lady for you to meet today.
Once again, she doesn’t think her story is much chop, and I totally disagree. You are going to learn things about kids’ behaviour, about ditching scales, about how this whole balance, and I guess, the whole Small Steps approach works in real life. So, welcome Jane Davis.
Jane: Hello, thank you!
Lisa: Where are you dialling in from?
Jane: I’m halfway between two little towns in Western Australia, in East Pingelly. So, we’re between Brookton and Pingelly.
Lisa: I just can’t tell you how many Small Steppers there are in WA. What’s with that? I feel like there’s actually this big, huge, remote Australia community that is having to connect online to groups like this, because the access to go to events, or things like that, just doesn’t actually exist. Would that be-,
Jane: That’s right. Yes, that’s correct. So, I do pretty much everything online. All my shopping, all my communicating. I’m studying externally, I’m at Uni, so I do all that online. Everything is all online now! I think my Mum said the other day, there’s a population of two million in WA, and only 500,000 of those are rural, in Western Australia.
Lisa: Oh, wow.
Jane: Yes, so we’re quite spread out. We’re not close too anything, we don’t have a lot of shops, or anything like that. So, yes, everything’s online.
Lisa: So, when you say you do all your shopping online, is that from supermarkets?
Jane: Yes. Supermarkets, clothing, pantry staples, all that sort of thing. Like, we have an IGA in town, but it’s very small, and what they do provide is not of the best quality, and it’s very expensive. Costs a fortune. It’s actually cheaper to drive to Perth, which is an hour-and-a-half one way, and buy food in Perth, and come back again, than it is to buy it locally. Which is probably not what I should be saying. I should be saying, ‘Buy local,’ but when it costs you a lot, and it’s not of quality, it’s a bit harder.
Lisa: That’s really hard, yes. And I think it’s a story that I hear quite a lot. Even people, you know, I talk about farmers’ markets. In Brisbane, I have two that I could go to on a Saturday, and two that I could go to on a Sunday. Totally spoilt. Yes, but even people in Melbourne don’t have that. There are different challenges, depending on where you live, for sure. So, okay, have you always lived there, and tell us just a little bit about your family.
Jane: Yes. So, I actually grew up in a town called Albany, right down at the bottom of WA, it’s a coastal town, and then Mum and Dad moved to Perth when I hit high school. So, I did high school in Perth, and then, yes, pretty well from there, I moved to another small town when I was about 22, and I took a job managing a rec centre in a small town in Narrogin for a little while. And then I ended up meeting my husband, and getting married, and moving to the farm.
Lisa: So, you’re a farmer’s wife?
Jane: I am! It keeps us busy.
Lisa: What do you farm?
Jane: A little bit of crop, but mainly sheep. So, we have a lot of sheep. It keeps us busy.
Lisa: Yes, I’m sure it does. Okay, so tell us about how you got started on this wholefoods thing. Was it always something for you, or was it something that you came to?
Jane: So, it was actually, I was on Facebook, online, and I saw your webinar with Jude Blereau, and I listened to it, and it actually made me have all these, ‘Aha,’ moments. So, when I talked about the MSG with my daughter, one example was we were driving home from Perth, I gave her chicken nuggets, from MacDonald’s, I think it was, and it was within about twenty minutes, she was screaming at me. Like, angry.
And she’s the most placid kid, she was so chilled, dream baby, textbook. Slept all the time, breastfed amazing, no problems, and then this kid, just yelling, screaming, bright red. Nothing I said or did could calm her down, she was just a mess. And I was like, ‘What the heck?’ And I was like, ‘The only thing that’s different is the nuggets.’
So, I thought, ‘Oh well, I won’t give them to her again,’ and we didn’t have an issue again. Then I listened to your webinar with Jude, and a few things started to click in place, and then that’s when we started to realise a few things.
Lisa: If anyone’s listening and you’re not sure, Jane is referring to Jude Blereau, who is, like, the Godmother of Australian wholefoods. She is an amazing woman, and I have interviewed her so many times now, and every time, I learn something. It’s her common sense approach, and just going back to basics, that I love.
Even although I feel like she’s at a point that I’d love to be in terms of the ingredients that she uses, her ability to actually cook technical things, is, kind of, a little bit beyond me right now with the three little kids. But tell me, when you heard that, and then when you experienced the chicken nugget thing. I know the MSG story, but everyone else doesn’t know it, so, perhaps, give us a little bit of a-,
Jane: Yes, sure. So, every Sunday night, the local Roadhouse, the BP, we’d call in and get our fish and chips. My husband plays football, so we’d be there all day, the last thing I’d want to do is come home and cook. So, we’d grab our fish and chips, and it would be every Monday night, almost exactly 24 hours later, she would have an epic meltdown. They would last, sometimes, 45 minutes to an hour, hour-and-a-half, and you couldn’t touch her, couldn’t go near her.
The one thing that was the hardest, at one stage, she was rocking back and forth, holding the back of her head. She was only two, two-and-a-half, maybe three. She’s about three-and-a-half now. And I was like, ‘This is not normal.’ Three-year-olds, they have their tantrums, but they pull themselves out of it pretty quick, you know, you can distract them with something and they’re fine. But, I was like, ‘This cannot be normal.’
So, I had joined your Small Steps program at that stage, and was just starting to take small steps. It was then that I realised, ‘Well, maybe I’ll just cut out the fish and chips,’ considering we’d had the reaction from the nuggets not so long ago. And then, yes, it was just almost instant, nothing. I was like, ‘How can fish and chips on a Sunday night have such an effect?’
Then I was talking to my sister, who’s also a teacher in Melbourne, and she said, ‘I’ve just done some research. Have you ever heard of an MSG tantrum?’ And I was like, ‘No, an MSG tantrum. Surely that’s not a real thing?’ She was like, ‘It is, and it happens, exactly 24 hours after eating it.’ And I was like, lightbulb moment, that’s it, it has to go. Which makes it hard, but it’s so worth it not giving it to her. She’s just a different child, completely.
Lisa: It’s just so crazy that we don’t know what all of this food is doing, and can you imagine if you were a family who had that a few nights a week? And were just in this constant meltdown of children situation. And it’s not something that happens to everyone, but how lucky for her that you’ve copped on. Because I think that’s the worst thing, when you see your child going through something, that you’re like, ‘I don’t want this to be your thing.’ Like, ‘I’m suffering, this sucks for me, but this sucks harder for you.’
Jane: That’s right, exactly. And she was just to the point where after the tantrum, she’d just be so exhausted, but then she’d go to sleep. And it wouldn’t be a good, solid sleep where she’d sleep through the night. She was restless, and she’d cry out, and all sorts of things throughout the night. So, it wasn’t even like she was sleeping well, or anything afterwards. So, I was like, ‘There’s got to be something else,’ and then yes, it was the MSG.
Lisa: So, talk to us about, where was food before Small Steps? You know, did you make improvements from that? Because from what you shared with me, you knew how to cook.
Jane: Yes. Well, I have to know how to cook, I’m a farmer’s wife! But everything was pretty well, packet cake mixes, because it was quick. Whizz it up, chuck it in the oven. Mini chocolate bars, summer rolls, juice boxes. It was just whatever I could get my hands on that was quick and easy, and I could chuck in a lunchbox. And my husband’s grown up with that as well, so I just thought, ‘Well, that’s what he likes, I know he likes it, so I’ll just throw it in.’
Yes, so it was because my husband could see the change in our daughter that he was like, ‘No, we need to stick with this, and change what we’re eating, and everything. Every now and then, he goes, ‘I’m too skinny,’ and I said, ‘Well, that’s because you’re not eating all the junk when you’re sitting on the tractor, not putting on all the weight!’ He was like, ‘Oh, I’ll have to buy smaller clothes.’ I was like, ‘Well, at least you’re healthy, dear!’
Lisa: Well, exactly! So, what do you reckon were some of the quickest, easiest things that you started to change? Was it really hard, or were there some things that were easy?
Jane: I’ve actually found it quicker to make something from scratch than try and read the instructions on the back of the box of how to make it, or whatever else. It’s actually been quite an easy transition. I think I spoke to you before, when we had our Perth Small Steps catch-up, and I was saying that I was previously a Thermomix Consultant, and everything else.
Since I’ve been making things from scratch, I’ve actually found that I’m not using the Thermomix as much. It’ just so quick to just chop up the veggies, chuck it in the tray, put the sausages on, in the oven, done. I don’t know how to explain it, or why, but it is just easier just to do it yourself, from scratch.
Lisa: I started my Facebook page as a Thermomix Consultant, because I was experimenting with this new machine, and doing all fun things. Then I got a bit the same as you. I feel like, ‘Yes, it’s brilliant, and it’s a helpful tool in my kitchen.’ And especially because of the kids, and where they’re at, and they don’t like everything mixed in together, that I was just doing a lot of roast veggies. A lot of sweet potato, a lot of steamed greens, that sort of stuff. Yes, and the flavour, if you get good food, it’s enough.
Jane: Yes, it sure is. The flavour is 100 times better.
Lisa: Yes. Like, I tried to do Bolognese in the Thermomix, so many times, all of the best recipes, I tried. And you just cannot beat a simmered down, on the stove top, reducing, good, hearty-,
Jane: Yes, the flavour’s all the way through the meat. It’s beautiful.
Lisa: Yes. So, tell us a little bit about you, and your relationship with yourself throughout all of this.
Jane: Yes. So, previously, obviously, because we were eating foods that probably weren’t the best for us, my weight used to fluctuate a lot. Like, I could lose 5kg in two weeks. On, off, on, off, it just went up and down. And I was like, ‘This is crazy.’ It used to drive me nuts, because I’d have two different sizes in my wardrobe, ‘Which one am I going to wear this week?’ sort of thing.
It’s been, sort of, like an (? 13:09). I feel like my brain isn’t foggy any more, it’s so clear, I can think straight. I never used to be able to do lots of things at once, or think about several things at once, and I would just get overwhelmed and almost have a meltdown myself. But now, I can think clearly, I can do several things at once. I know what’s going on, I’m more organised. I’ve been able to go back to University while I’ve got the two girls, and help my husband on the farm, that sort of thing. It’s all just clicked into place.
So, then, I suppose, while all that was happening, I just got distracted from the jumping on the scales, ‘My clothes aren’t fitting,’ etc. Then I started playing netball again, as well, so then the exercise has come in, so, feeling good because I’ve been exercising, eating well. And then all of a sudden I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t even need the scales. I don’t even need to try on different clothes or have different things.’ It was just, ‘Oh, this works. I feel good. I don’t need to worry about it. I’m happy, I’m healthy, I’m just living. It’s great, there’s nothing hanging over me any more.’
Lisa: I just think it’s crazy how so many of us look at what is on the scales as a reflection of who we are, how good we are, how on track. It takes the focus away from the things that you were just talking about, which is actually, ‘How I feel is better. Am I moving?’
I see people, even people who come into Small Steps, and it’s something that I always talk about. Just don’t make life about food, even although food is so important, as we’ve just heard with the MSG tantrums and that kind of thing.
But if we get obsessive about food, then we’re not getting obsessive about living an awesome life. If our focus is kind of on that, like, what makes me feel really good, what can I do right now? And if that becomes, kind of, your compass point, I guess, then eating a great meal is, like, a result of that. And joining a netball team is like, ‘Oh man, I’m just going to do it.’ Yes, I find that really heart-warming, if Small Steps has played a part in that, because that’s, like, the whole point.
You know, we all know the rules around food. We all know we should be eating lots of vegetables, and if it was just about doing that, well, then we would all be doing it. But it’s not, because there are conversations going on in our head, and self-sabotage, and all that comes about when we just don’t feel good in ourselves.
Jane: Exactly, yes. It’s almost like a circle, too. So, you know you’re not feeling the best, so I now know that I now need to cook something decent to eat, make it, it’s not hard, it’s quick. Then I’ve eaten, and then I feel better. Rather than going to the cupboard, trying to find that packet of whatever, just to shove down quickly before you go do the next thing. It just improves everything.
Lisa: Yes, it’s just a spin-off effect. So, what are you studying at Uni? Tell us.
Jane: I’m finishing off my teaching degree. So, I did it many years ago, when I was younger. And of course, doing the typical, ‘Ah, I can finish it later. I don’t really need to do it now, let’s go do some other things, try a few different jobs.’ Yes, wish I’d finished it when I was a bit younger, but that’s okay. I’m finishing that off now!
Lisa: So, what will you do, primary, secondary?
Jane: Kindy to Year 7.
Lisa: Oh, nice!
Jane: It gives me more options for more work.
Lisa: Yes, which, I’m sure there are not that many schools around your area.
Lisa: If you could go back in time, or if you could tell yourself, back before you knew anything, what advice would you give yourself about food?
Jane: Good one. It is definitely about the small steps. So, even if you can’t get the organic lettuce, or the organic capsicum, or grass-fed organic beef, or whatever, just eat the fruit and veg, and the meat. Go back to basics, and just do the best you can with what you’ve got.
I face that every day here. I can’t just go and get organic fruit and veg, and grass-fed meat, so I just do the best with what I’ve got. Sometimes, it is frozen veggies, but at least it’s veggies. At least it’s not fish and chips, and my daughter’s going to have a meltdown. Yes, just go back to basics, and work with what you’ve got.
Lisa: I love that, and I think that we see, in Small Steps, the perfectionist tendencies that people have. Like, once you know this stuff, you can’t not know it, and so you want to do it right, but then that causes all kinds of stress. So, do you have any ways in which you’ve been able to bring that-, is it just that you can’t be a perfectionist about it? Or have you had to, kind of, let go of certain things?
Jane: It’s probably a bit of both. I did get very stressed at the beginning, ‘Oh my goodness, how am I going to get all this organic stuff? I don’t know how to do it.’ And then driving to Mindarie, an hour-and-a-half that way, to get meat, and fruit and veg, which I do generally anyway, because I know I can get good quality stuff.
But even then, sometimes, I couldn’t get the organic fruit and veg. So, then I got to the point where I was like, ‘Right, you’re doing your own head in. Enough’s enough, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got. The best you can do at the moment, and when you can get it, get it, and when you can’t, that’s fine too.
Lisa: I remember with Jude, and I don’t know if this is one of the webinars that you watched, when she was like, ‘Get out your Woman’s Weekly biscuits or cakes cookbook. Just make something from that. White sugar, white flour, who the frig cares. Just make it from scratch, and you are winning.’ That’s the thing that keeps me sane, sometimes, is whatever I’m doing, if I can do it by myself, which doesn’t always happen, at all, but if I am then every time I do that, then that’s a win for the team.
Jane: That’s right.
Lisa: So, I’m so glad that that has seeped into you. And I love, also, that you can still be patting yourself on the back every step of the way, which I think is important. Because otherwise, like, what are we doing with our life, if we’re just going to be whipping ourselves for the things that we haven’t done?
Jane: Exactly. It puts you in a pretty tough spot, if you can’t get yourself out of that rut, where you just think you’re not doing a good enough job all the time. You just don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But once you just tell yourself, ‘It’s okay, you’re doing the best you can, let’s just keep going,’ it works. You just get on with it, and your day’s good again.
Lisa: Oh, and that is where we will end this interview, because that is the best piece of advice. Everyone should hear what you just said then. Because, I think if more people took a leaf out of our books. You know, concentrating on our kids, looking at them, and saying, ‘Hey, this doesn’t feel right. I might need to do something about this.’ And then experimenting, without going crazy. And then finding that, ‘Okay, that sticks. Let’s just keep going with that.’
But then, also, just relaxing on the journey, being able to give yourself a pat on the back, and knowing that everything’s going to be okay, is the best. And that’s why your story is worth sharing, because you are an example to people as someone who’s doing amazing things, personally, in your life. You know, finishing off Uni, getting back into sport.
That is something that really holds people up, and you’re out there doing it, and you’re doing great work for your family. And you’re running a farm. Bloody hell, I don’t even know how you do it all! But you’ve just got this beautiful, balanced, approach, and I am so grateful to you for sharing that with us today.
Jane: You’re welcome.
Lisa: The more people know that this is possible, and that it doesn’t have to be stressful, and we don’t have to turn ourselves inside out. Sure, there’s a moment of stress, as a lot of us realise, ‘Oh gosh, the way that I’m doing things might not be the best way.’ But if we can make those changes slowly, and with kindness to ourselves, then I think we’re going to get further, faster.
Jane: That’s right, exactly.
Lisa: Well, thank you Jane.
Jane: You’re welcome! Thank you, it’s been lovely talking to you.
Lisa: Thank you for taking some time out. Now, go and, like, what do you do with sheep? Are you going to shear them?
Jane: Not today, we’re not shearing today! A bit cold weather for that. We usually do that in March. I’m not doing anything with sheep today, thankfully, but I do have cleaning to do!
Lisa: At least now we’ve had a good chat, and then that makes the dishes easier.
Jane: Yes! I don’t think anything makes dishes easier, they’re the bane of my existence. I hate them! That and washing.
Lisa: Ah, the washing pile. I just went away, and I came back, and Mum had been here for a few days, and all of my washing was up-to-date. Everything was away.
Jane: Love it when Mum comes to visit!
Lisa: It’s the best thing! How does she do this? I just don’t know.
Jane: My Mum had four kids under five-and-a-half, in five-and-a-half years, and I honestly look at her now, and say, ‘Mum, how did you do it?’ Honestly. I’ve got two girls, and I cannot fathom the idea of four kids! No way. It’s just incredible.
Lisa: Everything would have been from scratch, for her. I often use that as a barometer. Like, my Granny, she wasn’t going through cookbooks every second day, she wasn’t flicking through Facebook and being bombarded with ideas of what to eat. She just knew how to make a roast, how to make basic food. Chops and mashed potato, whatever it was.
We’re not doing ourselves a favour by complicating it. It’s the head stuff that I think needs to just be calmed right down, so that we can just go back to basics, have our staples, know that we can whip them out, like our parents and their parents did.
Jane: That’s like, the house that my husband and I live in, his Pop built, about 60 years ago when his Pop and his Nana got married, and there are marks still in the sink where his Nana used to cut the sheep up that they got from the paddock. There are marks in the sink from the knife, where she’s cut the sheep up on the sink.
Lisa: That is next level, Jane. Like, I did not know what you were going to say just then!
Jane: Yes, it’s like, really from scratch. She grew all her own food, they had their own meat, they had milk from a cow. They did everything from scratch, themselves.
Lisa: If you think about the difference between what our kids are growing up eating, versus what your dad would have grown up. We’ve just messed things up really quickly for ourselves, and all we need to just do is go back to basics. So, thank you for sharing your story of how you’re doing that. I think you’re a total rockstar, and I’m so grateful to have the chance to chat today.
Jane: No worries. Thanks, Lisa.