When I compare myself to other health bloggers, I think that we’re actually pretty lax about the whole healthy living thing. We choose toothpaste without fluoride, but we don’t make it ourselves. Shampoo… let’s not even go there. While we did GAPS I was careful and we used only Dr Bronner’s for everything. But now I have Costco-sized shampoo bottles of conventional shampoo (that works quite well) in my bathroom.
We eat gluten free at home, mostly… We buy local produce only when it’s convenient, and we purchase plenty of conventional – not even organic- produce right from chain grocery stores like Safeway, Costco, and Albertson’s. There is canned tuna in my cupboard, conventional dishwasher detergent under my sink, and Oxy Clean next to the 7Th Generation laundry detergent above my washer.
We make healthy sustainable choices when they work, and when they aren’t working for us or it’s not in the budget, we’re okay with making compromises.
But I have been reminded again and again that ‘normal’ is ‘sick’
The kids are just wrapping up their school year, this is the first time that I haven’t done some combination of homeschooling for part of the year -they’ve both been in all year long.
We’ve healed with GAPS, and I felt like we were in a pretty good place health-wise so I decided this year that I wouldn’t stress about what they got at school and at friends’ and neighbor’s houses. I’d go with the 80/20 principal, thinking that if I fed them well at home, where they’re getting at least 80% of their food, they’d be okay with occasional junk in other places.
Cookies for the letter ‘C’ week in Kindergarten…
Cupcakes for the birthdays, microwave popcorn at the neighbor’s while watching a movie, lollipops at the hair salon, ranch dressing from the school cafeteria…
…a few pieces of candy snuck from Valentines and Halloween and Easter parties at school, chips and pretzels shared from friends
Soda and candy at church… (?!)
You know what? It was too much
If you looked at my kids, you couldn’t tell. Even with me loosening up on my ideals to make way for less controlled social interactions (read: Letting them eat junk food, but still not serving it at my house), they still had fairly decent immune systems, are growing well, have buckets of energy, and while they still exhibited developmentally-appropriate behavioral testing, it wasn’t out of line of anyone else in their classroom.
But I could tell…
When my son threw up early in the morning on February 15th, after the Valentine’s party at school and then sneaking some candy he knew I wouldn’t want him to have when he got home. And the headaches that he suddenly started getting… that appeared only after visiting friends’ houses (but didn’t happen when friends visited ours).
When my daughter wasn’t growing as well as she had been, and then over winter break ate and ate and ate— she was starving for nutrition.
When both of them would do the emotional roller coaster thing after getting soda, candy, or other sugar.
When meals were being refused and lunches were coming home barely touched, I later learned that there was a lot of ‘trading’ going on at lunch time, so he was holding out and hoping to score some chips, candy, or cookies.
Processed food tastes good, I know that. Food engineers are paid thousands upon thousands to make us choose their nutritionally-void food over our real food.
I didn’t want to be ‘that mom’
When Hannah was on GAPS, and she would wake up at night and scream every 2 hours from getting food off GAPS, I was *that mom*. The one who gave implicit instructions that they were not to eat anything at school other than what I sent. The one who stayed at all play dates because I knew that one goldfish that she found between the couch cushions would set us back a week.
The one who said ‘no’ a lot: To the ‘whole fruit’ popsicles made with sugar, to the ‘allergy friendly’ rice crackers, to the lotion from Bath and Body Works, to nail polish, spray sunscreen, and cupcakes at the class party.
Being ‘that mom’ is tiring, and it can be socially isolating, and I was fearing that it would result in my children being unkind or judgmental.
You see, I don’t judge you for what you serve your kids. We’re all at different places in our health goals, we all have different priorities in our lives, and we all have different budgets, cooking skill levels, and desires. And I certainly don’t want to come across as judgmental, but it’s hard to not hurt your feelings while still standing up for what my kids need health-wise.
No, they don’t really have ‘food allergies’ – they just don’t do well with junk food.
But my kids are worth it
This week I’ve been working on explaining more of why we eat how we do to the kids. My daughter is back on GAPS (with the support of her teacher, she sees the difference it makes in her ability to learn), and my son and I have conversations about nutrition, gut flora, and the importance of filling up on good healthy food that mom works hard to prepare for him.
Thankfully we have a few close friends who really get what we’re doing in our house, and support us, even if they don’t eat exactly the same as we do. And I’m going to start having more play dates at my house, where food is more supervised. It’s more work, and is a little more socially isolating, but this is going to affect them for their whole lives.
When they get junk, they get sick.
Moms, we need to keep working to change. If this is affecting my kids, I’m sure it’s affecting yours as well. While doing research on eczema for an upcoming article, I saw the statistics about eczema being on the rise in children, and followed the rabbit trail to see statistics about so many more chronic health issues in children:
- Food Allergies
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Developmental Delays
- Childhood Obesity
- Autoimmune conditions
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- I’m sure there are more (I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments)
This isn’t a coincidence. We may have been able to sustain one generation on hotdogs, Snickers bars, Kraft Mac n Cheese, and neon-colored sugar-filled yogurt, but we can’t keep going on like this.
We need to slow down, spend some more time in the kitchen, and maybe stop being afraid to be ‘that mom’. We need to talk to our kids about health and nutrition, and model healthy choices for them. Peer pressure is real, and it affects us just as much as our kids.
They’re worth it, though, so let’s keep pushing back and changing the status quo.
Have you had some chronic health problems like allergies, attention deficits, skin issues, digestive upset, or depression and thought going grain free (GAPS, SCD, etc) would help but are too overwhelmed to start?
Did you know you don’t have to do a GAPS protocol for an entire two year period to see results? You can do a week trial, or a month, or whatever time period works for you, and while sticking to the basic ‘rules’ of being grain, starch, and sugar free is important to see results, it isn’t necessary for everyone to do the juicing/broth protocol outlined in Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
Eating grain free helps restore the normal functioning of the gut, which is related to your whole body’s health- from your joint aches to skin issues to digestive function.
Here are 10 reasons why this summer presents the perfect opportunity to do a grain and sugar free trial:
1. It’s barbecuing weather! Fire up the grill and cook some meat, grill veggies some veggies or fruit. Shish kabobs (my recent fav recipe is here) are fun for everyone, and are an easy-to-take along lunch for the next day. Barbecued burgers with guacamole are so good- who needs a bun?
2. Fresh produce. Loads of ripe fruit for drying, eating fresh, or freezing for smoothies. Fresh garden produce is being harvested by the basket full, and there is lots of room for it on our plate when we eat primarily produce and protein. For cost savings, eat a bunch of veggies with healthy fat (coconut oil is relatively inexpensive)
3. Things to do! People to see! There’s so much going on this summer that there are tons of distractions from what we can’t eat while avoiding sugar/starch/grains. In the winter we might want more bready comfort food in the long evenings, but summer days tend to be cram packed with activity so it’s a perfect time to just pack a lunch and go do stuff.
4. Increased energy for the things you love: I have more energy when I’m completely avoiding grains and sugar. Part of this is because I find it easy to avoid sweets when I cut them out 100%, and I feel better when I avoid sugar. Another reason for having more energy is that food prep is simplified so much without grains!
5. Smoothies! Smoothies are a GAPS-friendly summertime treat. (click here for some favorite smoothie recipes)
6. Farmer’s markets are an inspiration as they are full of GAPS friendly whole foods. From farm fresh eggs to veggies you hadn’t thought to try until they showed up in abundance at the farmer’s market, you’ll be excited about all the seasonal foods that are grain free.
7. Snacks on the run are simple- Check out the snacks section on my GAPS recipes page here. We don’t depend on highly processed snacks in packages, but rather love homemade jerky, dried fruit, and fresh veggies.
8. You’ll know for sure whether going grain free is helpful to you- Sometimes I think we spend more time fretting and wondering than actually doing something productive about our health ;) After just a week or so of being grain free you should be able to see if it’s working well for you, or not really at all. It’s not hard- cook some meat, eat some veggies, avoid any packaged foods since they are likely to contain ‘illegal’ ingredients.
9. Get rid of seasonal allergies! Got the sneezes, runny nose, itchy eyes? Allergy season had just started when I decided to go grain-free for the season. My symptoms were completely gone within 48 hours. I’ll happily modify my diet in order to avoid the yuck of seasonal allergies. (read more about seasonal allergies and gut health here)
10. Look your best: This is an added bonus- I do appreciate the fact that my under eye circles are completely gone when I’m on GAPS, my skin is amazingly clear, and I tend to lose a few pounds in a healthy way.When we eat food that our body doesn’t know what to do with, it often responds with an inflammatory response – increased blood volume (swelling) and increased blood flow to certain areas (allergic shiners- increased blood flow to the sinuses) to try to clear out the offending particles.
What do you think? Will you do a trial this summer? Just a week? Just a month?
- Want to try going grain free but need some direction? Sign up for Grain Free Meal Plans, to give you recipes and directions for what to make 3 meals a day, 7 days a week!
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