Parents, Get It Together
A letter from a Mom.
Kids these days! They want to fight us on everything. I mean everything! How do we pick our battles for the sake of sanity without sacrificing something important? Well, it’s hard. And though I despise excuses, and especially the phrase “it’s too hard,” I do understand. But there’s a difference between “it’s too hard” and “I don’t want to try.” Stay with me here, we’re gonna dig into some truth and uncover why that food battle has become such a hot topic.
How many parents do you know of with children diagnosed with allergies, food intolerances or autoimmune diseases? What about cases where you hear about children getting sick, dealing with chronic infections, allergy attacks, and/or recurring digestive problems that keep them home from school or perpetually stuck sitting in a doctor’s waiting room? Thing is, all of that is so common we don’t even think twice about it anymore.
The striking anomaly I observe too often is that a lot of worried parents seem to be in and out of the pediatrician’s office constantly, sharing complaints about the time off work, crap from insurance companies, and the insane cost of ER visits, treatments and medications — all while they simultaneously hand their kid a happy meal sack loaded with hydrogenated oils, sugar, sulfites, and chemicals. Or racing their sick child into the wellness clinic at midnight to get a steroid shot, and then, out of guilt, grabbing them an ice cream cone from the Wendy’s Drive-thru afterward.
Tough love can be received in a highly offensive way if our channels are crooked, so just be clear about this one thing: parents have a tough, delicate job to do, and the awareness in knowing how easy it is to screw it up and cause another human being to suffer causes insurmountable anxiety, worry, second-guessing and fear.
There’s nothing I could understand better than that, so I don’t fault any parent for anything, because I know that we do the best we can with the information we’re given and the resources to apply it. I have counseled some parents through many dietary elimination processes and understand how hard it is to grasp the most simple concepts after 30+ years of being conditioned to believe that infections, viruses, and disease are all the result of bad fortune, and the only way to better fortune in our health is through a needle, pharmacy, or operating table.
Newsflash: You Are What You Eat!
Visualize with me. If your child is eating more garbage than they are eating real food (real food = not created in a factory), it’s time to imagine what their bodies are being constructed out of. Each second of their life is utilized growing bones, muscles, organs, brain tissue, lungs, and everything else —every day. What goes inside of their body is what produces the outcome of all that cellular growth and activity.
When a child consumes more processed food than they do real, whole foods, they are overtaxing the body’s system of detoxification. Chemicals, preservatives, additives and waste byproducts of the crap their bodies do not recognize as food (because it isn’t) or are unable to digest alerts the system with a “code red” alarm to eliminate those potentially harmful threats on the system. That’s nature.
That’s how the body of a living, breathing mammal works. Survival is built in before conception! From conception to puberty, that innate system is on uber high alert just trying to grow, become strong, and conquer any threat to its survival. So if a child has to activate and work their detox (survival) system every time they eat, what happens? Their bodies get tired, maybe slow down because it’s being overworked, over-burdened.
And that’s when the immune system suppresses and leaves the weakest chain in the link vulnerable to any threat. And every time our kids get sick, who do we blame? That germy daycare during the cold season? Snotty, unclean kids from school? The shopping cart at Target? The thing is, you can squirt purell on their cute, pudgy, dirty little hands all day, that’s not gonna keep them from getting sick.
The truth is, my kids, do eat processed food. I’m not a militant Mom who refuses to allow them flexibility and independence. Even though I’m a holistic nutritionist, a Paleo advocate, exercise coach, and counselor, I’m not a food nazi. But I am committed to drawing healthy boundaries and attitudes surrounding meals and food choices. I’m not pretending it’s easy! I worry I get anxious, I feel sad. I have battles with whining and complaining over vegetables. I don’t flinch when punches are thrown. I don’t ever give up. Here’s why:
• I was the sick kid. Since age 7 and up, I spent the majority of my time in the nurse’s office, or with my mom driving from one doctor to another or sitting in a pharmacy. On many occasions, I was spending weeks in a hospital hooked up to IVs. I’m too familiar with what it feels like to look back on your life and realize you missed huge chunks of childhood. And why? Because, as it turned out, I had a lot of food allergies that went completely overlooked, and an autoimmune disease that was never diagnosed.
I was treated for the symptoms for 15 years. No one ever looked for the cause. And it all stemmed back to FOOD. For fuck’s sake, my parents went into debt and I bypassed a lot of growth & development opportunities (even social) all for Kraft Mac & Cheese. That’s the bottom line there.
When my oldest began to require more and more pediatric visits, I had flashbacks. The alarms began to sound. Then the second was born. Eventually, I couldn’t ignore my instincts anymore. If your kid is on his/her third round of antibiotics already this year, you’ve got a problem. And if their doctor doesn’t seem concerned? That’s a bigger problem.
• My conscience. Is that crazy? Even after I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2001, I still didn’t grasp the importance of healthy eating. I stopped eating gluten, sure. But given my health status, I still didn’t uncover the magnitude of food’s purpose until 2004 when I began the SCD diet.
I thought I was doing good gluten-free, but after ONE week on SCD I watched my body transform beyond anything I’d ever imagined: I slept, my skin cleared, I stopped killing everything within a 1 mile radius with my chronic flatulence (sexy), my energy increased, and I was focused and clear.
Most notably, my migraines ceased. So, even though I knew that gluten was my enemy, and the bare minimum standard I’d need to live by in order to survive was simply to avoid gluten; I discovered more about food and health beyond the disease. I learned, firsthand, how our bodies thrive (or don’t thrive) in reaction to the way you nourish it.
Though I don’t follow SCD 100% to this day, it taught me a lot. Enough to know that what I provide my children, what I allow them to eat and snack on will directly – DIRECTLY – affect their digestion, nutrient absorption, their energy levels, their moods & ability to concentrate, their capabilities to adapt to climate changes, handle stress, and fight off any bacteria, virus or disease.
When I let my kids nosh on a chocolate chip cookie with some lemonade I know that there is nothing in either of those items that serve their bodies with any kind of nutrition beneficial to what their bodies need. I know this. Do I still allow it sometimes, yes? But my conscience tells me that they are being robbed of nutrients at that very moment, and that is what motivates me in not allowing it to be a habit.
Its a FACT that processed ROBS you of important nutrients by preventing you from absorbing them, or by using any/all stores of nutrients just to eliminate the toxins you eat. So with that fact in hand, I cannot – in good conscience – supply my children with easy access, without boundaries, to that will rob them of vitality. In fact, how dare I?
• I’m a nutritionist. Okay… professionally, yes. But does that make me special? No. EVERY parent should be a nutritionist. Instead of relying on Dr. Oz, Parent Magazine and your pediatrician to make all the decisions for you, without any further questioning or investigation, is an outright danger to your kids’ health.
There I said it. If you don’t believe me, refer back to #1 on this list. You need to be your child’s advocate. A parent is a nutritionist, doctor, teacher, counselor, and coach. A parent is everything. It’s good to know who the professionals are, but a pediatrician cannot trump your own maternal instincts.
Even the best teachers on earth don’t know your kid the way you do. So why throw in the towel and let everyone ELSE do the treating, comforting, teaching, feeding, coaching and counseling for your child? As a parent, YOU are the nutritionist in their life.
And a nutritionist knows what they need to grow, develop and strengthen their immune systems. Goldfish crackers won’t kill your kid, but I think you know they’re not helping their biology. When I work with kids, I put food into two categories. I. Living food and II. Dead food. Even the freshest health rookie can fill in those categories. Reflect on this day and see if you can categorize your kids’ plates and evaluate the ratio of living food to dead food. Then ask yourself this: if the majority of your diet consists of dead food, then what’s going on inside of it?
• Evolution. A lot of my reasoning definitely boils down to that. We didn’t spend thousands of years working our way to the top of the food chain simply to abuse our bodies with every kind of convenience we can try and invent! In the grand scheme of human history, we have only spent about 0.0001% of our evolution eating grains, sugar, corn, and processed food.
Our bodies we still getting used to grains when we introduced, within a short 50 year period, so. much. I’m talking about GMOs, pesticides, chemical sprays, radiation, food additives, coloring and preservatives, and chemically-laced, pre-packaged frozen dinners (which you have to radiate even more just to eat), snacks, cereals, pastries, bread, candy, etc. And it’s ALL packed with ingredients our bodies cannot recognize as actual food, so from an evolutionary, biochemical perspective, the majority of foods that we give our kids, unfortunately, is not food.
And in order to process the chemical storms entering their bodies on a daily basis, their bodies have to constantly give up nutrients and minerals to eliminate the excess toxins. This creates inflammation and malnourishment. Now their bodies are on constant high-alert. And when they get sick, we blame everyone and everything ELSE for it.
• I’m the Mom! That’s right. Forget all this progressive bull about kids needing more freedom and choices so we can build their confidence. My kids get a lot of freedom and independence, trust me- I’m no helicopter mom. But they don’t know jack about managing their health and I’m not going to sacrifice that for a little ego boost in an 8-year-old, are you serious? And you know what else?
I’m the boss. I earned that damn title. Even if my motivation in limiting the number of sugary snacks they shovel into their faces was purely out of malicious intent – because temper tantrums brought me joy – it wouldn’t matter. I make the rules, I set the limitations, I know what’s best for my child and I get to decide how they are nourished and fed.
Period. Do you think I made it to adulthood to have a 5-year old tell me what we’re having for dinner? Listen, in the last 20 years I’ve survived puberty, high school, 3 rounds of college (therefore poverty), debt, career, marriage, pregnancies and years of breastfeeding those little trolls so, I’m sorry, my kids are not about to put me on a leash! And you know what else I think about?
I’ve got a brother who survived 3 tours to Iraq in the height of the violent war, and in consideration of everything he overcame (which I definitely won’t get into) then I think – big picture here- I can conquer a friggin’ war with a preschooler over vegetables.
As much as you would have had to pry my mouth open to get me to eat anything green as a kid, it would have been nothing compared to what I went through physically, mentally and emotionally. And for my parents; financially. What’s done is done, but I wish someone would have put their foot down and made me eat better.
I wish my parents had the kind of knowledge available to them back then that we have available to us today. And I wish my doctors would have taken a second look at my records instead of writing me another prescription. And another. And another. I don’t fault them, and I’m no longer angry about the past.
But what does anger me now is that we DO have information available to us! We have so much knowledge ready to explore with one click. There are no more excuses now. Parents- you are raising your kids in a different time. What you knew as a kid, and how you were raised is nothing compared to this day.
So I’m holding you to the task.
Because your kids can’t. And won’t.
Your excuses are invalid.
I sympathize with “it’s so hard”, but I have no compassion for any parent who lets that be the reason they won’t try.
Before my conclusion (or yours), there’s one more thing.
One other, glaring inconsistency that I see with parents (especially mothers) all the time. And I mean ALL. THE. TIME. A very large contribution to the health and fitness industry comes from postpartum mothers who seek help in losing the belly, the pregnancy weight, or the c-section flab, etc.
Every day I witness these women demonstrate a willingness to follow the most self-deprecating guidelines for diet, nutrition and exercise regimens in order to fit into a certain size of pants. Even some of the most outspoken Paleo advocates I know completely compartmentalize themselves from their kids.
They will sing out all the glory of a Paleo Diet and how it has changed their lives, reversed disease, dropped fat, increased energy. They rave about it on blogs, facebook, twitter, at the gym, at dinner, with their friends, etc; but their kids are eating goldfish, cheerios, graham crackers, chicken nuggets and fast food! I encounter these parents all of the time. They don’t connect the dots and have their kids on constant cycles of antibiotics, steroids, inhalers, irritating prescription creams, Pepcid ac, and/or stool softeners.
So parents, get it together. Don’t allow double standards into that beautiful family of yours. The last thing you want your child to grow up learning is that you will discipline yourself in order to look good or feel better, but you can’t/ won’t discipline them so THEY can be healthy. Truth?
If I even had the slightest inkling that either of my parents knew better and applied that to themselves, but not me? I would probably be struggling to maintain a loving relationship with them today. The future is the product of what you do today. So what does the future look like for them?
Love, Health, and Joy