This is the question that I have asked myself over and over for the past two days.
Especially the why now question.
Halloween is a week away, we have already gone to a “Trunk or Treat” with the kids, and I have yet to buy candy to hand out on Hallow’s Eve.
If you know me, you know that I have a sweet tooth the size of Texas. Maybe even Alaska. I’m addicted to carbs (physically, mentally, emotionally) and it’s not a day without a bowl of cereal or a cookie. OR a cupcake. Or ice cream. Or all of it.
I think it goes without saying that he candy chillin’ on top of my refrigerator is calling my name with a megaphone. This has got to be the worst possible time to start a change in my habits. Or is it? This time will really test my will power. It will strengthen my abilities to say “no” because I will so often be challenged. It will help me learn what is OK to eat and what to stay away from, or what I can change for Thanksgiving and Halloween.
I have a goal of losing 20 lbs by Thanksgiving but come Thanksgiving, my goal is to not “cheat” and to stick to the lifestyle. There is no cheating in a lifestyle change, and if I learn to make similar dishes in a new way, there will be no reason to cheat.
I’m struggling with what to do with the kids, though. I think I am going to take someone’s suggestion of going gluten-free with them rather than grain-free. Madilyn loves her toast in the morning and can’t live without peanut butter sandwiches (which will very soon become almond butter sandwiches). Styles loves his pasta and will eat spaghetti squash but I feel so limited in how I can prepare it. Cheese is the other thing. I don’t know how I’m going to keep cheese out of their diets right now. I plan on weaning them, not cutting it out cold turkey.
So that brings me to “Why Paleo”? I discussed that in limited detail in my post about Going Caveman. But I would like to expand on it a little bit.
I tore the meniscus in my left knee when I was 15 by doing pirouettes in gym shoes on a rubber floor. Turns were never my thing. Quite obviously did something wrong. Back then, knee surgery wasn’t an option. I was told that I’d be better off having a torn meniscus than having knee surgery. That same year, I started having debilitating cramps for 2 days every month. Pooping was also painful for me. I was told that I just had cramps at that time but 10 years later I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis. When I was 17, I started getting migraines. They come in clusters (not to be confused with cluster headaches, I do get migraines). I will have several in one month but then will not have another for a few months, then have several in a few weeks, and not have another one for months. When I was 25, I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. When I was 27, I was put on bed rest for three months while pregnant with Madilyn, and when I got off, I had gained 80 lbs, suffered kidney stones, and had extremely weak muscles. The muscles caused a problem with my knees (remember that left torn meniscus?) and in general has caused my metabolism to enter a sad state of affairs.
I recently had a bout with migraines and they won in the first round. I got up after a 24 hour headache and took a trip to the chiropractor’s office. He then told me about how grains cause an inflammatory response in your muscles which can cause migraines. After suffering with migraines for 13 years and not being able to identify a trigger, I immediately thought that the high carb diet that I was eating was probably, in part, responsible for my recurring migraines. He talked to me at Paleo and I was almost sold.
Another problem that I want to eliminate is depression. I have a strong family history of mental illness and while I have escaped the more severe illnesses, I have, in the past 2 years, suffered with Postpartum Depression. (More on that later). It is no scientific secret that the things you eat have an effect on your hormones, which cause certain types of depression. If I can cure my psyche through changing my lifestyle and not with drugs, I’m all in.
And the last thing that I am looking to eliminate is the fog that I constantly walk around in. I can’t even remember what I wore yesterday, let alone that I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, or a PTA meeting to attend. It’s terrible. It makes me feel like a failure as an employee, a parent, and a spouse. I pretty much just fail at life.
The Paleo diet goes back to our roots. It is built upon the same principals with which our primal ancestors ate. They were hunters and gatherers, and ate what was seasonally available. The meat that they ate, grazed on grass, not grains. The vegetables and fruits that they ingested, were grown naturally without hormone- and gene-altering chemicals. The diet is only restrictive in the sense that you have to eliminate grains, artificial sugars, and legumes from your diet. There are plenty of other alternatives to these things but it takes some learning and planning. It is not only a change in diet, but a change in your mindfulness. It is a mindful, instinctive, and intuitive way to live your life. It appeals to me because I would love to be more purposeful with my life in general including but not limited to: raising my children, disciplining my children, keeping an organized and clean home, communicating with my spouse, and of course, preparing my meals.
So THAT’S where I am now. I’m learning and planning. I am on day 2 of my lifestyle change and feel good. I went to bed last night without that disgusting bloated feeling just under my breast. I slept well, and I am not tired today. I’m still a little hazy but I am enjoying being more purposeful with my food.
As I learn more, I will post more and I’m sure the reasons “Why Paleo” will grow exponentially. I can’t wait to share those reasons with you, and even more I can’t wait to show you how my body and life begin to change.
What I’m Reading for Inspiration:
I’d like to start this post by saying the following: I’ve never believed in ADHD. I always thought that ADHD was a diagnosis to brush off bad parenting. Kids who had ADHD spent way too much time in front of the TV, not enough time outside running their energy out, and did not experience enough discipline in their lives. The thought of giving a child Ritalin or something similar because they had energy baffled me. Kids have energy. It’s what they have. It’s what they do. Lack of attention span? GET OUTSIDE! GET DISCIPLINED! GET A ROUTINE!
That was then, this is now.
My handsome son was born 6 minutes after midnight on August 18, 2001 after 3 hours and 6 minutes of a whirlwind labor. When they laid him on my belly, I was so afraid to touch him. All I could do was stare at him with saucer-sized eyes and mouth agape. I remember my mom yelling at me to touch him (!) but he scared the crap out of me. I had never really been around babies before. He was so small and fragile, (at 8lbs 13oz), but absolutely beautiful. And it was then and there that I realized that I would never, ever be able to do enough for him. I would never be able to give him what he needed in life and I would most certainly fail him.
I don’t feel that way anymore…all the time. I do my best by him. I’ve realized that I’m not a perfect parent but nobody is. Shoot, even Mrs. Brady had her faults. How did she get to be a single mom to 3 girls anyways? The woman probably had a crazy streak, I know I would. Anyways, back to Styles: He was the easiest baby EVER, except when it came to eating. I had (have) flat nipples and opted to try breastfeeding without the use of shields. It was SO painful and I’m sure it was difficult for him to get a good latch while he began the work of drawing my nipples out. I had refused pacifiers at my baby shower and really didn’t want him to ever use one because I was absolutely terrified of nipple confusion and failing at nursing. Unfortunately, all he wanted to do was nurse and his little tummy couldn’t handle all of the milk that he was ingesting so he began projectile vomiting undigested milk all over the place. FUN. Our pediatrician recommended a pacifier after day 5 so I broke down and got him one. I’m not sure that he ever had nipple confusion but breastfeeding was certainly a learning experience for the both of us. After a few weeks, we got the hang of it and after about 2 months my pain finally dissipated.
Once we got the hang of it and my pain went away, I was better able to concentrate on enjoying Styles while he nursed. Because of the difficulties that we started with, I hadn’t yet tried to nurse him in public but the day finally came when I would try. It didn’t go so well. He would latch for maybe ten seconds then turn his head towards the action going on around him. He was hungry but wouldn’t nurse. He just wanted to see what was going on around him. Defeated, I took him to the car where he hungrily and efficiently ate his lunch. About a week later, we had family in town. I noticed that Styles wouldn’t nurse if anyone else was in the room with us. As soon has he heard another voice, he would unlatch and look around like nuts. The second I went to the bedroom, he would nurse just fine. Once the family left, I began noticing that if the TV was on, he wouldn’t nurse either. It had to be dim and quiet for him to nurse.
He was only 2 months old.
As Styles grew, he had boundless energy and once he started talking (FINALLY at the age of 3), he never, ever shut his mouth. 6 years later it’s still never realized a quiet moment. He could play for hours with his cars but beyond that, nothing held his attention for very long. And meal time? Forget it. It took him at least an hour to finish a meal (this bit actually hasn’t changed). Typical toddler!
Styles went to VPK when he was 4. He was the youngest in his class but a super-smart cookie. But he wouldn’t color, or sit still for story time, or take the time to learn to write. He had BETTER things to do! Like what? I can’t even tell you. But there were better things. Believe me. Styles loved to be the center of attention. During song time, he was always up dancing in front of the class. Typical Preschooler!
I debated sending Styles to Kindergarten. He was only 4 when the school year started but turned 5 shortly thereafter. I had heard that boys are less mature than girls and that it was ok to hold them back. I wasn’t at all concerned about his maturity, I was concerned about the fact that he still couldn’t write his name like the other kids in his VPK class, and couldn’t recognize simple words like “if” and “it”. I couldn’t ignore his supreme intelligence and decided to send him anyways. The kid could have a conversation with an adult, no issue. He GOT. LIFE. His teachers loved him. Styles was entertaining and excited about learning. He was in and out of his seat so that he could socialize with the other children in his class. He spent recess working on the classwork that he was unable to finish in class. Have I mentioned that he NEVER ate his lunch? Typical Kindergartener!
First grade came and went. Styles constantly brought home work that hadn’t been finished in class. His handwriting was (and still is) atrocious. He was a disruption to the class but not in an angry way. He was just so excited about life and wanted to share…everything…with anyone who would listen, whether someone was already talking or not.
Second grade. Styles had an awesome teacher. I had known her since I was a kid; she was excited to have Styles in her class and she had high expectations of him. The year began with some troubles. I noticed that Styles was having trouble concentrating on his homework. Even a simple beam of light on the table distracted him. His distraction wasn’t fleeting. He became obsessed. Obsession ruled his life. He would get excited about a toy and talk about it from the time he woke up until he went to bed at night. Or upset about something that happened in school and talk about it from the time he got home until he left for school again the next morning. He was abnormally emotional about everything. Everything. When he came home from school, he would cry and cry over his frustrations in school and say that he “just couldn’t do it”. He’s immensely smart, but was unable to get his intelligence down on paper. It was frustrating and upsetting as his parent to see him suffer. I decided to start eliminating things from his diet to see if it would help these symptoms. We eliminated refined sugars, everything white, added fruit high in antioxidants such as pomegranate and blueberry, began giving him fish oil caps to increase his Omega-3s, and started an herbal supplement called, “Calm Child”. I’m all about the placebo effect so we told him what the supplements were intended to do. I told his teacher that we were making some changes at home and to please let me know how things went at school. She was excited for Styles and eager to see the changes that I hoped for. After about 2 months of living with these diligent changes in diet and lifestyle, nothing had changed. Styles was the same at school and at home. It was around that time that his teacher suggested two things. 1: That Styles was gifted and 2. That Styles had ADHD. Gifted, yes. ADHD? HAHAHAHAHA! Not MY child.
I am a disciplinarian. We didn’t have cable TV. Styles was allowed to release his energy however and whenever he saw fit. I read to him every night. I was attentive to his needs. He had his own independence. We ate well, er…I ate well. Styles didn’t like to eat. Still doesn’t. He has better things to do. There’s no such thing as ADHD!
I reluctantly signed the papers that would allow Styles to be observed in class by a professional to determine whether or not we needed to pursue an official diagnosis. Near the end of the school year, we got the results back. It was clear by the results that the professional who did the observation thought that Styles had ADHD. She recommended that we see a Psychiatrist. I laughed at the results of his test while my husband got angry with me for “taking it so lightly”. I laughed because I could see Styles acting out the things that the observer described. And as much as they saddened me, they were the little extra special things that made him Styles. During tests or other times that he needed to be doing work, he would rifle through his desk, appearing to look for something. He would turn the pages of his work, appearing to look at what he should be doing, then roll his pencil across his desk for a few minutes. He would then get up to talk to the teacher, who would make him sit down and the whole thing would start over. Most times, he wouldn’t even finish his work. He was unable to finish his work.
When school got out that year, I took him to a Child Psychiatrist who was a DO. I liked the fact that she knew natural ways to deal with mental disorders. She met with us a few times and determined that Styles did, in fact have ADHD. I begged and pleaded with her for ways to treat him that didn’t involve drugs. She told me that where ADHD is involved, there is little that you can do that is “natural” that will truly help control the symptoms. She did admit that a diagnosis of ADHD was not taken lightly by her. She said that much like autism, it is a spectrum disorder and can have varying degrees of severity. Apparently Styles was a relatively severe case. I told her about the changes that we had made with his diet and the herbal supplements and she was not at all surprised that it had not helped him.
I was devastated. My efforts at being a good parent, a parent who would protect her child from all of life’s troubles, a parent who genuinely tried to do what was best for her child, had failed. I couldn’t protect him from his genes, from the chemical imbalance in his brain, or from the social stigmas that follow people with ADHD around like a landfill stench. We began a long and arduous process of finding a medication that would help Styles overcome the symptoms of ADHD. I’ll save that story for another day, but there were many before we finally settled on Adderall. Styles is now even more well-rounded than he was before he began taking medication. His grades were never bad, but he had a difficult time doing anything. I was afraid that the medications would cause him to become a zombie but that hasn’t happened. He definitely calms down, he is able to focus, and his work is outstanding. He was tested for the gifted program before Christmas and we recently found out that he does not only suffer from ADHD but is, in fact, gifted. I attended his Honor Roll ceremony today, where he received “High Honor Roll” for Q1 and “Honor Roll” for Q2. He comes home from school every day, has a snack, and does his homework. He concentrates in school. He gets phenomenal grades without much studying, and he is just all round…better. He generally doesn’t take medication on the weekends but there is rarely a morning that he doesn’t ask for it before he leaves for school. Ask him. A 9 year old who wants to take medication because he knows that it helps him to be the best Styles that he can be.
I couldn’t give my son the best start in his life, but I can help him have a better life by guiding and directing him, and allowing him to have a say in his health and well-being. I feel strengthened that he recognizes the differences in taking his medication and not taking it. And I feel proud that he’s mine; that he’s gone from a baby who didn’t have the time to nurse, to a child who makes straight A’s and is “gifted”.
I have so much more to stay on this topic, and it is one that I plan to talk about on a fairly regular basis. I want to share with people the “natural” things that we tried, educate people on what ADHD is and is NOT, and let all parents, crunchy or not, know that it is not only a real disorder, but a serious one. A disorder that if ignored, can put your child in a strange place emotionally and socially. It is a disorder that, if not treated with prescription drugs, can lead to self-medication with drugs and alcohol later in life. I want parents to know that it’s OK to have a child with ADHD, and that it’s OK to seek out natural alternatives for medication. But if and when nothing works, do NOT feel ashamed to turn to modern medicine to help your children live their best lives. I received a lot of flack from people about putting my child on drugs. And sometimes in the natural parenting circle, I am embarrassed that my son’s disorder and the way that I’ve chosen to treat it is not “holistic”. But it’s ok. Because as purple as my decision to treat him may be, it’s a decision that I made after informing myself and after trying other things. And it’s a decision that I made as his parent who is only trying to do what we’re all trying to do: Give our children the best lives possible.