Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Paleo Kids

People ask if I homeschool my kids to keep them away from the SAD.
Yes I do.

Last year, due to work circumstances, we sent them to school for the first time (ages 5, 11 and 13).

A child once told me a teacher called candy "brain food". I'm sure she was a great academic teacher...  But as with most of the general public, she really had no idea how damaging all this garbage is for humans.

One of our experiences was during standardized testing, all the kids were given sugar filled muffins to eat. When my son asked to go to his locker to get some of his own food, he was denied. (Yes, that resulted in a letter to the principal the minute he got home from school.)

Candy was passed out almost daily, pizza days usurped our family treats (because of just because they get treats at school we couldn't then double up on them at home).  So movie nights were sans movie night treats.  In fact, family time became devoid of treats because they were getting so much at school.

I realize that people think I am extreme when it comes to food. I don't mind. Really.  I have both gained and lost friends over it and have no remorse.  I do not apologize for changing my life and my children's lives for the better.

Let me start with our mistaken beginning.  My middle child was very ill for 3 years.  No physician, specialist, naturopath, homeopath or chiropractor could heal him.  Finally, after his pediatrician kept insisting it was food (particularly gluten - no specialist would back her suspicions), I created a total elimination diet so that she would 'move on' and start looking for what was 'really' his underlying health issue.

Well, the change was almost over-night.  I went into detail on my Aria Life website so I won't here.  Needless to say I was amazed and thrilled with his recovery.  No more middle-of-the-night hospital visits!

And since it's unfair to subject a child to that process all alone, we did the elimination diet as a family unit.  I suppose, at this point, I should tell you a little about me:

In highschool, I was always one of the smallest kids in the school.  I distinctly remember family members joking around about the fact that I was old enough to graduate highschool but still hadn't hit three digit weight numbers.  I was 88 pounds at the time.  I ate every meal and all foods I could get my hands on and had no food issues other than I loved it all, except for vegetables.  I could wolf down 2 Big Macs, 2 large fries and a chocolate shake shocking my two uncles who were young adults, since I  kept up with them in appetite and ability to pack away food.

We all put it down to the fairly extensive swimming I did.  Over an hour a day for speed or synchro and at least another hour for diving.  I placed 1st in my city, Windsor for 50 fly and the medley team I was honoured to find a position on as flyer, placed 3rd in Ontario. I suffered terrible migraines throughout, most often attending swim meets with an inability to turn my head from one side to the other.  We were always instructed to eat a big bowl of spaghetti the night before a swim meet and I was happy to comply. My only other complaint was one bum knee.  In other words, I seemed, fit, healthy and raring to go.  In emergency, for the headaches/migraines, they would give me Tylenol 4s.  The result of this was an addiction to codeine by the age of 18.  In my 20s, I overcame that by implementing chiropractic visits.  So I slid through my 20s in fairly good condition as long as I steadily attended my chiropractic adjustments to control my headaches.

Then I had my first successful pregnancy, and by age 35, I was overweight with bad joints, adult onset asthma (2 different puffers, neither of which did much good but I'd puff on them anyway), heart palpitations, severe fatigue (Dr. tested me 3 years in a row for lupus. He was convinced I had it.), migraines, headaches, mouth ulcers, and more.  To look at me though, people generally thought I was the picture of health.  They had no idea the suffering that was taking place outside of the public realm.

Those rolls are not the dress. Sigh.
This is not even the worst point.
Funny thing was, I felt I had no room to complain.  I was still healthier than my counter parts who were also dealing with high blood pressure and diabetes II (though at my heaviest I was pre-diabetic). Still, I kept telling myself that this was unacceptable! I had to do something to change what happened to me! I did not want my kids to have this kind of body at the age of 35!  But I had no idea what to do.  And frankly, everyone around me didn't seem to be faring any better.  Could this be normal?  How depressing.

I had bought into the whole grain pop-culture with a fervor and paid the price that many are paying today. After reading in the Fanny Farmer cookbook that wholewheat bread was the most complete food on the planet with only the addition of butter, I made loaf after loaf  along with a tireless parade of homemade, wholewheat products.  We also consumed vast quantities of dairy...

I practiced home canning with all it's sugars, telling myself the whole time that this was healthier than what I could buy in the stores.  And we did not really track our junk food because we figured the 'good food' made up for it.

And yes, I hate to admit it but even now, I cannot be around cheese. I am a notable cheese junky.  It is much akin to an ex-smoker being around smokers. I can't do it. So I seldom go to food events unless I know I can stick to my tea.

When we did that elimination diet (Ten years ago now!) the answer to all of my maladies was also discovered.  Even though I focused on healing my son, going through the process with him meant that I also began to heal myself. I couldn't believe the difference (especially in my sick kid)! But I was just as surprised at how much better my life got.  Even though I was eating high fat, high calorie foods (eggs with yolks, many nuts, avocado, loads of meat), I was steadily losing weight.


One year with my new food lifestyle.  No more double chin!
No muscle either, as I had not yet realized how much better
things could get with some muscle.  110 lbs maybe.
Now I must tell you that I have never been a calorie counter.  I never believed in it.  Even when I was big, I thought I got big because I was pregnant and/or nursing and so perhaps required the extra fat storage.  By the time I got to my third pregnancy, I knew this all to be untrue. However, from 1997-2002, while I was big, I though maybe I was supposed to be that way.

And so when I began this no grain/starch lifestyle (SCD - Specific Carbohydrate Diet) after our elimination diet, I ate until I was full, as I had done for my entire life.

What else happened besides losing the weight? No more heart palpitations. Gone, was the asthma. Fatigue, migraines, headaches, joint pain, you name it, it was all history. And so then I started to move. I became stronger, faster, had more endurance.

And I *loved* it. I mean REALLY *LOVED* it.
Just before my broken nose.  About 130 lbs.

I am 45 now and have been medication free/doctor free for ten years. Well, except for that year that I got my nose busted in a self-defense competition (age 43). Consequently, I won gold in all three categories that year (pattern, self-defense and of course, sparring). I don't say this to be boastful. I say this to inspire. Because if I can do it, anyone can do it.

At this point, I'm 120 lbs (89 of which is muscle) and working on getting more muscle. (I lost about 9 lbs of muscle during February doing a cardio challenge.  I burned off over 18,000 calories according to my Polar, even forgetting to wear it a few times. Do not do hours and hours of cardio.  Just take my word for it.)  Nevertheless, I feel better than I did in my twenties (when I was last this weight).

is what I want for my kids.  Well, not the broken nose part.

But I digress...

So I sent them to school for the first time last year due to work circumstances, where things like muffins (cake) and candy were handed out regularly. And where they would have to sit watching kids eat sandwiches and cookies. That is not easy for an ADULT to do.

As the year progressed, I began feeding them more and more grain (albeit insanely gluten free) to help 'equate' their food to the rest of the children thereby helping them to feel 'normal'.  This resulted in them becoming more difficult with regards to their behaviour and their sleep patterns became more erratic.  They were consuming more sugar and grain than ever before due to the pressures of being 'normal' at school... and even still, they ate far less of this garbage than the other children. Even worse, my not-sick-anymore-kid (12 yr old) was getting sicker and sicker (virals) again.

Ground beef in vegetable sauce and salad.
(celery, pickled pepperoncini peppers, purple onion)
Wrapped in Romaine leaves.
Last September, when given the choice to go back to school or homeschool, the 12-year-old had no reservations. Homeschooling was his first choice.  He didn't even have to think about it. The 6-year-old went back for about a month before he had had enough of that.

"What do mean I have to go every day???" -.-

And as I write this out, they sit beside me learning the muscles and bones of the body whilst chewing on their apples, after eating hot tomato meat sauce over vegetables for lunch.

Their health has improved. Their attitude has improved. Their behaviour has improved. Their bone growth has improved. Their sleep has improved... and more, so much more.  Most important of all, my not-sick-anymore-kid is once again my not-sick-anymore-kid.

Some say it was the school environment and the 'cool' factor.  To a degree, perhaps.  But the total accumulation of all these issues was not the school environment completely. When they first got home, I had to re-wean them off the daily junk food they were getting at school. Gradually, we noticed a HUGE difference, especially regarding behaviour.  And the closer to what I now know to be called paleo/primal we got, the more things improved... again.

Holding position.
Of course, he has to do
whatever big brother does.

And having them show off their
skills are one of the other many
joys of homeschooling.
Our 6-year-old was on his way to becoming a real hitter. It didn't matter how much I explained what he should do if he was unhappy with a situation, he would still just lash out. Well, eventually, I got rid of the treats through the week. And then finally, all grain through the week was eliminated.

Now, on Friday nights, corn tacos with meat in a vegetable paste base is considered a real treat. And Sunday afternoons, a bowl of junk food cereal is considered a getting-away-with-murder treat. ;D

Speaking of cereal. In our house it is NOT for breakfast, like conventional society would have us believe is fine, and even healthy.  In our home, MEAT and/or eggs with some fruit or veggies are breakfast.  If a person does not feel like 'big' food, then vegetable/fruit smoothies are an option.  Healthy food goes in FIRST, in order to qualify for the snack treat. NOT something that severely skews blood sugar.

He is holding this position,
Not spinning through it.
12 year olds don't do
strength training
at school recess.
It's not cool.

What happened? No more hitting happened. Magically. The very week I got rid of all the grain.

You can't fight with those results.

Often, I hear parents say, "But they won't eat the good stuff." (vegetables)

My response to that is, "Just put five real foods in front of them and let them choose."

That way, if they're sensitive to something (and therefore have an aversion to it), they have other options open to them.

We have an open fridge policy and the one who is my pickiest (used to be my sick child) can choose any two or three other veggies for dinner if he doesn't like what I've provided.  Interesting thing though, the more strict we are with paleo, the more veggies he eats willingly. He hardly makes his own anymore.

Hmm. Could it possibly be a good thing for a kid to eat more veggies? ;)


Rebecca MacLary said...

I'm going through the same thing with D. Daycare twice a week, more for her to get out and play with other kids than anything (I'm at home those days) - they feed according to the food guide, which means 3-4 servings of grains. Grr. It's the only grains she gets, and it really bothers me. Plus - the sugar! Really? Do these people not see behavioural issues as a result of sugar, artificial flavours/colours and gluten, and not make the connection???

Kim Spezowka said...

I feel your pain.

We got lucky this year with a general play group (K-8) that is based more on play than on food.

Also, I was absolutely thrilled to find out that they do not serve junk food AT ALL. The worst thing begin tortilla chips. And since my kids joined, they've had no issue ensuring the tortilla chips are corn only.

Best thing about them though, mostly they serve fresh or frozen fruits and veggies. :) :) :)

I've been waiting a LONG time for a group like that! :D

I used to hold a junk free Halloween party every year for a number of years. I was always surprised at the number of people who would attend. Many families returned for 2 or 3 years until something in life had them moving on to another location. They were so happy to have a junk free event to go to. I loved doing it too. :)