Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Traditional Foods

Peter was joking with me tonight, trying to help me on my quest to explain how our family eats and why and, pertinent to what I'm writing now, how we got here. He says, "You read a lot of books and experimented a lot." And refined, refined, refined. Although this may seem slightly off topic, being allergen-free in our household is closely intertwined with also being traditional foodists and I don't feel like I can talk about one without talking about the other.

One of the many things that I've learned on this journey is that it's far more helpful to focus on what you CAN and WILL eat rather than what you can't. It makes the whole situation far less overwhelming--and much more affirming. "I can't feed my kid these crackers that everyone else is eating, but I CAN feed her this apple/homemade cracker/other healthy snack that I know she likes." Suddenly, instead of taking something away, I'm giving to my child, and that feels good.

Enter traditional foods. While on my quest to understand healthy eating, I came across this book--this movement, really--through the Mothering message boards. It's not at all a stretch to say that it changed my life, redefined the way in which I understand food and eating--and gave me a much-needed road map for how to raise two healthy children even though they can't eat many of the foods considered staples by our society.

I'm not going to spend space giving an overall description of traditional foods, it's been done many times and surely much better than I could do it. If you're unfamiliar with the movement, check out this post at The Nourished Kitchen, one of my favorite blogs:
1) avoidance of modern, refined foods; 2) celebration of unrefined, whole and natural foods; 3) respecting the importance of nutrient-density in our food and 4) preparing and eating foods in the same manner that nourished our ancestors and kept them well.

In her book The Unhealthy Truth, Robin O'Brien talks about her 80/20 rule: that you seek to eat optimally 80% of the time and forgive yourself for the other 20%. While we eat allergen free at least 95% of the time (the other 5% includes occasional treats during family events and holidays, for example), we follow the 80/20 rule for our traditional foods eating. It is very important to me, and occupies much of my time.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I feel the need to point out that I'm not a health care professional, that I've never been to school to study nutrition, and that I'm not qualified in any way, shape, or form to offer nutritional counseling.

As a matter of fact, the biggest piece of advice I'd like to give to anybody is to seek a health professional to get guidance. When Ally was almost 2, I turned to such a professional--specifically, a Naturopathic Physician who specializes in nutrition--because I was terrified that I'd never be able to feed her a healthy, balance diet without dairy. It was a life changing experience and I believe one of the best investments that I have ever made.

I also think that it's important to educate yourself about nutrition and to decide what makes sense to you. I've invested a great deal of time over the past several years to educating myself about nutrition. I've read a number of books, some good and others not so good, and have formed my own opinions about what makes sense in terms of healthy eating for my family (and these ideas continue to evolve as I continue to educate myself). There are many different styles of eating, many different iterations of a healthy diet. I encourage you to do your own investigations and reach your own conclusions.

A Whole Lot of Nothing

Yes, I know that I've been horribly neglecting this blog, and all of my writing in general. I simultaneously feel guilty and forgiving about it. I've recently decided to cut down on my internet usage, as I find that I'm either living my life or talking about it online, and the living is what needs to take the fore right now.

I can't remember if I blogged about this or not, but a few months ago, I read The Mood Cure and was totally blown away by it. I've been religiously following some of the suggestions in there for dietary changes and nutritional supplementation, and am currently experiencing quite a relief from my depression. Wow, it's amazing how great it is not to feel totally underwater miserable exhausted all the time. I remember going through this around the time that Ally turned 2. It was great. I hope it continues to be this way for a while, I might really turn into a human again!

Beyond addressing my depression, I haven't been actively doing much to loose weight. But it's coming. I'm hatching a plan. More on that later.

First, however, I'm hoping to dedicate some space on this blog to answer a question that I have been asked by a surprising number of people recently: how did we go gluten/dairy/whatever else free. Through the fall, several moms approached me to ask about our low-allergen lifestyle, and, while I'd love to be helpful to them, for the longest time I just haven't known what to say. I know, because we've lived through it, that it's much more complicated than, "don't eat that." And that standing on the other side, when you haven't eliminated anything but know you need to and are terrified because you just have no idea what you're going to feed your kids, is a daunting, horrible place to be.

So, for months now, I've been trying to answer this question: how do we eat the way we do? And, more importantly, what do I think is important in a child's diet and how do I provide those things to my children when their diets are so limited? I have to admit that, as much as I LOVE to pontificate, I feel a little ridiculous giving dietary advice as an obese person. It's not like I'm a vision of good health or anything. But still, I'm going to try.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's hard to act good when you feel bad

As a parent concerned with giving my children a gentle, respectful upbringing, this is an everyday mantra for me. Because what follows is forgiveness for misbehavior followed by identifying the bad feelings behind it--and attempting to rectify them or guide their energy into a more appropriate venue. On the ideal day, when I'm at my best, at any rate.

Those days have been fewer and farther between lately. I've been thinking about depression and how it feeds into my health problems--and all other aspects of my daily life. I'm noticing more and more how I act badly because I just don't feel good, and haven't felt good in a long time. Sometimes, mommy needs a little gentle discipline, too.

I recently read this illustration of postpartum depression at Amanda Rose's Rebuild from Depression blog. It was initially amusing to read what could have been lifted from my daily life. And sad, too, that I still feel so awful at 18 months postpartum. That part about waking up bone tired really hit me. I just don't understand how I wake up in the morning feeling like I've been in a boxing match for days with no sleep. The soreness and tiredness gets worse through the day, and from one day to the next, and it's been compounding for so long that I hardly remember what it's like to feel good..

This is the viscous cycle I'm dealing with now. I feel lousy, so I don't have the energy to eat as well as I should and exercise, which makes me feel more lousy, and so on. I keep searching for that thing that helped me turn the bend the last time, and I just can't find it. I am noticing that, as I'm feeling that life is turning more and more into a grind, I'm making myself too busy to spend time with the kids and Peter, making excuses for eating poorly, wasting more time online, and my daughter is acting increasingly hyperactive and impulsively out of boredom. It's hard to act good when you feel bad.

I read The Mood Cure, which was very helpful. I had never heard such a lucid explanation of how deficiencies in certain neurotransmitters cause symptoms specific to them. And specifics on how nutrition plays a role. Ten years of strict low-fat vegetarianism really didn't do me any favors--no wonder I was such a mess during that time! I'm trying some of the suggestions in the book, and I think they're helping; I feel more clear-headed and energetic some days.

But not today. I've been writing this post in my head for days and, while the bones of what I want to say are all here, it sure doesn't feel very good. But it's what's on my mind, at any rate. I've also been asked, several times recently, about how we went gluten and dairy free. I feel so utterly unequipped to help anyone with their diet, I mean, who wants to take nutrition advice from an obese person? At the same time, we've been doing it for so long that it feels like second nature, and my kids certainly seem like they're healthy and thriving, so maybe I know more than I think I do. (I think this is a reference to an earlier post about cognitive distortions . . .) Hopefully writing some of that stuff down will feel more successful.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Okay, overdid it a little there

I've written and re-written posts for this blog in my head umpteen times over the past month, but I just couldn't get on a computer for long enough to actually type it out. Why? Because I've been drowning in my own . . .


This is what's the most on my mind lately. My utter awe over how hideously, impossibly busy and out-of-control my life feels, even though I'm one of those "lucky" moms who gets to stay at home with her kids. There's no reason, it seems to me, why I should spend my days running around like a headless chicken. But I am. I can't seem to figure out why this is happening, which makes me think that it is, in large part, in my own head.

At the start of my Social Work career, I worked in a residential treatment facility for adjudicated youth. I don't know why, but that job is on my mind a lot lately; I really enjoyed working there. But I digress. One of the tools that we used in our therapeutic work with the youth was an understanding of cognitive distortions. These refer to certain thoughts or patterns of thoughts that perpetuate abusive behavior, depression, and other dysfunctions.

I notice lately that I keep returning to the idea (I think that it falls under distortions of "personalization") that if I don't do everything that I perceive needs to be done, and I don't do it perfectly, my life is--and even worse, my kids' lives are--going to go to hell. That if I can't do it all just right, the whole world is going to fall apart around me. It's ridiculous, I know, but I find myself running all day from this pressure to

do the dishes;

provide excellent nutrition for my kids;
keep the house clean;

get on top of the laundry;

ensure that the kids have enough attention, stimulation, exercise, outdoor time, love;

procure all of the food, dry goods, clothing, household items, etc that we need while managing our budget and teaching our kids to be responsible consumers;

be a loving and attentive wife . . .

And do the zillion other things I need to do to run our household and keep everyone happy and healthy--did you catch that? I really do struggle with the idea that the health and happiness of our household rests entirely on my shoulders. As if I can actually control weather or not Walker catches a virus or Ally feels good all the time. Though I know that proper nutrition wards off disease, and that bad behavior generally follows bad feelings, so when I see the less desirable outcomes of what I perceive to be my inadequate wifing and mothering, (like, say, Ally tearing apart the house or Walker being sick for most of September), I can't help but feel accountable.

Indulging in food and drink has been, for long before I had kids, the refuge to which I escape when the weight of all this responsibility crushes me. I go through periods of relative contentedness, where I'm not caught in this cycle as badly, and then I go through times like the past month, when I'm running mindlessly through my life, crossing off lists and relieving the anxiety when and how I can. And avoiding accountability for that behavior by, say, avoiding writing in this blog.

I am trying hard now to breathe deeply and begin again.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Body Can't

Monday's yoga class had me doing something that I had never done before: headstand, the King of poses. It was assisted, using a stool-like device that prevents you from actually standing on your head while still getting a proper inversion.

When Michael told us that we were going to practice headstand, I was terrified. Noticing my discomfort, he asked me why I was scared. I couldn't say at the time, I was so desperately trying to find a way to flee the room. He assumed that it was because I was fearful of being upside down, and provided me with the physical and emotional support that I needed to give it a go. I completed the inversion with only a little help, and felt fantastic the next day because of it.

It took quite a lot of reflection to identify the reason behind the fear--more like panic--that I experienced when Michael pulled out the stool. It wasn't that I was afraid to be upside down; I actually enjoy it. It was that I was afraid that I couldn't do it. That my 100lb overweight mess of a body simply couldn't get into that position. And, worse, that I would totally humiliate myself trying, not only feeling embarrassed to the point of tears, but making everyone else in the room feel uncomfortable at the same time.

Holding this feeling, I realize how little faith I have in my body. I'm sitting here shuddering, thinking about all of the times I have felt both disappointed and embarrassed by my physical shortcomings: mortifying my father by coming in last during a family fun run when I was a kid; succumbing to exhaustion and collapsing during a trek in Dogon Country, Mali when I was in college; tripping over a twig in the road on a family walk, falling flat on my face, and flipping Ally upside down in her stroller when she was 2. The list is endless.

I think over time, I have just lost all faith in my physical being. Losing weight is no different. I want to so badly, but I've been trying to get my weight under control for the better part of the last 10 years, and have done nothing but fail. It feels hopeless, and so sad, and so frustrating. I just keep thinking about how unpleasant it must be for Peter to be stuck with this body for the rest of his life, how awful it is for my kids to grow up with this role model for healthy.

It's hard not to get swallowed by despair. But what do I have to do but keep going on? That's the trouble with Karma. If you don't get it right the first time, you have to do it again until you do get it right. So better make it right now so that you don't have to do it again later. Or at least that's how I see it. I keep musing this idea that I've heard many times: that the body is simply frozen mind. Well, I sure have a lot of mind frozen. I wonder what's buried in there.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Beware the White Menace

One of the most important books I've ever read is Ultrametabolism by Mark Hyman. It's a faddish diet book that, like so many others, could be quickly read and easily forgotten, except that it was my first introduction to the idea of nutrient density in a meal. And, more importantly, to the idea that obesity is a disease of malnourishment, not over-nourishment as is commonly believed.

The idea that, by focusing on eating "low calorie" this and "fat free" that, I could actually be causing my weight problem was utterly mind-blowing. While I've come to disagree with some of the assertions of that book (i.e. that animal fats are bad and soy products are healthy), by focusing on getting the most bang for my nutritional buck in everything I eat (well, almost everything) I achieved some of the first true health that I experienced in my adult life.

Another thing he discusses in that book is how unhealthy white sugar is, in all of its forms. He calls it the White Menace, which I find mildly amusing. I wasn't amused, however, when the White Menace struck at our house this week. Generally, I try to be laid back about food, no rules about having to finish X in order to eat Y, no clean plate clubs or bribing with foods. I tend to think that my job as a parent is to provide my kids with healthy options at every turn, keep most of the junk out of my house so it isn't an option, and let my kids make their own choices.

Unfortunately, this sometimes backfires. With the stress of starting school and the increased exposure to the world (and all the junk in it), Ally recently went through a dramatic healthy food refusal. We were going days at a time, week over week over week, where she was refusing to eat anything but junk. It's amazing how easily it sneaks into the house, too, and appalling really. Oh, a little chocolate rice milk as a treat from the store, leftover ice cream from a family party, Grandma brought suckers when she visited today . . . Every day she had stomach aches and painful bowel movements, but she just wouldn't eat anything healthy that I put in front of her.

So I cut her off. No refined sugar of any kind until further notice, treats being reserved for when she is eating healthily regularly again. For a day or two, it was a total fight, and she was mad, and why shouldn't she be? I'm depriving her of not only a treasured treat, but of her ability to choose what she eats as well. So I let her have her anger and stayed firm, and in two days, both of the kids were eating well: brothy soups, lots of vegetables, good fruits and beans, eggs for breakfast. And REALLY eating, not just picking at enough food to ward of the hunger pangs until the next good thing comes along. Sigh of relief.

Yesterday, we had to make cake for a family birthday party. Sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar. Both of them instantly became listless, lost their attention spans, and tantrummed and whined for the rest of the day. And this morning, neither of them touched breakfast. Back to square one! Even the baby, who gets very little sugar in his usual diet was affected. Amazing what a lick of frosting can do to a child. The White Menace, indeed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Falling Down

A few months ago, our family spent a weekend at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Every year, for a few weeks, a wide, shallow river flows down the edge of the dunes and makes for fantastic family water fun. As we were walking across the river one afternoon, Ally--watching the water run over her feet--lost her balance and fell into the water. I was reminded of the same sensation a month later when we were knocked over by the waves on the Ocean City, MD, beach.

And again in the past few weeks, when I've been knocked down by a sickness. It seems like nothing is getting done, including writing this blog. So, sorry, dear Blog, for neglecting you in the face of my acute health concerns and the care of my children, husband, and pets. May you fare better now that I'm faring better.

I recently read this fantastic article about environmental chemicals and how they influence the development of obesity. I can't say that reading it was an "a-ha" moment for me, as in, this is why I'm overweight, but there was a great deal of information that I hadn't previously read. And, as an added bonus, it included a reason to avoid soy that I hadn't read before. Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Breathing to the Rhythm of Walker's Sleep

One of my greatest parenting challenges is sleep deprivation. Peter and I make a conscious choice to respond to our children's needs and cries at all times, during the day or night. While it is en vogue to ignore a child's cries at certain times in order to teach them to "self soothe" and sleep on a schedule that is convenient to the parents, I know of no mental health association that condones this practice. Never mind article after article after article discussing ways in which controlled crying is harmful to the child.

That being said, it's easy to understand why the promise of a quick solution is so appealing. When, night after night, you have to find a way to practice compassion and patience while being inflicted with that which is literally a method of torture. This has been the story of our last few months, as Walker has been suffering through teething, developmental leaps, and dietary changes. Tonight, like far too many other nights recently, he was having a terrible time falling asleep. We snuggled on the couch for about an hour after bedtime, him bouncing between Peter and I, never comfortable and increasingly irritable. Then we walked in the sling and sung songs. Finally, I took him back into the bedroom to bounce between laying in bed and rocking in the rocking chair until he fell asleep.

Unlike any other night recently, though, I consciously breathed. I'm not going anywhere, why not meditate a little? My friend Clea recently made a blog entry about the electric current of the mother's heart, and how our little ones are constantly bathed in it. Tonight was the most phenomenal example of this. As I breathed, through throat, ribs, stomach, and c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e exhalation, Walker relaxed. The moment my mind began to wander, he would jerk awake and cry. Over and over again we repeated this dance, until finally he grabbed my arm and tried to pull it around his head.

He's been doing this for the past few months, and I could never figure out what he was doing. Tonight, being present and open to him, I finally figured it out. He wanted me to slide my arm under his head so he could use it as a pillow. I did, and he drifted off to sleep almost instantly. It was such a sweet, delicious moment watching his little eyes grow heavy, heavier, asleep. Amazing what a little presence can bring to a relationship.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back to the beginning

Tonight, I took a class at the Kriya Yoga Center. Before I was pregnant with Ally, I attended at least two classes there per week, plus weekly Satsang (fellowship, practice, and instruction). I stopped attending classes when I got pregnant because it made me sick, and then stopped attending Satsang when Ally was born because I couldn't take her with me (it's hard to meditate while holding a screaming baby!).

Since then, there has literally not been a day that I haven't thought of the Center, or of Michael, my yoga Teacher. I was raised Catholic, went to a Catholic school, attended Mass every weekend for my whole childhood. None of those beliefs make sense in my life, and I abandoned them late in my adolescence. But that didn't negate my longing to know a truth and to feed my Spirit.

The Yoga Center filled that need for me. There are very few things that I KNOW to be true, realities that I know unquestionably. I reflected to Michael this evening when I saw him that those few things come from him and the Center. Being away from it for the past several years has been the most painful twilight for my soul.

And my body. I've maintained a basic yoga practice in my home for several years now, but I am appalled by some of the things I learned about myself tonight. Most startlingly, I've forgotten how to breathe. Breathe. It's the most basic of human functions, the root of any meditative practice. And taking a full belly breath is incredibly difficult for me right now. I've always been a breath holder, because being present often feels so overwhelmingly painful, but this is truly appalling.

It's hard to shift anything if you don't have the foundation loose to shift. The breath. The foundation. The truth. If I'm really going to shift my attitude and cultivate some joy, this is where it needs to begin.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I've been trying to get some time on the computer to write this post all week. However, karma fires, and my family life is suddenly (again) so crazy that I'm finding it hard to take care of myself--let alone write about it! This is the endless conundrum of being a mother: how to give your children all of the attention that they need to thrive while simultaneously taking care of your own needs. Add to that chronic health problems, food allergies, and my role as housewife (which makes me the de facto primary house cleaner), and any semblance of balance flies right out the window!

Tuesday was my 34th birthday. I am grateful for the many blessings I have at this time in my life. My husband, beautiful children, loving family and friends--they are literally what keep me alive. At the same time, I'm humbled by my ongoing health crisis. This obesity that I just can't get under control. Anxiety and depression, which go hand in hand with the obesity. I'm exhausted, my body hurts, I'm paralyzed by depression, I'm so busy taking care of my kids, I'm not eating well or exercising, I'm not getting anywhere near enough sleep, I can't seem to make the time to see the doctor . . .

What a drag! So I'm trying to focus first on my attitude. Because I don't think the other things are going to clear up dramatically enough to make it better. I'm spending far to much time in this endless tautology, only getting more miserable and feeling older every day. It's no way to live, and no way to raise my kids.

There's a therapeutic modality known as brief therapy, and one of the tools generated from it is the miracle question: if there was a miracle tomorrow and you had everything you wanted, what would your life be like? Well, I can tell you one thing, I wouldn't be spiraling miserably in my head over and over and over! The second part of the miracle question is something that, in yoga, I've learned as ewa, meaning "as if." Life as if you have what you want, and what you want will come to you.

I think some people call this the Law of Attraction. Whatever you call it, I'd like to start attracting some positivity, energy, and, most importantly, joy into my life. Hopefully year 34 will see some real advances in that direction.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The White Flag of Surrender

I'm officially stepping away from the rotation diet. While it was useful, it was so much work that I could hardly handle it. Especially after Walker stopped sleeping suddenly and we all came down with the stomach flu. There was a night over the weekend when, after holding a screaming baby for 2 hours, waiting for him to fall asleep, I literally stumbled into the kitchen and cooked for 2 more hours so that we could have a picnic lunch at the zoo the next day. Because Walker woke up around 4 the next morning, I didn't get more than 5 hours of sleep that night. Totally not worth it, especially after it happened several nights in a row.

I did learn some valuable things in the short time we were following the rotation. I clearly need to do some eliminations and reintroductions for Walker. I was surprised that Ally didn't visibly react to anything, though she also refused to eat for much of the rotation. The entire time she wanted junk food, and I can't tell if this was a detox reaction or if was stress from starting school. I haven't been on a scale, but I'm sure I gained significant weight on the diet. We wound up eating alot of grains, which are healthy but not at all what my body needs to be its best.

On the rotation, I noticed how our limited diet restricts the variety that we consume. I think I do a good job of including a wide variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables, in my family's diet, though coming up with the variety required by a rotation diet was very, very difficult. The rotation magnified the way in which I tend to reach for the same safe, reliable foods that my children like over and over again. From a nutritional standpoint, I find this disturbing.

Two, eating a completely whole-foods diet is incredibly difficult. By whole-foods, I mean including no processed foods in our diet. I was, again, amazed by the amount of processed foods we eat, even though they are all gluten/dairy/soy free, mostly organic, and mostly things I could make myself if I had the time. Cutting these things our entirely was incredibly difficult, and the amount of associated cooking and food prep to provide my children with a basic, complete diet every day was nearly impossible.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


We've had he first a-ha moment of this rotation diet. Walker reacted to something we ate yesterday. I should have figured it out last night, when it took him 2 hours to fall asleep. He would drift off, sleep for about 1 minute, jerk and wake himself awake, screaming bloody murder. Over and over again for 2 hours. It was hell.

This is how Ally used to sleep. For her first 2 years, she literally never slept without my hand on her body. That drifting off/waking screaming pattern literally lasted all night for several months before I finally eliminated dairy from her diet (she was around 20 months old). I was so tired from taking care of her in the middle of the night that I could barely function.

The brain is a wonderful thing, the way it protects us from prior unpleasantness. I had literally blanked out much of her sleeplessness until I saw it in her brother last night. I didn't recognize it for what it was right away, but when I looked at Walker this morning and saw his face, I knew immediately. I couldn't even call them allergic shiners--it was more like dark caverns running down his face. And a few hours later, he had diarrhea.

This is the rotation diet working: his overall allergic response has been toned down enough that we can see the things that are bothering him more clearly. It's how I identified Ally's problem with soy and citrus. Now the detective work begins. The major suspects from yesterday are chicken and corn. Corn is a common allergen and there is a history of meat allergies in Peter's family, so it could be either.

I'm praying that it's corn, because that's easy for us to cut out. We could live without chicken, too, though homemade chicken bone broth is a major source of bone-building minerals in our diet, which would make losing it a big issue in our dairy-free household.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Detoxification Comes to the Bucknam House

We're 4 or 5 days into our rotation diet now, and today I knew it's doing the job it's meant to do. How? Because today was living HELL. Both of the kids were miserable, climbing walls, and all over me. Ally refused to eat breakfast and lunch and spent the entire morning asking for sweets. At the rate of about once per minute. And I'm have such mental fog that I can barely function.

I was so wiped out by the time Peter came home, I left the room for half an hour to decompress while he juggled the fussy children. Unfortunately, I had both of them at bedtime, which was a two hour long hailstorm of screaming, thrashing, and otherwise not sleeping. They both finally passed out around 9, when I hit the kitchen for an hour and a half of cooking to prepare for tomorrow. Ah, the joy of the rotation diet.

I've always been intrigued by the idea that food allergies cause autism or worsen its symptoms. Because when my kids come into contact with something that bothers them--or when they're getting over too much exposure--their brains quit working. I'd love to share some now amusing anecdote from earlier today to illustrate, but I'm too exhausted from all the stupid crap my kids did all day long to think. Sorry.

Hopefully in a few days it will be a distant memory. In the meantime, tomorrow we're rotating in garbanzo beans, lentils, sesame seeds, quinoa, coconut, and eggs. A vegetarian day with fried eggs (Ally's favorite) for breakfast; a falafel and watermelon picnic lunch at the zoo; and leftover curried lentil stew for dinner.

Today was chicken, hempseed, and corn: soup, chicken salad, grilled chicken and corn on the cob. Sunday will be millet, pork, and almonds, including an attempt at a greatly modified bread from my usual standby. Bacon or sausage in the am, hopefully almond butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, and pork roast with mashed sweet potatoes for dinner. And, of course, all the fruits and veggies (except nightshades) the kids and I care to eat.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


The children and I need to go on a rotation diet. I've known this for several months now, and have been putting it off. Isn't that ridiculous? Knowing what you need to do to be healthy, and then not doing it? It's a major issue for me.

In our family, we already eliminate (except for occasional cheating) the gluten, dairy, and soy that I know is harmful to me and my children. Many people with food allergies also find that it's helpful to rotate other common allergens (or, for some people, all of the foods that they eat): if you eat a food one day, you don't eat that food again for the following 3 days. The idea is to lower the overall allergic response in your body by not allowing problematic foods to continuously irritate your system.

Ally and I used a rotation diet for two months in 2007, and it was the best I have felt in years. I lost major weight and had energy to spare. Ally's allergy symptoms, which persisted despite a strict elimination, were almost entirely healed by the rotation, and we identified several other allergies that I didn't know about before. I felt so good that I got pregnant again, almost two years ago from today.

Unfortunately, I also have vivid memories of standing in my kitchen and crying almost every day of that diet. It was so hard. Having to restrict our intake so severely, making everything that we eat every day from scratch, not being able to rely on leftovers for the next day's meal . . . it is hard, hard, hard! So I've been resisting, for months now.

But I can't anymore. Ally's been having headaches (one of my most acute allergy symptoms) off and on all summer. Walker's allergic shiners just won't clear up, he's dealing with bowel discomfort, and the quality and consistency of his sleep is really deteriorating. And I feel like total crap. All day every day, sort of a cross between having the flu and being sore after a hard workout--even though neither is true. So now I'm going to stop writing, go sit in a hot Epsom salt bath, and do some menu planning. And sigh--I just sighed out loud. Luckily, I know this time the work is worth it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Allergic Shiners

I wasn't planning to go in this direction so soon, but Walker gave me such a great opening this weekend I had to take it.

About a month ago, I took Walker (who is almost 15 mos) to the doctor with his third respiratory infection in the last 6 months. (Man, how many prepositional phrases can I get into one sentence? Jeez!) We had a chat about the likelihood that he may be developing asthma, how an increase in the histamine response in his gut (due to untreated food allergies) could increase his histamine response elsewhere, like in his lungs.

That was the final straw. I had been resisting the idea that he was food allergic, but this conversation, combined with the all-day crank-a-thon that had been our lives for several months, continual runny bowel movements, and poor eating just pushed me over the edge. We took him off dairy and became more vigilant about abstaining from gluten. Within a week, the daylong “waaahhhh” that had been grating on me all day every day for months had stopped. He’s eating more and stopped gagging on his food (which he had been doing several times per day). What an improvement!

This picture doesn’t quite do justice to what his face looked like Saturday morning, as though someone punched him in both eyes. No, nobody’s hitting kids around here. That’s what he looks like after the aforementioned junk food eating extravaganza. And he only had little bites of stuff here and there! This is one of the amazing blessings about having food-allergic children: their sensitive bodies so easily betray that which is malfunctioning inside of them.

Was going to update last night

And instead I was up until almost bedtime with a crabby, occasionally screamy toddler. It was fun. When we were putting the kids to bed, I thought to myself, "All the chores are done. I can update the blog and exercise tonight. Rock on!" Instead I watched tv and stress ate a chocolate and a cookie. Such is the joy of being a mom.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

In Media Res

Tonight was an Epsom salt bath night: at least 2 cups, at least half an hour, warmest water you can stand. I love a good Epsom salt soak at the end of the day. Unfortunately, for the past two nights I’ve had to have one, because I managed to “tox” myself pretty badly over the last several days and the best band-aid I know for the onslaught of flu-like symptoms that results from an orgy of sugar, dairy, and gluten is some good-old magnesium sulfate.

You may be inclined to wonder why, knowing that eating these things causes me to feel like I’ve sucked face with an infected swine, I engage in such behavior. Like living, the reasons are many, varied, complicated. The short and totally unenlightening answer is that my sister, whom I love dearly, is in town and sharing bodily punishment seems to be one of our favorite pastimes. Potentially requiring no less explanation is this one word: addiction. Not to mention things like convenience, belonging/inclusion, fun.

A woman with whom I went to elementary school recently mused on her Facebook status that she crash diets because she crash eats. No kidding. Right now, I’m doing the latter because, for the past month and a half, I’ve been doing the former. And, though I’m too appalled by myself to get on the scale, I’m sure that the hard-fought 10 lbs that I lost have yo-yoed back in the other direction. So sad, I cluck my tongue and shake my head.

And tomorrow I’m getting back on the wagon. Or maybe the next day; my sis leaves Sunday morning. But definitely back on the wagon, though this time with the goal of doing more nourishing and less starving. Is this familiar to anyone: “I’m eating only fruits, vegetables, and meats!” and then managing to eat so little throughout the day that by the end of it you could eat an elephant and still want more? And then, feeling like an elephant, you’re so demoralized that you quit trying before you’ve even begun?

So let’s begin.