It has been a little over a year now since I decided to eschew my vegetarian diet and go paleo. It was just before Thanksgiving when I dived into the book Wheat Belly and in fact I was reading it before and after our Thanksgiving meal at my parent’s house. I felt like every paragraph was a revelation and I couldn’t wait to begin what I felt would be a brave new life journey. I wanted to see if going paleo would help with some nagging health issues that a plant based diet was having no success with. At that point I had already tried vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, raw, and a WAPF traditional foods diet. I didn’t try these for a few weeks and then cry about how they didn’t work out. I gave some of these a couple years, a year minimum usually.
I felt best on a raw diet or a traditional foods diet but none of them seemed to provide exactly what I was looking for. I am not even sure what I WAS looking for but I knew that I wasn’t sleeping well, I had too much visceral (belly) fat, I was hungry all the time, I had wicked cravings for junky food, and my hormones were not working as they should. After reading up on paleo it seemed to explain why I still had these nagging health issues. One month in I was hooked and now one year later I am still hooked and gung ho. I don’t think I ever quite knew what it felt like to feel good, I mean REALLY good until I dropped the grains and legumes. I didn’t even realize that I had been constantly bloated until that time either. For me that was normal…the way I felt every day. Now I know better and it is all thanks to a paleo/primal diet. I lost three pants sizes, my skin cleared up, I went all year with no ear or sinus infections (I had 2-3 each year throughout previous years), my thyroid issues improved, my energy levels skyrocketed, and I gained lots of muscle mass.
This diet experiment worked so well that is has now become my way of life. Yet at around the one year mark I had to admit that I didn’t go far enough. Instead of going full on paleo I went primal instead which allows for dairy products. I didn’t want to give up my yogurt and kefir (clarified butter is paleo and not a problem).
I also started out strictly primal and then eventually allowed myself to adopt the 80/20 rule that so many paleo/primal folks endorse….80% paleo/primal and 20% not. This became a problem for me because once I started eating that 20% I didn’t want to stop there. These foods were typically processed and/or filled with grains or added sugar. One of my 20% allowances was diet soda too and I KNEW that dose of artificial sweeteners was wreaking havoc on my hormones but this stuff was ADDICTING. Giving myself that 20% break did me no favors. I was a crack addict who felt that I could sneak in a hit now and then and be okay since it wasn’t an every day thing.
When my paleo anniversary came around I decided that I was on the right track. I did indeed find I what I was looking for in the caveman diet but I needed to bite the bullet and try it without the dairy and without that 20%. It was with this knowledge that I picked up a copy of It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways.
This book is every bit as ground breaking and life changing as Wheat Belly. I couldn’t put it down and had to keep reading bits and pieces aloud to my husband because it was just to darn important and I had to share. It has lots of science but it is broken down into easy to understand concepts. Some parts reminded me of the movie Osmosis Jones. If you haven’t seen it you are really missing out! It’s a cartoon about the workings of your inner body and some of the ways in which bodily functions are described in this book are reminiscent of the clever way that immunity, illness, and inflammation is shown in the movie. Want to know what a leaky gut is and why it is bad?? You will know after you read this book.
The book essentially goes through the functions and processes of four of your body’s hormones and how the food you eat directly impacts those functions. Some of the effects you may see and feel right away. Others are relatively silent but the damage is still being done. I knew the basics of all of it but this book really linked it together in ways I had not quite grasped. It also discusses the psychological effects of the food we are eating and how our body is sending signals to eat the wrong types of foods and making us crave them. Either by design or by accident ( I go with the former) the food industry has found a way to make our own bodies turn against us and crave the worst foods by creating foods that activate the aforementioned hormones. The damage being done is devastating…obesity, depression, fibromyalgia, thyroid disorders, insulin resistance, IBS, lupus, diabetes, horrible cravings, allergies, autoimmune disorders, and all manner of disease. Genetics may load the gun if you have a predisposition to some of this stuff but it really is your choice to pull the trigger or not and certain food choices pull that trigger.
The book makes a great case for why certain foods are making us sick and what we can do. The Whole30 is essentially a strict paleo plan and I knew that going in but it was still great to get a refresher course in why we need to avoid grains, legumes, soy, and a variety of other popular foods. There are four different criteria they use to decide which foods need to go. All the foods eaten during the 30 days have to create a healthy psychological response, a healthy hormonal response, support a healthy gut, and support immune function and minimize inflammation. The foods on the no list all fail to meet these criteria. They may fail on one count (dairy) or all four (grains, sugar). Either way you avoid those foods for the duration of the program.
The book has numerous personal stories from people who have done it to provide a little more incentive but I think the way you begin to feel even in the earliest days are incentive enough. I am looking forward to finishing my 30 days and reporting back but it is my goal to be strict paleo from here on out and avoid all dairy. I also plan to quit that 20% rule because even that 20% is enough to mess with my hormones and wreak all sorts of havoc.
I think 2013 is going to be a very good year!
I have a bit of a love affair going on with all things French right now. This is due in no small part to the some of the books coming out about French living, parenting philosophies, and cooking for kids. Do you remember my review of the awesome book Bringing Up Bebe – The Wisdom of French Parenting? Well that got me started and I can’t seem to stop. I loved that book and it made me realize that whereas attachment parenting resonated most with me whilst my kids were little I am definitely taking a page from French moms nowadays. It was where I was introduced to the concept of equilibre (eh-key-lee-bruh) or balance. Not letting any one part of life – including being a parent – overwhelm the other parts. Everyone probably wishes they had some do-overs in regards to parenting choices but one of my do overs would be to have lots more equilibre as a mom, wife, and woman with her own interests and passions.
Among others books I have recently picked up are Paris in Love: A Memoir about a woman who sold off her belongings and moved her family to Paris for a year. I wish!! Also French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters.
Just like the aforementioned parenting book, I loved French Kids Eat Everything. Like the previous author, Karen Le Billon also moved to France only to be amazed by how mannerly French kids were and how they eat anything and everything set before them. French kids could manage to stay well behaved through a four hour meal with their parents and they relished foods that her own kids wouldn’t touch. The stark contrast between her own children and french children spurred her to investigate just what French parents were doing to achieve the near miraculous. This book is the result of all that research and also a memoir of her experiences and conversations. It is not only informative and helpful…it is also a page turner. How many parenting books and healthy eating books can boast that??
Once again I was amazed by how the school system works in France and just how well kids there eat. It is really a very rigid system and actually a rather punitive. No one’s quirks and preferences are pandered to and you if you don’t toe the line and conform to the rule of standard you are ostracised. While that may sound bad to me if that involves test scores or homework I see lots of value in that if it is nutrition education. Food education is mandatory in the French schooling system and this is so important because it ensures that all French children are eating healthy diets regardless of circumstance. We can see how in America it is the wealthier people who have greater access to healthy foods and nutrition education. It is just not like that in France. All kids from the time they are babies are encouraged to eat healthy foods within the school and daycare systems (also government run). Parents had the same education so they are on the same page. It really appears to be an awesome example of citizens and government being in sync with what is best for the people and nutritional health. In America the guy who vandalizes a McDonalds goes to jail. In France he is elected to office for being a crusader (true story).
In the US our government subsidizes crap food to make it artificially cheap whilst keeping healthy foods out of the reach of the poorer individuals. Nutrition education is also a joke. In France the kids are not only being taught from day one what is healthy to eat they are provided stellar meals with fresh fruit and veggies making an appearance every day (and being eaten), meats that include real chicken, fish, crab, roast pork (even in the poorest districts), real desserts (not twinkies), and water instead of sugary colored milk. Some schools even send home meals suggestions in advance for evening meals so that children are eating a perfectly planned and balanced diet.
You also won’t find too much of the fake processed foods in France that Americans seem to love so much. They have an affinity for healthy, quality foods and take pride in being foodies who want only the best. That may sound elitist but remember this is EVERYONE from the rich banker, to the school teacher, to the guy who fixes carburetors.
There are ten food rules in the book that were modeled to reflect the way of the French system and the author used to them to overhaul her own family’s eating habits. Many of them I copied into a notebook or on post it notes on the frig. Food rule #2 is to avoid emotional eating by not using food as a pacifier, punishment, or reward. I know this to be excellent advice but it is so hard to do in practice, especially if you were raised in a contradictory way. #3 revolves around scheduling and planning meals (much better than I currently do) and making sure kids eat what the adults eat or they don’t eat…period. Amen to that as I chuck my short order cooking apron.
Food rule #4 is all about making all meal times social and beautiful, ala setting the table like royalty is coming to dinner and really making every meal meaningful. #7 is about avoiding snacks, which we are already implementing. Snacking is just not done in France and I happen to LOVE this. I have such a hard time convincing my own kids that they will not die if they are not allowed to graze all day.
One of the best tips I picked up was about adding more veggies to the diet (I forget what food rule that was). The author started making soups reminiscent of the purees that French babies eat to train their palates for all manner of fresh veggies. Her kids were older but she wanted to introduce them to veggies (which they refused to touch) in much the same way. Hubby and I discussed it and are now planning menus that include a thick veggie based soup as a first course before the main event. Think carrot soup, leek soup, cauliflower soup, broccoli soup, turnip soup, ect with lots of fresh herbs and spices thrown in. I can make just enough so that everyone gets about 1/4 cup to a whole cup and that needs to be eaten first. A particular soup never appears more than once in the same week. There are usually veggies in the main dish too but this just adds another veggie opportunity and a way to sneak stuff in that they normally won’t eat. Such a simple yet brilliant idea and the book is full of great tips and ideas.
I highly recommend French Kids Eat Everything as leisure reading for the health minded but especially if you struggle with making sure your kids are eating a varied and balanced diet. Enjoy!
This is the yummiest salad you’ll ever eat or a close second or third. I swear it is sooooo very good. Since I got the recipe from a cookbook I am not going to reprint it but it essentially contains avocados, marinated artichoke hearts (Trader Joe’s), Palm Hearts (Trader Joe’s), Roma tomatoes, prosciutto, black olives, cilantro, lemon juice, and a vinaigrette using white balsamic vinegar. It is heavenly!!!
The recipe hails from one of my fave cookbooks: Cooking With Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Pack a Lunch! I like all the Trader Joe’s cookbooks in this series because I am also a fan of the store.
I like flipping through the pages and seeing a recipe that incorporates those all too familiar products that I pass by when in the store. I see the steamed/peeled baby beets in the store all the time. Well this cookbook has a recipe for a Beet and Goat Cheese Smoothie using those beets. My hubby likes to get the Almond Butter and Roasted Flaxseed and this book has a scrumptious recipe for Zucchini and Chocolate Milkshake using the nut butter. It takes me outside the box and makes me try new things. Plus the food is yummy. I highly recommend picking up this book and the entire series if you are a Trader Joe’s shopper.
I admire attachment parenting philosophy quite a bit and that is primarily what guided me when my babes were little. I have mentioned in the past though that my endeavor to be a good, attached parent kind of lead me to a place were I was lost, frazzled, and on the verge of a divorce. I felt like I was a slave to my kids every need and only now with more modern books on AP, like Mayim Bialik’s Beyond the Sling am I seeing warnings to make sure that marital and personal relationships as well as career not be sacrificed to the AP Gods. It is really easy to let AP or other similar parenting philosophies turn into permissive parenting with the parents being afraid to be the authority in their own homes.
And yet despite my love of AP, some of my authoritarian upbringing always popped up and it made me feel selfish and guilty. Should I really just be flat out saying no to this request or should I be looking for a compromise that will show that I am respecting my child’s wishes and desires as an individual? Should I be down on the floor playing Legos with my child to show I am a playful parent or is it okay to do what feels right to me…which is require him/her to self entertain (and quietly) so I can enjoy a cup of tea and a phone call with an old friend? I was constantly questioning how instinct was leading me to react/parent/discipline and how I felt I “should” be parenting because this or that book on AP or cooperative parenting said I should.
In hindsight I wish I had just listened to my instincts more. This is not because I think I made mistakes (though I am sure they are many) but rather because I let parenting become my career and my life as a stay at home mom and my self worth became largely wrapped up in that. With two boys on the autism spectrum that is just a recipe for disaster. It was only after my family almost broke in half that I realized that if mama isn’t happy and satisfied in her own personal and professional life…no one is going to be happy.
I decided to make it my goal to take the upcoming year (2011) and devote it to self care. I didn’t ignore my kids or my husband but I carved out time for myself each and every day, sometimes several hours of the day and did stuff just for me. I went to the library, I went to the movies, I got pedicures and manicures, I went to the gym 4-5 days week, I went thrift store shopping, and I refused to take kids with me if I didn’t want to. Heck, I took a solo two-day vacation and have another booked in a couple months. Previously, I always hated it when I heard women say they were trying to find themselves but I understood it perfectly after that year was up. The pre-child me, who had many and varied interests, was back in full force.
Anyway, that was a really long winded intro to telling you about a parenting book I recently read and throughly enjoyed. The book is Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. It was written by Pamela Druckerman, who is an American living in France and raising three kids there. She wrote the book after seeing how much differently American children behave than French Children. While her 18 month old was bouncing off the walls in a French restaurant and making her consider eating at home forever more, the French babies and children were happy and chatty yet largely docile. French parents were not frazzled and stressed, instead they seemed to really enjoy parenting. After finding a study that showed American parents were twice as likely to consider themselves unhappy with child care when compared to French parents Druckerman decided she wanted to know what French parents were doing differently.
I must say that I absolutely loved the book and it gave me so much food for thought. So much about AP and other child centric parenting philosophies, like radical unschooling, lead parents to focus on the needs and wants of their children to the exclusion of everything else. Radical unschooling even boasts the idea that you never say “no ” to your child…you always find a way to say “yes”. Hearing no will kill their spirits or something. French parents also believe that children should be respected and their wishes honored but only in balance with the needs and wishes of everyone else in the household. French parents believe in teaching their children from infancy how to exhibit self control and deal appropriately with frustration and the dreaded “non” or “no”. The reason those French babies and children were not acting up in the restaurant is because they had already had many months or years or training to wait and be “sage” or in control of himself or herself. And rather than being dull and sparkless children you get happy children who also have amazing manners and self control. This is in contrast to the American idea that exerting that kind of influence or restricting our kids in such a way will kill their spirit and crush them emotionally.
The French seem very rigid and structured in many ways and yet they also believe in letting their children devote time to nothing but pleasures and fun. They believe in speaking to their children respectfully and like they would any other adult, even from the time they are infants because they believe that all babies are rational and capable of learning. That aspect is very AP friendly even if some of their other ideas are not (no co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, etc.). In many ways they are AP parents who just never let the the household become child centric in any fashion and parents who are not afraid to be the authority in their homes. And amazingly enough all the French seem to be on the same page with this. The way the French children are parented at home is the same way they are cared for in government run creches (or daycare), which sound amazing BTW. If France is what right-wing Americans have in mind when they talk about socialism, then we need lots and lots more of that evil socialism please!!!
Overall I think the book has a lot of value and the arguments made for stricter households, proper manners, and not becoming a slave to your children are well worth the read. I didn’t agree with everything of course, such as not breastfeeding past 3 months, but most of it I quite heartily agreed with. It was also a true pleasure to read. How many parenting books keep you up at night long past bedtime?? A resounding A++ and I really hope there will a follow up that deals with parenting French teens, since I am one year away from that milestone.
equilibre (eh-key-lee-bruh) – Balance. Not letting any one part of life – including being a parent – overwhelm the other parts.
Our life with autism… I don’t talk about this subject much and that is because it is very uncomfortable for me. It means walking a fine line between sharing my life and sharing too much about my children, who deserve privacy. It also means letting my dirty laundry air, so to speak, and admitting to everyone that our family life isn’t pretty. Hopefully I can tread well with this post and not think I need to go back and edit out various parts. ;)
This past week has been a roller coaster ride of emotion for me. I had a very long chat on the phone with one of the school psychologists who will be working with my youngest son during his transition to Kindergarten this Fall. I will also meet with her and some of the others who will likely be working with him, this morning. I think she wanted to prepare me to hear some difficult things but this has actually been a long time coming. My youngest (6) has been in a special needs preschool program for three years now. He has a speech therapist and an occupational therapist. We have not yet sought that official medical diagnosis but I have known for a very long time what the problem is…autism. With a 12 year old autistic son we know well what it looks like. At any rate the psychologist told me that he would most likely be getting an “educational diagnosis” of autism from the school, so that they could plan his IEP and services accordingly.
I was disheartened to hear that he has actually regressed quite a bit this year and it confirmed what I also noticed. The boy who could count to the mid teens last year is lucky if he can count to five now. His hyperactivity has increased and his ability to follow directions has decreased. His temper flares are getting worse even if his social interaction is getting better. He has many, many challenges to face and they are very different than what our other autistic son faces. It was this “new territory” that has made me want to read up on autism spectrum disorders more.
Both our boys have two very prominent common denominators and #1 is social awkwardness. They do not know how to read social cues, pick up on how others are feeling or reacting to them, or communicate and make friends with other kids easily. This makes them the “weird” kid in school. What comes so natural to many kids, the ability to interact and connect with others, is hellish and frustrating. It also means it is easy for them to be either the bully or the bullied. My oldest has been both. My youngest has also been bullied but so far cannot even recognize that he is being persecuted. They are just THAT out of touch with social situations.
#2 is devotion or obsession with certain hobbies and topics to the exclusion of everything else. With my oldest it might be fishing or paintball. With my youngest it is dinosaurs. These are the only things they want to talk about and can do so for hours, literally, much to the frustration of other kids they come into contact with. Because of issue #1 they never understand that give and take requires them to actually talk about other people’s interests too. It just never occurs to them that others may not like these subjects or not want to listen to a two hour lecture about them. As far as they are concerned the world revolves around them and their interests.
There are also numerous differences in their disorders though. My youngest paces, waking back and forth across rooms constantly, for hours at a stretch. He will pace until he literally collapses in exhaustion. My oldest makes wild hand gestures and clicking sounds. He will also emit high pitched screams out of the blue and for no reason. He is often not even aware that he did it. The 6 year old has to micro manage every detail of his day, picking the exact episode of Team Umizoomi he has to watch and the exact food he must eat and will choose not to eat if you don’t have what he wants. The 12 year old has a fear of crowds and will insist on wearing hooded jackets even in summer so he can “hide” from other people in crowded areas. All of this makes daily life challenging but ironically this is the easy stuff.
Our oldest boy has issues with being violent and abusive. He has ODD as well as autism. We have tried counselors and psychiatrists and we even tried medication for a brief spell. I often tell people it is like living with an abusive spouse only it is your child. I have been tackled to the ground in the past but more frequently I am called every horrible name in the world. Asking this child to do the dishes will result in a 10 minute tirade about how I am too stupid, lazy, and disgusting to do anything for myself. In general he seems to have very misogynistic attitudes about women and his sister is also a victim of his horrible commentary.
On the plus side though this kid is wicked smart. Even at 12 years old he can tinker around with electronics and fix them. He recently fixed the mood lighting in our conversion van. He builds amazing things with blocks and Legos and he is way beyond his grade level in science and math. When he is actually interested in something he is also a very hard worker.
My youngest son is a very lovey dovey and prefers women to men. Although I think he has learned a bit too much from his older sibling of late. His quirks are much more manageable in comparison but I think he will ultimately be considered academically handicapped.
How in the heck do you handle two very difficult boys with very different manifestations of this same disorder????? I liked the 8 guideposts from Raising Resilient Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders:
- Teaching and conveying empathy
- Using empathetic communication and listening actively
- Accepting our children for who they are – conveying unconditional love and setting realistic expectations
- Nurturing islands of competence
- Helping children learn rather than feel deflated by mistakes
- Teaching children to solve problems and make sound decisions
- Disciplining in ways that promote self discipline and self worth
- Developing responsibility, compassion, and social conscious
The book has a lengthy chapter to discuss each and they were incredibly helpful. I struggle with finding ways to show that I accept my boys for who they are without also giving them the impression that I accept certain unsavory behaviors or “tics”. I also struggle with empathy when I am feeling attacked, as I often am.
The only thing I would have liked to see is info on how to become more resilient as a parent because I think that is “key” to dealing with children with these kinds of issues. You have to be in a good mental and physical place yourself in order to devote the kind of energy it requires. Two years ago I literally felt like I was drowning with the stress of being a mom to these two special boys. My husband has always worked over the road, or second/third shifts so I have essentially been single parenting for the majority of the week for years. I had a wake up call that spurred me to join a gym and start taking time away for myself more often. I decided it was time to get a bit selfish and demand time for myself. It was literally the best thing ever. Once I felt better, I coped better and I parented better.
Typically I avoid reading autism books because I think I deal enough with these issues every single day but this book really helped me work through some things in my mind and I would like to find more. Do you have any autism book recommendations for me?