nunuwave said: About your diet lapses you mentioned: they were all Paleo (even fries are paleo-ish), but the fudge and ANYTHING made out of flour, you will have to stay away 150%. Grains and gliadin is what give you IBS/leaky-gut for the most part, not potatoes or ghee or wine. I had IBS, and found that the biggest problem were the grains. For these, you really need to never cheat, because gluten stays in your system for up to 6 months! It's not a "one bite, for just one day". It wrecks havoc for much longer!

So true! I have heard this about grains. But what about the fudge is the problem? The sugar? There was no flour or grains in there. Oh, but maybe the cheap chocolate has gluten in it. Good point!

Eating Paleo-style has morphed from CrossFit cult to everyday eating. More people are taking cues from ancestral, hunter-gatherer habits and embracing a lifestyle involving clean meats, eggs, vegetables and good fats such as avocado, coconut, pastured lard and butter. Saying hello to Paleo means saying goodbye to grains, many fruits and dairy.

And then there’s the Autoimmune Paleo diet. Designed for inflammatory conditions, it takes the Paleo plan and removes several other items. Essentially, it was like making a list of all the foods I liked, and then crossing them all off. It was a bit of a shock to my system. The resource I chose was Diane Sanfilippo’s remarkable book, "Practical Paleo." It explains how your body is meant to function, why things break down, and how to heal yourself with food. She gives 30 days of easy recipes, and shopping lists are available online. I wanted it to be too hard to follow, and she thwarted me.

Autoimmune Paleo as outlined in Practical Paleo means you take the regular protocol of meats, coconut products, eggs, nuts, seeds and non-nightshade vegetables and remove eggs, butter, nuts and seeds. Eggs, nuts and seeds contain anti-nutrients, which are compounds that discourage predators. The intelligence of nature! These anti-nutrients can further inflame the already inflamed. And while I think that soaking and slow-roasting your nuts and seeds can remove this issue, and that egg whites are the only part of the egg containing anti-nutrients, I decided to go full Monty and just remove them anyway.

Caffeine and alcohol are frowned upon. Insert sad face. I’ve had some trouble with this part.

On AP, you will want to make friends with the coconut. I have coconut balsamic vinegar, coconut wraps, coconut oil and milk, coconut butter and coconut flour. And coconut aminos, instead of soy sauce. If there is a coconut famine or riot or strike, god help us all.

I began the diet a month ago, to heal a leaky gut issue that was causing skin problems. It was mostly a vanity-driven pursuit. If the leaky gut kept itself hidden, I might have kept ignoring it. But I developed lesions on my legs that were getting worse, not better. So I was called into action by a desire to one day wear shorts again.

What is leaky gut? To quote from an Amazon review of one of my favorite leaky guy books, it is often caused “by a build-up of yeast deep in the folds of the intestines, which results in an uncontrolled growth of mold and fungus that eventually penetrates the intestinal walls, thus forming the holes that cause the gut to become ‘leaky.’ To eradicate this yeast overgrowth and flush it out of the system, certain foods and substances that feed the yeast must be eliminated. Because yeast thrives on sugar, all sweets and refined starches, as well as alcohol and processed foods, must be strictly avoided.” The candida (yeast) actually colonizes and forms branch-like structures that poke through the intestinal walls. It is both disgusting and fascinating.

The health issues brought on by leaky gut can range from IBS to psoriasis to some arthritic conditions and even fibromyalgia. The body is in an ongoing state of inflammation. Toxins leaking from your gut into your bloodstream put your body in a  state of high alert, and the immune system goes haywire and starts attacking the wrong stuff. It’s total anarchy.

Thus, you start eating in a way that heals the inflamed lining and spackles your gut holes closed. Bone broth and soups became my morning go-to. My smoothies had to go, as they contained casein, a component in dairy (cow, goat, and all dairy) that can cause inflammation. Eggs were a sad, faded memory. Initially, I was not happy about this turn of events. I was used to eating eggs, cheese, and butter to my heart’s content. I also did not want a chicken leg or some other dinner leftover first thing in the morning as recommended by my book. Gross. By day 3 of broth, soup, wraps, lettuce, meat by itself and in avocados in every configuration—and no sugar including chocolate— I was ready to commit some kind of heinous crime. I needed a nacho infusion, or a Denver omelette the size of my head.

When I began the diet I instantly expected to wake up feeling like a million bucks. I didn’t. Not even a hundred bucks. I finally accepted that my digestive issues would not resolve by my being “good” for one to two days at a time. I found myself feeling bitter and angry, not blissed out. And hungry. Achingly, relentlessly hungry.

I’ve read about something called “carb flu.” When your body is used to getting energy from carbs and sugar, you experience exhaustion and hunger when you remove those energy sources; your body gradually re-learns how to run on fat stores. I had that in spades. For about five days, I wanted to run away from home. I resented cooking eggs for my children. I watched them eating muffins and wanted to weep. I have never wanted pizza more in my life. It was a dark time. I wanted to throttle somebody. I realize these are privileged problems to have, but let me have my moment.

My brother, who eats perfectly and needs to keep that to himself because we don’t want to hear it, laughed. “It’s your liver,” he explained. “You feel angry when your liver is detoxing.” So this is what detoxing felt like? Who would do this voluntarily? If I could just have some chocolate, these horrible feelings would go away. I let myself have some raw cacao in coconut butter to take the edge off. Maybe that’s like taking synthetic heroin to ease you off the real stuff. I didn’t care. It did keep me away from the Toblerone, so I considered my diet a continuing success. 

I have had a few lapses. French fries stolen from someone else’s plate. Wine here and there (organic). Coconut vodka with coconut water and lemon (in keeping with my theme). Ghee (clarified butter) on my squash. Recently I succumbed to the fudge I made for a friend’s party, which makes it her fault and not mine. Mostly I’ve stayed on track. I’m already noticing changes. My skin problems are fading  (lesions on my legs from the aforementioned leaky gut = no skirts for over a year). I feel much better with no blood sugar dips in the afternoon. I have lost weight without even trying, while still eating lots of good fats. My energy level is better than it’s been in years.

I’m still on half decaf. I haven’t made the full transition away from coffee. I will get there. In another thirty-sixty days I will start adding back foods one at a time, to see how I react. Eggs are #1 on my list. Gluten will have to stay off, and most grains, and refined sugar. I’ve recognized that these foods are poison for me. An occasional gluten-free dessert is fine, but I can’t go back to eating certain things. Gluten in particular can cause a reaction that lasts for months—just from eating it once! I haven’t had extensive testing to determine if I’m intolerant, but based on my symptoms I suspect I am.

I don’t really mind. My palate is changing. I’m understanding a little better about eating for fuel rather than as an indulgence. Or at least, to make my indulgences occasional and not the main reason for eating! There is a fascinating psychological angle to why we eat, and much of it has nothing to do with sustenance. Crossing my comfort foods off my list has forced me to pay attention to what is really going on in my head. Am I sad? Bored? Frustrated? Often the cravings coincide with one of those emotions.

Along with eating for comfort, there are many of us out there with inflammatory issues. We can heal them with proper food choices. I’m looking at my much-improved legs with new pink skin, and I’m a believer. And trust me, if I can do it, anyone can. I may have grown up in a nutrition counseling practice, but I’m not big on restrictions, I dislike change and I have a substantial sweet tooth. It is a horrible adjustment period and you are not going to be your best self at first. That’s okay. I’m just coming up from the Valley of Anger and it’s feeling pretty good up here now. I’ll keep you posted on the next 30 days!

I can’t remember the first time my child hit someone. He began acting out shortly after his brother was born, and who could blame him? He was not quite two, still breastfeeding and used to having all of my attention. Practically overnight, there was someone else attached to my breast, and in my bed, and my attention span was shot. I was so overwhelmed I barely remember my second-born’s babyhood, or my oldest son’s second year of life.

The hitting occurred with Green Eggs and Ham precision, executed by a short ninja lurking in the folds of my skirt. It happened in a car, on a plane, in a driveway, in the rain. It happened at the toy store, when he socked somebody who got in the way of the Thomas Train set. It happened at his birthday party when he pushed his buddy into an open toy chest, and at a Mommy and Me class, where he raked his nails down another boy’s cheek for reasons unknown. After apologizing, I fled the class in shame, never to return. I tried time-outs and other consequence-based punishments that did no good. I yelled often. I grabbed his arm much harder than necessary and put him in his room, to sit it out in solitary confinement. I bought him toys to distract him. Having been myself a mellow, sleepy girl child, I had absolutely no clue what to make of his behavior. The TV was a primary ally. It kept him out of my hair and out of trouble. I wasn’t too concerned about what he watched as long as it was a children’s show.

When he started preschool, I was treated to daily reports of which child my boy had hit or kicked or, occasionally, bitten. One assistant said his behavior seemed “violent.” The bully word was thrown around. No one offered me any advice or asked any questions. I would go in with my head down, listen, apologize, grab my son and go. The preschool was staffed primarily by aides who began the children’s day with a big cinnamon roll or some other sugary snack. That probably did not help my child’s behavior! If it rained, or when fires ravaged our coast and rendered the air unsafe, they wheeled out a TV set and put in a movie. They dealt with negative behavior through admonishments and time outs, but they seemed overwhelmed with the class as a whole and I didn’t get a sense of how I could improve my son’s behavior when I wasn’t physically present.

We moved on to a Montessori school nearby. I continued to receive similar reports, but the treatment was much different. “We explained to your son that his hands got him in trouble today,” the gentle Sri Lankan teacher would tell me. “I’m certain it won’t happen again.” Once more, he had scratched someone’s face, hard. I had forgotten to trim his nails. I felt like the world’s worst parent. I lived in terror of some mom or dad tracking me down and screaming at me for my child’s behavior. The teachers were wonderful. They saw the good in him, the kindess and athleticism and enthusiasm. Never was my child called a bully at Montessori. I’m grateful for that. He didn’t seem to target anyone specifically; his behavior appeared based on rash impulses that even he didn’t understand. If someone did something he didn’t like, hitting was his go-to response. I was still at a loss- what do I do as a parent when I’m not there to stop the behavior? I continued on with time-outs and punishments at home and they were all ineffective. The TV was my co-parent during the day. I knew I had to limit how much he could watch, but I found ways to make it okay, as long as it was PBS, or a nature program, or something that seemed benign. We had a stack of Baby Einsteins in constant rotation. 

Then I found the Waldorf school. I had known about Waldorf for years, but had not realized they had an early childhood program that included moms. That was the beginning of the journey home for us. Within the first week, my son had taken one of the beautiful hand-carved wooden blocks and slammed it into another boy’s shoulder. My heart sank. I apologized profusely to him and his mother. I spoke sharply to my son. The other mother put her hand on my arm, looked kindly into my eyes and shook her head. “You never have to apologize to me,” she said. “These things happen.” She had an active boy too. I felt myself exhale. I wanted to cry with relief. From then on I shadowed him in the class. The calmness and orderliness of the environment seemed to soothe him. I watched as his teacher gently took the hands he was about to use to throw a block at someone and placed them firmly on the structure he was creating. He forgot about the throwing and began to build.

Redirecting behavior is a big thing at Waldorf. Keeping one’s hands busy. If the busy hands find themselves smacking one’s classmate, those hands will gently be placed in warm water to wash dishes, or wrapped around a broom to sweep outside. There are no time-outs, and no shaming. Negative behavior is not tolerated, but rather transformed into a more acceptable activity. “We do not hit. You may join me in sweeping the walkway,” the teacher would say. I was amazed that this actually worked. Of course, there were times when a child was too tired, or not feeling well, and could not cope. Then they would be asked to go home and rest and get a fresh start the following day. Most importantly, they were never blamed for their behavior. Blaming implies the person has made a conscious choice, and small children are not yet in that sort of linear mind zone. I had been treating my child as if he had a thirty-something brain, and he was only five!

My son was happy at Waldorf, but I had yet to change anything at home. Our trials continued. Finally my son was sent home for throwing another child from the playground equipment. He was playing pirates and, I guess, wanted her off the ship. She had landed on her back and was okay, but scared. Her mother had picked her up earlier. The teacher and I discussed the incident and she asked my about his TV habits. She said behavior at this age was imitative and it seemed he had been acting out something he had seen. 

I thought back guiltily to a movie the night before. It had not even been a G movie and there were some scenes I could imagine he’d copied. For the first time I understood the fact that I had to support the teachers by making changes at home. Clearly, my son was sensitive to his environment and I needed to remove what was overstimulating him, as well as avoid things that might set him up for failure, like putting him to bed at 10 p.m. (which I had done the previous evening). I had much to work on and I was not sure I was up to the task.

I called my mom, who had been a preschool teacher in the 70s, in tears and told her what had happened.

"People overreact these days!" she exclaimed. "That stuff has been happening since the beginning of time!"

I felt much better. I still knew I had some major changes to make, but it was not the end of the world. We restricted TV to a movie once a week (rented, to avoid commercials). I focused more on my son’s diet and removed most of the gluten (common allergen, can contribute to behavioral issues) and sugar. I read Kim John Payne’s incredible book Simplicity Parenting, recommended by our class teacher. It illustrates four basic tenets of simplifying: environment (remove clutter and excess toys), rhythm, scheduling (simplifying daily routines- minimize errands, don’t put them in too many activities), and unplugging (minimize/eliminate media). Kids in our current environment are so overstimulated that their behavior can be adversely affected; their sleep can suffer and other problems also may result.  I realized he had way too much stuff and that was another button of hyperstimulation. The toy room was so full the kids couldn’t even play in it. It was gross. We gave away a lot and could actually see the carpet. Things that made electronic noises or talked on their own were chucked. He could only play with a few things at a time. We’d rotate things in and out once a week or so. He didn’t even seem to notice a majority of his stuff was missing. He played more calmly and for longer periods. That told me a lot.

Waldorf also stresses the importance of a daily rhythm. That, I struggled with until recently, and my older son is in second grade. Routine, to me as an adult, has always equaled boredom. But kids thrive on it. Dinner and bed at the same time every night. Every Tuesday we go to the park after school. That kind of thing. I did it reluctantly, but it’s taken me years to enjoy it. Now I actually find our routine helpful and it’s made me more productive.

His teachers commented on how his behavior had improved. They said that whatever I was doing, to keep it up. I was elated. My son remained a “rascal” of sorts until he reached first grade, but his daily behavior was vastly better in school and out of it. He’s an active, athletic, dynamic child who took awhile to fit his vast stores of energy into his small, developing body. To see him that way, instead of an albatross of humiliation and failed parenting around my neck, was very freeing for me and very beneficial for him. He must have felt my frustration and I don’t doubt it contributed to his behavior. It gave me a sense of power to know that I could make changes that stuck. His evolution (and mine as a parent) has been beautiful.  

I shudder to think of how many kids like my son have been medicated to make them more docile.

It tears my heart out to think of how many children are labeled “bullies” and then go on to live up to their reputations.

I am eternally grateful to my community of parents and teachers who were encouraging and nonjudgemental and kind. I had a support network and it gave me the strength to parent the way my child deserved to be parented, to bring out the best in him. It’s never okay for your child to hurt another. It’s up to you as a parent to help guide them out of that behavior. But it’s also not okay to make judgements about another family, or assume a child is just “bad.” Or to call someone a bully. Identifying behavior is one thing, but never, ever label a child.

Unless you want to create the very thing you fear.

This is the most beautiful observation (courtesy of the Fossil Bay Rudolf Steiner Kindergarten in New Zealand) I’ve come across regarding screen time and children. Mine are so much calmer and happier and focused without it! It’s nice as an occasional treat, but not a meal.

In my efforts to avoid Nestle and Hershey (they don’t support GMO labeling), I found it quite a trial to buy Halloween candy. I ended up with some weird brand of chocolate bars that look like ones I ate in the 70s, and organic lollipops. We are probably not going to be the go-to house for Halloween this year.