Parenting Seminars

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 12 of a Four Year Old's Elimination Diet

I recently told you about the health issues bringing us to the decision to take gluten, eggs, dairy, soy and cranberries out of our 4 year old's diet. In an effort to create solidarity, we all decided to do the diet together. So for the past 12 days the whole family has been avoiding these foods.

I must admit...this is challenging! Its hard to do just for myself as I went through this last fall and I haven't been perfect this time around. But its especially hard to try to make it easy for my daughter. Several things have come up for me.

My first reaction was stress. How are we going to do this? All she eats are gluten, dairy and eggs; Sandwiches, yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs, tortillas with cheese and mac and cheese. She eats plenty of fruit and a couple veggies and loves beans, hummus and meat so we were going to depend heavily on those first.

My second reaction was trying to keep her from feeling what I felt when doing this diet. That I was in a constant state of lack and feeling deprived. So I wanted to have plenty of food available and try to bake and cook whatever I could to mimic her favorites. This has turned into many hours trying to recreate pizza dough, bread, and tortillas without a whole lot of success.

Then I had an epiphany one day. She doesn't have my food issues! She fully expects there to be plenty of food for her to eat when she's hungry. She has grown up in a family where her mother and father provide enough food for her and she has all the confidence that this will remain the same. The gravity of this blessing and privilege are not lost on me. I actually think we have become more conscious of the greater issue of societal hunger problems through this process but that is for another day.

She has also taught me that when it is out of sight, its out of mind for her. Not like my obsessions that seem to creep up as a coping tool for emotional stress. I have intentionally avoided taking her to the grocery store until yesterday. It was horrible telling her how many things she couldn't eat there as she requested all her favorites when she saw them. She hasn't once mentioned yogurt, milk, or bagels since we started until the grocery store. One day in a moment of hunger when we didn't have exactly what she wanted she did shout, "I just want some CHEESE!!" But she quickly moved on.

This child, who used to eat more food between breakfast and lunch than most kids were eating in a day, has now adjusted her intake dramatically. The first few days I packed as much food as I always do. A routine that feels like we're having a full lunch every morning for snack. Its been this way for 4 years. Thank goodness I've been taking care of other children recently to be reminded how much a preschooler typically eats at breakfast and snack. I was panicking in the morning when she didn't finish her breakfast expecting a full meltdown in an hour. I also wanted to remain strong with our family rules to wait for snack for more food. No continuous snack bar here. There was no meltdown, no fight, just requests and patience.

She has also started trying different things. You know the nutritionists and parenting gurus all tell you that if you introduce the food enough, or if there isn't anything else to eat, they'll eat it. Yeah right, maybe with someone else's child, but not mine! Well, I have seen this play out. When I was forced to stick to a certain group of foods for her, she tried new things. She is eating more nuts now as a protein source. Super easy travel food and nuts are so great for her body! She's trying some meats and things that she had been avoiding recently. She is totally fine with deconstructed sandwiches, hummus on rice cakes and no quesadillas.

We are using fruit smoothies to hide veggies, flax seed oil, vitamin D, and sometimes nuts for protein.

At day 12, I can see how this can and probably will be a life changer for our family. Her emotions are less of a roller coaster and more of a rolling hillside. Feels more normal for a 4 year old. Her body is trimming down. Some of her sensory quirks are mellowing out. Still there, but not nearly as pronounced. She is more patient with her sister. She seems to be calmer overall. And the other day when I asked if she was noticing any changes in her body she said, "My head doesn't hurt anymore." Really? I didn't know her head was hurting! It almost made me cry. Even now I tear up. What kind of sensations has she been dealing with that none of us knew about? That she thought was normal? I am so grateful for this process and what we are learning.

If you need to do this with you and/or your child or want to, it really is an interesting discovery on so many levels for all of us. Way beyond just her physical health!


Lucretia said...

Kudos to you! The rewards seem to be worth the difficulties. So glad to hear it is having a positive impact in so many ways!

Hannah said...

I just got a bit teary. I love your writing and I am so proud of you.

Can't wait to hear the other gifts that come from this.

elisabeth said...

Wow, thanks for sharing this! I am new to your blog and so happy to have read this. I need to do a gluten elimination trial with my 4yr old and have been delaying partly because I am so overwhelmed (and partly because I wanted to allow him pizza and cake on his birthday!). It helps to read that you've been successful eliminating so much.

Finding My Truth said...

Elisabeth, I completely understand! We had a weekly Friday night ritual of pizza night that has been postponed. I have been working on a pizza crust recipe and its still not sorted out yet but will post as soon as I do. Also...I do have some ideas for cake and dessert. Will share.