So this would all have been easier if I had found paleolithic nutrition BEFORE motherhood. But I didn’t. I was close to my biggest when I got pregnant with my first daughter. Gestational diabetes, which evolved into pre-diabetes after she was born, spurned me on to lose 100 pounds before getting pregnant with my second daughter. But I used a type II diabetes type diet, relying on willpower to make what I thought were good food choices. I struggled for the first year after my second daughter was born to get down to my pre-pregnancy weight. Now, as my youngest fast approaches two years old, I am finally putting all the pieces together for myself: paleolithic nutrition, lots of fun non-strenuous activity, and good sleep. But my husband and kids are still firmly entrenched in a world of nutrition misinformation, a world I belonged to not that long ago.
There are many blogs out there of families living a paleolithic lifestyle with great success (see www.everydaypaleo.com and www.paleoparents.com for inspiring examples). Some of these families were committed to paleolithic nutrition before having children or after their children were substantially older than mine, which I think would make things easier. AND all the blogs I have read thus far have parents united in their efforts to expel all those offensive grains, legumes and dairy products from their diets. This is not the case for me; but, I doubt that my challenge is unique. I am trying to transition a very stubborn family to paleolithic nutrition, mostly against their will (but for their own good, dammit!).
My oldest daughter has never liked food. She had acid reflux as a baby that lasted well into her toddler years. She didn’t like most of the baby foods we tried (homemade and store-bought). Her weight percentile slowly dropped relative to her height over her first year until she reached 5th percentile for weight (but 75th percentile for height!) at her one year check-up. We were on doctor’s orders to fatten her up fast! We were told to make instant pudding with cream instead of milk and give it to her after every meal. Well, it worked. But how do you go back from that??? I have catered food for her for over four years. Sure, we were able to wean off the high sugar content foods (and anything with preservatives or colorings), but she still doesn’t like most food. There are no good protein sources that she eats reliably, except maybe cheese but she only eats this on top of club crackers! She doesn’t eat vegetables and only eats three different kinds of fruit. And here’s the thing: most kids will eventually eat something they don’t really like if it’s the only thing offered (my youngest daughter, for example). This child would literally starve. She has made a profession out of ignoring her physical requirements (we used to joke that the three things she never did as a baby were eat, sleep or poop!). My biggest challenge with my oldest is just plain old finding paleolithic foods that she likes.
My youngest daughter does like food. I introduced foods to her in a very different way, made everything myself, introduced great variety, focused on fruits, vegetables and proteins with grains as an afterthought. But shortly after wheat was introduced to her diet, she started suffering obstructive sleep apnea. It took a year of tests to diagnose that she has a slightly floppy epiglottis (called a laryngomalacia) and severe acid reflux (which shocked us because she almost never spat up as a baby). Our pediatric gastroenterologist doesn’t think a gluten-free diet would help (I actually heard him on NPR this week talking about how we should try acid reflux medicine in babies before altering the mom’s diet to treat colic!) and would like to just “wait and see if she grows out of it”. Fortunately, our pediatrician is on board with trying a gluten-free diet, so I’m going to! My biggest challenge with my youngest is getting through the stubborn, picky toddler phase that she is just entering. This is even harder when my oldest is eating foods I’d rather not have in the house.
My strategy with my kids is similar to my husband. First find great paleolithic alternatives to their staples and then phase out the neolithic foods. For now, I won’t sweat sugar intake if it’s in the form of fruits, starchy veggies and healthy paleo baking. And I have no intention of cutting out dairy products for the moment. Let’s get grains and legumes out first. My hope for my oldest daughter is that improving her nutrition will rectify her chronic constipation, help balance her energy levels (she’s always complaining about being tired), help her sleep more soundly, and clear up her eczema. My hope for my youngest daughter is that her acid reflux and obstructive sleep apnea will completely disappear. And of course, my biggest hope for both my girls is that they will never have the health and weight issues that I had. Again, wish me luck!