When I compare myself to other health bloggers, I think that we’re actually pretty lax about the whole healthy living thing. We choose toothpaste without fluoride, but we don’t make it ourselves. Shampoo… let’s not even go there. While we did GAPS (The Gut and Psychology Syndrome protocol) I was careful and we used only Dr Bronner’s for everything. But now I have Costco-sized shampoo bottles of conventional shampoo (that works quite well) in my bathroom.
We eat gluten free at home, mostly… We buy local produce only when it’s convenient, and we purchase plenty of conventional – not even organic- produce right from chain grocery stores like Safeway, Costco, and Albertson’s. There is canned tuna in my cupboard, conventional dishwasher detergent under my sink, and Oxy Clean next to the 7Th Generation laundry detergent above my washer.
We make healthy sustainable choices when they work, and when they aren’t working for us or it’s not in the budget, we’re okay with making compromises.
But I have been reminded again and again that ‘normal’ is ‘sick’
The kids are just wrapping up their school year, this is the first time that I haven’t done some combination of homeschooling for part of the year -they’ve both been in all year long.
We’ve healed with GAPS, and I felt like we were in a pretty good place health-wise so I decided this year that I wouldn’t stress about what they got at school and at friends’ and neighbor’s houses. I’d go with the 80/20 principal, thinking that if I fed them well at home, where they’re getting at least 80% of their food, they’d be okay with occasional junk in other places.
Cookies for the letter ‘C’ week in Kindergarten…
Cupcakes for the birthdays, microwave popcorn at the neighbor’s while watching a movie, lollipops at the hair salon, ranch dressing from the school cafeteria…
…a few pieces of candy snuck from Valentines and Halloween and Easter parties at school, chips and pretzels shared from friends
Soda and candy at church… (?!)
You know what? It was too much
If you looked at my kids, you couldn’t tell. Even with me loosening up on my ideals to make way for less controlled social interactions (read: Letting them eat junk food, but still not serving it at my house), they still had fairly decent immune systems, are growing well, have buckets of energy, and while they still exhibited developmentally-appropriate behavioral testing, it wasn’t out of line of anyone else in their classroom.
But I could tell…
When my son threw up early in the morning on February 15th, after the Valentine’s party at school and then sneaking some candy he knew I wouldn’t want him to have when he got home. And the headaches that he suddenly started getting… that appeared only after visiting friends’ houses (but didn’t happen when friends visited ours).
When my daughter wasn’t growing as well as she had been, and then over winter break ate and ate and ate— she was starving for nutrition.
When both of them would do the emotional roller coaster thing after getting soda, candy, or other sugar.
When meals were being refused and lunches were coming home barely touched, I later learned that there was a lot of ‘trading’ going on at lunch time, so he was holding out and hoping to score some chips, candy, or cookies.
Processed food tastes good, I know that. Food engineers are paid thousands upon thousands to make us choose their nutritionally-void food over our real food.
I didn’t want to be ‘that mom’
When Hannah was on GAPS, and she would wake up at night and scream every 2 hours from getting food off GAPS, I was *that mom*. The one who gave implicit instructions that they were not to eat anything at school other than what I sent. The one who stayed at all play dates because I knew that one goldfish that she found between the couch cushions would set us back a week.
The one who said ‘no’ a lot: To the ‘whole fruit’ popsicles made with sugar, to the ‘allergy friendly’ rice crackers, to the lotion from Bath and Body Works, to nail polish, spray sunscreen, and cupcakes at the class party.
Being ‘that mom’ is tiring, and it can be socially isolating, and I was fearing that it would result in my children being unkind or judgmental.
You see, I don’t judge you for what you serve your kids. We’re all at different places in our health goals, we all have different priorities in our lives, and we all have different budgets, cooking skill levels, and desires. And I certainly don’t want to come across as judgmental, but it’s hard to not hurt your feelings while still standing up for what my kids need health-wise.
No, they don’t really have ‘food allergies’ – they just don’t do well with junk food.
But my kids are worth it
This week I’ve been working on explaining more of why we eat how we do to the kids. My daughter is back on GAPS (with the support of her teacher, she sees the difference it makes in her ability to learn), and my son and I have conversations about nutrition, gut flora, and the importance of filling up on good healthy food that mom works hard to prepare for him.
Thankfully we have a few close friends who really get what we’re doing in our house, and support us, even if they don’t eat exactly the same as we do. And I’m going to start having more play dates at my house, where food is more supervised. It’s more work, and is a little more socially isolating, but this is going to affect them for their whole lives.
When they get junk, they get sick.
Moms, we need to keep working to change. If this is affecting my kids, I’m sure it’s affecting yours as well. While doing research on eczema for an upcoming article, I saw the statistics about eczema being on the rise in children, and followed the rabbit trail to see statistics about so many more chronic health issues in children:
- Food Allergies
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Developmental Delays
- Childhood Obesity
- Autoimmune conditions
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- I’m sure there are more (I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments)
This isn’t a coincidence. We may have been able to sustain one generation on hotdogs, Snickers bars, Kraft Mac n Cheese, and neon-colored sugar-filled yogurt, but we can’t keep going on like this.
We need to slow down, spend some more time in the kitchen, and maybe stop being afraid to be ‘that mom’. We need to talk to our kids about health and nutrition, and model healthy choices for them. Peer pressure is real, and it affects us just as much as our kids.
They’re worth it, though, so let’s keep pushing back and changing the status quo.
More posts in this series:
- Eczema, is the root cause in the gut?
- Want to Treat My Children? Here are 12 Non-Food Treats that Won’t Destroy Their Health
- Picky Eating: It’s the Bugs in Their Guts
- Want to start making healthy changes in your family? Click here for a free 30-step Checklist for Easy Changes that make a Big Difference.
- Anxiety: The gut-food-anxiety connection
Webinar for Parents of Picky Kids: The Picky Eating Solution
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My son also has multiple good sensitivities – which trigger bed wetting, tics, and behavioral issues. One time my parents took him to Cracker Barrel thinking they would avoid dyes and such and he would be fine. Nope. Awful. Sent him into a tailspin. He just cannot eat typical foods anywhere but home and they have to be closely screened. The tiniest offending food sets us way back.
It’s so hard when people are well meaning, isn’t it? That’s what’s hardest for me, when they’re trying really hard, but they just don’t quite understand so it still impacts the kids.
I’ve been more lax with my children than I am with myself, because I have a lifetime of issues I’m trying to heal, but I was pretty strict when I did an 8 week “cure tooth decay” diet for them. What I found was that my son who gets a migraine about twice a month didn’t have a single headache until the day after we ate at a steakhouse and let him eat a corndog. Something (I suspect MSG) in processed food makes him ill. But it certainly has helped him to be more excited about not eating so much junk. (Plus stopping the decay in two of his teeth, so he’s a Real Food believer now).
You’re right. It is harder. It makes us more susceptible to isolation. But that is the price we pay. I appreciate and am encouraged by what you share. I’m sure it helps other parents to keep at it, too.
Thanks Terri :)
I’m way more strict with myself than I am with the kids too (well, not Hannah now) just because it’s easy for me to say, ‘no thank you’ to cupcakes and harder to explain it to teachers/parents/my kids etc. I’m tightening back up though, I *know* this is affecting my kids, and for now I can make the decisions for them, so I’ll give them a good start in life.
I’d rather be the over protective mommy (it’s all relative – my 6yo does have a pocket knife) than the mommy who knew better but let her kids have brain fog, get in trouble for inattention in the classroom, and have chronic headaches/stomach upset.
Thank you so much for this!! I have a 9 1/2 yr old girl who has multiple food sensitivities as well as Celiac Disease. So we eat strictly Paleo and she’s doing much better. Because of this, I am proud to be “that mom”. Nine times out of 10 her friends want what she has instead of the other way around. I only wish I could help improve both of our immune systems. I have PCOS and she is already showing the signs of having it too. Any suggestions?
How is your “cure tooth decay diet” different than the GAPS diet? I do the strict GAPS protocol every summer with great intentions of continuing through the school year. Each year I do better but it’s exhausting. I wear down gradually by spring but I’m gearing up to start again next month. I’m really curious how your diet compares to GAPS. GAPS has been such a blessing to our family which includes one child on the spectrum and two “typical” kiddos.
I want (need) to know more about the “cure tooth decay” diet, please!
I love this post so much! Last year I decided to try the 80/20 rule with my daughter (she was 2) and let her have a serving of cake or whatever at birthday parties or a friend’s house. The morning after her second time to have a taste of a conventional dessert she woke up with a serious runny nose (her reaction to gluten and refined sugar) that persisted long enough to turn into a sinus infection. Back to being that mom!
Excellent article, Cara. Thanks!
We were pretty strict with GAPS last school year. In addition to a huge difference we saw (particularly with 2 of our 5 kiddos) in their behavior, they just didn’t get sick. Unfortunately in our community we have ended up with strep, influenza and pertussis every year. I decided to let it slide and relax the diet this school year and they have gotten sick quite a bit with my oldest ending up with pertussis causing everyone to be on antibiotics (I was at the end of my pregnant with #6). Up the cultured probiotic rich foods but I know it’s so rough on your gut flora! It’s much cheaper to relax the diet and eat grains, but the fall out has been huge for us!
I am doing the GAPS because of an auto immune disease called vitiligo. It causes my body to kill off the pigment in my skin. I am very hopeful that I will regain my pigment through this program. I am a grown lady and it is exceptionally hard when I get invited places and have to bring my own food. I don’t want to be conspicuous but there is no other way around the issue. I would love to hear about people who have had skin conditions who have been helped through GAPS. I am hoping to share my success with others in the near future.
Love this! I’m right in the middle of trying to heal 4 kids with varying GAPS issues, and it feels as though I am constantly battling everyone else’s opinions, rolling eyes, and what have you. It’s tough. But when I see my 2-year-old breathing normally and going a whole week without hacking herself to sleep – it’s DEFINITELY worth it! When I see my 7-month-old with clear, non-inflammed skin and not drowning in snot – it’s DEFINITELY worth it!! Though I feel like I fight this battle alone most days, I know what I know – what I see on a daily basis, though no one else does. I pray daily for strength and for understanding and for wisdom, because the last thing I want to do is look back and regret not finishing this race – giving up before the end arrived. You know? Yes, you do. :-) Thanks for this! LG
I need articles about what’s in Goldfish and why they’re problematic, can you post links you may know about?
I don’t know of any, but I’m pretty sure they have gluten/wheat flour.
And artificial colors and MSG. Probably GMOs too.
Spot on, Cara! I am that mom too. And it is so frustrating. No one knows about GAPS in Denmark and I don’t even get support from my own family. My sisters and little nephews and nieces have a lot of GAPS-issues (autism, ADHD, eczema, bed wetting, night terror etc.) but no one wants to listen to me. I am just the family freak mom doing diet experiments on my 4 kids. Every now and then I relax a little and think that the 80/20 rule could apply to us but then they start getting tantrums, night terror and bed wetting. We are not ready for that yet – or maybe we never will be… thank you so much for this post – it makes me feel that I am not alone :)
Thanks Helle – You’re right, I’m not ready for it too. I have a really hard time parenting my kids when they’re not eating well! My 6yo at least (who thankfully I don’t have to be strict for), my 8yo and 1yo both have fairly easygoing personalities at the moment :)
I am that mom too, I recognize myself in your reply, I’m from Belgium and here no one knows about GAPS, my family think the same way, I’m the health freak! When my daughter goes through die-off they look at me like I’m a bad mom, I try to explain but they look at me like I believe in fairy tales. It’s hard, the school, the teachers, the doctors….
But the most important are our kids and there health!
In my family we have also someone with severe autism spectrum/ADHD/bedwetting, learning problems…. I have tried to inform the mom, I showed the videos off Dr Campbell… but she won’t listen, it breaks my heart to see the child gets lots off medication and get worse
So you are not alone ;-)
I apologize for my writing, but English is not my first language.
I’ve mostly failed at doing GAPS with my older kids (5 and 9). But I think that’s because I didn’t take the time to explain and let them see for themselves why it’s so important. Do you have good resources for explaining nutrition to kids, or did you just do it on your own… as most moms do everything?!?
I have this – http://www.healthhomeandhappiness.com/how-to-explain-the-gaps-diet-to-your-children.html it’s working well for us. I have a webinar going up later this month about explaining it to teachers and stuff too :)
We started strict GAPS, intro and everything back in January and saw some amazing healing in my 4 kiddos. I ended up with some issues that caused us to have to relax a little. We still avoid gluten, sugar, processed food. We had a birthday for my 5yo this weekend and we had gluten free cake with full sugar icing and ice cream. It’s a birthday, right? And gluten free! Well, the next day, three out of my four were basketcases. Even the one who I’ve never suspected to have any gut problems. My daughter told me, “Mommy, I’m just angry at everyone today, but I don’t want to be.” My husband’s brain fog and fatigue returned. I also hate being “that Mom”, but like you said, my kids are worth it. And having a pleasant home life is worth it! Thanks for all your great info. Your intro guide was a HUGE help to us and we still use several of the recipes on a regular basis. :)
Thank you so much for this!! There are days were I feel judged by everyone for what I have done/am doing with my 2 year old daughter. We have been fighting a battle with her health-wise for the last year and a half after she ate goldfish crackers at church. On the surface she appears pretty healthy and developmentally on target, although her language skills slowed to barely a creep for a year and we are just now starting to see her talk. thankfully some things we have been able to have documented as odd and complicated changes. But I recently even had a friend ask if maybe these things were caused because I didn’t introduce grains and milk products at a typical age. I’ve also seen so often that things like baby eczema and breakouts are considered normal, and as a teacher the incidences of behavioral disoders, autism, and ADHD are growin exponentially. It truly is scary and breaks my heart!
Nothing gets our attention like our own kids’ pain.
What if these children are showing up now because they love us this much…enough to show us in full, living color how to better take care of OURSELVES, as well? -Enough to patiently offer us the practical lessons of what is poison, and how we can love ourselves better (relaxation, creativity, simplicity). Maybe the sooner we listen, the sooner it all gets resolved. Thanks, Cara, for always keeping it real as you teach us how to unravel our highly-sensitive, over-stimulated nervous (etc.) systems.
Thank you so much for this article. I too feel isolated a lot with our family’s food choices. My now 3 year old son had ezcema at 1 year, so I searched for the cause of it and went down the “rabbit hole” with real food and immune responses to food caused by leaky gut. We chose AIP Paleo over GAPS but I think any therapeutic or healing diet has similarities in terms of the difficulty of navagating social situations and explaining what you are doing to family, friends, and acquaintances. It would be much easier to explain it if it were just for me, but people do sometimes look at me like I’m performing science experiments on my kids. Maybe because I don’t speak with conviction for fear of making others feel bad about their own food choices. Either way, your posts and others’ replies help from feeling so alone on this journey. Thank you!!
Thank you Cara, it brought tears to my eyes to read this. It helps so much to know that none of us are alone in this struggle. To all the parents out there going through this right now -my heart and prayers are with you. You are taking the road less travelled but it is so worth it. There is nothing more valuable that you can give your child than health. All your sacrifices will pay off and your child will get better. You will look back on this as this as one of the best things you have ever done for them.
You got to watch FED UP. It’s a movie about the junk food industry and how fast food is not food! I watched it by myself and my son came into the room and watched about 5 minutes of it. He asked to watch the whole thing. So the next day, we sat down together as a family (5 y.o. to 12 y.o. children) and watched, It was a great opportunity for us to talk about why we eat the way we do. Because we eat the way we do and homeschool, our family is healthy and not prone to so many health issues as other children/ people we know. We talked for hours and days. The kids are helping me in the kitchen, eating more salads, trying new things… even the chocolate and sugar cravings have diminished. We are doing so well. Check out FED UP! there’s a website about it, the movie is on Netflix. Another movie I watched with the kids was a movie produced in Brazil for Brazlians who used to eat whole food and now are turning to fast food daily. It was a great eye opener for my kids. Unfortunately, sometimes one just has to be the weird one. One of the reasons my kids don’t go to children’s church is all the junk they serve the kids. Why do kids need sugar and snacks just before lunch time?? My kids are in church with me and don’t eat any snacks and are fine. I don’t get it. I think it’s the bribery tool to get kids to come and stay in kids’ church. :/
I had to come back and leave another comment.
I am from Brazil. When I moved here I noticed my husband had heartburn, skin issues and insomnia. Within a couple of years of eating junk food, I gained 40 pounds. I quickly realized that I need to eat like Brazlians: rice and beans, lots of veggies and fruits, made from scratch food and stay away from wheat and milk most of the time. In the last 14 years, I have been on a journey of self discovery and healing. All my children were breastfed because I wasn’t and had lots of ear and throat infections. None of them had those problems. They never ate cereal or baby food because I just couldn’t trust the food industry to feed them better than I would cooking in my kitchen. They eat real food every day and once in a while have a little candy. We don’t do Halloween or Easter with all the junk and sugar. We rarely eat out. If we do eat sugary stuff I make it at home. It’s radical but my kids are healthy. Not one has any learning or behavioral issues. Praise Jesus! They know what real food tastes like and when they eat junk food and are enticed by the excess salt and sugar, we talk about how the food industry is aiming for addicts not healthy eaters. In the last 2 months, I decided to go Vegan. I had been a vegetarian most of my life and decided to do a cleanse. What I noticed was that my weekly headaches disappeared!! Gone! I don’t have any more headaches. Was it the milk? Or the cheese? Maybe the excess oils? Or the meat??? I quit coffee, chocolate and sugar too. Maybe it was the chocolate. After 5 weeks of no headaches, I caved and ate some chocolate. The next 2 days I was miserable with a headache. Learned my lesson, now I stay away from chocolate. (I loooove chocolate! It’s a drug, you know?) All this to say, that it DOES matter what you eat. Food is the fuel and the building blocks of your life. Yes, we can cut corners sometimes, you can compromise, but you need to know WHERE and HOW MUCH you can compromise so that you don’t lose all that you have conquered. I commend you Moms that are working so hard to keep your kids healthy. Ah, forgot to say. My husband has no more heartburn, skin issues or insomnia. Within a year of eating homemade from scratch food his heartburn disappeared. After doing a cleanse his skin issues and insomnia were also gone.
I have three kids under 6 and we’ve done GAPS (which cured my child’s adhd) and now more just Paleo. The last few months when I decided to be more relaxed I felt like every day someone was giving my kids sugar! Lollipops from the busdrivers, school ice-cream fundraisers, bread day, hot chocolate day, even shop assistants handing out marshmallows – seriously! I’m over it too and back on the GAPS wagon. It’s hard to stay strong – especially when family does not support you. However, there is an avalanche of child health problems and people like you are leading the way out again. You are showing people that it’s diet. I think there will be more support and more choice for real food – it’s just that we are doing it the toughest because we are swimming up stream right now. You are an inspiration! Thanks for sharing xx
Thanks for your comment Jessica, it sounds like we’re in a similar situation. Hopefully the attitude will change soon!
Yes! This exactly:). This is my life. So happy to know I’m not alone.
Thank you, Cara, for writing this article! As I read through it and then the comments, I don’t feel so alone!! I have relaxed this year (80/20) as my two oldest went to school for the first time (having been homeschooled for two years prior). The amount of food offered as rewards and for comfort (!!) at the school has been frustrating. I could tell right away when they came home if they ate “junk”. After reading your article and watching the webinars, I am inspired to be “that mom” again, as our home is much more peaceful (okay, relatively speaking with four children), and all my children thrive–don’t we all want that?? Thank you, thank you!
I couldn’t agree with you more. I am totally that mom and j do get the eye rolls when I get on my soap box about it. My son plays sports and I have to throw out 95% of the snacks they get after games. It is so irritating to me to give kids a capris sun and a package of mini Oreos after they have been running for an hour. My kiddos are used to me saying no and my son is at the age he feels the effects of a mini binge. Poor eating habits are allowed by parents too often. They let little kids dictate what’s for dinner. It really is a shame more people don’t wake up and realize what is going on in this food system.
Please look into vaccines causing gut problems. You will be shocked. Yes, the food choices make a difference, but much MORE of a difference after their little guts have been destroyed by vaccines in infancy.
I do believe in the connection, especially with MMR. My family does not vaccinate.
Thanks for this article. I tried to relax after we were on GAPS a full year as we were renovating our house and then going off for a 8 day long holiday. I regret it. Our skin is so bad now.
It seems that we can’t do 80-20. I think even 90-10 is also iffy.
I KNOW it is better for us but it is soooooo tiring! :( And I wonder sometimes if I am giving my kids a phobia about food. I don’t want to be always thinking of food, you know what I mean. Sigh.
I totally understand- that’s why we tried to go 80/20, but we can’t. I’ve decided that it’s everyone else that thinks about food (er, food-ish stuff) all the time. We are happy riding bikes, hiking, sledding, and swimming. They’re the ones that want to involve food-like products in every gathering, not me.
Nothing makes me crazier than the “need” to have food at every gathering. Especially sports events where the parents are required to bring a “snack” (a drink and snack) for every game. The games are right before dinner. Everyone (some family included) would make such a big deal about my kids not being allowed to eat what their kids eat. If they don’t make it an issue it won’t be an issue, but they don’t get that. I always had substitutions and now that my kids can have some(we still need to be gluten and dairy free) of the junk, they prefer the food I make. ARGGG!
I have only just came across all this, my hole family of four all have different reasons to start this!!..
Anytips to get me started would be fab,, thank you x
Thank you cara..and thank you all you wonderful moms.. It is so enlightening to hear your comments. I have been on Gaps on and off for past two years and each time it has been god sent for me. Have 2 kids 9 and 10 ,, although have no health issues , I am constantly struggling to stop junk food creeping in from school and parties . Saying ‘no’ has become a nightmare and feeling isolated in protecting my children’s health from the world around. I hope someday when they are older they will thank us moms for their health. So thank you all you awesome mothers for being that warrior mother to protect and nurture your children and generations to come.
Hi Cara, I’ve been following your journey for quite a few years now. We were about 18 months behind you doing GAPS for much the same reasons, you were like my backstop, I knew how far you’d come, so I kept with it. We too have backed off is year, my boy is now 9, under advice from the psych (who sort of gets food issues) to allow him to be more included and under pressure from my husband, who thinks I just make food the scapegoat for all our health issues. 14 days until we finish school for the year and we will be back on GAPS. As the year had progressed (especially last couple of months) behaviours are reappearing, sensory issues developing, learning is being impacted – he is regressing. His sisters behaviour is not”bad” but she is not her normal easygoing self, she recently had a skin reaction on her face to something. I See every day the huge impact food has my boy and his sister. I am about to become THAT mum again – it may also end in divorce, but there is nothing I will not do for my kids and their future health. The right nutrition and food is everything. Good luck with your journey, thanks for sharing it – it’s a relief to know that you too have had become that mum again – I’m not alone.
you could illustrate your children’s needs as being “fructose intolerant”, fructose being the culprit sugar. This is true to some extend, as we are all allergic to (read: addicetd and unhealthily affected by) fructose and behave irrationally when it comes to sugar. Our bodies simply weren’t made to consume so much sugar and fast food!
In quitting unhealthy foods, you are by far not alone – there is a whole movement growing, called “I Quit Sugar”. Their attitude towards food is similar to yours and you might be interested in browsing their website, as they have a bunch of great recipes. https://iquitsugar.com/