Back on Track

It must be the holidays. I’m feeling pulled in a million different directions, and I seem unable to focus on the day-to-day tasks as more and more stuff to do piles in my head. I was not surprised when Charlotte had a series of meltdowns this morning. We are back in school after the Thanksgiving holiday, and her re-entry into this routine is usually shaky.

A few weeks ago at dinner she announce that she was feeling tired. While this seems like such a simple thing, Chad and I nearly high-fived each other across the table. She has taken the next step of many in the journey toward self-regulating.

That being said, when she announces her need for sleep at 9am on a Tuesday morning, other than canceling our morning plans and driving home and putting her to bed, I wasn’t sure how to help her. I struggled getting her to eat breakfast, get dressed, and attend Dana’s morning drop off assembly. By the time we got to her therapy appointment, she was done. The hand-off to the therapist did not go well. Charlotte spent quite a few minutes on the floor, seeming unable to pull herself to standing and go in for the session.

Thankfully, the ever-so-patient therapist motivated her to stand up and enter the session. Once in the therapy room (where parents do not go), I could hear her continue to sob her tired tears and plead for some item of need. Most days, I take off quickly after the hand-off for my morning walk, but today I waited in agony, stood outside the closed door, and waited until I heard the tears quiet and the session begin.

As I began my walk, my mind was flooded with a million thoughts of guilt and shame that someone else was having to deal with my child in that state and what I had done to get it to that point. All of a sudden I realized that putting myself on a guilt trip was the least healthy thing I could do for myself at that moment, and freeing myself of this guilt suddenly jolted me into reality. In addition to the added stressors around the holidays, I recognized a series of events and decisions that had occurred in my personal life over the last few weeks that have pulled my focus from my family and have forced me to regulate myself. Charlotte’s world was more upside down than it needed to be, due to my choices. I said out loud as I walked, “I am done”, and mentally released all of the excess mental baggage that I had been carrying around while I was trying keep Charlotte regulated at the same time.

It was like a switch flipped for me at that moment, and I realized that the precious amount of energy that I had to get through each day was being wasted. Instead of beating myself up for allowing Charlotte to get to a point of exhaustion and dysregulation, I promised myself that I would get my focus back on what is important and use my energy to help her get through the next few hectic weeks of off-scheduling, holidays, food temptations, and any other unexpected drama that would derail our regulated state.

I am giving myself permission to stay focused on my family when life will want to pull me away again. Nothing is more important than keeping my child comfortable and free from avoidable meltdowns.

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Following my own advice–texture aversions

I had just finished posting the information on Recommendations & Advice about knowing which textures your child has aversions to, how to carefully incorporate new foods, and the importance of understanding their likes and dislikes. I had all of this information fresh in my mind, and then….I came down with a cold.

What does that have to do with texture aversions? Well, every Monday I make my girls a hot almond and pecan cereal. (Recipe courtesy of Sarah Fragoso here: almondcereal) I use my Blendtec and grind up apples, cinnamon, nuts, and water. I make a big batch and it usually lasts the first few days of the week. Typically, I run the blender a couple of times to make sure that I grind up any large pieces of nuts or apple.

This Monday I woke up in a NyQuil induced haze and forgot to run the blender twice. This resulted in large pieces of nuts and apples in Charlotte’s cereal that I was not aware of. This must have really grossed her out because yesterday she sat in her chair and stared at her cereal for a very long time before I grog-i-l-y noticed that she wasn’t eating. By this time the cereal was cold, and she was begging me to help her eat it. I prompted her to eat it herself and reminded her that there were no big pieces. She finished it reluctantly, and I didn’t think of it again.

Until, today. When the frustration over the cereal consumed her and defiance and back talk made it’s way into the discussion about finishing her breakfast. When I finally inspected the cereal, I did notice large pieces of textures that she does not tolerate well and used it as a teachable moment to show her how to pull the pieces out of the cereal with her spoon and place them on a napkin.

But….it’s too late…next week when I make hot nut cereal I will have to run the blender twice and to take the extra time to reassure her and show her that it is, indeed, safe to eat.

Healthy Fats

I’m going to start this post with a disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am not a scientist. I am a mom who has recognized substantial positive change in my child when altering her diet. I am attempting to take my experience and match it to some Paleo based science/research. Some of the information you read in this post may sound contrary to popular opinion. 

Why we think eating fat has benefited Charlotte:

*She has issues with her nervous systemWe know that she has Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD), which is one of the three primary diagnostic groups of Sensory Processing Disorder. She is over or under responding to sensory stimuli and often is seeking sensory stimulation. Yes.

This group may include a fearful and/or anxious pattern, negative and/or stubborn behaviors, self-absorbed behaviors that are difficult to engage or creative or actively seeking sensation [source]. Definitely. 

All of this dysregulation is going on in her nervous system and prevents her from responding appropriately to sensory input. In our world this looks like things that take a lot of effort for her….trying new food flavors and textures, following directions, getting dressed, knowing when she needs to go potty, etc, etc.

*The nervous system sends signals to cells in different parts of the body and ultimately controls the body’s functions. In addition, “the evolution of a complex nervous system has made it possible for various animal species to have advanced perception abilities such as vision, complex social interactions, rapid coordination of organ systems, and integrated processing of concurrent signals. In humans, the sophistication of the nervous system makes it possible to have language, abstract representation of concepts, transmission of culture, and many other features of human society that would not exist without the human brain.” [source

Essentially, her nervous system makes or breaks her comfort level in the world. How do we make it stronger, faster, better?

*Vitamin B12–is a water-soluble vitamin with a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. Vitamin B12 is found in foods that come from animals, including fish and shellfish, meat (especially liver), poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products [source]. Without even realizing it, when we began the Paleo diet and introduced more meat and less grain, we were strengthening her nervous system.

*Energy–I was recently reading a post from Mark Sisson of Marks’ Daily Apple about Mitochondria. Need a refresher of tenth grade biology class? In very simple terms…mitochondria are the power plants of a cell. They generate the chemical energy the body needs for a range of cellular processes. I was definitely intimidated by this subject matter, but I stuck with it and applied it to my observations of Charlotte’s behaviors. It makes sense to me that giving her cells fatty acids from food to use as a source of fuel for the cells, rather than glucose (sugar/carbs) would lead to more energy, increased overall alertness, ultimately leading to increased mental and physical strength and development. More specifics on all of this here.

*And the great news…I’m not alone! I found this great site on Autism Treatment talking about Ketogenic(higher fat/lower carb) diets and how they may help kids with Autism.

But wait…there’s more…

*Essential Fatty Acids–When we first started on the Paleo diet, we helped our kids kick their sugar and carb addictions with delicious fruit smoothies. We loaded up our Blendtec blender with fresh fruit, frozen strawberries and blueberries, and even got crazy and added veggies like avocado and spinach. It’s funny now to remember that Chad and I had to both stand in front of the blender and secretly add these ingredients the girls were so terrified of at the time. We also secretly added Cod Liver Oil, which is basically Omega 3 in liquid form with Essential Fatty Acids DHA and EPA. All of the other flavors of the smoothie masked any fishy taste from the oil. Again, it’s no surprise that we saw changes right after starting this regime. Omega-3s aid circulation by naturally thinning the blood, fight systemic inflammation, support brain function and ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and even ADHD [source]. Currently, we try to serve fish at home 1-2 times per week to provide these essential fats in the form of food. If we miss a week, I’ll give them a glass of orange juice (a special treat) and add a 1/2 tsp of Cod Liver Oil to each drink–and I don’t have to hide it anymore.

*The fat in animal protein has become an essential part of Charlotte’s diet. We have no qualms sending bacon with her to preschool as her snack and making sure she eats all of her skirt steak before giving her more sweet potatoes. I’m sharing this with you because I only wish I had known this sooner. See Our Story for our a detailed account of how her sleep issues shortly after birth were a clear sign that Charlotte need more fat in her diet. Conventional Wisdom has scared us away from natural fats that our ancestors have been eating for thousands of years. It’s only in recent history that we have shifted away from this powerful energy source and so many brain based issues have arisen. 

*One final note on fat–the Paleo diet recommends pastured-raised 100% grass-fed beef as the best source of animal protein and fat. Grass fed beef contains Omega 3s (discussed above) and Conjugated Linoleic Acid, which is another good for you naturally occurring fat. Grain fed beef gets a bad rap in the Paleo Community, mostly because the cattle are fed grain/soy/corn in a feed lot to fatten them for tastier consumption. It makes perfect sense that grain fed beef goes against what Paleo people strive to consume. However, it can be expensive and hard to find. As you begin your Paleo journey, you may be encouraged to learn that we have only recently been able to acquire grass-fed beef and feed it to Charlotte. All of the meat that she thrived on in our earlier Paleo days was Costco-bought, grain fed. If you are holding out for cheaper or more accessible grass-fed beef, grain fed is an acceptable substitute and did our family right for a short time.

Pick and Choose

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I’m all about saving money using meal planning, which is what prompted me to watch a Yahoo News Video entitled Feed Family for $15 a day, even though I had previously sworn of watching/reading these so-called-News-posts as a silly indulgence that were sucking up too much of my precious computer time.

Nevertheless, it was probably entertaining to watch my facial expressions as the tips for saving money on family meals unfolded. The following tips from the article caused a pleasingly surprised expression:

*Intentional Shopping–which means make a menu, make a list, stick to it. Bingo! Almost verbatim to my Recommendations and Advice.The food saving expert also states that planning ahead for shopping trips can save up to 20% on impulse or unplanned purchases. She also mentions when meal planning, consider leftovers and the nights you will not be home. Beautiful.

*Freezing in portions–I whole heartedly agree with this, especially for meat. This is also helpful dinner/meal planning and additionally for my mid day meals, which I stash a few emergency pieces of protein in a separate part of my freezer for days when there’s limited leftovers available for my lunch. Also, she mentions shopping from your freezer first before loading up at the store on meat. Yup.

*Using leftovers–the food saving expert recommends taking leftover veggies and using them in an omlete or egg scramble the next morning. I agree….except when she gets to the part about adding rice and tofu to vegetables to save money. My mouth and eyebrows are contorting in various angles as I’m wondering…where’s the beef?

At this point, anyone approaching my laptop should back away slowly because my expression displays a confused and disapproving scowl at the following advice for feeding one’s family….

*Going Vegetarian once or twice per week. Nope. This will only mess with your insulin levels and leave you hungry before bed or send you into kitchen for a late night binge on chips, crackers, ice cream or some other processed food to fill in what the healthy protein and fat should have done for you. Eat meat.

*Whole grain pasta as a cheap base for meals. Oh My. I have made it clear in previous posts how eating pasta ruined our health. The gluten and starch caused significant stress on our digestive systems, my adrenal glands, and Charlotte’s neurological development. No, thank you.

*Beans and legumes as super stars. Wow. She recommends cooking them to hydrate them. True, but  legumes contain lectins and cooking them makes them edible but still detrimental to our health. Feeding the Rotini with Legumes to my family of 4 would cause stomach upset, gas, and bloating. Misery.

My point to this post is to approach mainstream advice for feeding your family with apprehension and patience. Despite the rising numbers of individuals with diabetes and insulin resistance, celiac, and many other food based disease, this information is still being presented as the optimum way to feed our family and save money. Beware of Big Food companies that lessen the price and quality of processed food at the expense of making us sick.

Find the Yahoo video here. Or better yet, stick to healthy recipes and sound advice based on ancestral health that can be found on the sites listed in Paleo Community.