Resolutions Reconstructed

DSC_0014

We are officially one week into the New Year so it’s time to resolve to get fitter, stronger, richer, and better organized. I’m big on resolutions. I love thinking and planning so all of this is fun for my nerdy left brain. You may have read last year’s post where I outlined some very specific Paleo-based goals for my family, and we met many of them. I even revisited the resolutions halfway through the year in this post where I tweaked them and applied new approaches to achieve what I thought would make us healthier.

So here I am one year further along in this journey toward better health. And before I jump into doing more to be healthier, I am pausing. I’m asking myself where I really need to put this renewed spirit and inspiration. I’m thinking back to 2008 when I was so confused and disconnected to own body and mind that I let other people define my health with a slew of prescription drugs. I let others lead Charlotte toward poor food choices and regression in health. What have I learned since then? Isn’t it time to really own this journey? It’s time to think about what it takes to feel healthy, not just be healthy.

My resolutions should be achievable goals that make me feel fulfilled and even happy, and I know now that I’m setting myself up to fail if I don’t really think and understand what it takes to get there.

I want to blog more often. Well, for me to blog more often I need to feel rested, positive, and inspired. I need to have positive thoughts about my life and its challenges. I need to stay above the powerful current of stress and negative thoughts that really want to bring me down. This is no easy task for me. It takes good sleep, clean eating, and appropriate exercise. To achieve this resolution, I need to feel healthy to write more often, which in turns makes me feel fulfilled and promotes positive thoughts.

I want to exercise more. I started doing modified Cross Fit workouts this last year. This basically means that Chad creates really tough whole-body work outs that we do together in our garage. I want to do them more consistently, but I know that Cross Fit type workouts are a breeding ground for adrenal fatigue–raising cortisol and adrenaline and creating sleep issues for me. Exercises like yoga and pilates reduce cortisol and promote a feeling of well-being. So finding a balance between the two types of exercise that promotes quality sleep and generally feels healthy sounds like a good resolution for me.

So when I thought about doing this post on resolutions or getting started on your Paleo journey, it made sense to tell you to make it personal. It has helped me to create unique and personal goals or resolutions that are promoted by my best thoughts, efforts, and energy.

You may know that the Paleo lifestyle is a good option for you and your family, but you need some more direction. I’ll do my best to give you my insight on what it takes for each and every one of us to achieve good health as human beings, but I’ll also give you a bit of direction toward your unique resolutions and personal best health. Nearly three years into our Paleo journey, here’s what I’ve learned and want to share with you if you are using New Year’s resolutions as an avenue to improve your health.

Build a Community. 

Ancestral wellness tells us that human beings thrive in communities and suffer in isolation. Wherever you are in your Paleo journey, you will need some level of support and community. The internet is as good as it’s going to get for many of us. Use the resources tab on this site to connect to other blogs. Many are written by parents of Paleo families, doing all they can to make this lifestyle work.

If you are fortunate enough to know others who live the Paleo lifestyle in real life, create social opportunities to share recipes, resources, or enjoy a good hike or workout. It’s our experience that families that have come to this lifestyle have done so with a unmet need for better health and an open mind to achieve it. Get brave and use sites like Meetup.com to find others who share your passion for good health.

Be selective about your media. When you log on to Facebook or turn on the TV, lessen the energy you put into filtering the misinformation about what health is or what others tell us about being healthy. Get rid or limit TV shows, sites, or posts that give you false ideas or expectations.

Sleep.

Quality sleep is essential to completing any task that requires a significant amount of energy. Adopting Paleo and changing age-old lifestyle habits and mindsets requires will power and a tough mental state. I speak from years of experience here when I tell you that poor sleep will wreck the success you may be working so hard in the day light hours to achieve. If you want to succeed at your goals in 2013, set a bed time and stick to it.

Learn.

Failure is part of the human experience. We will fall down and make mistakes. As a recovering perfectionist, I can tell you that changing your mindset around failure is the first step toward accepting your setbacks and even failing less often. Use each missed step around Paleo eating as a learning experience. Ask yourself why the regretful incident occurred. Did I eat that (bread, pasta, sugar, treat) because I wasn’t prepared, didn’t communicate, or caved to peer pressure? Whatever the reason for the mistake, don’t over-think it (like I tend to do). Move on and promise yourself you’ll learn from it and do better next time.

Find Your Healthy Place.

Here’s where it gets personal and unique to your health and mindset around change. We are all human beings but we all respond, change, and learn a little bit differently. Nothing teaches this lesson better than raising a special needs child.

Just as knowing and anticipating your child’s needs like the back of your hand gets you through life’s challenges and changes, it’s important to know the same for yourself. How do you best respond to change? What motivates you to get rid of bad habits? What thoughts or patterns of behavior promote change or work against you? If you’re not sure, now may be a good time to find out.

Try a program like the 21 Day Sugar Detox or the Whole 30 for a structured format with strict rules telling you what and what not to eat, or you may benefit from an 80/20 approach that allows more flexibility while still achieving your goals.

Give Yourself Permission

It’s my belief that we do not hear this message enough as parents. Taking some of our energy and inspiration and using it to better ourselves to promote our personal health while  leading our families toward creating uniquely healthy habits is our life’s work.

It’s my wish for you that 2013 brings learning through experience, growth, and resolutions achieved.

Advertisements

Disneyland Revisited

Taking trips to Disneyland became a family tradition when we thought Dana might be old enough to enjoy it. We attempted our first family trip when Dana was about 2 years old and I was pregnant with Charlotte. Although I was mildly nauseous and very tired wandering through Fantasyland with a toddler in the July heat, the experience was undeniably magical.  Dana was as bright-eyed and full of wonder as the kids you see on the commercials and print ads. She embraced each and every character with a big hug and a huge smile. She never melted down over the crowds or lines, and her enthusiasm and excitement made the experience truly unforgettable.

In 2009, we returned to Disneyland, hoping for a repeat performance with two kids. Charlotte was about 18 months old, and she was walking and talking and looking very much ready for the full Disney experience. Dana was older and ready to enjoy bigger and faster rides. I have fond memories of the trip, but I also remember returning home exhausted. It was more than just your typical Disneyland hangover, I was struggling through a confused haze.

My hope had been to recreate the magic and innocence we had experienced with Dana just a few years earlier, but I knew we had fallen short. Dana was generally not as interested in princess and fairies as she had been just a few years earlier and Charlotte’s behavior certainly was not magical nor full of wonder. She had difficulty sleeping in the hotel–waking often and taking a long time to return to sleep. As a result, she was tired and dysregulated at the park. She resisted riding in the stroller and when we took her out to walk, she picked up every item within reach off of the ground and placed it in her mouth. She approached the princesses and other characters guarded with trepidation. Instead of running and embracing them with unabashed sweetness and innocence like Dana had done, she darted from side to side and then ran as fast as she could, circling their colorful gowns.

And if you have been following this blog for some time, you know that I was heavily medicated for post partum depression at this time. Other events that year are fuzzy memories, but the glassy confusion and disorientation I felt as a result of that trip are crystal clear in my mind. Something was clearly not right with Charlotte, and for several months the experiences and memories floated through my consciousness looking for a safe place to land.

We put any future Disney trips on hold as the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. We learned the name for Charlotte’s struggles just a few months later. And as much as we all wanted to return to the Happiest Place on Earth, we knew it wasn’t the right place for Charlotte. We carefully explained to Dana that we would go again when Charlotte was ready. Over the last few years, we’ve all watched and waited patiently as her nervous system has learned to effectively process more stimulation.

A few months ago, Charlotte started showing a consistent interest in the Disneyland app on our ipad. It’s a great app as the ipad user engages with Disneyland attractions much like a park visitor would. The music changes as the user moves through the different “lands” of the park. Seeing Charlotte’s interest in this app, as well as her improved behavior, sleep, and postural control, Chad and I knew it was time to begin planning the trip.

While it was daunting to relive past disappointments and unrealistic expectations in preparation for this trip, I kept focused on what Charlotte would need to be successful.

I narrowed my concerns down to long lines and food.

One of my favorite blogs, The Diary of a Mom, had mentioned a special pass for park visitors with invisible disabilities (like Autism). The pass supposedly shortened lines and let Disney cast members know that your child may need extra attention. The GAC (Guest Assistance Card) turned out to be a lifesaver. When we entered the park on our first day, I went straight to the Town Hall and stood in line. I told the Disney cast member that my daughter was on the Autism Spectrum and I wanted to see if there were any accomodations that could be provided. He asked me a few questions and presented me with a card stating her name, the number in our party, and the days we would be visiting the park.

Our pass was tailored to Charlotte’s needs. We showed to the Disney cast member at the entrance to each ride, and we were able to enter through the handicapped/wheelchair entrance or Fast Pass lines for the bigger rides. We could use the stroller in the line if we needed to. The beautiful part about the pass was that Charlotte used her energy for controlling her behavior and enjoying the experience. I was able to help her manage her sensory needs throughout the day. Waiting in long lines would have zapped her energy and enthusiasm, leaving little for dealing with the sensory challenges around every turn.

I knew that the food issue would just take some preparation. Some internet research told me that Disney offered many gluten-free options. My plan was to eat meals at the park or hotel restaurants and pack plenty of Paleo snacks. It worked out very well, as our hotel offered a hot breakfast of eggs, bacon, and fruit. Lunches were eaten inside the park restaurants. I simply asked for gluten-free replacements for items like corn bread and hot dog buns. Since my kids are used to going without these starches, the gluten-free breads and rolls felt like a special treat.

Our favorite Paleo treats worked great for the long car ride as well as in the park between meals. We packed plenty of coconut chips, apples, raisins, sunflower seed butter muffins, and sweet potato bars. It certainly wasn’t easy, but I saved the day before the trip for baking and packing the special treats.

The trip was special and magical in its own way. Dana was tall enough to ride every ride with her roller-coaster-enthusiast daddy while Charlotte and I made our way through the same Fantasyland and princess attractions that Dana and I had enjoyed so many years ago together. Charlotte loved the tea cups, getting her face painted, visiting the princess, and especially Toon Town. By the time we had gone on a few rides together, she let us know that she preferred outside rides and roller coasters, and that any ride without dark caves was okay with her. She self-regulated beautifully and let me know when she needed a break. It was fine with me to sit in the shade, slow down, and soak in the experience–making it all our own.

I could not be more proud of her and how well she handled the many challenges she faced on the trip. On the morning of the last day of our trip, we learned that our dog, Redford, had passed away while we were gone. Chad and I shared the news with Dana, encouraging her to enjoy the day as much as she could. We all decided we would wait to tell Charlotte until the day was over.

As we headed out of the mountains of Southern California and began the long stretch of highway home, we sat with the news and I knew we needed to talk about it as a family. Charlotte had already processed and experienced so much. I felt like this might be the end of the fun, peaceful trip we had all needed. I felt certain a meltdown with repetitive and scripted language was going to fall upon us. I was unsettled between telling her and facing the uncertain fate of her reaction and waiting for her to discover for herself when we got home.

But I had no reason to worry. True to form, she met the challenge in her own way. Upon hearing that Redford was in heaven, she asked for God to welcome and watch over him.

My mind was at peace and my heart was heavy but happy. All that was left was a silent prayer of thanks for the challenges and disappointments that have become incredible blessings and magical family experiences.

Bridging the Gap

When Charlotte was about two years old, I made the mistake of driving my mini van through a car wash. The giant red scrub brushes right at her eye level, the rushing soap and water covering the car, and the powerful suck of the giant vacuum dryers were all too much for her nervous system to handle. I learned after one horrific meltdown to save that errand for a kid-free day.

The car wash experience created fear and dread for her. For weeks she asked me if we were going to the car wash every single time we began the process of getting into the car. (No. no. No mommy guilt here. None at all. Let’s proceed.) At the time we were attending an Early Start morning program and working with a behavior therapist and occupational therapist. At one of our home visits the behavior therapist recommended a picture schedule to help Charlotte visualize what her day might look like.

I was not opposed at all to this idea. I had plenty of teacher training where I had learned that kids need predictable routines to feel safe in their environment. For Charlotte, she needed to know whether the car wash (or any other out-of-the-norm event) was happening anywhere in her day in order to feel regulated and comfortable. So, for several weeks, I snapped pictures with my phone of many of the places we visited on a regular basis. Initially thinking that this project was going to be overwhelming and time-consuming, I was sadly mistaken that our “busy lives” were pretty limited to grocery stores, therapy, school, and the homes of close friends and family.

When Christmas cards began arriving in the mail, I began to keep a collection. Most of our family and friends have pictures with their smiling faces, oftentimes within their homes or with their pets. Pulling a picture out of a friend or relative and showing Charlotte prior to the interaction made a world a difference in how she responded socially.

I printed out the pictures, organized them on a large board and it eventually became routine to discuss the day’s events and outings and plan our time and even behavior expectations around it. For example, if Charlotte was currently challenged with behavior at a particular location, I could post a clip art picture of Dora or Max and Ruby on her board to let her know that she could watch those shows as a reward for appropriate behavior at the grocery store, school, therapy center, etc.

When the term “good behavior” became a bit too loose, we attached goals to each location and talked about them early in the day and again before we began the activity. For example, Charlotte struggles putting forth consistent effort at her therapy sessions. She  also interrupts the brief but important conversation between myself and the therapist after each session. Our goals for therapy center became simple but effective: Try your best. Listen to your therapist. Don’t interrupt.

Charlotte has a very sharp visual memory, so once she saw the words in print, she had them memorized. She would often tell them back to me as she hugged me good-bye to enter the therapy room. It’s even more effective as she’s beginning to learn (or teach herself) to read.

So our board (pictured above) sits in our main family room and is updated weekly. I have recently added post-it notes with planned-in-advance Paleo dinners. This seems to break down resistance in the form of whining/complaining at the dinner hour and putting a stop to the endless question of What’s for Dinner? CrossFit-style garage workouts for mom and dad are posted on the board so the kids know they’re welcome to join us for family exercise after the heavy weights and equipment are put away.

Somehow the week seems to flow into more of a rhythm when the kids know what is happening, what they’re going to eat, and what is expected of them. Our parenting style seems to be more about preparing our kids to be their best selves in their everyday lives. The board helps them prepare themselves for what lies ahead while practicing self-regulating tools at the same time. In addition, it helps us manage any negative behavior patterns that may come with a change in routine or schedule by talking together about the change and any expectations around it.

In all honesty, it does take preparation, consistency, and effort. It works well for the needs of our family, and I don’t mind planning our week’s meals and activities ahead of time. As a teacher, I planned and prepped lessons for my third graders so it seems to regulate me as well. We’ve never been big fans of surprises and spontaneity, and we’re okay with that. We’ve embraced this lifestyle and try to focus on the benefits of better health for all of us, rather than how much work it is.

Our modern-day society challenges us to meet the needs of our kids and ourselves right up to the dinner hour. This tool helps us bridge the gap between the hectic schedule we must lead to get it all done and the time we need to slow down, share healthy meals, and enjoy each other as a family.

A Dose of Validation and Inspiration

Charlotte’s journey through Autism continues to teach our family powerful, life long lessons about how to manage our health. As we work to improve Charlotte’s overall health and reduce her stress, her Autism and sensory processing symptoms are minimized. She continues to emerge victorious from an internal battle of stressors and toxins that were working diligently to take her body down. 

I started this blog last year when I knew that I had this important story to tell. As I began to research our relatively common circumstances with such a relatively simple intervention, I expected to see many Autism and Paleo success stories. But to this day, ours stands as one in a lone few in the vast pages of a simple Google search.

When we began to treat Charlotte’s Autism with a Paleo diet, I searched for a community of sorts, a niche within the Paleo community that could give us a pat on the back, provide some science to back our success, and generally help us feel that we belong somewhere.

When I couldn’t find it, I created it, and when Robb Wolf updated his website, I noticed a spot for Autism success stories and knew that we belonged there. I scripted our story, provided a link it to this site, and submitted it in about 20 minutes, as not to lose my nerve. And as I follow the numbers, I am relieved to find more and more individuals come to this blog every day seeking a commuity within a community that provides support and information to connect the dots in their child’s health and do all they can to solve the mystery that is Autism.

Our personal story may be enough to inspire you to try Paleo for the sake of your child, but I am still a realist and I know how difficult it is to silence the skeptical voice of your pediatrican or relative, especially if you are new to Paleo. I continue to listen carefully in podcasts and blog articles for studies, science, or some level of proof of how Paleo helps Autism so that I could illustrate just how powerful and effective this intervention could be for you and your family. In addition, I really wanted to give you some fancy scientific words that you could bust out at the next function when your child’s bunless burger and fruit salad seem out place.

My prayers were answered. When I saw the Mark’s Daily Apple post entitled Autism: A Brain or Whole Body Disorder in my email in box, I got chills. Finally, somebody was talking to me. An instant cure for isolation in abyss of the Autism community was a load of information directly relating to our life was spelled out by Mark Sisson.

Paleo/Primal leader, Mark Sisson took an empathetic and straightforward approach in this powerful post, reaching out to those of us who are effected by the epidemic of Autism, while discussing complexity the conditions.

Mark lays out some developing science and theories, referencing a book called The Autism Revolution written by Martha Herbert, a Harvard pediatric neurologist. I ordered the book and now am on my second reading with pages and pages of notes that validate our journey. I’ve learned so much about why Charlotte’s health has improved, why her symptoms have improved, and most importantly how to continue to help her.

Dr. Herbert’s strategies center around the idea that Autism as a symptom of the entire body and all of its systems. She provides science and research through the stories of individuals, like Charlotte, who have shown improvements in their symptoms as a direct result of improvements in their overall health.

If you choose to read the book, you may find that Dr. Herbert’s style and message is similar to what you will find here on this blog. On page xii of the introduction, she refers to her work as “a book of success stories that makes sense biologically.” This instantly resonated with me as my goal for Peace Love Paleo is to eventually become a community of many more success stories, not just ours. Like no other book or article I’ve ever read, her thinking and research clearly lines up with our experiences and successes.

Dr. Herbert describes Autism “not a genetic tragedy, but rather an unfolding and unprecedented challenge related to many other health and environmental crises”. She wants to help you “understand that your child’s brain is not broken or impaired but challenged, overwhelmed, and obstructed.”

In addition, she works to instill a sense of gratitude and encourages you, as the parent, to “see your child as a teacher who will bring out how extraordinary you are and see too how much you can do when faced with an extraordinary challenge.” This is like music to my ears.

As we’ve learned in the past few months, she demonstrates how nutrients need to be an available resource to handle whatever challenges may come along in our children.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is searching for some readable science to back the connection between Autism and Paleo, needs to be inspired by stories of triumph over this disorder, or just wants to learn more about what Autism really is.

This book and Mark’s post will help define the focus of this blog. My plan is to present their information to you in usable and digestible chunks over the next few months. If you are coming off of a summer like I have, you need to be restored, inspired, and validated. I will do my best to give you tools to make that happen.

If I haven’t said it lately, thank you for being a part of this community within a community. Your comments and feedback inspire me to continue to share our story and give you what you may need to stay inspired and encouraged. Please keep the comments, questions, and stories coming. It’s not an easy road we’re traveling. Let’s continue to seek comfort in each other’s experiences and resources like Dr. Herbert’s book.

Eating Paleo in the Real World: It’s a Jungle Out There

 

Most people I speak to about the Paleo lifestyle understand its benefits and can see it working for their family on some level. I most often hear the what ifs and what abouts around things like birthday parties, restaurants, grandparents’ house, and even school. In fact, my WordPress stats show me that many people come to this site via Google searches like Paleo lunches, Paleo birthday parties, and Paleo on the go.

Clearly, this is a valid question for most people considering the switch to Paleo, and I completely understand these concerns. So today I thought I’d share with you the crazy-updside-down week that my family and I just lived through. After reading this you will see that eating Paleo is possible when life pulls you outside of the comfort of your own kitchen.

Scenario #1: The Dance Recital

Dana and Charlotte participate in weekly ballet lessons, and twice a year their studio puts on performances. Last December, Charlotte made her performance debut in The Nutcracker. After agonizing over the decision of whether she was ready for a commitment to the classes, the rehearsals, getting on stage, and the chaos of it all, she put our mind at ease and performed like a champ.

Her motivation to perform and endure the challenges that come with it most likely come from the years of watching her sister dress up in costumes and make-up to be cheered and praised by friends and family. Having survived the stress and anxiety of the December performance, we knew she would love the performing experience again and we used what we learned to be better prepared this time around.

On the night of the dress rehearsal, we were told to arrive at 5:00pm. Both girls needed to have hair and make-up done and were instructed to bring dry snacks, not to be eaten in costume. As you can imagine, examples of dry snacks were non-Paleo foods like crackers, pretzels, and granola bars. I entertained the idea of eating an early dinner just before we left, but with a 30 minute drive to the stage, hair and make-up to be done, and a nap for Charlotte until the last possible second, packing food for dinner was the only option. I had planned ahead the night before by roasting a large chicken with lots of meat and baking a few extra potatoes, ensuring easy-to-pack leftovers.

Dana’s Planet Box is shown below. The foods were not exactly dry, but not messy either. I kept an eye on her in the holding area backstage and made sure she used her napkin, didn’t eat in her costume, and washed her hands immediately upon finishing her dinner. I also let her know that other kids would have junk food/fast food, and that just wasn’t an option for us.

Charlotte’s dinner was similar, but catered to her preferences. Lots of napkins and washing hands kept her and the costume clean and her belly full.

Since I was camped out with Dana at the dress rehearsal until 10pm that night (Chad picked up Charlotte earlier) I knew that Paleo food was the only way to survive the marathon of dance numbers I had the privilege of watching. Here’s my dinner:

Both girls performed beautifully and the recital was a huge success!

It’s worth mentioning that the anxiety that comes with hours of waiting in a holding area filled with jittery, young dancers brought Charlotte’s needs for sensory input out in the open. I managed to snap a few shots of her regulating herself in a stressful environment. While these situations are not ideal, I was very proud of her for finding ways to stay calm enough to avoid a meltdown, still remember her dances, and even smile on stage.                                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenario #2: The Hospital

On the night of the recital, Chad mentioned to me that his stomach was not quite right and he was feeling pain and discomfort. At 3 am, he woke me up from a sound sleep and let me know this stomach pain was like nothing he had experienced before. We phoned the ER, and he was told to come in with a driver. I made a call to my amazing friend Siiri, and she arrived at our door within minutes to stay with our sleeping kids.

After isolating the pain to the lower right quadrant of Chad’s abdomen and getting a CT scan, it was determined that he was in the midst of an appendicitis attack. We were thrilled to see our friend Dr. Mike at the hospital who reassured us that this was a random event that had nothing to do with diet, lifestyle, or overall health. With a sigh of relief, Chad slipped into a morphine nap and we waited for an OR to open and have his angry appendix removed. 

I checked on the kids and then began to think about some breakfast for myself. Seeing that my health issues tend to center around stressful events, bringing on excessive adrenaline, I knew that some clean food was in order to get me through a long day at the hospital. I fought feelings of panic and anxiety as I approached the hospital cafeteria cautiously, expecting to find nothing suitable for to me eat.

I was delighted to find a bar of warm food with eggs, sausage, and bacon. I loaded up my plate with dry-but-edible scrambled eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, and some starchy carbs in the form of tasteless hash browns. (I’m one of those carb eating Paleo people, and I do much better keeping potatoes in the rotation a few times per week)

After my Paleo breakfast and a hot cup of coffee, I felt much better and Chad and I hung out until it was time for his surgery. After I got word from his doctor that he had made it through surgery, I ventured back down to the cafeteria for lunch. I ordered a bunless hamburger from the man at the grill and cheated with some sweet potato fries (I’m sure it was not coconut oil that I saw in the deep fryer).

Once Chad was settled in an overnight room, I was back at the cafeteria for dinner and asked for a grilled chicken breast to sit on top of lettuce greens and veggies from the salad bar, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. When I returned to Chad’s room to eat my dinner, he joked at how Paleo it was and that we should consider a date night at the hospital cafeteria.

While it was surprising to find Paleo options at the cafeteria, it did take a certain amount of will power and focus to walk past plenty of packaged foods and treats that seemed to be more tempting in times of stress and little sleep. Resisting this temptation and eating clean paid off when I returned home at 8pm and found that I had enough energy and sanity to put my very tired kids to bed. I gave huge hugs to my incredible friends Kimberly and Siiri who not only kept my kids entertained all day but managed to feed them Paleo all day as well.

Scenario #3: Junk food at Summer Day Camp

There was no rest for the weary over the weekend at home as I tended to Chad in his recovery, nursed Charlotte with a throat virus and a fever, got my house back in order, and managed my own needs for sleep and rest. In the midst of this chaos, I kept the upcoming week in the back of my mind. Dana was scheduled to attend a week-long day camp at our church, and I had been informed of the provided snacks via email. While we normally opt for packing our own snacks at events where a non-Paleo snack is provided, this situation provided a bit more of a challenge.

All of the snacks were tied thematically to the day’s lesson, and most of them involved junk food, including goldfish crackers, pretzels, marshmallows, whoppers, and other candies. I knew that asking Dana to sub a box of raisins for these super fun activities and treats was too much to ask. She is still a kid, after all.

I talked to her about the situation, and the food options would may have worked fine if it were just a one day camp. But given that the camp was all week and the fever bug was running through our house, I knew I needed a more Paleo option to give Dana the best chance at staying healthy and enjoying the camp.

I remembered seeing a cookie-like treat made with sunflower seed butter in our copy of Eat Like a Dinosaur by The Paleo Parents. I was so relieved to find a quick and easy recipe for Mini Nut Butter Cups. We made a bunch of super-yummy, kid-friendly, nut-free, muffin-shaped cookies with just a few ingredients that were easy to transport. This morning we filled a baggie with a bunch of grapes and a few cookies and sent her off to camp with a snack that she was excited to eat, despite what the other kids had. 

We survived this week and managed to eat clean with the help of our amazing friends, some luck, lots of preparation, and a wonderful resource. It has taken two years, but I can proudly say that we have established a lifestyle around Paleo. We were able to make it work in the most trying of circumstances. So the next time someone asks us about Paleo and all of the what ifs and what abouts, I’ll remind them that it’s not just a way of eating, it’s a way of living.

For more inspiration on staying Paleo in trying times, read about NomNomPaleo’s adventures of living in a hotel room with her family for the last 2 months.

4 Keys to Making Paleo Work


In my effort to help special needs families adopt Paleo, I try to balance between posts on helpful tips and strategies, small doses of inspiration and encouragement, and plenty of personal stories that let you know you’re not alone. It’s all done to spell out my message of Please Do This For Your Child in a way that seems positive and possible. (See the story I shared today at RobbWolf.com)

So today I’ve summarized 4 key concepts that we’ve learned on our Paleo journey. While they may be specific to our experience, I’m hoping they’ll help you find the focus and inspiration it takes to lead your family on this tremendous journey toward better health.

1. Put Yourself First. You’re not going to hear this much in our culture. Modern parenthood seems more about striving for some level of perfection and performance from our kids, rather than matching the needs of our children with what we have available to give. Ignoring my own needs and giving every last ounce of myself to my kids only made me sick and tired. It took learning what my body and mind needed and redefining health for myself to really open doors to a new level of connection with my family.

I may be the first to say this, but I firmly believe that taking care of yourself and getting your health in order should be the first step on your Paleo journey. Take the lead and be a role model of good health for your kids. Let them see you taking care of yourself and feel free to think outside the box here. Give yourself what you need for a healthier you on a regular basis: better sleep, cleaner food, time with friends, a glass of red wine, appropriate exercise. Only you can define your needs and make them happen.

Okay, enough with my infomercial-like health and wellness speak. Once you have yourself in check, it’s time to think deeply about your kid(s).

2. Know your kids. I try to keep my recommendations for working with special needs kids pretty general, because any kid’s needs are special and specific. Parents know their kids best and when it comes to making a big change with their diet, my only advice would be: learn what works to make progress and stay consistent. I think you will be pleasantly surprised in what you will learn about your kids as your travel on a life-changing journey together.

I believe strongly in the Favorite Food Technique and also have some ideas on the recommendations and advice page. In addition, I would love to hear successes around adopting Paleo that your family has experienced.

3. Commit to plan and prep. A fast paced lifestyle of high stress and processed foods is what got us into this situation in the first place. Our Paleo journey included learning how to slow down, plan our meals, and value the food we put into our bodies. I can safely say that for our family this is the hardest, but most crucial part of the Paleo lifestyle. It takes a conscious effort to keep up with two busy kids and still find time to plan, shop for, and prepare home cooked meals made with Real Food. I keep myself motivated to stay on track by writing posts like these: Preparation and What’s for Dinner?. Hopefully, they’ll help keep you motivated, too.

4. Set goals while practicing self-forgiveness Launching into a Paleo lifestyle may seem daunting at best, but I often tell friends and family members who are considering Paleo to set small, reachable goals. Starting with one meal at a time (even if it’s the same meal a few times a week) makes Paleo living seem possible. If you fall off of the Paleo wagon for whatever reason, only you know what to tell yourself to get back on track. After two years on this amazing journey, I can tell you that treating failure as a learning experience helps create motivation for more success down the road. Treat any non-Paleo meals/days/weeks as an opportunity to witness the changes your body experiences. Use the information you learn to do what it takes to help your and your family “look, feel, and perform” at your best. (quotation borrowed from Robb Wolf)

If you are leading your family on this journey, it’s certainly not an easy task. Be kind to yourself and do the best you can. Any steps away from a lifestyle of high stress and a Standard American Diet are steps in the right direction. Keep up the good work!

Resolutions Revisited

Each January many people make New Year’s Resolutions (myself included) with the intent of getting the new year off on the right start. We associate resolutions as spoken intentions for improved overall health and wellness, and oftentimes, weight loss is the marker of health and success.

Our Paleo journey doesn’t have much to do with weight loss, so to many it may be harder to measure and appear not as exciting. If Chad or I had lost a significant amount of weight due to our Paleo lifestyle, a lot more people would be genuinely interested in how we live and specifically what we eat. When someone you know or love loses weight, it’s natural to give encouraging words of support and pour on the praise. It’s not as common to hear these same words of encouragement when you’ve accomplished something not as trendy or mainstream like healing your child’s leaky gut or curing your crippling PMS.

In addition, you rarely hear if people were successful with their resolutions and if they achieved the wellness and personal satisfaction that they were striving for. Nobody really says that they’re still working on their resolutions in February or March of the new year, let alone after Memorial Day.

We recognize that our journey toward better health is unique. Charlotte’s health issues put us on a fast-track toward changing our lifestyle and making resolutions just helped us define our plan and create accountability for ourselves.

So I’m breaking the mold as we make our way to the halfway point of 2012. I want to revisit our resolutions and continue to define our path toward wellness. My hope is that this post inspires you to look at health and wellness as a personal path that can create just as many internal changes and transformations that lead to a better life as external ones that everyone will notice.

Back in January, I wrote this post about goals and resolutions around our health that I thought were achievable and would be beneficial for my family. My list included darkening our bedrooms to improve sleep quality, making more traditional foods like bone broth and sauerkraut, as well as starting this blog.

And it’s a funny thing about intentions and focus. While we haven’t achieved each desired goal exactly as I laid it out in January, we have made huge strides to improving our health via these same channels.

Sleep–we have not been able to achieve any more darkness in our bedrooms over the last 6 months, but we have improved the quality of our sleep immensely. About a month ago, we took on the daunting challenge of sleep-training Charlotte, waking several times per night to train her to stay in her own bed and fall back to sleep on her own. I am happy to report she now consistently sleeps in her own bed and we have all felt the effects of improved sleep quality. (Stay tuned for a sleep and special needs post in the future as I learn more on this topic)

Traditional Foods–we have incorporated more bone broths into our diet and do now eat store-bought sauerkraut on a regular basis. But if you are a regular reader here, you know it’s been the addition of organ meat, specifically liver, that has taken our health to the next level.

Blogging–with just over 200 likes on Facebook to date and plenty warm comments from friends and family on the content of this blog, I am pleased to say it has become a healthy hobby for me. I love sharing our successes with you and reading your comments. In the coming months I hope to blog more often and give you lots of helpful and quality content to guide your journey toward better health. That being said, if you are the parent of a special needs child, you understand the demands and hopefully forgive any infrequency of new material. (Let me know in the comments if there is something specific you want me to cover)

What’s great about achieving the above goals is not only the interpersonal pat-on-the-back satisfaction that comes with checking completed items off the to-do list, but recognizing that these were realistic goals that actually brought us to a place where we live a better quality of life. As Chad and I feel the benefits of increased energy, more patience and better moods, our kids benefit as well. Charlotte performs so much better at school and therapy as a result of better sleep and more nutrient-dense foods. Dana has continued to excel at school and made it through allergy season with barely a sniffle.

So where will the next 6 months take us?

The more I learn about nutrient depletion, the more I see how it has played a huge part in so many of our health-realted issues. Continuing to improve the quality of our food (particularly meat) while staying within our budget will be a constant challenge for us. Stay tuned for posts on how we are able to track down and afford pasture-raised pork and chicken, pastured eggs, and grass-fed beef.

After a whirlwind Spring, I’m hoping to get healthy with some downtime and increase our play. Longer summer days and less commitments to school and activities will hopefully bring family and friends together for sunshine, fun times, and healthy meals.

As Charlotte’s issues continue to improve, we would love to add short trips and changes into our routine to see how she responds. Loosening the grip on consistency in her world and letting her experience the ups and downs that life brings will prove to be the ultimate mainstreaming experience.

What were your New Year’s Resolutions? Did you meet them and if so, did they improve the quality of your life? If so, pat yourself on the back and continue celebrating the achievements and successes that come with living a healthier lifestyle.