First things first: I have to say a HUGE thank you to those of you who read my rant the other day, and especially those of you who left those amazingly encouraging comments. I love you guys. Really, each and every one. You make my heart happy. If you haven’t visited that post yet, check it out here and remember to read the comments. Not just because they say nice things about me , but also because it helps us struggling moms feel like we’re not alone.
(If you left one of those amazing comments, I commented back at that post. My website doesn’t arrange comments in nice “conversations,” so I tried to respond by name.)
One thing that came up in my little diatribe, and then in the comments, was how we have household rules regarding food (and “food”). I know that not everyone will have the same opinion, but I thought I’d like to explain how we arrived in our current situation. It’s hard to boil years of parenting and learning into a couple of paragraphs, but hopefully it will shed some like.
Obviously, this isn’t something I have all figured out, and I welcome input from all of you.
First, a little history: It wasn’t always this way. Both our journey with Real Food and our journey with parenting has been, well… a journey. (Wow, I’m really a great writer. That’s why I have a blog…) Long story short, we’ve made gradual changes with varying amounts of snack food/ junk food/ processed food during the past ten or so years.
Even when we were a bit more “moderate,” for lack of a better word, one issue we had was with sneaking junk food. I viewed this to be a respect issue; not so much a problem because of the food (although surely that was a problem) but because of the sneaking. We were also dealing with what I would call gorging. IF garbage food was available, it was always what would be chosen – and in inordinate amounts. (I realize in re-reading this I’m making it sound as if Noah was different than other kids, or had some compulsive eating disorder. That is not the case. I think these are fairly common behaviors for kids in this day and age, but I want to boil them down to what they are, even though those labels (such as “gorging”) might sound a bit dramatic.)
As Noah got older, we would discuss ideas such as moderation, the importance of real food, how it affects our health, and his example for his sister, along with the moral issues of sneaking, lying or just plain disobeying. Also through those years, I learned much more about food, how our body processes food and how food affects our health.
However, before our food choices looked the way they do now, we got to the point where we had to be extreme in our home. Even if we were aiming for “the 80/20 rule” – you know, that idea where if 80% of your food choices are good you needn’t worry about the other 20% – we needed almost perfection at home to make up for what was happening when Noah was outside of our home. In fact, Noah would hate to hear this but his poor choices outside of our home probably hastened the complete Real-Foodification of our home, even before I knew what I now know!
So, here we are now: I don’t allow junk food in our home because I truly, truly think it is dangerous. To me, this is exactly the same as how I wouldn’t allow Noah to smoke cigarettes, do drugs or have sex in my home. I also would not allow him to use my money to buy cigarettes, pot or hookers. (Stay with me, I know it sounds like I’m getting a little crazy with this analogy.)
In fact, in sticking with the sounding-crazy thing, I sometimes want to say to the junk-food pushing moms who lovingly tease me about this that I would prefer they gave Noah a cigarette than the things they do! I don’t just say that because I have had, in the past, quite a love affair with smoking and would probably have a pack a day habit if it wouldn’t kill me. (Kidding… sort of.) I say this – and perhaps I shouldn’t have said I’d prefer it, but would count it the same – because both things cause damage to the body and have a manipulative effect on the mind and emotions. And both will eventually kill you.
Teenagers eating garbage food wreaks havoc on their hormones, fertility, emotions and mood. It affects their teeth, skin and, of course, their weight. It affects their energy levels. It affects their ability to pay attention and retain information. It destroys their gut environments and their immunities. (I could go on but if you’re here reading this, you probably agree with me about all this already.)
Further, for kids like Noah who don’t get junk food at home, it confirms the idea that his parents ARE just as weird as he thinks they are, shifts his palate away from the taste and feel of real food, and feeds his brain’s addiction for excess sugar (found to be more addictive than cocaine) and additives. (I’ve rewritten this paragraph about ten times because it keeps turning into another whiny rant. Please don’t get the impression that I think others have a responsibility to change their homes for my benefit. I’m just honestly stating the effects.)
While many teens try cigarettes, not all go on to develop lifelong habits (2/3 do not). And supposedly damage can be undone when smoking ceases. (I am NOT advocating smoking, especially by teenagers!) But 99.9% (scientific statistical estimate) of garbage eaters develop a lifelong habit of garbage eating, and all that goes along with it.
And although we know that poor eating becomes a lifelong habit, I still occasionally hear from parents that I should relax about Noah’s eating because he’s tall and thin. “Oh! Noah can eat anything, he’s a teenage boy! He burns right through it!” It’s as if not being fat is our absolute only concern in the world. But even when it comes to worrying about being overweight, we need to realize his metabolism will not always be what it is right now. Why would I set him up for a lifetime of weight struggles and insecurity?
As usual, I’ve gotten fairly off-point. What was I writing about again? Oh, yes. Food rules in our home, as they pertain to my teen. In a nutshell:
*Noah needs to eat breakfast every morning. This needs to be a real food breakfast and contain protein and fat. It is generally eggs and bacon or sausage because he does not like anything else real. He also has a glass of raw milk and his fermented cod liver oil/ butter oil blend.
*He takes a home-packed lunch for school. It is always ham and cheese with mustard and an apple, occasionally with carrot sticks, as well. I buy a compromise bread because he will not eat any healthy breads, and I’ve tried (without exageration) more than 20, including homemade. He may throw this lunch out, I have no idea. But we don’t pay for him to have lunch at school. On the weekend he’ll either have the same, or some leftovers, or go out to eat with his own money.
*Most nights, we require him to eat dinner with the family (unless there is a good reason not to or a special occasion). I think this is an important rule for many reasons, not just food. He is extremely picky, and on most nights eats just the bare minimum. I also require him to have another glass of raw milk.
*We don’t allow junk food in our house. While the selection of snacks we have satisfies the rest of the family, the only thing Noah will generally snack on is yogurt (a compromise – and expensive! – brand because of his pickiness and palate), tortilla chips (healthiest brand I can find) with organic salsa (again, only one expensive brand that he likes), and beef jerky (once again, a compromise brand because he won’t eat the DELICIOUS jerky our farmer makes).
*We don’t allow junk drinks our house. These are probably more dangerous to our children then junk food. Drink offerings in our house are water, raw milk, fermented beverages like kombucha, and occasionally coconut water, sparkling water or home-brewed iced tea. Noah refuses everything besides water, including milk besides those times I require him to drink it. In fact, he even refuses to drink filtered water. So tap water (another compromise) he gets.
*When we go out to eat as a family, Noah can order what he would like. (We may change this because in recent months I’ve realized his soda consumption is worse than I imagined.) When we go to parties, church, Omi’s house, etc. etc. etc., Noah eats what he likes.
And now, in a nutshell, here is WHY I think those rules make sense for us and are not too restrictive at all:
*I think that where we spend our food dollars is a moral issue. I believe we are voting with our dollars and so I try very hard to use those dollars responsibly.
*Noah’s diet outside of our house is so very bad, I need to use the limited amounts of time I have to feed him to get nutrients into him and attempt to counteract the damage he is doing to his body.
*I cannot knowingly encourage my children to do something that is harmful to them. If food dyes and preservatives and GMOs are toxins – and I know that they are – they don’t have a place in my house. Just like with cigarettes and heroin.
*The line between food issues and discipline can be blurred, but much of this comes down to respect. I do care more about his heart than the specifics of what goes into his mouth, but I think his attitude toward our wishes about what goes into his mouth demonstrates the state of his heart.
Finally, I want to at least touch on how Noah’s eating affects other decisions that we, as his parents, make. For instance, we see natural health practitioners. We choose practitioners who, like our naturopath (who is also an MD) and our dentist, share our perspective on nutrition’s central role in maintaining our health. Sometimes seeing these practitioners costs more or isn’t covered by standard insurance. We make our insurance choices based on allowing us the most affordable access to the practitioners of our choice. Well, taking Noah to a natural or nutrition-based doctor would be for naught. Is the answer then to take him to health care providers with whom we don’t agree, who may not be part of our insurance and to whom we do not want to give our money? Here is an example: Noah sometimes worries about his (thankfully mild) acne. Should I take him to standard dermatologist who will prescribe a medication and/or cream that I believe to be toxic and dangerous to my son, when I know exactly what is causing and can cure his acne?! (See items 1-5 and 7 on this list, for starters.)
Well, there you have it. Or at least some of it. Where do you stand on these things? How are you dealing with your older kids and their eating habits? Please share your thoughts… Just try to be nice.
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