Five Unexpected Ways Paleo Makes Parenting Easier

28 Aug

Sometimes I focus on the lame-o aspects of Paleo because I get tired of hearing so much rah-rah about how easy and simple and perfect it is. It’s hard. When I am in a bad place and see how someone effortlessly eats Paleo for all virtuous reasons, I feel like a total loser.

I know I’m not a total loser (or even a minor loser) and I know Paleo isn’t easy for everyone. Probably isn’t easy for a lot of folks, which is why I like to write about the sucky aspects of  good nutrition. I like the support and I like being supportive.

Unfortunately, I also risk sounding too complainy, which is certainly not the tone I try to convey. Paleo really did save my life and that’s not something I take lightly. Being realistic about challenges and being ungrateful is such a fine line.

So the other day, when I was cooking vegetables for the 800th time and murmuring about how other parents can give their kids crackers, I realized Paleo makes parenting harder. And easier too. Because let’s face it: Parenting is hard, whether you eat kale or not. There’s a silver lining if you are so inclined to look.

How Paleo Improves My Mama Skillz

Paleo does in fact make certain aspects of parenting easier. Here are my 5 favorite complaints and how they are also my favorite blessings.

Number 1: Food Prep Is Never, Ever Convenient

Why It’s Lame: Thawing, chopping, washing, cooking, baking, whatever. There’s no such thing as a convenient or quick meal.

Why It’s Awesome: My kids love it. I sit them on the counter and they learn how to cook, which gives us plenty of family togetherness and fills hours in the day that I don’t have to think of an activity or enforce “alone play-time.” Plus, my new favorite game is to peel carrots as fast as possible and watch their heads bob while trying to pick up scraps and throw them in a bowl. Picture whack-a-mole with a lot less coordination.

Number 2: Cooking, Cooking, Cooking = Anxiety

Image by Cyn74

Why It’s Lame: I don’t like to cook and it sometimes triggers anxiety, which is a nice treat 3 times a day.

Why It’s Awesome: Absence of anxiety over whether or not my kids’ meals are nutritious. I can’t pull an Uncrustable from the freezer (which I want to, sometimes), yet I don’t have any guilt about what they are eating. The sound of my Littles fighting over the last of the zucchini is music to my ears.

Number 3: Family Traditions Just Aren’t the Same Without Normal-People Food

After Our Christmas Track Meet

Why It’s Lame: Mom’s egg rolls and pancit,  Abuela’s tamales, rice at every meal including Thanksgiving. My husband’s fond memories of sourdough pancakes, frog-eye salad, homemade rolls every Sunday. These are sometime foods for my husband, never-ever foods for the baby, and anything with gluten is off-limits for my son and I. The childhood memories I hold so dear and looked forward to passing on…won’t be passed on. Or perhaps they will, and we will watch the extended family enjoy it.

Why It’s Awesome: Now that food can’t be the centerpiece, we are forced to create relationship-based traditions. Instead of making cinnamon rolls on Christmas Eve, we had our first-annual Family Olympics. All of a sudden, Christmas was about being together and not about eating dinner and fudge.

Number 4: Everything Outside of the Home Involves Junk Food

Candy not needed for a good time (though he wouldn’t turn it away if given the chance)

Why It’s Lame: Festival scones, parade candy, church fruit snacks, school lunches, bank lollipops, library story time crackers–junk food everywhere. Can’t my kids fit in anywhere? Why does there need to be an artificially-flavored juice box at every event and non-event?

Why It’s Awesome: Then again, we just went to the movie theater and a handful of kids were crying and tantruming that they couldn’t get the soda, ice cream, AND nachos to go with their popcorn. My son asked once, has consistently been told no, and into the movie we marched to enjoy Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. The movie was the treat, not the pseudo-meal that goes with it.

Number 5: Parents (and Doctors) Are Judging Me

Image by texasfarmersdaughter

Why It’s Lame: Yep, they are. “If you don’t give your baby rice cereal, they will be iron deficient and it will cause allergies later.” “Just give the kid a Popsicle.” “What, you think you’re better than me?” “How long are you going to breastfeed that baby? It’s been way too long.” “Your kids aren’t getting enough nutrients, that’s why they’re so small.” “It’s not right that your kids have never had candy.”

Why It’s Awesome: Going against the grain (haha) has forced me to really figure out my priorities. Because my children’s well-being is at risk, I have to stop worrying about what other people will think. I have to stop sacrificing my children’s health in favor of an acquaintance’s convenience or comfort level. This has been incredibly challenging. However, it’s taught me to trust my intuition (it was there the whole time) and find a safe haven within myself. I am stronger and more secure because of it (For the record, my son has had candy while my daughter has not).

And of course…

Parents learn these lessons without eating Paleo too. But for me, Paleo slammed it in my face and ensured that I got the message loud and clear sooner rather than later. For that, I am grateful.

Does real food make parenting easier for you? What have been some of the unintended benefits?

An Update on Baby Mimi’s Gut Saga

21 Aug

In case you are just tuning in, my baby (2yo, technically) doesn’t have the healthiest set of intestines. Mimi’s last update outlined our 3-month plan with the potential to continue for an additional maintenance year if she responded well. That was February.

She had a fantastic initial response to her meds, but slowly started digressing. I called up Dr. Gerstmar where it was decided a second round may be helpful. As a family, we also put some family rules into place to increase  her stability and support her healing.

We went on a three-month travel hiatus. We passed on a much-anticipated family wedding, a cousin’s farewell before he leaves for two years to serve a church mission, my nephew’s homecoming from Afghanistan, etcetera. The way we looked at these sacrifices was logical: if a comfy crib and a place to cook for three months is what she needs, well it’s no sacrifice at all. An eternal optimist, I was sure her diet and lifestyle would be enough to bring her into great health.

In May, she had another fantastic response to her antibiotic, but then started going downhill almost immediately from there.

Stop. The. Crazy.

Image by Tree Leaf Clover

I was a hot mess. Still believing I could “save” my baby, I  started creating hedge laws for her diet. I went on a crazy mission to only add in one new item to her very limited diet every week (a most unpleasant three weeks). I was tracking her bowel movements, psoriasis, ecczema, night wakings, naps, food intake, daily schedule. If she put a crayon near her mouth, I flipped out because “that one time in March she ate my deodorant and had diarrhea for three days.” I started exploring different diets for her condition (low-FODMAP) and different practitioners (Chris Kresser, Allison Siebecker). I posted on Robb Wolf’s forum to get information from Joe Brasco even though I never do forums and I created a complicated method to heal our baby and simultaneously drive my family insane.

Having a sick baby is hard. Really hard. Mimi’s symptoms started to activate powerful survival circuits in my brain. Things working and then not working made me unable to distinguish between normal two-year-old behavior and sick behavior. My baby can’t say much about her symptoms other than, “I hurting Mommy” and my emotional brain screamed at me, “It is your job to heal your baby! If you don’t, you are a failure!”

In a moment of sanity, I shot off an email to Dr. Gerstmar. My logical brain knew I just needed to contact him.  I told him Mimi was backsliding and asked if he still felt it was within his expertise. I also asked if he could handle an overstressed mama bear because I suspect that would be the worst part of any practice.

Getting a REAL Game Plan Based on Science (Not on Stress)

Dr. Gerstmar talked me down from my emotional ledge and explained what he believed was happening. Evidently, Mimi’s response to the antibiotic is a good sign. Did you know bad bacteria can build a hard concrete-like protective structure over themselves (biofilm) that prevents the antibiotic from working properly? I didn’t. So the antibiotic killed the bad bacteria that was free-floating (yay!), but then the biofilm-protected bacteria popped their dirty little heads back out to repopulate the gut when the course was complete (boo!). Instead of freaking out, I could have just called. Why do I consistently make it harder for myself? Being human is hard.

Now Meems is on an aggressive protocol to get the gut in good shape and break down that stinkin’ biofilm. As always, this is patient-specific and not a recommendation for anyone else. But in case you are curious:

  • Digestive Help: 1 Vital-Zymes digestive tablet 3x/day; 1/2 capsule Betaine HCL 2-3x/day
  • Immune Support: 1 tsp Xymogen IgG 2x/day
  • Reduce Dysbiosis: 2 capsules InterFase Plus; 2 drops Biocidin 2x/day
  • Healing the Gut: 1/4 tsp probiotic 2x/day; 1 tsp GI Revive 2x/day
  • Diet: Meat (excluding shrimp and anything in a package) and well-cooked veggies (excluding onion, garlic, sweet potato, butternut squash, and carrots); bone broth if she would agree to drink it
  • Add-Ons: not a part of the protocol, but fish oil or FCLO, vitamin D, and a multi-vitamin are all approved
  • In four weeks: a last round (fingers crossed) of antibiotic Bactrim

Mimi is still too young for pills, so we empty the capsules and powders into our trusty Magic Bullet to create a medicine cocktail. The tender mercy is that she asks for it every morning and night. “I want medis. Medis pease.”

Is it Working?

The million dollar answer: Yes.

She has had a lifetime Bristol Stool Scale of 5-7 (diarrhea), with the occasional 1 or 2 (constipation). She is now consistently at a 3 or 4 (perfect), minus the rare hiccup with a random irritating food. Her hair is starting to grow better on top of her head. Eczema is non-existent, sleeping 13 hours at night, and happy. So, so happy. She’s talking better, developing well, climbing, and comfortably laying on her stomach. Oh yes, and she gained 5 pounds in 7 weeks (4 weeks of being on the protocol). This is a big deal because it took her 19 months to grow 6 pounds.

I am one happy mama and my Mimi is one happy baby.

Two Years Later: Am I Still Paleo?

13 Aug

VSS Caveman Drawing

Image by adKinn

This past week was my two-year Paleo anniversary and after two years, the big question remains: Am I still Paleo?

Uh…yes? A couple months back, Cheeseslave ignited a firestorm citing flaws she personally sees in the Paleo diet. Some were accurate, some weren’t but that’s irrelevant since blogs are generally just opinion. The thoughts that followed were what I found valuable. They went something like this…

  1. This Cheese woman is right about this.
  2. Ooh, she’s way off on that one.
  3. Wow. Just wow. smh
  4. I don’t do that. In fact, WHO does that?
  5. Well goodness, sure some people…but you don’t have to. I’ve never ever…
  6. Whatever.
  7. That’s just plain Paleo nonsense; I’ve never done any of that in my whole Paleo life.

And so on and so forth.

Fitting in the Pretty Paleo Box

VSS Fitting the Paleo Box

Image by stevendepolo

In speaking to the audience about the future of the ancestral health movement at AHS11, Mat Lalonde referred to it as “your movement,” suggesting he wasn’t part of it. I thought that was silly and maybe even a little pretentious. Obviously he is part of the movement because so many people are looking to his Big Brain to provide further research.

Well paint me silly and maybe even a little pretentious. I don’t know the depths of Mat Lalonde’s reasoning, but I can see legitimate arguments for the philosophy.

Once a movement starts gaining momentum, the purpose can get muddled. Without vigilance, it’s far too easy to get caught up in the rhetoric of “Is It Paleo?” or “It’s Only Good If Our Ancestors Ate It” or “It Doesn’t Make Sense to Drink Milk Intended for Another Species.” Those aren’t sufficient reasons for me to eat or not eat a certain food (decent starting points, though).

If Cheeseslave’s understanding of the Paleo diet is the norm, the Paleo label isn’t terribly fitting.

I Don’t Want to Be Paleo. I Just Want to Be Healthy.

Painting by Sophia Strawsser (4th grade) via Bush 41 Library

My family’s Paleo purpose is not to throw on loin cloths and fashion our own spears. Low-carb is only our thing if we’re sleeping. We don’t care to mimic the diets of our ancestors and even if we did, is that possible? My children are English, Irish, Spanish, Filipino, German, French, Italian, Polish, and more German.

I don’t follow a Paleo diet for the sake of emulating caveman or because I presume everything our ancestors did was right. I only mention Paleo because as my husband so wisely asserted: It’s the easiest way to describe it.

Healthy is subjective, and “whole” or “real” foods is confusing. Paleo is simple and descriptive, suggesting that I don’t do grains, dairy, blah blah blah. More accurately though, I am an Average Jane trying to be Healthy (vibrant, sexy, and strong to be more specific). If wheat becomes healthy tomorrow and doesn’t irritate my gut, then tomorrow is the day I add wheat back to my diet, no matter what my great-great-great-x 100-grandma ate.

How about you? Are you an Average Jane or a Me-Jane?

The Great Cherry Adventure

3 Aug

Do you do anything during the summer? I don’t, except when I accidentally commit myself to an enormous project like I did last month.

Standing in my parents’ backyard eating cherries straight from the tree, my husband and I thought, “Hmmm, we should pick some of these and freeze them for later.”

I’m a city girl and have only picked fruit as novelty, so I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

The men hard at work

Being a lover of simplicity, I try not to own once-a-year-single-function items like cherry pitters, so I found a youtube video that taught me how to use pliers to fashion an old fork into a perfectly functional pitter.

I spent a couple of hours pitting around 5 pounds of cherries, feeling pretty good about my accomplishment and my ingenuity. Until the picking crew (i.e. Husband and Awesome Nephew) walked in with another bucket of cherries. And another. And another. Until we were at 60 pounds of cherries. And since we didn’t prune the trees, the cherries were small. Sixty pounds of small cherries.

Not all of them. Not even close.

Ay caramba, that’s a lot of frozen cherries. We promptly bought the very last cherry pitter in town. The best $23.48 I ever spent.

Then the real work began. Washing and sorting…

Sorting cherries turned into my son eating them and me playing with the baby.

Pitting and preparing…

A much faster process than my fork trick.

Laying out on wax paper to flash freeze

We committed the cardinal sin of food preserving by picking more than we could process in 2-3 hours. I learned that rule 55 pounds too late.

In the end, 60 pounds of frozen cherries is way too much, so we had another bright idea to dehydrate our cherries since finding Paleo-approved dried fruit is expensive, if not impossible. But we don’t own a dehydrator and I already used up my frivolous kitchen product budget on the cherry pitter.

So Patrick built a drying rack out of wood and netting and sweat and tears to make “raisins with holes,” as my son calls them (tutorial to be featured on Modern Alternative Mama tomorrow!).

We piled on a whole lotta fruit…

…and three days later, we have 3 quarts of Paleo-friendly dried cherries (plus several bags of frozen fruit).

And that is the story of how I was baptized by fire in the art of cherry-picking and preserving. After all that picking and washing and sorting and pitting and preserving, I’m really happy a cherry pitter is a once-a-year-single-function item.

Empowering Infertility Presentation

16 Jul

Kaayla Daniel’s Empowering Fertility presentation will be available until midnight PST tonight.

If you are trying to conceive, would like to conceive, or have friends who would like to conceive (and trust you for nutritional information), I highly recommend the presentation. Some of the topics include:

  • The causes of infertility
  • How the Standard American Diet affects fertility
  • How the vegetarian/vegan diet affects fertility
  • Soy and its connection with infertility
  • Environmental toxins, metals, and estrogens and how to eliminate them
  • Top foods for fertility

I am not trying to have children any time soon, but this presentation was definitely in my Top 3 for the whole Real Food Summit.The presentation can be found here until midnight.


Friday Link Love: Paleo Confession and Free Speech Restriction by the ADA

13 Jul

There is so much great content out there. Here’s a sampling of what I’m reading when I’m not writing.

My Real Food Confession at Modern Alternative Mama. At the risk of sounding ungrateful and complainy, I offered up one of my challenges with eating Paleo.

Exclusive Leaked Documents: American Dietetic Association is Intentionally Using State Legislatures to Block Alternative Nutrition Providers and Restrict Free Speech by Michael Ellsberg on An infringement on free speech and liberty if the information presented is accurate. As a Paleo blogger and proponent of alternative health, this concerns me deeply.

Just Keep Swimming by Meg on CrossFit Mom. A very real, authentic post on imperfection, not being enough, and going a little easier on ourselves.

Real Food Summit: Are You In?

10 Jul

Have you been listening to Underground Wellness’s Real Food Summit?

It’s not strictly Paleo, but here’s the thing: a lot of us Real Food eaters are on the same side. My sister-in-law is vegan and I’m Paleo, but it isn’t me vs. her. We both want better health and more ethical treatment of animals; we simply find our answers in different ways.

So if you’re interested in Real Food, I would highly highly *highly* recommend tuning in.

The details are all on the site, but the basics are:

  • 9 days
  • 3 presentations per day
  • Presentations are available for 24 hours only–midnight to midnight PST
  • Free during the initial viewing period, then sold in a package after the summit

And lucky for us, the first two days’ presentations have been extended until tomorrow (Wednesday) at noon PST. The presentation outline is available with the speakers’ presentations, but I’ll even give you a little preview of what were personal highlights:

Day 1 Presentations (<– link)

Joel Salatin. You may recognize him as the incredibly articulate farmer from Food, Inc.

Joel Salatin, Farmer.
Real Food Defined.
Food for Thought: Powerfully exhibits how we can break our addiction to the supermarket. Teaches how an ethical farm functions and the way animals, humans, and Mother Nature work together. Discusses sustainability and whether or not Real Food can feed the world (spoiler: it can!).

Chris Kresser, Integrative Health Practitioner.
The Role of Fish and Seafood in the Real Diet
Food for Thought: The vitamins and minerals present in fish and why mercury is not always as big of an issue as we may believe

David Getoff, Traditional Naturopath and Board-Certified Nutritionist
The Historical Truth About Raw Fruit Consumption…and the Best and Worst Sweeteners
Food for Thought: Caused me to examine the quantity of my son’s fruit intake in relation to his body size. Powerful stuff.

Day 2 Presentations (<– link)

Paul Chek

Paul Chek, Founder of C.H.E.K. Institute
Eating Whole Foods for Body, Mind, and Soul
Food for Thought: The soil is connected to our soul. We can eat less food if what we’re eating is more nutrient-dense. Fixing our physical health can really help our emotional health.

Jeffrey Smith, Author of Seeds of Deception
Genetically Modified Foods: What People Want to Know
Food for Thought: Answers basic questions about GMOs. A little sensationalist for my taste, but good information all the same.

Sarah Pope, Blogger at The Healthy Home Economist
The Bountiful Benefits of Bone Broth
Food for Thought: How to make bone broth and know you’ve made it right

Day 3 Presentations (<– link)

These presentations end at midnight so hop to it

Chris Masterjohn

Chris Masterjohn, Blogger and Doctoral Candidate
Weston A. Price on Primitive Wisdom (part 1 of 2)
Food for Thought: Gives me an entirely unexplored and deep love for Weston A. Price’s work and his credibility as a renowned researcher. I thought I loved him before, but I respect him so much more now. Also, Masterjohn sort of sounds like Matthew Broderick, so when I was listening, I was picturing Despereaux teaching me all about Dr. Price.

Mira and Jayson Calton, Authors of Naked Calories
Micronutrient Deficiency: The Missining Link in the Fight Against Obesity?
Food for Thought: (Still listening)

Aaron Lucich, Film Producer and Director
We Are What We Eat: How What We Eat Affects Everything Within and Around Us
Food for Thought: (Still listening)

Enjoy the Summit! I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

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