No gluten. No
dairy. At least 25 grams of gluten-free fiber a day. Nothing processed. No
trans fats. No nightshades. At least nine servings of fruits and vegetables. Every. Single. Day. This is the
diet I’ve been told by countless people to put my 4-year-old child on.
No, she’s not
overweight, though her perfectly squeezable cheeks might convince you
otherwise. She’s in the 85th percentile for weight for her age, but
she’s also in the 90th percentile for height. So, according to her
pediatrician, it all balances out.
The diet has
nothing to do with her weight. In fact, she eats pretty healthy as it is and
we’re outside moving every single day—even in the middle of winter in Alaska.
This kid is active and a good eater, who I never have to fight with to finish
Luckily, there are treatments available, but they aren't easy. The medication she has to take to get her immune
system to stop attacking her body is a chemotherapy drug and I have to give it
to her as a shot once a week. The whole goal is to weaken her immune system,
which means my kiddo is now one of those immunocompromised kids who are more
susceptible to the diseases everyone else brushes off as no big deal. As a
mother, that’s terrifying.
So, of course,
I’ve researched in great detail the potential for more natural treatments. Again and again, I’ve come across stories of families who have found success
with super restrictive anti-inflammatory diets. I’m actually
not a stranger to these diets. I have endometriosis and have long known
that I do best when I cut certain foods out of my diet. But I also
know it is an extremely difficult thing to keep up in the real world.
extra hard for me, because I come from a background of battling an
eating disorder for over a decade. I’m healthy these days, but restrictive
diets feel like a slippery slope to me. I tend to be very "all or nothing," so when I
start labeling certain foods as good and bad, old demons come to the surface for
constant battle, weighing my physical health against my mental health. And it’s not a
battle I ever wanted my daughter to fight.
I don’t want
to put any of this on my little girl.
One of the
things I promised myself when I became “Mommy” to a little girl was that I
would never, ever pass my food issues onto her. I would teach her moderation,
how to love both salads and cupcakes. I would teach her to savor her
food, without worrying about calorie counts or numbers on a scale. And I would never let any category
of food be demonized. Because food is just food, and we’re allowed to enjoy it
would teach her to listen to and honor her body—rather than constantly
punishing her body the way I always did my own.
I’ve spent a
fair amount of time in therapy coming up with these goals, and I was doing a
great job accomplishing them. Our home is filled mostly with the “good” stuff but we eat out regularly enough and spend time eating with friends, as
well. We go to birthday parties and celebrate the holidays without
restriction. We eat when we’re hungry and sometimes we have ice cream before
is too short to not surprise your kid with ice cream after school every once in
So, the idea of
putting her on one of these diets has my stomach twisted in knots. Every success
story I’ve read talks about sticking to the diet completely. It doesn’t work if
you allow occasional slip-ups. You have to be 100 percent committed. Even then, it doesn't work for everybody.
At the end of the day, I don’t want
to be the mom telling my daughter she can’t have the cupcake at her friend’s
birthday party or sending her with separate snacks during school celebrations
because she’s not allowed to enjoy what all her friends are eating. I don’t want
to put any of this on my little girl.
For now, we
rely on the medication to do what medication is supposed to do. We stick to
the diet about 65 percent of the time. What I buy and what we keep in our house
is mostly in line with what she needs. But I can’t—I
won’t—put my daughter on a diet so restrictive that she no longer feels able
to enjoy mealtimes.
my own food issues coming to the surface. Maybe it’s me, wanting to save her
from the years I spent obsessing about what I could and couldn’t eat. But at some
point, I’ve got to honor what’s best for her mental wellness too—right?
that’s ice cream after school just because.
Skip the drive-thru and make your own gluten-free yogurt parfait at home! Start with a 6-ounce container of Greek yogurt (we love Chobani black cherry for this healthy snack) and top it with 1/2 cup Gluten-Free Cinnamon Chex cereal and four raw almonds. The result is a creamy, fruity and crunchy concoction with just 208 calories, 3 grams of fat (mostly healthy fat from the almonds) and 15 grams of protein — it's a perfectly satisfying gluten-free breakfast!