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It is Not Your Fault - There is a Solution
I am pretty well convinced that the biochemistry of sugar sensitivity is underneath some pretty heavy-duty health issues - alcoholism, addiction, depression, ADD, obesity and diabetes. A diet high in sugars and refined carbohydrates, low in quality protein, high in saturated fat, low in essential fatty acids, erratic and poorly timed creates havoc with everything It sets up huge problems.
As diets get more and more compromised, these problems are showing up in younger and younger children. Junk foods, soda in the schools and missed meals activate the worst of what sugar sensitivity sets up. As a parent, you may not make this connection between food and behavior until way down the line. The public health impact does not touch you the way your own child does. The day your child's teacher suggests medication smacks you in the face way more than a headline about the rising incidence of ADD. Your own pain about traveling to doctors, psychologists and counselors is real for you. But no one is talking with you about nutrition. In fact, I bet when you have raised it as a factor, you were dismissed as grasping at straws.
Well, your intuition is right on. The science of sugar sensitivity is solid, well researched and presented in serious medical journals. And perhaps more significantly, the lived experience of thousands of parents like you can guide you into trusting that hunch, acting on it and making change in your family. Sugar sensitivity is real and you can heal it by changing what and when you eat.
Now that you have a sense that you children may be sugar sensitive, let's begin the task of making some change. It is very easy to jump to the idea of simply changing your kids' food and having their behavior shape right up. That is exactly what I do not want you to do. Forced change right off the back will not work. We have some thinking and some homework to do first. Having your children buy into making change will mean that the process will stick over time. It won't be just one more crazy thing mom wants to try. We are looking for long term, systematic change. It is crucial for the kids to participate. I say, don't do this for your children, do it with your children. Creating a "buy in", albeit sometimes reluctantly, is the single biggest factor in making a successful transition in the family food.
But how to get a buy-in? Those little addicts are not about to give up their sugar! This may shock you, but you start the process with yourself. Children learn from imitating their parents. Much as we would like to believe that not to be true, it is the single biggest factor in the healing equation. You gotta do what you are asking them to do. The lived experience in watching mom make the changes herself is the single biggest motivator you can give them. Your children remember the mood swings, the unpredictability, the fatigue, the forgetting or not keeping promises that were part of mom's active sugar days. They may never talk about it with you, but they know. And they notice when you are relaxed and funny. They noticed no more yelling, no more inconsistency. They love doing fun things.
Their little brains do register the connection between food and mood.
I had an incident last night that made me chuckle. My son (8) came in crying and obviously afraid to tell me something. He finally told me that he had put a gad in the wall in the front room, the one I just repainted. I had told everyone to be careful in there and to try not to mark up the walls. I think he was amazed when I told him not to worry about it and just try to be more careful in the future. I think he expected to be in real trouble. I guess he isn't used to the new and improved ‘no yelling’ me. A few months ago the mark on the wall would have upset me, now I just shrug it off and able to chuckle at his reaction to me. Ain't life grand when you are radiant. - Vicki
When you picked this book up, you may have felt that it was going to be about fixing your kids. You may not have made the connection to the idea that sugar sensitivity is a family story. You are part of it. Whether your family is mom and dad and kids or mom and mom and kids or grandma and kids or dad and dad and kids, it doesn’t matter. Healing sugar sensitivity is a family affair. You have to buy in first; you have to buy in for yourself. This plan will not work if you think you can just fix them and not yourself.
Sugar sensitive kids are the smartest, most intuitive folks in the world. Don't try to fool them. They will catch you in the act. Flat out, they will know how silly the idea of "do what I say, not what I do" is. When you are in a sugar fog, you forget the power of their knowing. You think you can get away with doing something different from what you are asking your children to do. The reality is your children know. They notice every little nuance of how you are. Bottom line? You have to start your own program first.
There is no fudging, so to speak, on this one.
You don't have to be fixed before you get your kids started. I have not started this because I find the thought of trying to do this with two children who are every bit as addicted to sugar as I am ABSOLUTELY DAUNTING. In the past when I have tried to keep sugar out of the house, not only have they stolen money to buy candy and ice cream at school, but I'd have to listen to their constant whining. It drove me nuts, and so I gave up. - Gracie
That could be a long wait. But we want you relaxed and focused in planning family change. We want your own biochemistry to be an ally rather than an enemy in the process. Making change with your children will take some commitment. If you start from your own strength and healing things will work better. If you are tired and cranky and in sugar withdrawal and they start in, you will cave pretty quickly. You will be at the head of the line for Dairy Queen. You will be thrilled to make cookies for school so you can eat the dough. You can't fix your kids unless you are steady. If you start with the basics, keep things simple and put your own oxygen mask on first, the plan will work for all of you.
You are planting the seeds of the great buy in. As your children start to get a sense of what they eat, you will have a foundation to make change. If you just tell them to stop, or you just force change, you will simply lay the groundwork the major eating problems in the future. You are actually starting the process of moving you all out of denial. You are not going to "break" it; you are going to heal it. You are dealing with little bodies that are biochemically dependent upon the effects of sugars. You live with a group of little sugar addicts who have a vested interest in keeping these drugs. You yourself may be part of the addicted family system. You have started the process of taking the shame off and seeing this as a biochemical problem – a problem that can be resolved. If you can start looking at the equation with an eye to healing the addiction, you will be on the way to making profound change.
Contrary to what some folks say, "Just say no" does not work with addiction. The folks who can just say no are those who have a different biochemistry than you or your children. They do not experience withdrawal, they do not have cravings, they do not have an emotional attachment to what they eat in the same way to you. They are not sugar sensitive. They are the folks who will tell you to just take your children off of sugar. At best this message is a functional instruction. At worst it carries an implicit condemnation of your parenting skills. That message of "why don't you just . . . " is very pervasive in our culture. That message is at the root of your shame.
If it were that simple, you would have long ago. I am taking you through a process that will heal it, not break it. You will feel safe, understood and guided throughout the process because I know the biochemistry of addiction so well. I understand what is happening in your children's brains and bodies; I understand what is driving their behaviors. I have no judgments about it. If Tony has a temper tantrum, I do not think he is a spoiled child or you are a bad parent. I simply want to know if he is in a blood sugar crash, or is he having sugar withdrawal. And, soon enough, you are going to know all this too. The frustration and aggravation will fade and you will be having fun. More significant, you will start seeing profound changes in your family.
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