Thursday, April 24, 2014

diet fads

Low fat.
Low carb.
Low sugar.
Raw food.
Natural cleanse.
Extreme challenge diet.

Everywhere I look, everyone proclaims that they are following one of these or the other. Sometimes people start on one and then switch another restrictive diet. A lot of my friends are doing one of these in addition to keeping kosher, which is already restrictive of food choices.

When you ask the majority why they are doing it, true allergic reactions aside, the answer is, invariably: to feel better. I was not feeling so great, but ever since I _________(fill in the blank), I feel so much better. This is followed by a string of Facebook posts how this new diet is THE WAY to go, and a new way of life, and there is no turning back. If only the rest of the world would follow, then we could all feel better and be in a better place.

I have been noticing another trend: usually the people who produce the most ruckus about the new way of life and how good they feel are not satisfied with the new amount of food restrictions down the road. A few weeks (months, years) later, they find a need to take on yet another diet, this one more restrictive than the previous one. Also, most of the people who end up dropping the diet do so quietly (with the exception of a few very honest ones).

Yet a  third trend emerges: instead of examining why one is not feeling well, and what is this feeling of discomfort all about, it is much easier to jump in head first and manipulate food choices. Your child is not behaving? Must be all this sugar/gluten/dye. Your spouse is not listening to you and falling asleep in the middle of conversation? Must be that meat/dairy. You feel uncomfortable? Why not do a food cleanse?

What if the reason the child is acting out has to do with you always wishing him out of your hair? What if the reason your spouse is so tired has to do with his sleeping habits and late TV watching? What if your discomfort has to do with existential questions which will surface sooner or later? What if you realize that you are nowhere near as good of a person as you want to believe yourself to be? What if you are dissatisfied with your life? What if all this calls for is a long hard look at what you are doing, how you are behaving, and where are you going?

Ooh, this is hard. Much harder than jumping on the most recent food trend, shaking up the pantry, foisting a new life onto grumbling family and proclaiming yourself to be "all better".

All of this is the biggest reason why I have not tried gluten-free diet with 8 yo. I have not tested him, and I have no reason to think that he has a sensitivity. But I know my child: he lives on bagels, and he loves his bagels. Taking them away in the name of better behavior is likely to cause major meltdowns in the short-term and major manipulation in the long term. I know other kids his age who are supposedly gluten-free. Most of them gorge up on gluten any chance they get outside of their parents' watchful eyes.

So we do not do any diet. We keep kosher, the original G-dly plan for proper behavior and healthy eating. I try to limit sugar, and artificial flavors, but I also know that childhood is made up of spontaneous ice cream runs, which will contain all of those. I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup. I try to avoid high fat food. But I will not make a tragedy out of eating any of these.

And you know what? My kids are not overweight. My kids are active, happy and healthy with a full range of food. Whichever behavioral issues that we are having have to do with much deeper issues than what goes into their mouths. It's what comes out of their mouths that gets me worried.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you! I think there are way too many people out there making highly restrictive food choices for their children based on nothing but fads, social media, and possibly pseudo-science. Of course, I say this as a (currently) practicing vegan who recognizes that perhaps one day I will give that up. I went vegan for a combination of reasons including that my doctor recommended reducing my dairy intake and I hardly had much to begin with. Incidentally, I do feel much better now, and I decided to give up meat for a whole slew of reasons including that I never really liked it that much anyway. But there is a key distinction here: I gave this up. Me, the adult, made a choice to do this. I have not, nor will I, subject my children to such a highly restrictive diet. Whenever I hear I parent talking about removing gluten (my father was celiac, I know this story) or "red dyes" before speaking with a doctor I just sigh...