The Five-Skittle Setback

“How was Halloween? Your kids in sugar overload?” asked a coworker on Monday.

I chuckled a little. “Sort of,” I said. “Logan had five Skittles this year.”

My coworker’s eyes went wide. “Five Skittles? That’s it? How’d you manage that?”

What is this food in a box?

What is this food in a box?

I’m always at a loss for what to say when I have to explain our diet. Especially when I’m pretty sure I’ve explained it to this guy before. “Well … those five Skittles are the only sugar he’s had in an entire year.” As I said it, I realized it was true and was also struck by the incredibility of it: Last Halloween was the last time Logan had any candy or anything sweet. “Even fruit, for the most part,” I added.

On one hand, I’m feeling pretty proud of surviving Halloween with only those five Skittles and happy Logan was able to have a bit of a treat. On the other hand, I feel awful I allowed those five Skittles and worry about their effects. (At least it made for a good example of a paradox for my poetry students today.)

And there were effects. I was being truthful when I told my coworker the five Skittles had caused sugar overload. The following day Logan was crabby and defiant, after a rock star week. This morning, too, he seemed to be trying to push buttons, initially refusing to take his supplements and then refusing to walk into the garage and climb into the van to go to daycare. But at least I have an explanation for this recent behavioral setback.

Amazing what five Skittles can do!

And despite the Skittle skirmish, I think we’re seeing good progress. Logan’s IEP meeting was yesterday afternoon, and his teachers and therapists agreed that speech and occupational therapies are no longer needed. In fact, it sounds like Logan is one of the most talkative and brightest kids in his preschool class! Of course, social skills are still lacking and will remain goals on the IEP, but everyone at the meeting felt confident Logan will be ready for a mainstream kindergarten class next year.

As always, the question is, did the diet–GAPS or BED–cause all this progress? Is it the probiotics, the supplements, the vitamins? Or would we be in this exact place even without having gone through (and continuing to go through) this journey? As Jason and I talked last night, he indicated he doesn’t know if he buys it. It’s a hell of a lot of work, he said, for something we’re not able to prove.

And as usual, he’s right–technically. We can’t prove any progress can be attributed to diet. But the Skittles, and the correspondence to a sharp mood swing, suggest a link to me. Those five bursts of color and sugar might have caused a minor setback, but they also helped support my decision to stick with GAPS, as tough as it is.

And it’s getting easier! On Halloween, armed with honey-roasted walnuts, flourless pumpkin muffins and peppermint gummies for Logan, we hit a friend’s Halloween party with the kids. But it turned out our preparations wouldn’t have even been necessary–I can’t tell you how stoked I was when we learned the couple throwing the party follows the Paleo diet. There were actually a few things at the party Logan could eat! (Many thanks to Angi and Fred!)

Here’s to everyone eating healthier these days!

Feeling: Sugar Rushed

Honey-roasted walnut "candy"

Honey-roasted walnut “candy”

Honey Walnut “Candy”

We made these for Logan as an alternative to all the junk food he got trick-or-treating, and he loved them (thank God)!

  • ¼ cup honey (or less)
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbsp ghee
  • 2 cups raw walnuts
  1. Melt together honey, ghee and spices
  2. Spread walnuts over wax paper in a cake pan, and drizzle melted honey mixture over them
  3. Toss until coated
  4. We simply put the pan in the oven and left it on as low as it would go (250 degrees F), for a couple hours.

Easy!

 

 

More tricks, less treats

Skeletons. Witches. The zombie apocalypse. And sugar. They’re all a part of Halloween, and they’re all equally scary.

“Halloween is scary because it is so food-focused,” Becky Basalone says in an article on AllergicLiving.com. And she’s right—costumes might be the center of Halloween, but the point of donning a creepy mask is usually to get bucket loads of candy.

Logan, three Halloweens ago

 

For Basalone, this is frightening because her son lives with multiple, life-threatening food allergies that show up in a large portion of Halloween candy. So she started what became the Teal Pumpkin Project, which encourages people to offer non-food items as tricks instead of only candy as treats (houses that do so mark themselves by painting a Jack-o-lantern teal.)

My family is lucky that we don’t have to worry about Logan dying from his Halloween candy. But we are trying to stick to a strict GAPS Intro diet, and any dusting of sugar (along with milk, grains and a host of other items) is off-limits. Lots of families try GAPS for different reasons – Celiac’s Disease, candida, eczema, depression. We’re following it in an attempt to alleviate Logan’s autism symptoms, mainly aggression and emotional regulation. (The stories and theories behind GAPS, if you don’t know what it is, are far beyond the scope of this post – read about them here.)

But even though we’re not dealing with a life-threatening situation, we do want to avoid infractions to the diet at all costs. First, an infraction causes an emergence of more aggression and less focus, and second, if, at the end of our GAPS marathon, Logan’s leaky gut isn’t healed, I don’t want to wonder if it didn’t work because we cheated too much. And I definitely do not want to start over and try it again from the beginning. While the diet is still a struggle, on Stage 3 at least we’ve gotten to a point where it’s manageable and Logan accepts it. I can only imagine the meltdown we’d see if we told him we were again taking away the few dietary pleasures he has, like mineral water with a few drops of stevia and eggs scrambled in ghee.

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Logan, practicing for this Halloween

 The trouble isn’t always the diet. It’s the way our culture is so food-obsessed, and trying to fit the diet into American culture is at times like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. When we have holidays that are completely focused on food—and worse, sugar—children with dietary limitations feel left out and can suffer blows to their confidence and self-esteem, says Basalone. I think she’s right. I’m always worried Logan is feeling left out because he can’t participate in so many food-based activities at daycare and preschool. I do my best to send a substitute, but even 4-year-olds notice when someone in the crowd is different.

There was cooking gingerbread cookies last holiday season that Logan got to help cook but not eat (I sent SnapPea Crips instead.) There was the ice cream and pretzels at the End of Summer Bash at daycare (I sent organic, plain popcorn.) Then there was the field trip to the apple orchard, where all the kids got to pick their owns apples (Jason and I determined ahead of time we would allow an infraction this time and just deal with any setbacks—because yes, even the sugar in fruit is not allowed in the early stages of GAPS.)

For Halloween alone, Americans spend $2 billion on candy, according to The Atlantic. Perhaps the most frightful fact I found, from the California Milk Processors Board, is that the average trick-or-treater’s bucket will hold 250 pieces of candy. That equals about 3 pounds of sugar.

3 pounds of sugar in one night. Sometimes you just want to say, WTF, America.

The-Teal-Pumpkin-Project-5

It wasn’t always this way. Trick-or-treating began in the 1930s and 1940s, when kids would dress in costumes and receive a variety of treats, from coins to toys to fruit, says folklorist Jack Santino. After World War II, when sugar rations were lifted and the economy began to prosper, the sugar industry waged its own war to make sure candy became the only acceptable treat on Oct. 31st.

Urban legends (all untrue!) that bad people poison Halloween treats so parents should only let their kids eat unopened, store-bought candy fueled the trend to hand out fun-sized junk instead of homemade (and healthier) treats. By the 1970s, the candy trend had become an unquestioned tradition.

And that scares me—our culture’s fear of tainted food has ironically lead us to eating worse. Kudos to Basalone for starting the Teal Pumpkin Project and giving us all a reason to get back to more tricks, less treats for Halloween!

Feeling: Spooky

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Happy Halloween!

Starting Stage 3

I cheated.

Somehow, Stage 2 felt harder than Stage 1–the monotony began wearing and wearing on me. So when my husband and I went out to dinner for our date night (which we’d planned months ago, way before we’d decided to start GAPS), I decided a special dinner was worth it.

And oh my god, it was. Mushroom bruschetta! And wine! And pumpkin creme brulee! 

Of course, it made going back even harder.  All week, in fact, I then struggled to get myself back to truly sticking to it. I’d cheated, and it was all too easy now to say, oh, well, some peanut butter on celery sticks or a slice of cheese won’t hurt… My problem was I was hungry, and I had slipped too far from my mantra of more stock or broth to get by.

Worse, I was slipping a little with Logan, too. I didn’t push the broth as hard as I should have this past week, knowing it’d only be a battle I just didn’t feel like fighting every night. His daycare class learned how to make applesauce one day this week, so I let him have some, too (Jason and I premade special fermented applesauce–no sugar–that he took to substitute, but still, he’s not supposed to have apples yet.) Then yesterday he ate almost a whole bag of raw carrots.

Excuse me for whining again, but having a child on a special diet is just so damn hard. We had a five-hour trip on Saturday, and carrots were was pretty much the only thing I could have given him to eat on the road. Fast food is of course out, so I tried packing lunches for everyone. But what? We can’t do sandwiches or lunch meat or baked goods. Anything hot that I could have made ahead of time would have been cold by lunchtime. The only solution I could come up with was peanut butter on celery sticks, carrots and the rest of our fermented applesauce.

And–apologies for more whining–it sucks not being able to just give in every once in awhile. We went to a pumpkin patch on Sunday, and though it was a blast, I hadn’t planned for it to be an all-day event. But suddenly, I realized that breakfast had been three hours ago, and by the time we got home, even if we left right that second, we wouldn’t be home until 2:00, and the kids would be crazy starving. The best Jason and I could come up with was ordering hot dogs sans buns from the orchard’s cafe (it was either that, nachos, Doritos, pie or ice cream) and once again letting Logan have an apple. He’s now had more apples these past two weeks then our whole family’s had in the past year.

(Side note: Does it strike anyone else as ironic that on our trip to the pumpkin patch — whose whole reason for being is to grow a hearty vegetable — we struggled to find healthful food?)

At the pumpkin patch

At the pumpkin patch

But what could we do?  Our lives revolve around food. And in a culture where food is used for decoration and chemicals now pile on our plates, the best we can do is admit we faltered and try to pick up the pieces again. For Logan, daycare has been fairly good this week, and in general, it feels as though the diet is helping us move in the right direction of healing Logan’s gut in hopes of alleviating his emotional meltdowns and assisting him with more focus and interest in others. But clearly, doing our best will always be a struggle. 

We at least had a very successful trip to a Halloween party. The mounds of Skittles, Goldfish crackers and chocolate cookies didn’t even faze Logan. He simply asked for his gelatin treats and fizzy water and was perfectly content. (By the way, a huge thank you to Erin for turning us onto gelatin and the recipe below, and double thanks to my mom for making them for us since I’ve been too busy! Made with plain gelatin, strongly brewed peppermint tea and a drop of honey, the kids and I think they’re delicious–and they’ve saved snack time. Of course, my taste is clearly altered–I tried sharing them with two friends at the Halloween party, and I thought one of them was going to retch in the sink.  Sorry, Lesley and Trisha.)

Feeling: Bland

Peppermint Gummies
(modified from Cara at Home Health Happiness)

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, full fat or light
  • 1/2 cup strongly brewed peppermint tea (decaf)
  • 6 tablespoons gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, stir until all lumps are gone BEFORE heating. Heat over medium-low to medium heat for 5 minutes or until all the gelatin is dissolved and the mixture is completely liquid. Pour hot mixture in to an ungreased glass, ceramic, or metal 8×8″ pan or dish. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the countertop, so you don’t shock it by sticking it right in the freezer. Once it’s no longer super hot, transfer to a level place in the freezer to set up for half an hour, or until firm.

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