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A long time ago when I used to blog, I told you the story of Ike, our rascal of a four year old, who had a severe speech delay, serious defiance issues, and had already been 'perhaps-this-isn't-the-best-environment'-ed at two preschools and then, after (gobs of ) Halloween (candy), had started getting in trouble at his third school.
I told y'all about how, after a Hawaiian Punch binge, we had a moment at Kinko's where seriously, I had to pray not to beat him. He was climbing the furniture. I was mortified and frustrated and at my wit's end. A few times in my parenting career I've had a this-is-how-child-abuse-happens moment; this was probably my biggest.
After the Kinkos Episode, the lightbulb went off that maybe it's the food. I recalled my friend Linsey mentioning something or other about food making her girls crazy with ADD, and how the Feingold Diet had changed their lives. I wasn't sure, I had my doubts plus it seemed too good to be true - but I ordered the materials and we went full on Feingold last December.
So, it's been eight months since we radically changed the way that we eat.
How's the Ikester, you ask?
The short answer: Great. He's a different kid than he was before we started the Feingold Diet.
The long answer: Don't get me wrong, the kid is still a pistol. He has not spouted a unicorn horn and started tooting all naturally colored rainbows. He's still mischievous, strong willed and, um, you know, a little spoiled. But the difference is now Ike responds to discipline.
And I think that was the clue for me that something was wrong with my kid. He was my fourth four year old. I used to get paid to teach four year olds. I have a degree in four year olds! But no discipline I tried worked with this kid, until I changed the way I fed him.
Now, at five and a half, eight months on the diet: his speech has increased dramatically (on target in vocab, still some problems with articulation.) He only tantrums if it's way past bedtime, like all my kids do. He colors in the lines instead of scribbling. He doesn't wet his pants. He makes cool things with Legos. He can play normally with other kids. He's pre-reading and writing on track. He is - hallelujah - ready for kindergarten.
The other kids have not shown huge improvements, but Shep was having headaches almost daily, and those have turned into rarities. Both Walker and I suffer from migraines so all our kids are kinda toast but Feingold does help prevent migraines. I learned this the hard way when I was at the Created for Care conference and thought "Muhaha! No children around!" and indulged in Cheetos and Doritos for lunch. Within twenty minutes, I had a pounding headache. Hm, which petroleum product might have triggered that? Was it the yellow #5, the yellow #6, the red #40, or the mysterious "artificial flavoring"? Or perhaps the MSG? I don't know, but I refuse to be Frito Lay's science project any more.
Many of you were intrigued and had many questions about the diet, and I still get emails a couple of times a month. So let's get to some of them:
Q: Do you have to order the materials in order to do the Diet?
A: Yeah. Sorry. It is kind of expensive, but when you get desperate, it seems like quite the bargain. Now that we are on the flip side, I consider it the best $80 I ever spent. Feingold also has scholarships and is determined that every child who needs this program should have access to it, so if you need financial aid, email them at fausmem @ yahoo.com.
When I got the big package of materials in the mail, I realized how much blood sweat and tears went into producing them and I understood the price. They try and research the ingredients of every item in your grocery store, then keep up with the products when they change them. Would you do that job for $80? Pshaw. I wouldn't/couldn't/wouldn't know where to begin.
Feingold is not some wealthy doctor (Dr. Feingold died in 1982) nor corporate conglomerate; it is basically a bunch of moms who saw big changes in their own children and now want to help other moms, and getting the materials to us costs money.
Q: Can you do the Diet without ordering the materials?
A: In order for the program to work, you have to completely detox your child of un-natural foods and some natural foods that cause reactions in some kids, and then re-introduce some foods to see if you see a reaction. You can't detox without the list of approved foods. You can try and wing it on your own, but you'll never be sure if you eliminated the problem food, which defeats the point, and y'all, seriously, we just don't have time for that. Go big or go home.
Plus when you buy the program you can email the Feingold people whenever you need hand-holding. Which you might need.
Q: Did you do the Diet with just your target child, or the whole family?
A: The whole family. For two reasons.
First, I couldn't handle having food in the house that Ike could not eat, but everyone else could. That just seemed mean. (We can do that a little bit now - I'll get to that later. But not at first.) And I didn't want to risk him finding it and eating it and ruining all my efforts.
Second, y'all, once you find out the crap that is in the food that makes your target child wacko, trust me, you won't want to buy it anymore. I get offended when I walk down the chip aisle at the grocery store. I see it as poison now. I fantasize about sticking Mr. Yuck stickers on every stupid bag.
Q: Is it expensive?
A: Yes and no. At first, I had to throw out or give away a lot of food, because I had a big ole pantry and four kids and Hello, my name is Missy and I'm a food hoarder. So that was painful. But then we had The Horrible Pickle Incident and his behavior backslid so dramatically that I just wanted that crap out out of my house. Now.
The good news is, organic and natural foods have gotten so much more ubiquitous and less expensive that it is doable. My Kroger (oh, I miss Kroger so much) had developed a fantastic selection. Plus I had been making small changes for years, ie skipping the dirty dozen, so a lot did not change, I just became more committed.
In the beginning, it will cost a little more. Be prepared for that. Just remember the adage pay the farmer now or the doctor later. Van's frozen waffles are a little more expensive than Eggos. But ADHD medicine is more expensive than Van's, as are doctor visits, therapy appointments, and the unknown problems our son may have had in the future had he not learned to control his impulses and submit to authority. I shudder to think. I'll pay a dollar more for the Van's, thankyouverymuch. Can you put a price on your child's health or your sanity?
My mindset has changed so much since we started this. If a processed food is really cheap, you know why that is? BECAUSE IT'S NOT FOOD. It's a bunch of chemicals that will never spoil. Real food spoils, and costs money. Chemicals are cheap. And poisonous to little bodies.
The hardest thing in the beginning for me was the bread. We can easily go through a loaf a day and Rudi's organic bread was the only Feingold approved bread that I had access to, at almost five dollars a loaf (insert retching noise.) Now we have found a cheaper bread that says it has no preservatives or artificial junk and it does not seem to affect him. But in the beginning, you have to do the program 100%. But you can make your own, so dust off the breadmaker, my friend.
If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, you'll be just fine. Say a prayer for the majority of us Texans who don't. Sniff.
Remember, almost anything homemade is going to be fine. You'll be cooking more. You'll lose weight. It's all good.
Q: Can you eat out at restaurants on the Diet?
A: Not in the beginning. In the beginning, Walker and I did some take-out/Netflix dates after the kids were in bed. But we tried to keep them away from restaurants. This was impossible since it was Christmas and birthday season at our house when we started, but we limited it as much as possible.
Our beautiful discovery was that restaurant food does not seem to affect Ike, because hello, it's fresh and homemade. And in your Feingold materials you will get a Fast Food Restaurant Guide.
But in the beginning, no eating out for the first month or so. The money you would have spent on restaurants will go towards groceries. You'll lose weight. It's all good.
Q: from the blog: What do you do about school snacks? Parents provide snacks at his preschool so I wouldn't have control over what is being brought in. Do you just send something special with him?
Ike's school provided snacks too. I made the teachers aware that he was to have no food that wasn't from home and I sent him snack. He was fine with this because there are plenty of good snacks on the Diet. Ike would rather have his special bag of Natural Cheetos over boring ole animal crackers any day. Other approved snacks he liked were Saltines, Fritos, and Annie's cheddar bunnies. Yes, all of those are approved. It's not as hard as you're fearing, I promise.
More questions next time. Please feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments! And remember you can read our whole story at my other blog, Coal Mine Canaries.