Last week I was sent a message from our school (our new school, I should add). It was something to the effect of: “we have arranged for all the students to get freezies at lunchtime on Friday. If you would like your child to be exempt from this activity please let the office know.”
So I was faced with a decision.
Do I want my child to eat genetically modified high fructose corn syrup and food colouring? Not particularly - we try to avoid that kind of stuff. But do I insist that my child be left out while everyone else in his class gets a Freezie? Rather not, no. Not really fair to my child, is it?
It’s just a Freezie. Right?
These kinds of situations used to terrify me. How do I make a decision that's in line with my principles, that makes me feel good and also keeps my kids happy and healthy? Do I really just acquiesce and accept that junk food is just a sad reality? Or do I raise a fuss?
I chose to give my go-ahead and I chose not to panic. Not because I had "no choice", or because I was putting my head in the sand, but because I was confident in the tools at my disposal to help my child rebound and remain resilient despite this little bump.
Situations like these are precisely why focusing on resilience and understanding our children's bodies are such powerful strategies.
....refocus from the food to the body and become able to rummage through your toolbox of strategies to help get over these blips that inevitably surface.
The sugar will do damage to gut bacteria and deplete minerals, the chemicals will stress the liver. Inflammation will become slightly elevated. There will be a sugar crash and an adrenaline rush.
But the foundation is strong and we can manage all this.
He will come home to an additive-free, nutrient dense snack that will replenish him, I’ll be sure not to forget the probiotic and cod liver oil, we’ll have some sauerkraut with dinner, maybe have a dose of magnesium....and we will get over the Freezie.
It’s just a Freezie.
The very first principle for Raising Resilience I'm writing about in my book is finding your 80/20. Do 80% of things exactly how you want them, allow 20% of things to slide if/when needed and feel ok about that.
In my situation, the Freezie was in my 20%... because I know my child’s body, I know the effect of this junk on his body and I have strategies in my toolbox to help him bounce back.
For some people thought, it’s not just a Freezie. For some people, food additives and/or corn syrup might result in hives, constipation, hyperactivity, exhaustion. No, I’m not exaggerating. This can be true. For some children. Maybe for yours. And you might make a different decision.
Deciding on your own version of the 80/20 rule requires that you use the ninja trick - that you change the focus from the food to the body.
In order to figure out what goes into your particular 80% you have to understand how food and physiology intersect for your particular child. Then it becomes easier to make decisions about where you will find wiggle room.
If your child gets hyper for about an hour when they ingest food additives, do you want to put the Freezie in your 80 or in your 20? You may tell the teacher, “sure, he can have a Freezie, but expect him to be bonkers in the afternoon, especially if he gets a blue one.”
If you’ve figured out that corn syrup leads to hives and constipation, then you might want to say no to the Freezie cause maybe inclusion in the activity is not worth the consequence.
Different kids, different 80/20. Cause it’s not really about the food. It’s about understanding the body. Your body. Your child’s body. It’s all about understanding how food and function connect for you. This understanding will help you make decisions.
Once you get really good at this, you can teach your child - they will be able to make that call about the Freezie for themselves. They will be able to decide whether the hives and constipation are worth it (cause let’s face it, sometimes they are). Imagine that?
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Jess is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ and Family Health Expert, specializing in brain health & resilience for kids. She is the author of Raising Resilience: Take the stress out of feeding your family & love your life, a mother and an advocate for children’s health. Her book and online resources have helped families all over the world improve the lives of their children with learning differences, anxiety, ADHD, autism and mood disorders by fitting the food and feeding piece into their health puzzles. She is the 2019 recipient of the CSNNAA award for Clinical Excellence for her work helping families get healthier, and she continues to work at bringing an understanding of the power of good nutrition to the mainstream conversation about children’s mental health, learning, and overall resilience through her blog, courses and as a contributor to print and online magazines. You can reach Jess at www.jesssherman.com
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