After being someone who had such a struggle to walk from a parking lot into a store that I considered asking my doctor for a handicapped parking sticker, I now enjoy a walk through my neighborhood every chance I get. Except for Wednesdays. I don’t like to walk on Wednesdays.
Wednesday is the day the trash gets picked up. It isn’t the sight or the smell of the garbage that I find particularly offensive, it’s the recycling bins. Those bins are filled with pizza boxes and ice cream cartons and empty low-fat cereal boxes. My neighbors are mostly kind and wonderful people, but they are also carbivores.
Before I’m accused of being judgmental, let me describe my own recycling bin that my neighbors saw before I began low-carb high-fat. Empty Pepsi bottles, diet Pepsi bottles, low-fat whole grain cheerios, low-fat gold fish crackers, granola bars, and low-fat frozen waffle cartons. Those last four were the “healthy” foods I fed my growing children. Our pediatricians had instructed us to give the toddlers low-fat, whole-grain Cheerios because those little “o’s” helped them to develop fine motor skills.
By the time our daughter was three, her doctors were beating us up verbally because her weight was increasing exponentially. She had gone from a preemie whose weight didn’t register on the growth chart to an obese toddler whose weight was off the growth chart, and it was my fault. The pediatricians told us, “No juice!” She didn’t drink juice, only water. “Switch to skim milk!” We did so. “Give her only low-fat foods!” Each morning I toasted a low-fat frozen waffle, smeared it with low-fat peanut butter (high fructose corn syrup added), a dollop of fat-free, high-sugar grape jam, and topped it with a second toasted waffle. She ate that waffle sandwich in the car on the way to daycare. I dutifully filled her travel cup with skim milk to drink with it.
My young daughter was always hungry, and I figured that she just had the same horrible metabolism that I had. We moms make a lot of mistakes even when we are trying really hard. From the time she was four years old, I packed her lunches, low-fat cheese, lean deli meat on low-fat bread, and fruit. She dipped her broccoli in packaged low-fat Ranch dressing. A preschool teacher once criticized her lunch and told her that she should not be eating high-fat cheese. It was the only time I ever requested a meeting with the preschool headmaster.
I began to dread taking her to the pediatrician for well visits because the doctors always worried about her weight. They told us, “Put her in sports!” We did. We tried soccer and swim and a fitness class for kids at the fitness center. She continued to gain weight more rapidly than her peers. She enjoyed swimming, but we found her appetite was ravenous afterward. I fed her fruit. “No soft drinks!” said the pediatrician. She was the ONLY child in at the end-of-year kindergarten party who willingly chose water from the beverage cooler instead of a soft drink. She was also the only child who was overweight.
As I planned meals for my family I worked to provide “5-a-day” fruits and veggies, often relying on canned fruits because of our busy schedule. When I could, I went to the farmer’s market and bought watermelon and cantaloupe. We nearly always had apples, bananas, and grapes on hand. I had no idea that the fructose and sugary canned fruits were perpetuating the problem.
When I consider the foods I used to buy, I cringe. Frozen chicken tenders and lean frozen meals were staples. I fed them frozen fries and hot dogs with buns and ketchup – lots of ketchup. They ate from not-so-happy meals as we scurried about. Pizza, frozen or delivery, was not an uncommon meal choice. I added a fruit and some raw broccoli or carrots with ranch to get in those “5-a-day” “healthy” options. I didn’t know any better.
Could low carb help?
After I started following a very low-carb diet, so did my husband. We knew how our hunger was suddenly tamed and how effortlessly the weight seemed to melt away. I wondered if it would help my daughter. She was only 9 years old when I first started and 10 by the time I considered it as an option for her. I remembered all of the “diets” and food restriction I tolerated as a child and struggled with how to help her.
She needed to know what I knew. She needed to be empowered to make her own decisions. She was entering a time in which body image was becoming important, and she had already endured fat shaming. I could only help her by supporting her. She needed to know that I was on her side. I decided to help her in three ways. First, I would help her to learn what I had learned. Second, I would provide delicious foods so that she never felt deprived. Three, I would give her the grace and latitude to choose. My mama’s heart worried.
Even though she was a pretty precocious ten-year-old, I knew she needed something that was easy to understand and that provided concrete examples. It had to be her idea to do this. I had just finished reading Dr. Davis’ book, Wheat Belly. Showing her my copy, I suggested she might want to read through it.
If nothing else, it had some interesting recipes. She could pick out something she liked. I left the book in her room and never mentioned it again. She did. Within a week, she told me that she had read it. She also told me that she wanted to test her blood glucose. I showed her how. We were both surprised by the number. Knowing her grandmother is diabetic provided extra motivation, “Mom, I want to try this.” Sure thing baby girl. Sure thing.
She joined the journey and was amazed at how much better her hunger was managed. She continued to monitor her blood glucose, and so I bought her a meter. I never asked her to weigh. She did weigh from time to time, but I always respected her privacy and never monitored her weight.
Navigating food wasn’t always easy. There were times when I made “suggestions” and times when I simply said nothing. My job was to come up with recipes that kept her from feeling deprived and to provide good options for when she was with her friends – all of whom seem to gorge on packaged food products and wear the smallest clothing sizes available! At her last well visit, her pediatrician said to me, “I’m happy with her weight! She’s not built to be a skinny Minnie, but she’s in a good range.” To my daughter she said, “You’re healthy and you’re smart and you’re awesome in every way!” Finally, her doctor got the diagnosis right!
As I walk by those recycling bins on Wednesdays, the low-fat cereal boxes haunt me a little. Along with the pizza boxes they remind me of all the meals I got wrong. The ice cream cartons take me back to the milkshakes I used to make on Fridays to “celebrate” the weekend. I shake my head at that as I circle through the neighborhood and back to my own recycling bin. Look at what’s in there now. An empty coconut oil canister kept company by a discarded carton of heavy cream. Sometimes I wonder what those carbivore neighbors think of us!