What? Another diet!? Yes, the Feingold Diet.
I’ve had a few people ask me to post about my son’s diet.
BJ is hyper. Spirited. Energetic. Go-go-go. Insanely intelligent. Talk-talk-talk. Never sits still.
Sometimes, like any other child, he gets in trouble. At school. At home. Sometimes it’s more than any other child….
It’s exhausting. I have to drink several pots of coffee everyday just to keep up with him. Okay, not really….(really!)
Last Fall, I was so over the constant color changes at school, the clothes chewing, the fidgeting, the OMG-please-make-eye-contact-with-me-when-I’m-talking-to-you. There was more. Over the top crazy-ass behavior that wasn’t normal or cute or tolerable. It was emotionally exhausting.
There was discipline. There were consequences, praise, redirection, conferences. Yelling. Lots of yelling. Pulling of hair (my own). Nothing made a difference.
I knew what people were thinking and saying when I wasn’t in earshot. They were thinking MY GOD that woman does not discipline her child, and WOW give him some Ritalin.
Wrong. And wrong. I do discipline, and I don’t believe that Ritalin is the answer for every spirited child.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that medication is the devil. It’s certainly necessary in some situations, and if our situation had warranted it, or had it not improved (stay with me here) I would have investigated all means of fixin’. But I honestly don’t think our situation was to the point of needing medication.
Enter Dr. Benjamin Feingold. (he’s hot, okay not really….)
Who’s this Feingold guy? No, he’s not our pediatrician. He was a doctor who stumbled upon something so great. Back in the 60s & 70s, while working at a clinic in California trying to figure out a way to help people with skin allergies, he found a connection between the crap in our foods and children’s behavior. You see, some wild (as in behavior) kids who were following his elimination diet to help with their eczema were, lo and behold, acting better as well. As in not wild anymore. So he investigated, poked around and created the Feingold Diet.
How did I find out about this diet? I was on it when I was a child. Go figure….the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
What does this diet consist of? It’s funny you ask (okay, so I really asked for you) because for the majority of BJ’s 7 years, I thought that sugar was the culprit of his always-hyper-state. I was substituting sugar-free (read: splenda, equal, aspartame, etc.) for all the regularly sweetened things in my house. No you can’t have a piece of dark chocolate. Eat this sugar-free pudding instead. Funny thing is this never really seemed to work.
So I started reading up on Feingold, picking my mom’s brain, searching the internets, and talking with other bloggers about it. I read so, so many success stories, studies, and testimonials that I had to give it a try. My son was worth it, and it was all really starting to make scary-sense to me.
Like anything new, it was overwhelming and hard and scary for the first 2 weeks. We were not only changing our diet, but our thinking about food in general. I’ve been on the eliminate-as-many-processed-foods-as-possible kick for awhile, but this was even more than that.
We have eliminated all food dyes, all additives and preservatives, some naturally occurring things in foods known to cause reactions, and of course all artificial sweeteners. (And by we, I mean that our family has adopted the diet. BJ is on it almost 100% of the time, and me…..not so much. I still drink Diet Coke and eat things that aren’t approved, but only when he’s not around.)
What do we eat? We eat most everything, but most of the things we eat are either made from scratch or approved. We have a handy Feingold food guide that lists grocery and personal items that have been extensively researched by the Feingold Association and deemed to contain non of the above – hence being approved. It’s not as simple as just reading the food labels, because lots of the things we eliminate aren’t even required to be listed on the labels. Things like TBHQ, BHT, and BHA, which are anti-oxidant preservatives used in the packaging of products like cereals, cookies and crackers.
Eating out is a little trickier. Feingold provides a fast food list, which would be nice if we ate fast food. And I’ll have to be honest here, because we have hit the drive-thru more since we’ve been on this diet than ever before. When you know for a fact that something is safe, you’re more likely to choose it because HELLO, a reaction is hell. You really don’t know what’s in food at a restaurant, so we try to choose grilled chicken, steamed veggies, things that seem less done-up….
What’s a reaction? Basically reverting back to old behavior – out of control (and by out of control, I don’t mean flailing around on the floor, I mean jumping up and down, running around, erratic behavior, clothes chewing, fidgeting, noisy-ness, NOT LISTENING) And we’ve had a couple thankfully, because those reactions allowed me to see just how much this diet is working for us.
Has it helped with BJ’s issues? Absolutely! I cannot even begin to tell you how much easier it is to parent BJ these days. No, he’s not robotically perfect, but I am no longer emotionally and physically exhausted. He listens better. His goat-like clothes chewing isn’t an issue anymore. Mornings are (almost) a dream, and homework gets done with a lot less frustration. He is focused, and more pleasant to be around. He doesn’t constantly fidget and move and make random noises. His behavior at school has improved, which is so relieving for me.
He is a 7-year-old boy. He’s energetic, he still talks and talks and talks. He’s just a much better version of the boy I was dealing with a couple of months ago.
How has BJ handled being on the Feingold diet? He’s been amazing. From the beginning, I talked openly and honestly with him about what we were doing and why. We’ve always been label readers and healthy eaters, so it wasn’t too hard of a transition. He had hard time at a couple of birthday parties when he couldn’t eat cake, and hot lunch at school is a no-no. I’ve found creative ways to make sure he has the same or very similar to what’s being offered here and there. There are lots of online resources, natural candy stores, all-natural food dyes, and many other things we’ve switched to. Most importantly, he’s been honest, which is amazing for a 7-year-old. He does not eat things that people offer him, and as a family, we bypass things he cannot have when he is present.
What’s next? Well, once we see consistent success on Phase One, which consists of a LOT of elimination, we move on to Phase Two. Basically we’ll start adding things back in. Just like when you’re testing for allergies, because really, that’s what this is. An allergy to certain things in food. Once we are able to target what’s causing his reactions, we’ll just leave those out. Feingold material says that sometimes children ‘grow out’ of the sensitivities, but sometimes they don’t.
So that’s where we are right now! Do you have any questions? I’d be happy to answer them if I can, or find the answer for you! Just ask below in the comments section, or you can email me at christy @ shrinkingjeans.net
I encourage you to go read the overview of the Feingold diet. Even if you don’t have a necessity for it in your life, it’s very eye-opening.
Edited to add a link to an interesting press release: http://www.feingold.org/enews/FDA-Hearing.html