Kristin sent an email with some questions about how Evelyn does Paleo, quite possibly, better than most adults do. I broke the email into sections and answered her questions here.
“I’m wondering if you’d be willing to do a post about Evelyn and how you adapted her to Paleo. For some reason, I am absolutely fascinated by this. I’m guessing a lot of it is just the environment in which you are raising her, but there has to be more to it.”
Raising Evelyn “Paleo” from the beginning and eating Paleo in the home is a big part of Evelyn’s success with her diet, but I agree there is more to it. The fact that I educate her daily, that we are positive and active, that I am strict but not too strict, that she has had her own dietary obstacles to overcome, that I do the diet myself, and the unusual fact that we didn’t have many outside influences to deal with until she was four, all play a role too.
I have been teaching Evelyn about real food and fake food from the beginning. I don’t hide anything from her about food. Even though the state of our food supply is sad and confusing, I explain it.
I wish I could give you more of an inside look into our lives. We talk about food often but not excessively. I don’t make special kid foods. She eats what we eat. Eating healthy food is not a weekend thing, it’s not a phase – it’s as much a part of our lives as work, school, and hobbies. As a result, she loves fish, she loves meat, she loves veggies and fruit, she tolerates salad, and she even eats oysters. (We always used to eat oysters together until she decided that they were just too gross and she couldn’t handle it. A year later she came around and she eats them with us again.)
“If she didn’t grow up on Pop Tarts and Chicken McNuggets, how does she know she prefers Paleo?”
Well, either she doesn’t know it yet or she knows it intellectually. I talk to her about traditional cultures (and she loves to watch tribal shows and shows like Survivorman), about disease, about tummy aches and moods, about happiness and sadness, about the way I used to be before I changed my diet. She knows that food plays a role in how well we focus and how much energy we have. Of course, she may some day go off Paleo and try out chicken nuggets and pop tarts, but she’s not going to do it without first knowing what she’s getting into!
If you think about it, we can’t live every possible life. When we believe that one path is better than another, we don’t typically try out all of the alternatives just to see that we have chosen the right one. If this were the case, we would all have tried drugs, theft, we’d never be able to buy anything because we might be better off buying something else, and we’d have a new partner every week! We would have an impossible time making decisions about anything.
“How did she come to be so confident in her diet that she’s enforcing it with those who care for her (relatives, parents of friends, etc.), and telling them which things she can have and which things she cannot?”
So far, she believes she must do what I say (this won’t last forever!). She is an obedient kid for the most part and eats what she knows is ok and avoids the rest. She also has seen first hand the power that food can have on a body – her own, mine, my parent’s. I have taken her to farms and to the middle isles of the grocery stores and have showed her the difference between these foods. I have been teaching her all of her life. Since the addiction to packaged foods is not already established, she can use her brain to make decisions, rather than her impulses.
“Most adults will not do this, so it amazes me that a child would have the presence of mind and conviction to do so.”
Indeed she does have strong conviction and presence of mind – quite possibly more than a lot of adults. But she is also healthier than a lot of adults. Imbalanced blood sugar, headaches, drug side effects, and other things affect our decisions and desires. She is and always has been a clear headed kid. I am guessing her life is a lot easier than the lives of the typical junk food eater since food choices have such a huge impact on the way we feel, negotiate, play, think – everything.
“And what about enduring teasing or ridicule in a school environment when she pulls out her lunch – a place where peer pressure bends even the strongest will at times – because she’s ‘eating weird stuff’?”
I have not heard of any teasing at school. She goes to a Montessori and there are a lot of kids who eat sack lunches and plenty of kids who eat healthy food options. Anyway, her food is not weird. There is nothing weird about meat, roots, fruit, and veggies. I think what is weird are things like veggie bacon and vegetarian “meat” loaf! She’s not showing up with anything the other kids haven’t seen before. Although, she does take kombucha to school because she likes it so much. I have not asked her what the other kids think about it.
I try to encourage her to be herself and not to care what other people think about her. I do things very differently in all realms of my life and find myself often explaining that it’s ok to be different.
“And finally, are doctors impressed with/comment on how healthy she is?”
She does not go to doctors. She hasn’t had the need to in all these years (but once when she was 3, which turned out to be a pointless visit). When we first started kindergarten she had to have a doctors note, verifying that she is healthy since she is not vaccinated. We went to an ND for this who did say that Evelyn seemed remarkably healthy, although the ND was not surprised. She herself knew how profoundly our foods choices affect our health, our growth, and disposition.