Cathleen graduated in 2003 with her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Pacific University. She has had post graduate training in manual therapy and mind-body wellness. She has worked in private practice at an integrative orthopedic manual physical therapy setting as well as in home health care. Her education and vocational interests have evolved into the rhelm of nutrition, mind-body medicine, and wellness as it relates to healing from chronic pain and illness thru her own experiences of helping herself and her children recover from Chronic Lyme Disease. On this journey, she discovered that her child's autism spectrum disorder symptoms were greatly affected through nutrition and lifestyle changes. She now focuses her practice, Wisdom Within Physical Therapy and Health, on both manual therapy and mind-body healing through teaching her patients to discover their body's inner wisdom to help them navigate their health challenges. She lives in Hood River, Oregon.
The first step to any change in the home regarding eating and health is an emotional/mental commitment to creating new eating habits in the home. And frankly, both parents must be on board with this change or it can cause contention and frustration between the parents and child. Any goal that is to be achieved first starts with a strong desire, a clear conviction as to why that goal is important and an unwavering commitment of the steps necessary to achieve the goal. Failure in making the effort to be clear of your goals and emotional commitment is the main reason I see many families fail to change eating habits in their home. Their intentions are good, but the parents lack the internal commitment and collaborative partnership to achieve the goal of changing eating habits at home. I highly recommend a detailed discussion of the type of eating habits that you want to value as a family and adhere to and come up with a game plan to implement those habits BEFORE you begin replacing foods and trying to clean up the diet in the home.
Now that we've got that part out of the way, lets talk about the next step - the war that will be waged upon the parents by the kiddos as their favorite junk foods are taken away. This part is brutal. But it doesn't last, trust me. When I decided to do our first major pantry remodel and change our diets completely to a Paleo type diet called the GAPS (http://www.gapsdiet.com/) diet, it wasn't pretty. We experienced soup thrown on the wall, screaming, food refusal, tantrums, meltdowns and just plain parenting nightmares. However, this first stage only lasted a few days because my daughter finally got hungry. I can't tell you the relief the moment she ate a bunch of freeze dried zucchini and green beans at the zoo 3 days after starting the diet since that's all I brought for a light snack that afternoon instead of a bag of chips. She gobbled them all up, and I realized in that moment that my child would indeed eat veggies as a snack, if she was actually hungry.
My story of a diet change is a bit extreme because my child had some health issues I needed to address. Not every diet changed has to be from the Standard American Diet to Paleo. You can read more of the story of my daughter here (https://lifewithspirit.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/no-im-not-starving-my-child/).
I will tell you the happy ending, however. One week after switching our diet to a no-grain/gluten/dairy/sugar-free diet, my mostly non-verbal, autistic-spectrum child, who had Lyme disease was able to speak short, complete sentences! Verbal skills do not develop that fast, and it was a testimony that the gut plays a huge role in cognitive function. Once my daughter's digestive tract was "cleaned" up, her brain could more easily focus and work properly and her immune system greatly improved. It was the best decision I ever made to change her diet and is why I'm so passionate in helping other parents create diet changes for their children.
I want to focus on some simple ideas to start with for changing eating habits in your family. Of course there are many great gut healing diets out there, but I find that those diets are too drastic of a switch to do all at once and usually don't stick unless a more gradual approach is made towards healthy eating. And honestly, I learned the hard way about trying to switch eating habits too quickly. Here's my recommendation for the beginning.
1. Prepare a morning smoothie, they choose at least 2 veggies, 2 fruits to go into the smoothie.
2. Make a stir-fry, let them choose the veggies, experiment with different sauces.
3. Make a "sweet" treat, let them choose an alternative sweetener to try like honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar.
4. If they want a non-healthy snack - like chips - they have to choose a real food option to go with it, like carrot sticks or cucumber slices. They have to eat the "real" food first.
5. Assign each child to come up with a healthy meal recipe each week, encourage them to use. Pinterest to find ideas in healthy categories like vegan or paleo to play with different types of diets.
6. Find a way to make your favorite meal or treat in a different version. For example, if it's spaghetti, you could try vegan or paleo zucchini noodles and fresh-made sauce.
Second, and this step is HUGE. Get rid of all high fructose corn syrup products from your home, and replace all sugar in cooking with a more healthy alternative like honey, stevia, maple syrup, or coconut sugar. This step alone will clean out most pantries of processed food that is literally causing more harm to your body than good in the long run. It will teach you healthier ways of baking and over time, even change your taste for sugar. It is one of the most important changes you can make in your diet for your long term health.
Third, try expanding your source of whole grains to include more gluten-free grains into your diet like quinoa, millet, teff, oats and rice varieties. This will help to slowly decrease the gluten consumption in your diet. Even if you are not gluten intolerant, gluten is a very inflammatory protein that is over consumed in the Standard American Diet. Gluten and wheat are hidden ingredients in most processed foods as well and should be avoided. The topic of gluten and its impact on gut/immune health is too lengthy to go into detail in this post and may be addressed in the future.
Fourth, make your kids lunch. This is so important. If your kids eat well, they will be able to better focus at school which can decrease ADHD and disruptive behaviors, as well as help them feel more emotionally grounded and stable while at school. It breaks my heart to see kids' lunch full of sugar, preservatives and processed food and then see that same child unable to focus, get into trouble, and feel like he just can't get it right while in the classroom. I don't think food is the only factor in these disorders, but I have first-hand experience with my children and see the difference in their ADHD tendencies when they eat well versus when they do not. So what do I put in my kids/ lunch? Again, they are involved in helping to make it.
They also know we have to meet these requirements: there must be veggies, fruit, protein, healthy fat and a healthy starch/carb. There may not be any sugar. It's always gluten-free. And often it includes leftover dinner to be honest, which they have gotten used to. Today, as an example, their lunch had baked lentil/pea chips from Costco, carrot slices, freeze dried zucchini with salt, goji berries, walnuts, a fig, slices of turkey, gluten free ancient grain crackers with homemade hummus and WATER to drink. I never give them juice, it's too much sugar. They eat fruit when they want "juice". This example is probably extreme for some of you, but I've been at this a long time. And actually it's not as strict as when we were on the gut-healing GAPS diet, so it seems easy now. My kids are ages 3 and 5 and have been "trained" at an early age, so healthy eating is not a hardship on our family. These changes will require more time and patience in older children, but it can be done, especially if you teach and involve them.
Fifth, I wanted to give a few other healthy tips to help you get more nutrient dense foods in your family's diet. Here are some ideas:
1. I put lots of FRESH herbs in everything I make- parsley, cilantro, basil, thyme, ginger, etc.. Herbs are packed full of nutrition and really help to create a huge flavor boost in your meals.
2. I make my own bone broth (http://wellnessmama.com/5888/how-to-make-bone-broth/) and cook all my grains in it as well as make soup. Bone broth is loaded with minerals and gives an amazing flavor to food. Bone broth is also amazing at helping to heal the lining of the gut.
3. I "hide" greens in everything- like zucchini in pancakes, spinach/kale in hash browns, etc..
4. Get a dehydrator and make healthy, sugar-free, raw, vegan snacks with veggies an fruits.
5. I even "hide" liver in hamburgers.
6. Cook and use coconut oil in everything. It's anti-viral and full of healthy fat. Speaking of fat, don't be scared of healthy fats like avocado, coconut, olive oil.
7. Eat Organic if possible, eat grassfed meat when you eat meat, eat whole grains.
8. Let "clean" eating be family value- fresh, whole food with no preservatives, fillers, etc..
I believe that when our bodies are happier, so is our life. Teach your children to regard their body as a prize possession and to take care of it. Healthy eating is one of the best ways to tell our body that we love it and that we love ourselves enough to make these challenging dietary changes. Through our example as parents of listening to our body's dietary needs, we can guide our child to recognize an important inner wisdom within their own body. This body/gut awareness-wisdom can be one of their greatest assets throughout their lifetime. And it's never too late to develop this ability ourselves as adults!
Read more about Cathleen's personal healing journey at her blog: www.lifewithspirit.wordpress.com
Wisdom Within Physical Therapy and Health info: www.wisdomwithinhealth.com