The first time I really acknowledged it was the summer of 2011. I had been on my weight loss journey for a year at that point and I was at a plateau. My sister had been soda-free for almost 6 months then, and she began to tell me about the effects of aspartame (the artificial sweetener used in diet soda). She said that aspartame actually caused you to crave more sweet things (besides all the other things it does to your body). The thought intrigued me. You could actually change how your body reacted by eliminating this one thing from your diet.
At first it was an experiment to see if it actually worked (it did), then it became an accomplishment to say I had been so many days soda-free. Eventually, the thought of consuming a soda grossed me out completely.
At the time that I quit, I had already scaled it back to "just" 3-4 cans a day. My husband was not a big fan of "pop" and my kids had never had a drop of it in their lives. I was the only soda addict in the house, and I don't remember getting rid of it as being any big deal.
If you read my previous post, you know that my son had some serious problems at school, even from the very start of kindergarten. It was probably more serious than I really let on in telling his story.
Cody had serious impulse and self control issues. In school, he would hit. He hit anyone and for any reason. Sometimes he would say inappropriate things or "swear words", but he usually got in trouble for hitting. Teachers tossed around "ADHD", though he was never officially diagnosed. Outside of school, he would occasionally have, what I referred to, as "fits". He would get worked up about something and go into almost a compulsive tantrum where he would say the same thing over and over and yell and scream. Then he would calm down, cry and be remorseful.
It didn't take me long to realize that his behavior was affected by his eating habits. It was always a fight to get him to eat breakfast because I knew if he didn't eat breakfast that he would get in trouble that day. If he got in trouble at afternoon recess, he would tell me that he hadn't eaten all of his lunch that day.
Still, I just kept fighting the battle. I didn't know what else to do since no one took me seriously and, in reality, I didn't take my own food theory seriously either. I was still convinced that he was just a willful, defiant child and I was a bad mom who couldn't teach him appropriate behavior.
In January of this year, when they were still at the old school, Cody had to go to the principal's office twice in one week. I had stopped by my sister's work one day to tell her what happened and that I was afraid that I was going to be asked to medicate him.
She said something to me that I had always really known, but this time it finally clicked. She said that if I got all the artificial and processed crap out of his diet, that within two weeks I would have a whole different boy.
I will have my sister tell her story in a future post, but at that moment I knew that with all her knowledge and conviction, that she was completely right.
That weekend I went to Whole Foods for the first time and I took Cody with me. My goal was to have it be as positive an experience as possible, so we made it into a big deal. Cody would get to pick out his own food and he would have his own shelf in the pantry and in the refrigerator.
For that first week, I just tried to pick out things that were similar to what he was used to eating but in a non-artificial or organic form. Many things I bought at first weren't the best choices nutritionally, but none of them had any of the artificial colors or highly processed ingredients that he had always had before.
The one thing that shocked me, was that he willingly tried "spinach juice" a blend of green vegetables, fruits and plant extracts. It is dark green in color, so I thought that I would have to hide it in something. Not only did he not need any coaxing to try it, he loved it and asked for it all the time.
There were no real major changes the first week. In fact, my sister told me that it could get worse before it got better as his little body detoxified itself.
The second week was when something amazing happened.
We were driving home from school when I told the kids that I had to stop at the store for something. Cody asked if this particular store had spinach. I was puzzled but told him that I was sure it did.
Then, "Mom? Can we buy some spinach?"
I was cautious. "You know that spinach is like, green leaves, right?"
"Yeah, it's the stuff you put on your sandwiches at Subway. Can I try it?"
Once inside the store, we headed for the produce section. He found it right away and read the label to me, Organic Baby Spinach.
With a sweet and sincere, yet confused look on his little face, he said, "But Mom, where's the grownup spinach?"
Needless to say, he tried and liked the spinach. We had to call everyone and tell them. I cried. It was a big moment when my super picky eater came up with the idea to try a healthy food all on his own.
It kind of snowballed from there. He was more and more willing to try new things. He started learning what to look for on nutrition labels and his new favorite word was organic. He became an expert at shopping at Whole Foods and knowing what is okay and what to avoid at Natural Grocers and Trader Joe's.
For the Blue and Gold Banquet for scouts, he made an organic cake from scratch with all organic decorations (with a little help from mom of course).
So what is the miracle?
That I cured my son with food.
It has been almost three months since we began eating as clean as possible, and I truly do have a whole new boy. He is now attentive and focused in school. At home he is helpful and creative.
Are we perfect at it? Of course not. We are always learning new things, finding out new ways to prepare things.
Now that I know the power that real food can have, I feel like I must tell as many people as possible. That is what Grownup Spinach is for.