Tag Archives: food

Food: Friend or Foe?

Food understands emotions in ways no words can, but sometimes the body disagrees and chaos ensues.  Mind begins to roar and everyone feels misunderstood.  Trying to appease all parties is impossible.

Have you ever felt full, but ignored the body’s message and eaten more or eaten foods your body is not friends with?  Do certain feelings prefer certain types of food?

Understanding that some foods emotions are in love with are enemies to the body is a devastating realization.  Being kind to all involved is challenging and maybe only a few people have truly accomplished this.



“Picky Eater”

“Picky eater.”  This is how Emma has described herself and gave me permission to quote.  Food and eating in relationship to my daughter are topics I have (in the last year and a half) avoided on this blog  for a variety of reasons, but the biggest being, because I spent twenty-two years of my life in the throes of an eating disorder documented ‘here‘ and ‘here‘ and so have very conflicted opinions about all of this.  I have no problem discussing my own issues regarding food, but I don’t have that leeway when talking about my daughter’s relationship to food.  It’s not my story to tell, it’s hers.

So this post will not be about her interactions with food as much as it will concentrate on my own as the parent of a “picky eater.”  Despite my better instincts, I became way too involved in my daughter’s food, what she ate, what she didn’t.  I made the mistake of believing there was a link between her inability to speak and what she was or wasn’t eating and that concern overrode my gut feeling that I needed to stay out of it…  twice.  As a result, this happened.  The first time I “managed” her food intake was when she was just two years old, despite all the medical tests showing she had no intolerances or allergies to anything.  The second time was far worse and more traumatic and it was because of those six weeks, when she stopped eating, lost a tremendous amount of weight, that I realized I had to stop trying to control what she did or didn’t eat.  Please remember I am writing this from the perspective of someone who has huge personal issues with food.  This is important.

I have heard from a number of people who have found from various tests done by their doctors or through their own experimentation that they feel better if they stay away from particular foods, others have been diagnosed as celiac or have specific food intolerances and allergies that when avoided has changed their lives significantly.  This is true for all people and not just a specific neurology, though it may prove to be more prevalent in Autistic neurology, or it may be that Autistic neurology makes some experience the discomfort they feel more intensely. Either way, it is absolutely a fact that some people are allergic or have an intolerance to some foods.

When I first put my daughter on a gluten-free/ casein free diet I was filled with trepidation because of my history as both bulimic and anorexic.  I worried about the unforeseen consequences of controlling her food choices, particularly as my eating disorder had nearly fatal consequences.  When I gave birth to my daughter I was so relieved when she ate just about anything offered.  As time went on and she began to narrow what she would and wouldn’t eat I became concerned, but wary of becoming too involved.  I was hyper aware of offering healthy foods to my children, while not becoming overly controlling.  So far so good.  And then Emma was diagnosed with autism and in my research I read about the GF/CF diet.  In the literature I read there were spectacular claims of “recovery” from autism and “losing their diagnosis.”  This was in 2004.  I was in the midst of my find-anything-that-will-cure-her- thinking.  I don’t know if that diet is pushed on parents now the way it was then.  But at the time it seemed many parents were implementing it, some with noticeable positive changes, but most were not, still, it seemed worth a try.

Like everything to do with autism, there are opinions, lots of opinions, but little real evidence that a diet was having the same massive effect on all children diagnosed with autism as it was on a few.  So when the diet did nothing, and despite the battery of tests showing no intolerance of any kind, in a moment of desperation I implemented an even more draconian version of this diet in 2011 as advised by a naturopath I took her to.  It was this final attempt that caused long-term and far-reaching damage.  It eroded her trust and it caused her a great deal of unnecessary pain and trauma.  It is this time period that Emma still refers to with great anxiety today.  As someone who almost died because of my eating disorder it is tough to reconcile the fact that I have caused my daughter such suffering.

I bring all of this up because over the weekend, Emma said she was willing to “taste a carrot.”  This was huge.  HUGE, as Emma has not willingly eaten a vegetable of any kind since 2005.  I have consoled myself over the years by reminding myself that there are populations throughout the world who subsist on an extremely limited diet.  There are indigenous people in Northwestern Alaska who live on seal and walrus blubber and little else, but whose health is actually better than their southern neighbors.  Various people over the years, particularly OT’s and speech therapists have tried to convince me to restrict Emma’s diet, but I won’t do it. Instead we discuss nutrition.  We talk about food choices.  I do my best to model good eating habits.  We talk about vitamin supplements and I offer healthy choices.

When I asked Emma, “So what did you think about that carrot you just tried?”  Emma wrote, “I think it’s sweeter than I expected.  So not as bad as I had anticipated.”

“Do you think you will try it again?” I asked.

“Yes, I will taste it and thank you for your suggestion,” Emma ever so politely wrote.

November, 2011

Having lost more than 10 pounds – November, 2011


Emma holds an uncanny resemblance to a fictitious children’s book character.

Okay, so we haven’t gotten the whole handstand-on-the-handlebars thing down yet, but I’m sure that’ll be next.

Merlin watches and waits.

He just cannot help himself.

Food update:  Emma ate a blueberry last night.  This morning – one blueberry, (not her favorite) a slice of apple, a slice of pear and a piece of banana!

After eating all of that she said, “No more medicine.”

I’ve got my work cut out for me.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism and our attempts to help her, go to: www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Emma’s Pretty Dress

This morning I asked Emma,  “Hey Em.  Come over here and help me pack your lunch.”

“Okay, okay, okay,” she said while running over to the open frig.  “Hmmm… let’s see,” she said, peering into the refrigerator as though she was contemplating the delicious short ribs with coconut rice, Ceci made for us the other day or maybe the sliced turkey, to make a sandwich.  (Emma doesn’t eat meat, not because she’s a vegetarian, though she is, or because of some political or ethical statement, but because in her rigidity she only eats about seven different foods, which made this scene all the more comical.  After a pause she reached for her old stand-by, caramel yogurt and soy pudding.  “Caramel yogurt,” she said, as though this were something new that she just thought she might try for a change, dropping it into the bag I held open for her.  “Soy pudding,” she added.  This is what Emma has for lunch every single day, unless the store has run out or we haven’t had time to get to the store to replenish her stock.

“Do you want any cheese?” I asked, despite the fact the cheese usually comes home in her back pack and when it doesn’t I imagine she’s opened the red wrapping, taken off the wax and then thrown everything away.  None of us have actually seen her eat the cheese in a long time, so I was surprised when she answered, “Yes.  Cheese.”  It may be that Emma is so used to having the cheese, it’s no longer a matter of wanting to actually eat it as much as it’s been going into her lunch every day for so long, she feels it should be there, whether she wants to eat it or not is beside the point.

“How about some grapes?” I opened the drawer with fruit in it.

“Yes, yes, grapes,” Emma grabbed the bag and tossed it on the counter.  “And…” she paused, looked around, “How about some pirate’s booty?”

“Do you want one bag or two?”

“Two?” Emma said in that questioning way of hers.  “There,” she said, as she watched me add two bags of Pirate’s Booty to her lunch.  “Now we have to get dressed,” she reminded me.

“Okay Em.  What do you want to wear to school today?”  I opened her closet.

“No, no, no, no!  This one!” she said, grabbing hold of one of two party dresses she has.

“Oh that’s a pretty dress!” I pulled it off the hanger for her and handed it to her.  “Do you want the flouncy under skirt that makes it poofy?”

“No, no!” Emma laughed, as though this question was altogether too ridiculous to contemplate.

Emma wearing her pretty dress this morning.

Emma looked at herself in the mirror.  “Wow!  You’re so pretty!” Emma said, twirling around.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism from Richard’s perspective, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com