This post is written with the idea of helping parents to understand their extremely finicky eater and give them courage to help their children move toward a healthier lifestyle. As a certified GAPS practitioner, a parent of four adult children, grandparent of seven, three of which are ADD and as a consultant who talks to parents of children with ADD, I am familiar with this syndrome. Because children are autonomous and do choose to eat what they will, and because sugar and white starchy foods are addictive, this creates a situation that seems insurmountable to say the least. Using the recommendations of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome) plus some research and published literature, and my personal experience, and interviews with others, I have written this article with the idea of helping parents understand that change IS possible. It's my hope that you will have the courage to move forward.
First, I would like to address the WHY issue. Why would it be important to go through possible hell for parents and kids to make changes? Here are my reasons why:
“Second is a craving for sweet and starchy foods that is typical for all people with abnormal bodily flora, particularly with Candida Albanians overgrowth.” There has never been a GAPS child who chooses to eat nothing but meat, healthy fat and vegetables, but instead the foods of choice are sugary and starchy. That is simply because sugar and starch are the preferred food of yeast and unfavorable bacteria. So the vicious cycle continues.
The third cause is “the state of the mouth itself.” The GAPS mouth is home to many toxic bacteria and yeast. “As a result of microbial activity and inflammation, many GAPS patients have bad breath, very red lips and mouth, various spots and ulcers on the mucosa of the cheeks, and a coated furry tongue.” Consequently, many GAPS people experience stinging, itching and burning with certain raw foods. (Quotes are from Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD.)
Some children are so toxic that they have difficulty with chewing and swallowing, and may gag or vomit easily. All of these eating “disorders” are a result of the abnormal flora in the gut, brain and mouth.
So the big question that follows is, “Can this be changed?” The answer is YES! But not usually without a battle, because obviously, the child or person must go through a time of withdrawal and enduring the offensive textures and tastes in order to be freed from the toxic yeast and bacteria. Nutritious food must replace poor nutrient sweet and starchy foods. For a more complete discussion of what foods work to heal this sensory disorder, see Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
So now that we have established the why and what, I will move on to the how. It's important to know that it has been done; no two situations are exactly alike; there are techniques and methods to assist the parents; help and support is available; with determination and persistence, you and your child too can be successful.
I will first explain what Dr. Campbell-McBride describes as the ABA method. I will talk about alternatives and then summarize some of the general research on this topic. Finally, I will describe some of the personal experiences of parents in my family.
I will briefly explain the ABA method, but I encourage my readers to read the chapter in Gut and Psychology Syndrome titled, “It's Feeding Time! Oh, No!” for the full explanation. (ABA stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis or behavioral modification.) Essentially, the parents require the child to eat a very small amount of a particular food initially to earn a reward, which can be different depending on the age and verbal understanding of the child. For example, with a non-verbal autistic child, the reward might be a non GAPS approved food initially; for a verbal child, the reward might be a GAPS approved dessert food or a non food reward such as a video or favorite toy. (It needs to be something highly desirable in order to motivate the child.) The parent begins by introducing one bite of one thing. The child doesn't get the reward food or video or toy until he or she is compliant. There after, the amount is increased and new foods are added to earn the desired reward until the child is eating a full meal to obtain his reward. (The foods that are introduced are GAPS foods such as meats, bone broth soups, fermented dairy (if tolerated), vegetables and other nourishing foods.)
The hard part of all this revolves around the fight for control. The child usually has been dictating to the parent what he or she will eat up to this point. Now the parents are attempting to take this authority back into their hands, and yet, by this time the child has learned that he has autonomy- he has the ability to eat or refuse to eat- and this is a VERY powerful tool to get his way. What parent can stand by and watch their child go hungry for even a day? This battle comes down to who is more determined, the parents or the child? In order to be successful, the parents MUST win the battle, even if they use a different technique than behavioral modification. Ultimately, the parents must convince the child to eat the food of his free will. (By the way, this kind of battle is commonly fought in three areas- food, sleep and potty training.)
At this point, it is good to remember the phrase, “Who's the parent here?” Who has the wisdom and education to decide what is best for the child in the area of food? Or should a child be allowed to eat anything and everything he or she desires? This is a question the parent must answer, and thereafter remind themselves of their answer.
Now, for the studies. One article from the Washington Post is titled, Researchers-have-found-a-simple-way-to-get-kids-to-eat-more-veggies. In studies at both Texas A&M University and the University of Minnesota, researchers discovered a simple truth: Kids will eat more vegetables when they are not in competition with other more desirable foods. To put it simply, don't serve the kid favorites until the vegetables are eaten. When broccoli is served along side French fries, the fries will be eaten and the broccoli left. However, if the competition isn't so stiff, the choice to eat broccoli is easier. Learn more from the complete article:
The next article is from Quartz Media and titled, “The Pickiest of Kids Ate Dozens of New Foods After a Two Week Training Devised by a Psychologist”. The essence of this method is similar to ABA. It is to expose the child to several foods repeatedly and to reward the behavior of trying new foods. The author worked with several extremely finicky eaters who were only eating a few foods at the onset of the trial, and who by the end were eating over 50 foods. They also continued to eat these after the training period. So YES, your child too can learn to eat what you eat at the dinner table (and hopefully those foods are a variety of healthy proteins, fats and vegetables.) Here is the complete article:
Now, if you are a reader and need more explanation or understanding of different methods, consider purchasing the book, Broccoli Boot Camp: A Guide for Improving Your Child's Selective Eating by Keith Williams and Laura Slivering.
Finally, I decided it would be interesting to interview different family members about their experiences in this area. I'll begin with my own experience.
I have four grown children. I usually served a typical American type meal at dinner: a meat, a starch and a vegetable. I remember my oldest who at the age of two wanted to eat only two foods- French fries and cheese. At this age I tried to “fool” him by cutting sweet potatoes into French fry shapes, and it worked. He grew up to eat a decent variety of foods with a preference for meat and starches. My second born was the most finicky. At two, she wanted only bread and potatoes at dinner. I remember once when she ate a little bread, then went outside and ate dirt out of a pot. Her appetite for real foods started around the age of four when she spent the whole summer outside playing with the neighborhood kids and came in genuinely hungry. She also grew up to eat a variety of foods, but prefers still the starchy and sweet. My last two I would say are very normal eaters, and didn't have strong finicky preferences, but ate a variety of foods even as toddlers. My main method of influence was always to require them to eat a few bites of a not-so-favorite food (usually a vegetable) unless I knew it was a food that they strongly disliked, and then they were allowed some preferences.