In order to animate our son and the process as such, and of course to keep an overview of things, we created a “mandala” to guide us through the GAPS Intro Diet. We had developed a grain-free, organic, all natural, seasonal, full GAPS and paleo inspired way of eating for three years already, when we decided to do a GAPS Intro Diet in January this year. Just after the boy turned three. At this stage he had very few digestive problems, none that were frequently recurring, and neither did we. That’s why it only took us five weeks to “complete the mandala”, but the effect was clearly felt. Perhaps a bit too techy for some sensitivities, but a fitting metaphor in current culture: it felt like our gut flora was rebooted to a fresh start.
Before commencing the intro, we made sure that our son understood what we were going to do. We explained that it was about “making the tummy happy”, “kicking out troublemakers”, “growing strong and healthy” and so on….
He was already aware of not eating gluten – we’d invoked the popular meme “gluten free”, which has its annoying, pretentious sides in the form of fads, processed food commodities and associated attitudes, but it is also a useful way for a child to easily express their dietary requirements in a way that commands attention from adults. Early on he asked why not gluten? We chose to tell him that it was a toxic thing that wasn’t very good for him, neither for us and probably not for anyone.
That would soon prompt questions like “Why are the people eating gluten if it’s toxic”, when seeing people in the street with bread under their arms, a common sight in France. It’ s a difficult one to answer, somehow, and we took the easy way out: “Because they don’t know”. Of course some people might know that this or that is toxic, but still devour it. People’s minds works in mysterious ways.
The topic of sugar is also familiar territory and he has noticed himself that a lot of sweet things (dates, figs, apples, bananas and nuts) tend to be followed by digestive pains. We often let him have more than we think he ought to be eating, rather than always imposing limits and saying the negative no. It’s an investment in his future health in a holistic manner. When complaining we console, caress and cuddle him, as needed, but also facilitate an awareness and self-reflection, for instance: “OK, you have pain in the stomach, that’s not nice, poor you. Do you remember what you have eaten today, or in the last few hours?” might be the somewhat leading or rhetorical question. Slowly his understanding of his own gut is enhanced by how he feels after eating certain things.
At any rate, he is in the know, as much as he can be at three and a half, and we strive to avoid any kind of eating disorder-like behaviour in our relationship to food and each other by keeping all channels of communication open and honest without condemning anyone else’s choices. It seems only reasonable to suggest that in the previous 2.5 million years of hominid history it was rather crucial to instruct your off-spring about the suitability of various food options and dangers generally in the surrounding environment. The omnipresence of especially high-fructose corn syrup from genetically modified corn/maize is a bit of game changer: a healthy player must be ever more discerning in these times of ours.
Yet, the cultural, social, psychological and spiritual dimensions of a healing diet are important, too. Our health is an outcome of navigating a field of multiple forces. It’s not all about nutritional science. Our approach to the whole thing is based on the idea that our way of eating is (and should be) liberating and fulfilling, not restrictive. We eat pretty much anything we have in the house and as much we want at whatever time of day we fancy it. As the nutritional and environmental input gets cleaner the body’s feedback gets clearer – activating the second brain we call it – and the desire for fruit and honey and nuts and other sweet stuff is “naturally” limited to small, but intense and intensely joyous moments: a spoonful of honey, sometimes mixed with vanilla, cacao and coconut oil, sometimes a big glass of home made almond milk with it, sometime a bottle of natural wine. The kind of climax that fast food and industrial producers are mimicking with so much economic success and so poor taste compared to the all raw, natural, organic and post-industrial experience.
It’s of course not quite true that we eat anything, anytime, because I might fancy a steak at 11pm, or a banana with cashews after lunch and decide not to have it, as I know I will feel half way to sick to my stomach if I do so, respectively either soon after eating it or when I wake up the next morning. The more you listen to your body, the more it tells you, and the cleaner your way of eating and living, the clearer the messages it sends.