vegetables and fruits

Food is my hammer — and I’m sharing it

I promised more than a year ago that I was going to start sharing my family’s food journey. I said I would start with a story I call “The Weekend of Orange.”

And I just couldn’t do it. It’s been a challenging journey for all of us—one that we are still on. And frankly, writing down something we’re in the midst of, still figuring out, feels vulnerable.

But here are two things I’ve realized:

  1. We will always be figuring this out.
  2. We are not alone.

I’ve encountered many people who are trying to help their children get past the issues we’ve struggled with: Tantrums. Mood swings. Rages. These are events that can change the trajectory of a day or multiple days.

I recently shared the thumbnail version of our journey with a new acquaintance whose family has had similar struggles. His response? “All of this food stuff is bull****.”

Then he walked away.

It’s OK. Everyone has a right to make his or her own food choices, and each of us has reasons for what, when, where, why, how often and how much we choose to eat.

Many — most? — of us have complicated relationships with food, whether eating disorders, weight struggles, cravings or emotional attachments.

And we endure a constant barrage of conflicting messages and controversy about food groups, food pyramids, food plates, food spirals (I made that one up, but it sounds plausible), etc., etc. Or how about the Great Egg Controversy. “Eggs are the perfect food”—no, wait!—“Would you like a side of coronary disease with your eggs?” (Have we come full circle now? Who’s keeping score?)

Then there are all of the Earnest Eaters, those who’ve decided to regulate their diets for one reason or another. Vegetarian. Vegan. Paleo. Keto. Gluten-free, dairy-free, legume-free, free-free … (I’m proudly and thankfully among the gluten-free bunch and now am nearly headache-free.)

Yes, all this talk of food can sound like bull****.

No one wants to give up what they like. And it truly stinks to give something up and discover we function better without it. Especially those “comfort foods,” like that gooey macaroni and cheese I lived for as a kid and probably will never eat again.

And it’s frustrating to find out your “go-to” five-minute supper plan should actually be your “run-away-from,” “not-worth-the-consequences” recipe for a temper tantrum.

I don’t relish being told my efforts are bull****, and I understand what my family is learning will not be helpful to everyone.

But if you’re still reading, let me address one more perfectly reasonable reaction: You could argue that if all someone’s got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right?

I want you to know that, yes, I recognize that food — our diet — is my hammer. But I’ve also tried the screwdriver, the jigsaw, the pliers and the mallet. Our family has explored everything from equine therapy to neurofeedback to medications to brain-rewiring computer games to counseling to … you get the picture.

Some of those other things were helpful, but the one thing that has made the most significant and most lasting difference to my family’s quality of life is committing to a diet that works for us.

In my family, changing our diet changed our life. Period.

I can’t promise it will do the same for anyone else, but I also can’t justify not sharing a bit of what we’ve learned. 

(Besides, when someone calls your hard-earned realizations bull****, doesn’t it make you think you just might be onto something?)

Next: Seeing red …


Meanwhile, if this speaks to you, consider starting a food journal:

Take a notebook, and draw a line down the middle of the first page to make two columns. In the first column, write what your child (or you) eats and at what time. In the second column, keep track of any notable behaviors and what time they occurred. Start watching for patterns.


Today’s spoonful of sugar … a recipe for quick and easy Norwegian apple pie!

Photo credit: Thomas Le on Unsplash

8 thoughts on “Food is my hammer — and I’m sharing it

  1. Hi Sarah, I enjoyed this initial foray into writing about your nutrition journey very much. I look forward to more! It’s good to hear the voice I so enjoyed in grad school. I especially like the “food spiral” – it definitely sounds like a thing.

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