Monday, August 26, 2013

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

Written with Aaron's permission
“Your choice of diet profoundly influences your long-term health prospects….Many older people suffer from debilitating conditions that could have been largely prevented had they known and applied the nutrition principles of today.  The chronic diseases—heart disease, diabetes, some kinds of cancer, dental disease, and adult bone loss—all have a connection to poor diet.  These diseases cannot be prevented by a good diet alone…Within the range set by your genetic inheritance, however, the likelihood of developing these diseases is strongly influenced by your food choices” (Nutrition, Concepts and Controversies, 10th ed., Ch 1 “Food Choicesand Human Health,” pg 3).
Once I learned how to apply this concept spoken of in this quote to my own health problems, I began teaching it to my kids.  If any of them began to have a longer term physical or mental health issue, I wanted to first eliminate the possibility that the cause was diet-related.  My theory was that if we could zero out this possible cause, we would then see the other causes more clearly.  It was like casting out whatever beam might be in our eye or that which was within our control so we could see more clearly the mote of inherited disease that might be out of our control  (Matthew 7:3-5).   And even if the cause was hereditary, I knew that eating and exercising so that the body could achieve its optimal balance could only reduce the severity of undesired symptoms.

This turned out to be more difficult than I thought because before I learned to eat more healthy, I both ate and served my family the average American diet.  I trained them to eat that way from when they were little and then had to retrain them to eat in a better way when they got older.  It was like that scene from Spiderman 2 where he was trying to stop a train.

I wanted to stop the train of consequences I saw were already being played out in my family.   I didn’t want them to have to learn the hard way like I did (see blog post “Anxiety and Depression”).  Knowing the effect that overeating treats had on me, I was trying to warn them of impending destruction!  But it was often times like fighting a battle against the very people I was trying to save.

Insert around 5th Grade
I saw that after my kids OD-ed on treats, every one of them lost much of their ability to control their response process to everyday conflicts which was exactly what I experienced when I did the same.  Once Chris, my second, got some extra money.  He bought a box of fruit roll-ups, his attempt at compromising with me in choosing a healthy snack.  But he ate the whole box in a few hours.  Later that day we were at the church in the gym and he had a TOTAL MELTDOWN.  He was beside himself.  An average run-of-the-mill kid-conflict had arisen that he normally could handle.  But he had temporarily lost the conflict-resolution skills he normally had.  
It was hard to figure out what amount of treats was moderate and what was too much.  I found the balance by evaluating how much they ate vs. their behavior afterwards.
Needless to say, my kids didn’t see what I saw and I ended up with a pretty good rebellion on my hands.  The rest of the world seems to have no boundaries for treats for kids.  The philosophy appears to be that if the kid isn’t gaining excess fat, let him eat as much as he wants.  So I wasn’t only trying to stop the habits I had instilled in my kids but also the influence of the whole train of our society’s tradition that is still running at full speed along the tracks.
Aaron 7th Grade

In the middle of the aforementioned throws of diet change, my oldest son, Aaron, was officially diagnosed ADD by a medical doctor when he was in middle school.  A tween is never going to have totally balanced behavior.  But when Aaron showed escalating signs of not being able to respond in relative balance to the situations and conflicts that came his way, we decided to evaluate him a little more extensively.  Maybe this was one of those “chronic diseases” that couldn’t be prevented by diet alone?

 But Aaron did not want to take pills and resented the diagnosis even though he acknowledged his symptoms.   So I made a deal with him.  “Let’s do an experiment.  You eat how I’ve taught you to eat for 2 weeks.  No junk food.  No caffeinated soda.”   Caffeinated soda at that time was available at school from the vending machines in the hall!  But the middle schools around here have since got rid of those.  Thank heaven!  

See Blog Post: "Eating Healthy"

The plan was then for Aaron, Sherm, and me to evaluate how this change in diet affected his response process, how he felt, how he was able to think, etc.  If he was able to regain his normal balance by eating this way, he wouldn’t have to take the medication.

He readily agreed.  And I was secretly happy at this opportunity to show him (without nagging) how much his food choices were affecting him.  Yay!

I was pretty impressed with him over the next two weeks.  He reigned himself in and ate only what I gave him for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  When he ate snacks, they were what we had in the pantry.  It was a beautiful sight!  And sure enough, his ability to handle conflict returned to normal.

When we got together for our 2 week meeting, I asked him how he felt with the diet change.  He told me that he noticed a difference.  He was able to concentrate better at school, think through his choices, and felt better all around.  I asked him about his commitment from here on out.  He said that he was going to focus on getting the nutrition his body needed, eat treats in moderation, and stop drinking the caffeinated soda.  Together we determined how we would moderate that.  If the behavior started to return, we would know that he needed to decrease the treats.
He agreed.

That was about 9 years ago.  Over the years I’ve watched him.  He has kept his commitment.  Not all the time but most of the time and to the level of his own understanding.  I saw him repeatedly reign himself in and actually request healthy foods.  He is by nature an intense personality with a lot of energy.  When focused, which he has managed to do pretty well, he is a powerful influence for good.

He has made this concept of balance his own.  Not because his mom advocated it (since that’s usually reason to rebel against it) but because it is a true principle and he found that out through his own experimentation. 

I have learned that the best way to retrain kids is slowly--going easy on them but being consistently firm.  I have advocated treats in moderation and making changes in steps.  That is hard for me because once I understand a true principle, I want to take a bee line to aligning my choices with it.  Kids aren’t so into bee lines.  And turns out I make more lasting changes when I take it in steps too.
with Mom (left), with Lindsey Newman (center)

Elder Aaron Langford, with Elder Yu (left)
Here is something he wrote recently of his own volition and with the hope to demonstrate the vision of the Boston, MA Digital Mission.  It is not directly related to the point I’m writing about here but it demonstrates the strong will in this particular child and his continued ability to evaluate the past to make sense of the present, and prepare for the future.