Whole 30 for the Special Needs Parent

Stacy Warden by Stacy Warden Additional Needs

Stacy Warden

Stacy Warden

Author of Noah's Miracle blog. Noah had suffered "global damage" to his brain. As a result the prognosis was grim. They said Noah would mostly like...

When it comes to food there are a host of issues, problems and challenges that come along with that for a special needs parent.

The universal theme is we simply don't really have the time to adequately take care of ourselves, which includes our diet.

You'll hear countless people preach, "You have to make time for yourself."  This is not that blog.

I'm neither here to scold you or tell you how you need to treat yourself better.

It goes without saying we know we come last, and you know what?  We're okay with that, because we know our children need and deserve to come first.

But in the back of our minds, especially as our children grow and get bigger, we have this little imaginary birdie that sits on our shoulder that says you're not getting any younger and you've got to give your body a little tender loving care in order to go the distance for your child with special needs.

For some we're inspired to dust off the elliptical and treadmill that has sat in the basement for over ten years that you contemplated selling in a garage sale.

For others it means trying to balance a better diet because you know there is no way you have extra time to exercise beyond lifting our children's heavy adapted medical equipment.

No matter what route we decide to take towards preserving and bettering our bodies for the sake of our special needs children the point is we're all exploring our options.

The really great thing about social media is that it often puts things in your field of vision that otherwise wouldn't be there.

I don't make new year's resolutions, so my personal interest in self-preservation and health had nothing to do with the turn of a new year.

Perhaps an unwanted birthday milestone was headed my way that made me realize that I needed to start giving thought to things I really hadn't before.

My strength, my continued endurance, both my physical and mental health - as special needs parenting can take its toll on both.

I was seeking clarity in my thoughts; calmness in the continual special needs storms, peace, comfort, and personal empowerment.

I wanted to start to attempt to achieve my personal physical best for my child.

This had nothing to do with being overweight or underweight, or measuring myself up against the hottest twenty something in a magazine.  Just being the best me.

Like anyone I am sure I could have stood to lose five to ten pounds of lingering baby weight (who are really kidding?.. I mean stress weight) but that that wasn't at all my primary reason for searching out ways to find my personal physical best that I could be.

As I was touring through social media some long time friends had started a new diet plan called Whole 30.

Thanks Tim and Sarah... (as you deserve honorable mention).

I was intrigued.  Tim and Sarah were making these Facebook live videos.  I was reeled in with how happy and healthy they were looking.  In fact, they kind of glowed and I'm not even exaggerating.

They documented their entire 30 days - they made it appear not completely easy but absolutely doable.

And it looked like a diet that a special needs mom with a heavy load on her shoulders could easily do. And let's face it. We all need easy or at least easier...

I bought the book and researched the rules.  There were lots of guidelines and for a brief second I thought this could be the impossible mission to be successful at.

But then I remembered that we're full of beating the odds in families like ours.  A diet plan wouldn't be any different.

In the beginning you might be a lot like me.  You might think it's cost prohibitive, or you might think clean eating is going to be complicated and time consuming to plan menus and grocery shop for, you might be worried that you'll be a raging lunatic without your chocolate and sugar in your coffee.

But after you get all those things out of your head, you'll realize that even the most time-deprived special needs parent can do it.

So what is Whole 30 exactly?  It's a diet plan that excludes potentially inflammatory foods and beverages from your diet.

This means no sugars or sweeteners, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods and beverages, baked goods, and junk foods that we all love to swipe off the shelves in pre-packaged containers.

It is eating three clean meals a day with simply as the name suggests; whole foods. Ingredients such as fresh berries and fruit, eggs, vegetables, and meat proteins, and approved nuts and oils and ghee.

In the beginning the big picture feels a lot more complicated than it turns out to be. You'll quickly find that finding ways to eat a bit simpler isn't as hard as you dreamed it would be.

The hardest part for me was probably condiments and coping with the fact that I'd have to give up creamer in my coffee.

But, I quickly found creative Whole 30 approved ways around that with different products that had never been on my field of vision before like grain free granola, NutPods, Red Barn almond milk and last but not least Tessamae's line of amazing condiments.

Now in the beginning perhaps a few more dollars went to replacing things like traditional Heinz ketchup in the refrigerator and dumping all those sugar cubes in the trash...

but I had faith that I was headed towards an improved me that would be healthier and stronger to go the distance so that I could take care of my child with special needs for as long as humanly possible.

Thirty-days goes by so quickly. The first few days admittedly were not a bowl of cherries. I still craved things.

I still wanted a piece of my child's Valentine's Day candy, I still wanted my Starbucks indulgent coffee and ached for a cherry danish and a Lamar's chocolate donut.

But my body and brain started to forget what I thought I was missing and after a full week I no longer wished or wanted any of it, even if it was within arm's reach.

I started to notice I slept better, when my child was sleeping I was able to sleep.  Something, I haven't been able to do in maybe years.

After he fell asleep even for brief moments of time throughout the night I would stay up contemplating all that could go wrong if I so much as blinked in the night, or going over all the day's prior special needs difficulties and problems that I was unable to fix.

I noticed my skin get brighter, my dark under eye circles were starting to diminish, I felt like I actually had more energy, and I was able to manage those special needs roller coaster moods a tad easier.

Of course the tears still happen, as they will for most all special needs parents, it was easier to come out of those tears for an equal amount of smiles.

My aches and pains were significantly less, and my muscles felt as if they rebounded slightly faster from all that special needs lifting. And at the end of thirty days I had extra bonus of an eleven pound weight loss.

While my physical appearance didn't likely look tremendously different since weight loss wasn't the primary focus, I felt different.  I felt better.

It was as if I had detoxed all the bad foods and habits from my system.

After thirty days the decision is really yours to decide what foods you felt best eliminating from your diet.

You can chose to continue on, adapt to a more Paleo style way of eating, or re-introduce things like sugars and dairy again should you chose.

For me, I've found while I can handle the occasional treat, that my body now completely rejects most of what I gave up for thirty days.

And I feel sluggish both inside and out if I try to go back to bad eating habits.

But whether you chose to give Whole 30 a try for yourself or chose a different food plan that you feel is a better fit - the truth of the matter is food has a lot to do with our personal health so that we can continue to be strong in all the ways we need to be for our children with special needs.

So do some light research for yourself, find a food plan or diet that you think best matches your needs and lifestyle, try something new and different even if just for 30 days to see if you notice any changes in how you feel.

You may be pleasantly surprised at what a small change in diet can do.


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