It all started when me daughter was 10 days old. We knew better than to feed our baby sugar. In fact I had done the best I could during pregnancy to eat a healthy diet (or what I thought was healthy at the time) including lots of vegetables, some organic, lots of fruit, lots of whole grains and beans, moderate amounts of lean animal products. I also exercised all the way through pregnancy and had a baby of normal weight, 7lbs. 7 oz.
So we were really just having a little fun when we were enjoying a French Silk pie that had lots of wheat, chocolate, dairy and most of all sugar in it. Offering our daughter a taste seemed like a natural thing and after all it was only half a teaspoon or so. But that was only the beginning. In spite of our eating a reasonably healthy diet, still way better than the SAD, we did indulge in desserts regularly as well. It was not that unusual for me to eat a while 3oz. chocolate bar in one sitting and as our daughter grew up she came to expect sweet treats on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day. This was many years before we knew about the dangers of wheat in any form and our knowledge about sugar was largely limited to knowing that it may make people fat and that it is "bad" for you. We also assumed from superficial reading that it is normal and natural to crave sweet things, even wild and certainly domestic animals will take any opportunity to enjoy sweet foods when they can, so eating them occasionally (and for some reason I convinced myself that several times a day on some days qualified as occasionally) could not be THAT bad. Both my own weight and that of our daughter was always within "reasonable" limits, even then. I had managed to lose the majority of excess weight in my early 20's just by eating more natural foods, less junk food and exercising a lot. But that little belly in front told a different story. I remember my body fat percentage getting tested about 10 years ago and it was about 30%, not a very good number, but typical "skinny-fat". Within the first two years after my daughter was born I had started noticing reduced stress tolerance, reduced exercise tolerance, fatigue, some mild allergies, mood changes, all things that most people would attribute to the general experience of having children which includes getting up at night a lot for several years. Doubtless those were factors, but maybe just the factors that pushed my body over the edge. About 9 years ago I discovered that my thyroid values were abnormal, which my doctor tested for because of my low blood pressure and feeling cold a lot more than normal. At the time my blood sugar levels were still in the normal range with A1C at 5.2
My daughter was always healthy and very athletic through most of her childhood.
Fastforward to 2011: My daugther is now 15 and dealing with acne, consuming sugar daily in smaller amount (no soda pop, almost no juice, no gluten-grains), on average maybe 20-30 grams/day, although overall eating a healthy diet with carbs between 100-150 grams/day.
But still, she is dealing with carb cravings almost daily, evident in her looking for chocolate, sweet fruit and gluten-free pastries. She had at this point read Mark Sisson's "The Primal Blueprint" and was familiar with the basics of healthy eating.
After I had my A1C level tested and found that I was pre-diabetic at 5.9, in spite of eating fairly low carb I decided that my daughter needed to be tested, too. Her level was 5.7, still pre-diabetic, although on the border. Her physician recommended to lower carbs just a little bit, but 3 months later her A1C was still 5.7, not surprising to me, because at this point I was very aware how often she would snack on sweet things. She did not gain any weight by the way, in part due to genetics and an active life style. So a couple of days ago we had a long talk.
She already knew all the facts about insulin, low-carb eating and how it allows us to control blood sugar levels without medication from watching me. My own blood sugar levels had gone down from A1C of 5.9 to 5.7 over the course of about 6 months. The fact that at her age her levels were now the same as mine concerned me. So I went more into detail about the benefits of a low-carb, ketogenic diet, in particular the effect of eliminating or at least substantially reducing food cravings and eliminating the need to eat frequently. I also talked about the fact that there are really no other options that I can see to get her blood sugar level down without the use of drugs. At the same time I felt very remorseful that I had been the one pushing the sugar drug or at least allowing it's use at an age when the sugar habit could have been prevented. But then I also realized that in our culture she probably would have wanted to try all those foods that her friends eat eventually.
In any case, after showing some definite signs of going through the grieving stages (denial, anger at me, the messenger of bad tidings, and the world, sadness) and a lot of "testing the facts" she decided to give this paleo-low-carb thing an honest try. This past Saturday was probably the hardest day for her, including lots of physical sugar-withdrawal symptoms, many talks about carbs with me trying to listen more than talking, trying to find out if a little would be ok... . By Saturday night this had turned into some positive plans for making a low-carb cheesecake which she did make on Sunday morning with a raw nut crust, cream cheese, gelatin and "Just like Sugar" non-caloric sweetener.
We had a great day, going for hike having 3 wonderful paleo/low-carb meals and fortunately beautiful, sunny weather to lift anyone's mood.
I suspect this struggle is long from over completely but really am just hoping we can find lots of good, healthy foods for snacks and meals. We have another shopping trip planned for this afternoon and will do a lot of cooking and baking this week.
If anyone has experiences or questions concerning getting their kids over sugar and/or carb addictions I would love to hear from you.
In the meantime we are taking it one day at a time, maybe it will turn into a little bit of a competition who can get their blood sugar level down first.
I'm going to try to be as supportive and encouraging as I can, focusing on rewarding positive efforts rather than nagging about mistakes she makes while trying to be a role model.
If I can protect my daughter from some of the bad effects that sugar had on my body, probably including cancer as well as the things already mentioned, this would be my biggest reward.
I know that we can do it, and so can anyone else.