These past couple weeks, I’ve really been feeling the urge to talk about something specific- cheating. And no, I’m not talking about the relationship cheating; I’m talking about the food cheating. You know, when your child isn’t supposed to have wheat, dairy, or soy and yet you catch him with his hand in the cookie jar. Or, if your child is on the elemental diet and sneaks something as small as a piece of popcorn.
Personally, I have been on numerous restrictive diets, as well as the elemental diet. Before you scold your children for eating something they shouldn’t, let me say this: Sticking to a super restrictive diet is one of the hardest things I have to do in my life. Harder than the SAT’s, harder than running sprints, harder than writing a term paper. When I’m on a diet, being 100% clean is extremely difficult. It’s not as easy as saying, “Just walk away, just don’t do it.” It’s easy to sneak a bite when no one’s looking. It’s easy to steal a scrap when you convince yourself that one bite won’t make a difference. However, it’s hard to walk away when you feel like food will make you happier. It’s hard to leave the scene when you miss chewing (if you’re on elemental.)
Sadly, I’ve cheated on a few of my diets. I’ve snuck food, hid wrappers, and covered up crumbs. And let me tell you, afterwards, I feel HORRIBLE. Not only does my body wreck havoc on me, but also I am pulled into an emotional guilt-hole. I hate myself afterwards, telling myself how I should have more self-control and how I’m weak. I tell myself how I’ve let my parents down and how they must be so disappointed in me.
If your children are anything like me, then chances are they’ve felt some of the shame, guilt, anger, weakness, and complete and utter hunger that I’ve felt.
If you catch your child cheating, or if they come to you and tell you that they ate something that they weren’t supposed to, take a deep breath. Yes, it sucks. They’ve either messed up a scope date or hurt their bodies or both. It’s not only time-consuming but it’s money consuming. It benefits no one and only frustrates you more. I get it. But please, realize how difficult of a time your child is having. In a perfect world, sneaking food wouldn’t even be a thing. And yet, in the world of EoE, it seems criminal to take a bite of chocolate. When (not if) your child sneaks food, talk to them. Explain how it hurts not only their bodies, but also the process of healing them. Ask them why they wanted to sneak food; were the hungry? Upset? Lonely? If they cheat when they’re hungry, try leaving their “safe” food in a easy to reach spot. If they’re upset, leave out paper and pencil so they can write down their feelings, and have them throw it in a basket and hopefully that can replace cheating. Figure out the emotions behind the cheating, so you can try to prevent the cheating.
Also, it helps if you keep temptation away from them. Don’t leave fresh apple pie on the stove, don’t leave chips within eyesight, and don’t leave the Kool-Aid in a reachable spot.
Cheating is a hard thing to deal with. If you talk to your child and figure out why they are sneaking food, you may be able to divert their attention to something else and curb their cheating tendencies.