Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. I have a wonderful partner for this life, my Valentine, but I also like to use this day to focus on a different Valentine . . . our daughter. Maggee is 12 and inhabiting that difficult space that every preteen must navigate. A space filled with self-doubt and experiments in identity. There are risks in being too much like all the others, but it is downright perilous to stray too far from the group. To make matters worse . . . our family adopted a Paleo lifestyle at the very same moment. Maggee’s incredible adaptability and self-discipline in making this move, particularly at this moment in her life’s journey, has thoroughly impressed my husband and I. She has learned just as much as we have about nutrition and despite the tricky social encounters it has involved, she is a dedicated Paleo girl. Maggee we admire your already strong sense of self and couldn’t possibly love who you are more deeply.
I asked her to write a guest blog about Paleo eating in middle school (can you imagine a tougher place to pull it off). This is what she had to say:
Here’s the thing I eat gluten free. All my friend’s moms know that . . . my friends always ask why I can’t eat something. I say it’s because, if I don’t eat it, I don’t have any migraines and I get a lot less headaches. They ask me questions then, but it ends quick when they get bored by my shortened answers.
At school people make fun of me about my lunch, but the truth is that they barely eat breakfast, a donut maybe . . . Then on top of that they come to school and eat salad with hot sauce on it, chocolate milk, chicken patty, and a hash brown stick. Even though I still eat a lot of candy (gluten free of course) and don’t always finish all of my lunch, I eat a breakfast of eggs, O.J. or water, and sausage. I feel better if I eat a lot of protein in the morning. Plus, for lunch I go healthy. I have protein, fruit, veggies, and a yummy gluten-free snack. People don’t understand that eating affects you in more ways then commercials lead on.
My friends always say, “Well, I’m just not a healthy person and I don’t like all that healthy food. It’s not hurting me. I eat like a pig and I don’t get fat.” But what they don’t/can’t see is that it isn’t about getting fat. You can look as skinny as can be and be so sick on the inside. I know that, ‘cause my mom used to be that way. She has Celiac Disease.
Now, I know that I’m not the PERFECT example. My mom said she’s not going to make me do an endoscopy or colonoscopy, so I don’t know what my insides look like, but I’m pretty sure they look good, ‘cause I eat Paleo most of the time. There is another reason I’m not a PERFECT example, because I LOVE junk food!!!
Friend, “Junk food is the best.”
Me,“Yeah, it’s pretty good, but I can’t eat most of it because of gluten.”
Friend, “Your allergic to gluten?”
Friend: “OMG, I feel so bad for you!”
I can get passed the junk food cravings though, ‘cause there are a lot of gluten free and Paleo treats I can have. My mom and I make Paleo brownies and chocolate macaroons and cookies.
This is a typical conversation between my friends and I. It goes like this:
Friend, “Maggee, want a Dorito?”
Me (in my mind), “Yes, yes, yes!”
Me, “No, I’m allergic to gluten…”
Me (in my mind), “I wish I wasn’t.”
Friend, “Oh, right. Sorry, I forgot.”
Sometimes I wonder if they really did forget or are they just trying to rub it in my face. Well, no . . . because that’s not what friends do. But they must have a VERY bad memory, considering they ask me like everyday! I mean it offends me. Not like they did anything wrong, but inside it feels like they meant to. I mean yes, I would love a Dorito thanks, but I can’t.
People tell me I’m strong all the time. The thing is I don’t feel strong! They don’t know it, but I cry about eating gluten free sometimes, but not for the reason everybody thinks. I don’t really care about the food part, it’s the social part that I don’t like! I just hate feeling left out. Ask any of my family. I feel left out, dorky, and most of all worried. Thoughts, I often have in my head are, “When I’m invited to her B-Day party, will my mom let me eat gluten?” “Is she going to suggest I bring my own food?” “Wouldn’t I look stupid and feel left out, because everyone was chowing down on brownies, while I ate one of (and I quote my 'disgusting' chocolate macaroons which everybody seems to gag and then spit out upon tasting), my delicious gluten free and dairy free cookies?" I push these thoughts out of my head.
If there’s a kid out there reading this, some tactics I use are these:
Friend, “Ewwwwwwwww, that cookie looks like a pile of poop!”
Me (in a sassy voice), “Haven’t you ever heard of a macaroon? Because this is just a macaroon, but chocolate, so I don’t know what the big deal is?”
Me, “Wanna try one?”
Me, “Cool, more for me!”
Friend looks down at table . . . Personally, I think they feel dumb.
Or, if they say, “Yes I do want to try.” Then do this:
Friend, “Ewwwww!” (Spits over trash can.) “What is that?”
Me, “A brownie, it tastes just like a normal one, so I don’t know what your big deal is?”
Friend, “Ummmmm, it didn’t taste good though…”
Me, “Well, that’s weird, because my mom’s whole work likes them and she works with a lot of cool people.”
So, what I’m trying to say is don’t feel bad. Eating different can be challenging in school, but it’s not so bad.
With the exception of some editing for flow and grammar that we worked on together, this is all in Maggee’s own words.