Food was once just something I ate (too much of, on occasion!) and enjoyed eating! It wasn’t something I spent too much time thinking about or worried about, but all this changed 8 years ago. Since the births of my sons, 8 and 6 years ago, I’ve realised that food is so much more – it is socially and culturally pivotal in UK life.
My children can’t eat the foods that most other people can eat – they can’t eat dairy, egg or soya products. They can’t eat ‘normal’ food at Christmas, Easter or birthday parties and I hadn’t realised what a huge psychological impact this would have on them, and us.
They feel ‘different’ and regularly say they want to be ‘like everyone else’. They even get treated differently – I remember a mum at my sons school once saying that she wouldn’t be able to invite my son to tea as she didn’t want my sons restrictive eating habits to rub off on her child.
We’ve had restaurants rudely turn us away, rather than have to spare a few minutes checking ingredients, waiters sneer at our admittedly unusual food choices, friends refuse to eat our free from f oods, and children’s party venues refuse to allow us to bring our own ‘safe foods’ for the children.
To complicate matters further, not only can my sons not eat some foods, but they regularly refuse the foods they can eat due to the psychological impact of food having caused them pain for years. They have ‘food aversive’ behaviour which essentially means they are so anxious around food that they self restrict and often try to avoid food altogether.
Mealtimes have become a battle ground, and it goes without saying that mummy never wins. Our mealtimes have changed so much – they are regularly the focus of the day and every spoonful is monitored to check they get enough nutrition.
How we solve these issues is not yet clear but , as always, we plough on with positivity, encouragement, love and support.
The one thing that has become clear though, is that food is so much more than a source of nutrition, particularly for children. Maybe we could all pay a thought for the children on special diets and try to be more inclusive wherever we can – at schools, at friends houses, parties and special occasions.
In a society where allergies and intolerances are rapidly increasing, this will become increasingly important.
An afterthought – having reread this blog, I realise I’ve included about the more difficult food experiences we have had but of course I must mention the fact that we have also experienced immense kindness and some friends and family have gone way beyond in trying to make my sons feel welcome and included – thanks guys!!
For more information visit www.freefromforkids.co.uk