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Unexpected Parental Interest

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  • Unexpected Parental Interest

    My folks arrived back in WA state last week from a winter of snow-birding in Palm Desert. Last fall, before they left, we had dinner at the Olive Garden - their favorite place, hands down, decidedly un-primal, to be sure. Upon their return, we spent an evening visiting in their RV while they dry-camped at the local casino. I am struck by how things have changed over the last six months, my heart breaking with sadness on the one hand, and over-flowing with joy on the other.

    Neither of my parents are well. Both are overweight, nay, obese. Mother, 65 yo, is medicated for diabetes, but she works diligently at it (by CW ADA standards) and has limited success. Father, 67 yo, is obviously having heart problems, appears slightly ashen, is rather breathless, and I don't know his medication status. Mother's increasing befuddlement is matched only by Father's increasing depression and refusal to stop eating cheeseburgers and fries daily. I don't expect them to have too many more warm winters in sunny southern CA, if you know what I mean.

    At our autumn farewell dinner at the O.G., I had been primal for well over a year, and it was showing. Being the only health-minded diner in the group, my salad (I hate O.G. salads!) offered meager joy compared to their Endless Pasta Plates, and my partner's gnocchi. We discussed how bad my parents seemed on the way home, and for days afterward.

    Fast forwarding thru the winter, to last week. I'm about two-years into the Paleo/Primal thing, my partner is 4-months mostly-primal, and we're both enjoying our successes. We're visiting and exchanging gifts and catching up in my parent's RV. Father, for whom asking about one's weight was a beloved family joke, doesn't pop his expected question - and I was so looking forward to being able to answer him this year! He's looking worse than ever, heavier and more exhausted, but the SoCal tan is hiding the ashen, I suspect. Mother has lost a little bit of weight, maybe, but is hesitant to talk about food, or weight, or health. For the first time EVER, we do not share a meal together. (Leaving that visit, partner and I go across the parking lot to enjoy the Indian buffet, and I get a migraine for my cheat of breaded oysters, but oh well, and that's a different story).

    Mother walks us out to the car, while Dad stays in the RV and watches TV - again with the strange. She takes this opportunity to ask me what I've been doing. (Again with the mental issue, I've talked about my WOE with her via email dozens of times, on the phone dozens of times). "You've lost a lot of weight," she says, "and you're actually looking healthy!" I replied, rather off the cuff, that I'd just completed a 3-day, 50 mile hike. "No," she replies, "That's nothing new, and it isn't that, you both look skinny and fit. What are you doing? I have to do something."

    She sounded so defeated, I could cry, yet I'm elated that she is curious and ready to try something new. I wrote down the URL for MDA and promised her I'd get her started in the morning. What surprises me is this: a week later, she's still very interested, and she's even willing to toss CW aside, in light of empirical evidence (me). I thought I might get away with simply turning her loose at the site, maybe she could buy the book. Then I had a realization... she can't use the book. I think she's having severe enough cognitive issues that she can't read thru the book and grasp what it's telling her. She no longer reads novels, I have noticed, and she rarely responds to more than the first few lines of any email I send her.

    Now I find myself being asked things like, "I had x and y and z for lunch, why did my blood sugars crash to 60?"..."just exactly how much protein do I need? I don't like protein, it's hard to eat, and I'm scared it will damage my one kidney. Do I actually have to eat protein?"...

    I find myself in a difficult situation. She's my mother - I can't let anything bad happen to her, not if I can help it. She's under the care of multiple docs for multiple issues and taken multiple meds - and she wants me to start giving her not just dietary advice, but actual nutrition advice!! ACK!!! I'm not qualified. And how can I possibly help her digest some of the complicated issues around why I make some of the dietary choices I do? (I don't think she's going to muddle her way thru a discussion of how the body preferentially uptakes O6, so simply upping O3 isn't enough, you must limit O6. "OIC, well, how many carbs are in an omega?") I tried to explain ketosis to her the other day. Oof. And I'm trained in biology and o-chem, to boot!

    I've already gone over the bit about how anything I say should not be taken over a doctor's advice, and she needs to continue with all of her medicines, and shouldn't she talk to her doctors, especially her diabetes doc, before she does this? But I also have to share with her that her diabetes doc may not be doing her any good. She is going down the exact same route my Nana went down... and before I went Primal, I was headed down Mom's route... Nana died a horrible diabetes-related death where her guts basically rotted from the lifetime of SAD abuse. Mother has had much of her colon removed already. I feel I can change the course of her remaining years, with the understanding I now have, and she is willing to trust me on this, it seems.

    I worry, however, that I am backing myself into a dangerous corner, and putting her health at risk by urging her to stay the CW course, and that I am doing exactly the same thing by urging the BP course. I fear my ignorance could bring harm to her. Today, upon my request, she sent me her list of meds. Now I know I am in over my head.

    Have any of y'all dealt with this kind of thing? I sure could use some advice and wisdom here.

  • #2
    I think you're no less qualified to talk about nutrition to your mother than you are to guide your own diet and lifestyle. So maybe if you just present things as 'If I were you, I would do...." rather than "You should do..." it will take the pressure off feeling like you're being asked to direct her care.

    Where in WA does your mom live? There are four primal-friendly physicians around, listed on the Robb Wolf physican site: Paleo Physicians Network Are any of them within reach of your mom?

    Zone diet on and off for several years....worked, but too much focus on exact meal composition
    Primal since July 2010...skinniest I've ever been and the least stressed about food


    • #3
      Could you put together a list of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks using foods that you know she likes and are easy to prepare so she has something to fall back on, rather than her getting overwhelmed trying to work it all out.
      My photo diary of my primal diet on wordpress

      My primal journal on MDA.


      • #4
        My dad showed some interest in Primal and started it but said he didn't lose any weight on it after doing it for a month or so. He seemed dissatisfied and uninterested after that, and I don't really ask anymore about what he's eating. I just try to continue to get myself into better and better shape and tell my parent's/family what I do.

        I always had this worry though about if something happened to him while on PB how he and my mother would place the blame on me for recommending the PB and not the years of high carb/sugar way that they ate before.

        My mother told me a while back how she was overweight and I said "IT'S THE SUGAR" she said , "Yeah.. uh huh.." and continues to insist on desserts. Sigh...


        • #5
          Wow. That's a lot to have to deal with....the emotional issues, as well as the quandry of figuring out how to safely transition her to Primal.

          This task is massive if trying to do everything at once. Perhaps consider breaking this down into more managable baby-steps to get to your bigger goal of helping your mother find a healthier way of living.

          First, with her permission, you could ask to speak with the doctors who are treating her and get their opinions on how transitioning to Primal might affect how they are prescribing her medications. Perhaps they can monitor her with lab tests to adjust her med levels as she progresses (particularly with her diabetes) if they know what you are trying to accomplish.

          If getting her to understand the Primal concepts is too overwhelming, try getting her to make a single change per week, and stick to it--thus slowly stepping her into Primal....instead of trying to get her to comprehend it all at once. Explain one concept, make sure she understands it, help her develop a game plan to implement it, and then check her progress a week later with that before moving on to the next concept.

          And finally, I'd just like to say that when all is said and done, it's your mother who is going to have to find it within herself to do this--you can guide her and help her, but you can't own all the responsibility. If she truly desires to make this change for herself, she will find the strength and the willpower with your kind support and guidance to help her along though it. But if she decides that she just can't do it, then you must not blame yourself for that. JMVHO.


          • #6
            That would be a tough spot to be in. Do you think you can maybe tackle it slowly. Due to her age and conditions, I am not thinking a head first dive into primal would go so well. Maybe start getting her to change some meals around, shift a few things out slowly. Maybe have her give you a few days of meals she would normally cook, you tweak them a bit for her. I would say extreme primal would not be good....but at least getting things turned around a bit has got to help. Usually older folks tend to be very patterned, like they buy the same products religiously at the store. Maybe you can get a list, and shift. From low fat yogurt to X brand full fat, that sort of thing.

            I have been coaching my dad now through primal for awhile. He is in a slightly better cognitive state, BUT, he hasn't cooked for himself in 10 plus years (and not much 'real' cooking before that) this was a big leap for him. He is always calling me from the grocery store....should I get A or B brand? What goes with this meat? Can I freeze this? Cracks me up, I NEVER thought he would go primal, but come July he will have been a year primal, 30lbs lighter, and 100 times more mobile as his knees don't hurt I always answer the phone and I send him new recipes or info, and I coach him through chats with his doctor......hoping maybe staying primal keeps him out of my house longer!
            Daily Vlogs
            Primal Pets Blog


            • #7
              Question: Can she follow an audio book?
              Most people don't realize how much energy it takes for me to pretend to be normal.

              If I wanted to listen to an asshole, I'd fart.

              Twibble's Twibbly Wibbly


              • #8
                I'm experiencing the same issues with my mother who is diabetic and is trying to change her diet because she has seen such great results with myself. I told her to talk to her doctor and explain the changes in her diet. She has just really been following how I eat and has lost 7 pounds in a few days. But she has stopped taking her insulin, which I told her to talk to her doctors before doing. She is monitoring her blood sugars hourly and seems motivated to make this lifestyle change.

                I'm just worried she's going to make too many changes too fast and it will do more harm than good, so I'm going to try to go her next appointment with her diabeti doctor and explain the changes to him.

                I know it's for the better, just worried about her diabetes and her not taking her insulin.


                • #9
                  I would take her grocery shopping and plan her meals. Write everything down. If you are close enough, could you prepare some meals for the week? She doesn't necessarily need to understand why PB works. As things improve, she may be better able to grasp the finer points. I wish my mom would express even the slightest interest. I would love to be able to help her.


                  • #10
                    Start off slow. I fear you're making this more complicated than it needs to be. Tackle one meal at a time.

                    Breakfast: No to cereal and breads. Yes to eggs and meat and greens.

                    As far as the meds: Her doctor will adjust her down according to her blood sugar/blood pressure logs. They are fairly clueless (and you probably know just as much about nutrition as they do, if not more), but they can at least do that much.
                    "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." -- Hippocrates


                    • #11
                      Wow, thanks for the great feedback everyone! These are very much the things I needed to hear.

                      My approach has been one of a slow transition. I remind her that her primary goal is to avoid grains and eat more fat. But when she brought up that BS crash and such, things seemed very daunting.

                      She sends this earlier today:
                      Had a good dinner - fresh ground chicken patty, no breading. Cooked in butter. Then I took 1/2 clove garlic, 3 T green pepper, about 4 large mushrooms and cooked them together in butter. Yummy. Then I topped it off with a bowl of cooked spinach. It was sure good. So full I can hardly finish all my chicken.

                      That sounds like progress.

                      She also shared that the doc was already making noise about decreasing her meds due to her A1C level. That too, sounds good. Once she's off the meds, or at least more appropriately dosed, I'll feel much better about lowering her carbs. For now, we're focusing on eating protein and fat and avoiding grains.

                      And Lizch: they're in, variously, Marysville and Monroe. If you're finding docs nearby, they won't be too far away for her. So thank you for that particular suggestion.

                      I am suggesting a Pantry-Primalizing for next week.


                      • #12
                        I honestly feel like 90% of the health benefits (barring alergies, celiac disease, etc.) can be obtained just from cutting out sugar and pre-packaged/pre-made foods and ingredients and adding back traditional quantities of healthy fats (like a pat of butter on your potato, not downing cans of coconut milk).

                        For someone who is ill and is not interested, or can't turn primal into a "hoby" like all of us who spend time on forums and find reading about diet and science interesting, the most important thing is to seriously cut out all the sugar possible and make balanced, homemade meals out of fresh, whole ingredients (think something like the old four food groups, with lots of meat, eggs, and vegatables to balance out the grains...not food pyramid!).

                        If you can cut out grains, then go for it. But above all, cut the sugar out. If you can only do one thing, cut the sugar out. I think that alone will improve your parent's health immensly.


                        • #13
                          Good for you - it sounds like she is starting to get it.

                          I like the idea of the audiobook. Maybe you could make just some quick notes for her, like an Eat This Not That type of thing. You wouldn't have to get into a ton of detail, just the basics.


                          • #14
                            I think your mom would be so inspired (and motivated) by some of the many diabetes success stories here:

                            Went Primal, Ditched the Diabetes Meds | Mark's Daily Apple
                            off insulin 6 weeks after going Primal!

                            Pictures Don’t Tell the Whole Story | Mark's Daily Apple
                            her doctors started eating Primal after seeing how well she was doing

                            The Unconquerable Dave | Mark's Daily Apple
                            didn't have diabetes, but one of the greatest success stories of all time, from a 53-y/o man (great pictures!)
                            Last edited by TigerLily; 05-11-2011, 04:47 PM.
                            "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." -- Hippocrates