As I have mentioned before, Jon follows a gluten-free diet and has since 2006 when he was 10 years old. Jon has never been thrilled with the idea of following the gluten-free diet. He never really felt physically ill from eating gluten before he went on the gluten-free diet, so he didn’t have a lot of motivation. He did have some constipation and ADHD-like symptoms, but no cramping or diarrhea. If Jon accidentally ingests gluten now, he is in the bathroom with diarrhea within 30 – 60 minutes. I am sure that he is really appreciative of my sharing that with you all, too.
Jon has frequently told me that as soon as he is old enough, i.e., not living under my roof, he is going to eat gluten again. I explained that while I wouldn’t be able to control his diet when he was an adult, his body might have something to say about that. He goes back & forth with me all the time and says that if it doesn’t make him sick he is going to eat it. I have tried explaining that even though he may not feel sick that the gluten can still be causing damage to his body. For example, the first 10 years of his life, he never really felt sick when he was eating gluten. Does that mean it wasn’t hurting him? No. His small intestine was being damaged. When he had his endoscopy & biopsy in June 2006, his villi were damaged. Does this information matter to a stubborn teenage boy? No.
So, how do I keep Jon from ingesting gluten? I have thought about this a lot lately & have come up with some ideas.
- Blood work – Jon sees his GI doctor yearly for checkups & she checks his blood to see if he is getting any trace amounts of gluten. This will help show the big picture, but obviously can’t be used to monitor him on a regular basis.
- Health benefits – Try to reinforce the health benefits of sticking to the gluten-free diet. The gluten-free diet is a healthy diet when lean proteins, vegetables, fruits & whole grains are incorporated. I try to teach my kids that we “eat to live” not “live to eat”. Jon’s hockey coach is playing a role in this as well. The coach asks the kids to eat a banana before each game. Jon said that while he doesn’t like bananas, he has noticed a difference in his performance when he does eat the banana.
- Positive reinforcement – I think praise goes so much further than criticism. I try not to bad mouth the gluten-free diet and have a positive outlook on it. Learn by example. If Jon sees me having a positive attitude about the food that we eat it will hopefully carry over to him.
- Involve him in cooking/baking – Try to recreate favorites or create new ones. Ask for his help and show him how he can make good gluten-free food. Ask him for his ideas and use some of them. This will give him a sense of empowerment, which will really go a long way.
I don’t want ever to punish him for not wanting to follow the diet or not following the diet. It hasn’t come to the point of him cheating yet, or that I am aware of. I don’t want to make this a battle or a power struggle. However, if he were to start cheating on the diet, what would I do? I think that if it came to that point I would enlist the help of Jon’s pediatrician and/or GI doctor or maybe even a counselor to help him work through his feelings.