Why I Blog: Inspiration In Black And White (And A Few Rainbows)
Even just a year ago, I never imagined I’d be blogging about food coloring sensitivities and children’s behavior. That is partly because I was oblivious to our food dye allergy back then, but also because I didn’t understand blogging. I admit that I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to read someone’s personal thoughts and daily “stuff.” I confess that my husband and I even joked that bloggers must be pretty darn self-involved. We had this whole thing figured out, the way we somehow knew exactly how we’d raise our future offspring, before said offspring arrived. Oh, bless our hearts.
But blogging, like our diet, has changed so much even in the past year. It has evolved quickly from a lonesome landscape to a densely populated and endlessly interesting community. An indication of that growth can be seen in the number of new web sites, books, huge conferences, and even blogs…all about blogging. Anyone can blog! This is both a good and bad thing, of course…
There will always be spectators, readers, and even blind eye turners. A fellow blogger friend was just telling me that her older relatives see some folks in our age group as having a narcissism problem. I get that, and I’ve seen some pretty self-serving blogs. But I honestly still wonder why the heck anyone would want to read anything I have to say. I can tell you that I would never be blogging at all if we hadn’t discovered our allergy to artificial dyes. Her story made me realize that there is a generation gap when it comes to expressing ourselves, especially online.
Case in point: My own father says he does not read my blog. When I excitedly told him about my new blog last Fall, the only thing he said was that the picture of my husband and I drinking those bright red slushy drinks (in My Rainbow Connection) looked “arrogant.” The significance of those unnaturally neon drinks was lost on him, because he didn’t read the story behind them. Just this week when I told him that I have the opportunity to have some work syndicated on a major blogging network, his only words to me were, “UH OH!!!! Watch out, you’re gonna get SUED!!!”
The irony is that my main goal is to NOT need this blog anymore – because when we’ve shifted the food industry with our purchase choices and food dyes are gone, my job here is done. Some don’t get that what my blogger friend and I are doing is the complete opposite of self-involvement. We are putting ourselves out there, telling our decidedly un-pretty stories, and being open and honest…to help others. We gotta embrace this new outlet, full force. And besides, my muse wears roller skates - Just TRY and stop her (okay she’s a little slow, outdated, and unreliable sometimes, but her outfits rock!).
“So shines a good deed in a weary world.” – Willie Wonka (quoting William Shakespeare, from “The Merchant Of Venice”)
I want to give some shout outs (shouts-out?) to some do-gooders, young and old, whom I believe are changing the world. This week provided me with so much inspiration, it was coming from every direction. My sister and her husband visited and invited us to tag along to the Jimmy Carter Center. I’ve lived here in Atlanta for almost three years, and yet I had never been there.
Wow. I don’t care what you think of him as a political leader, this man has lived a good life. His work to fight poverty, diseases and discrimination in his steady way, makes me hopeful. His push for peace and civil rights makes me grateful for people who speak up. “The awareness that health is dependent upon habits that we control makes us the first generation in history that to a large extent determines its own destiny.” – Jimmy Carter. Amen. My seven year old loved it, and even left Mr. Carter a thank-you drawing of a dove and peace sign.
Then I attended a Lunch and Learn which was hosted by some volunteers from the Feingold Association. These moms, caregivers, and professionals gave their time to share a thought-provoking presentation in a local library. I felt right at home there, nodding my head every few seconds, watching the audience’s reactions when they learned what is really in our food. For detailed shopping and restaurant guides, check out their web site at www.Feingold.org
Also this week – Bill Gates gave $200 million to smallholder farmers, millions of people decried a corporate stranglehold on our food system for Occupy Our Food Supply, and CBS aired areport about the dangers of artificial food coloring all over the country. A kid named Birke Baehr spoke up for sustainable food at conferences. Schools are changing their lunch menus and buying their own vending machines to stock up with healthy snacks. Chefs like Ann Cooper (“The Renegade Lunch Lady”) are giving their expertise to public schools to make cafeteria food healthier.
I’ve also learned practical stuff from my friends and readers, like the suggestion for how to treat an accidental food dye exposure. One reader shared that you can give your child half a teaspoon of baking soda with juice or water, or let them soak in a bath of one cup epsom salts and warm water. An allergy nurse from the Feingold Association took my call one early morning and suggested that one of our readers give her son dye-free Benadryl and then get him seen by the pediatrician while the reaction was still happening, so that the doctor could observe it. These are good things to know.
Good deeds are admirable, but words are just as powerful. I follow the work of writers like Fed Up With Lunch and The Lunch Tray on Twitter and Facebook. If you haven’t read them yet, please do…It is a real eye-opener for parents. The Feingold volunteers suggested that everyone give a copy of “What’s Eating Your Child: The Hidden Connections Between Food And Childhood Ailments” by Kelly Dorfman, to their pediatricians. Moms are blogging about how to teach kids to make healthy choices, like Laurie at Food Dye Diaries and Christina at Spoonfed. And non-blogger moms all over the country are tweeting and e-mailing their concerns to food manufacturers such as Kraft, PepsiCo, Coca Cola, WalMart, and Kellogg’s. I know quite a few people who have asked the Girl Scouts national office to change their cookie recipes and send a healthier message to kids.
Words from respected organizations are powerful too. Here’s a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics from 2008, confirming what moms all over the world already know (print this for your doc):
“Despite increasing data supporting the efficacy of stimulants in preschoolers with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) parents and providers understandably seek safe and effective interventions that require no prescription. A recent meta-analysis of 15 trials concludes that there is “accumulating evidence that neurobehavioral toxicity may characterize a variety of widely distributed chemicals.” [Schab DW, et al. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2004;25:423–434] Some children may be more sensitive to the effects of these chemicals, and the authors suggest there is a need to better identify responders. In real life, practitioners faced with hyperactive preschoolers have a reasonable option to offer parents. For the child without a medical, emotional, or environmental etiology of ADHD behaviors, a trial of a preservative-free, food coloring–free diet is a reasonable intervention.” – Alison Schonwald, MD, FAAP, of the Developmental Medicine Center at Children’s Hospital in Boston (published in the February 2008 issue of the AAP Grand Rounds).
And the Editors’ Note which follows states:
“Although quite complicated, this was a carefully conducted study in which the investigators went to great lengths to eliminate bias and to rigorously measure outcomes. The results are hard to follow and somewhat inconsistent. For many of the assessments there were small but statistically significant differences of measured behaviors in children who consumed the food additives compared with those who did not. In each case increased hyperactive behaviors were associated with consuming the additives. For those comparisons in which no statistically significant differences were found, there was a trend for more hyperactive behaviors associated with the food additive drink in virtually every assessment. Thus, the overall findings of the study are clear and require that even we skeptics, who have long doubted parental claims of the effects of various foods on the behavior of their children, admit we might have been wrong.”
And if that wasn’t powerful enough, there are plenty of big scientific words dedicated to this subject matter, available to one and all. Feingold has a link to many studies dating back to the 1970s here. You can search more studies at PubMed with the following study names, journals, and dates:
Swanson and Kinsbourne (Science), 1980
Egger (The Lancet), 1985
Kaplan (Pediatrics), 1989
Carter (Archives of Diseases in Childhood), 1993
Boris (Annals of Allergy), 1994
Rowe and Rowe (Journal of Pediatrics), 1994
McCann (The Lancet), 2007
Tanaka 1993, 1996, 2001, 2005; Vorhees 1983
Rosenkranz 1990; Sweeney 1994; Tsuda 2001; Sasaki 2002
I’ve come across some hot arguments in comments on other food additive blogs. Some folks even get pretty personal with the attacks on parents who have seen their children have bad reactions to food additives…which makes me wonder if they’re actually trying to convince people that their statements are fact, or just that they’re awful people. I don’t need someone with a white lab coat to tell me that when my kid’s behavior chart looks all yellow and red, it correlates with the yellow and red food coloring she ingested. I value kindness over wonkish pugnacity any day, and that’s what makes bloggers so special. They don’t have to be experts at everything to spread useful information. They just share. They help each other, and in this way, they all just keep getting better and better.
Speaking of sharing, I enjoy the information and discussions happening on the DFD Facebook page every day. But since many folks do not use Facebook, I want to add a discussion board here on the blog for readers to share useful information and advice with one another. Some of the forums will be: Traveling dye-free; Alternative dye-free products; How To Make Natural Dyes; Dye-Free Celebrations; School Food; Contact Info for Food Manufacturers; and Contact Info for Lawmakers. If you would like to see any other forums added, please leave your suggestions in a comment below or e-mail me at admin[at]diefooddye[dot]com.
One last bit of inspiration for those days when nobody seems to “get it”…I came across this quote this week…brought a smile to my weary face:
“Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut that held its ground.” – David Icke