When we were kids back in the ‘80s, my sisters and I were a sickly bunch. Thankfully it wasn’t anything immediately life-threatening, but asthma, eczema and allergies were regular companions.
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If there was a bug, flu or pox doing the rounds of the playground we’d be the first to catch it and the last back at school.
I don’t remember being particularly bothered by it, but understandably it was driving my parents to distraction. Finally, on holiday in a small seaside town they came across a naturopath and promptly made an appointment.
My sisters and I were no strangers to GPs, ENT specialists, dermatologists, and allergists but a naturopath was something completely new.
The naturopath seemed like a nice enough fellow and did nothing more scary than shine a small torch into our eyes. The real pain only hit a few days later once we were back at home and The New Regime was begun.
Gone were the fun techni-color breakfast cereals, replaced by a bowl of earnest looking oatmeal. Where the glass of chocolate milk once stood was a large lecithin laced fruit smoothie. Worse still, it was ringed by a bunch of what may as well have been football sized vitamin tablets… apparently these were to be swallowed!
Lunchtime brought no joy with my sandwich fillings no longer enveloped in silky smooth white bread, instead brutally held prisoner by rough grainy bread.
When the routine request for an after school ice cream was met with an offer of four grapes (no more than four – grapes are very acidic)I was smart enough to realise that dinner would involve vegetables and lots of them.
Like a mean marauding army, The New Regime’s infiltration went beyond the dining room and into the bathroom, where Barbie lost her job as my shampoo and bubble bath of choice. She was cruelly replaced by freaky things that sounded like Star Wars characters – Jojoba? Aloe Vera? Yowsers!
Of course I fought these perceived atrocities every step of the way. I argued that whole grain bread was just white bread with bits of plastic in it. I snuck as many sugary treats as I could when visiting friends.
I devised elaborate (and I thought, hugely clever) ways of hiding bits of broccoli and liver under cutlery and even worked out a bribery system whereby my sister would occasionally eat some unbearable titbit from my plate for me. For the right price.
In fact I was too busy fighting it all to notice that I no longer had to retire from running around with the other kids because I was wheezing. I didn’t miss the red, itchy patches behind my knees. And whilst I’d never been ‘the fat kid’ as such, I now wasn’t always the second last kid picked for team sports.
It would have pained me enormously to say it back then, but now I’m hugely grateful to that naturopath and to my parents. Introducing (ok forcing) the benefits of quality, nutritionally valuable food to me at an early age laid the foundations for not only ongoing good health but the ability to make intelligent eating decisions as an adult.
Sure I still sometimes find myself at the supermarket thinking “Haha! I can buy whatever crazy colored sugar-laden cereal I want”. But I now have the wisdom to not actually want it.
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Dana Flannery is a reformed junk food nut with itch free skin. She is now raising her own family with grainy bread, fruity treats, and organic baby products and they're none the wiser life could be sweeter, saltier and itchier! She works in Social Media Marketing and lives in Brisbane, Australia.