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This week’s Sunday Morning Coffee is Part 2 of the Process of Elimination-Advocating a Diet Free of Fakes.  This is a 3-part series based on the personal experiences witnessed by Lelhani in her journey to improve her daughter’s health and struggles with hyper-activity and behavior issues through an elimination diet.  Lelhani is not an expert, nor does she consider herself one.  Please consult with your own healthcare professional before you make any changes that may affect the well-being of your child.

If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can find it here.

RSM:  That’s pretty overwhelming news.  How were you able to even wrap your head around where to start and how to organize your plan of action?

LMP: The same night I spent surfing the internet, I decided to make list of all the top things that we buy and consume on a daily basis.  Surely, it could not be that bad.  I mean, my husband and I were both gourmet chefs and I had worked in the Food Service Industry for quite some time.  I was well aware of the ins and outs of processing foods, products, etc.  I started to make a list: Frozen waffles (no specific brand, we would buy whatever was available or on sale at the time.  So at any given point, our freezer could be housing brands like Kashi, Eggo, they could be home-style, whole grain, whatever.), Cream Cheese, jelly and bread.  Right off the bat I discovered Yellow #5 in our Eggo brand waffles.  The Cream Cheese and jelly had proved to be alright, but the Orowheat Whole Wheat (look under their “Ingredients” menu to find azodicarbonamide listed) bread I had grown to trust, was using a dough conditioner called azodicarbonamide, also known as AZC.  This chemical alone is supposedly outlawed in several countries where companies actually receive large fines for using it in their products, and it’s also a direct link for asthma triggers.  At that moment, it all started to come full circle to me, and I realized that there was so much more I could be doing to save my daughter’s, and our family’s, health.  The bread is a huge staple in our family.  It was the one thing I knew she would at least be getting some nutrition from even if she was only eating jelly and Cream Cheese sandwiches.  I felt so disillusioned and cheated by the government (FDA) and the food companies.  The more research I did, the more I learned that studies had been showing a link to artificial colors and hyperactivity for some time.  Think back to the 70’s when the Mars Company eliminated the red M&M because of the wide-spread panic that Red Dye #2 could result in dangerous affects (in humans).  I was learning about AZC, Red dye 40, Yellow 5&6, and even petroleum based products were being used in common foods and items we used on a regular basis (petroleum is a blowing agent used for items such as yoga mats).  I just went through everything.  I tackled each drawer and cabinet into its own little project.  I scoured the ingredients list for any indications of dyes, flavors, chemicals, etc., that my daughter may be ingesting, bathing or lathering herself in.  I put them in a big cardboard box, and showed my husband.

RSM:  Wow.  What did you do with the items you found?  Where you in disbelief?

LMP: My husband and I talked about that.  We decided that even though it seemed like such a waste of products, we just didn’t feel comfortable donating them to those in need.  If it wasn’t good enough for us and our children, why would it be OK for someone else?   We literally went through every item in our medicine cabinets and pantries.  Nothing seemed sacred.  Even the white toothpaste still had blue coloring, Suave Naturals contains red and blue dyes.  We felt so angry, guilty and just awful that we had been soaking her in food coloring.  Especially two parents who know about the food industry, we still managed to wrap our kids in this toxic stew.  We just couldn’t imagine passing on these things to other kids, or adults for that matter.

RSM:  And, then, the journey began…

LMP: And, then, the journey began.   It started by only shopping at the obvious places: Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy.  You still have to be careful though.   Those places do a good job to not carry the additives, preservatives, dyes and flavors, but there are still some items sold that do.  Never just trust a name brand, always look for yourself…check out the ingredients list and make sure you are comfortable with everything on that list.  If you are not sure what it is, look it up.  We changed everything about the products she used, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, even laundry detergent.  Everything had to be dye free, and preferably plant based.  This is such a vast topic.  I thought I was being a good mommy, I thought I was engaged in everything my daughter was eating and using.  But the more I learned the dumber I felt.  Once this journey began, it was easy for everything to fall into place.  It’s like once you open your eyes to this, all of a sudden the information just comes to you.  You realize more and more products are available to you.

RSM:  So how has the transition been for you and your daughter?

LMP: The transition actually wasn’t that difficult.  We were able to find most of the things she was already eating, but just the healthier version.   We have found certain brands and snacks that I stick to when we shop, and that makes it easier.  I started out trying brands in the store first, but sometimes they are overpriced, like the vitamins and Omega 3s for example, so then I would investigate on-line to see if I could find them cheaper.  Coupons are huge!  Fresh & Easy is great about this.  They always have a flyer in the mail with great coupons.  And, I don’t necessarily stick to a certain brand.  If something is on sale and its ingredients are of the same integrity of the product I normally use, then I buy that brand.  It feels good to have made these changes, but if you’re not a little strategic about it, it can bust your budget, too.

RSM:  I totally agree.  Although, it is a life choice you are making, so you learn to adjust your budget so you can make it work.  Do you have any special tips for those who are looking to transition to a more whole foods diet?

LMP: Like I mentioned, Fresh & Easy has great coupons that come out weekly in the mail.  They also have some really great brands that are free of all these toxins.   Also, their jarred sauces and some of their prepared foods are pretty good, too.  Bountiful Baskets is an organic fruit and veggie co-op where you can get a huge basket of produce that will last you a long time.  I would suggest going in on this with someone to share the cost as well as the supplies so they don’t go bad before you can eat them all.  They also carry breads.  Costco has started to carry meats that are natural, organic and grass-fed.  When buying fruits and veggies, you can cut costs a little bit by only buying those with thin skins, organic, as well as berries.  The fruits and veggies with thicker skins or the ones you peel are not as susceptible to the chemicals being ingested in the fruit.  There are different levels of organic, which also increases the prices.  Find out which level you are the most comfortable with, and shop at that level.  For example, the highest level means a third party actually came in and put their stamp on the fact that that plant produced 100% organic produce or meat.  That costs money and those costs are handed off to the consumer.

RSM:  Great tips!  So, now that you’ve been practicing this diet with your daughter for the last 3 months, what changes have you noticed in her?  Do you mind sharing some of your goals with her long term?

LMP: It is a slow going process.  You know, it’s not going to change overnight.  After about two months of the diet, we had a parent/teacher conference at school.  The comments given by her teacher were that her academics were wonderful, she was outspoken, but focused, and she was becoming more confident.  In her class, the teacher has a behavior system based on green, yellow and red apples.  Good=Green.  Red=Needs serious improvement.  Leading up to the change in her diet, she was consistently coming home with red apples.  For us, yellow was a good day.  For the last three months, she has been bringing home still mostly yellow, but the greens are starting to make a showing.  She is still using food as a control mechanism, but it’s getting better, and not happening as often.  What we are trying to teach her now is how her choices have consequences.   Before, it was like she was wrapped up in a food coma.  Everything was hazy and out of focus.  We couldn’t reach her to explain the choices/consequences thing.  Now that we have switched up her diet, it’s like the fog has lifted.  She has started to see that other kids can control and regulate their behavior, and she understands that she can do it, too.  We want her to know that her food choices can have direct affects to her behavior.  Instead of dictating her diet to her, we are trying to teach her to make those choices that will be better for her in the long run.  We’re not going to be at every birthday party, every school function, every lunch, so we want her to decipher on her own what the consequences will be based on her choices.  The biggest challenge, though, is that once you have the habit of out of control behavior that embeds itself in early childhood development, it is really hard to not choose that behavior.  Prior to the diet change, I couldn’t reason with her logically.  It was like her little brain was being held hostage by these toxins in her system.  I guess that is why Behavior Management was suggested to me.  Now, however, we are able to communicate about it together, and that alone makes a world of difference.  My goal for her is to recognize self-regulation on her own.

RSM:  That is really fantastic.  That must make you feel good to know your efforts have lead to mini-successes, and the road ahead will be more manageable.  Are there other things you’ve incorporated into her regular routine that you feel has aided in all of this?

LMP: Yoga.  It has been amazing for both of us.  It has taught her breathing and focus.  I see her using it in everyday situations when things get chaotic for her.  Omega 3s would be the other.  I’ve noticed that when we are in a situation where the artificial flavors, dyes and sugar are out of our control, like a birthday party for example, if I load her up on Omega 3s afterwards, it seems to help regulate her energy and how she feels overall.  The more we started educating ourselves on Whole Body, Whole Food, Whole Mind, we thought…we might actually get through this.

Next Week…Lelhani divulges some of her favorite buys, brands and websites!

Lelhani Morris-Pouessel is the CFO and CEO of Pouessel Inc..  When she’s not doing all the tasks that those roles demand of her, she is a mom to two wonderful little girls, ages 5 and 3 years old, and an also not very patient, but totally loving wife to Vincent Pouessel.

Before she took on all of the above roles, she was a Chef, and trained in New York, opened hotels like The Soho Grand, and The Ritz-Carlton in Washington D.C. and also had an exciting stint as the Chef for the German Consulate located across the street from the United Nations. When she moved to Las Vegas in 2001, she landed a job as a Sous Chef with the MGM Grand on The Strip. At that time, she was one of only 6 women who held a leadership and management position in Food and Beverage, in the Back of the House. Later in life after she got married, and decided to have children. She transitioned to a job in Sales and Marketing with Sysco Foodservices of Las Vegas, running a $1.3 million dollar territory.  Her life has always been touched by food and the comfort and excitement that it provides, and even went so far as to marry a French Chef! Love of food in the extreme.