My Kiddo’s Sick, But My Stress Eating Isn’t Helping Anyone


It’s been awhile since I’ve written here, but it’s been a rough 2015 so far. My son, who has epilepsy, has been in the ER eight times, admitted to the hospital on three occasions and has been for nine ambulance rides, and it’s only February! As I write this, we’re on our fourth day in the hospital going on the fifth. I have not been making very good eating choices. They’ve been dreadful really, and as I prepare to embark on another institutionalized day tomorrow, I thought I’d identify some of the myths I have been falling for so that if you child is hospitalized, you may be better prepared than me!

My Top Three Excuses Lately — and How (and Why) I’m Planning to Improve

1. I can medicate my emotional pain with sweets, fried things and sugary drinks! As I watch my son struggle, as I hold him down for IVs to be inserted, as I see him confined to bed for days so that proper tests and analysis can be run, as I witness grand mal seizure after grand mal seizure, as I fight with insurance and pharmacies, I grow weary, full of pain, desperate and search for some minor pain relief. As I walk the halls of the number five children’s hospital in the country, my heart breaks even further for all the parents here dealing with far worse conditions than my child’s uncontrolled epilepsy. As I roam and wander and try to get away from the pain, the freshly baked cookies of the cafeteria call to me — they waft their freshly baked smell beneath my tear-streaked nose and I surrender. As I bite into the third or fourth chocolate chip cookie, I notice that I still feel sad, worried, concerned and my child is still sick, insurance still needs to be battled, questions still need to be answered, the epilepsy still needs to be controlled. Those fragrant cookies didn’t change a thing. It didn’t make anything better, and it didn’t dry my tears.

2. I’ll do better when we are out of the hospital tomorrow. We all fall victim to that belief that tomorrow will be different, tomorrow I will make better choices. The first day he was in the hospital, I was like, “Well, there aren’t a lot of great choices, and I’m in the hospital, so yes, that greasy burger will be perfect. I mean I’m just in the hospital today; tomorrow will be better.” But then TOMORROW you are still in the hospital and the day after that and the day AFTER that. On my third day in the hospital, on my 12th cookie, I realized: I don’t know when tomorrow will be, when we will be out, I best make a good choice TODAY and once I removed my “woe is me I can eat whatever I want glasses” I saw that the hospital was full of lots of healthy choices (duh, I mean they are all about health!). I swapped my burgers and fries for salad and my cookies for yogurt and my soda for Perrier.

3. My kid is sick, I obviously get a free pass. You’re right: when your kid is ill and you as a mother are caring for them ten times more than you already do and when you are advocating for your child to get better care at every turn, you can start to feel entitled. Entitled to eat what you want. You deserve that frappucino, you deserve a donut and coffee but the reality is your child is sick. You need to be at the top of your game. You need to be willing to challenge doctors and argue with insurance. You need to be well fueled enough to have sleepless night after sleepless night. Exercise? There is no time or place for that right now, though holding a 4-year-old down for an IV insertion is some pretty effective strength training. Whatever free pass you want to take,  who is it helping? Is it helping you cope? See myth number 1. Now more than ever you should be more disciplined, you need to be properly fueling your body and powering it up for the battles you will fight for your child.

But also, have grace, forgive yourself. Your child is sick, it can be impossible to think of yourself. I fall victim to either not eating at all or filling up on sugar. Neither is of benefit to anyone. I thought I had overcome my emotional eating, but a sick child will break you down in ways you didn’t think you could be broken, but it will also empower you in ways you never knew. So take care of yourself, prepare yourself for the good, long fight and the long sleepless nights.

So, here I sit, late pondering the choices I’ve been making, noticing the fatigue, the bloat and the sugar crash. Resolving to make tomorrow different and every hospital stay after that better. Because there will be more, and I must be better prepared.

What tips do you have for maintaining a healthy diet in the midst of really sick kiddos? —Dara

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