Navigating life with a teenager….who happens to have bipolar disorder

Food, Glorious Food

We recently went to see a local production of Oliver!, the musical based on Oliver Twist. When they started singing ‘Food, Glorious Food’ I turned to my son and said “Hey, they’re singing your song”.  He usually doesn’t think I have a sense of humor, but this one made him laugh.

When my son was young, I worried about his eating habits.  Being born so premature, he had issues with his gag reflex and could not eat anything but puree into his 16th month.  As he got older, his sensory issues caused him to have problems with many textures. For parents of sensory kids you know that, for many of them, their major food group is chicken nuggets.  This was true for my son.  I have actually joked with him that he should write a blog review of all of the chicken nuggets and tenders in the major franchise restaurants of the U.S.

Now, at the age of 14, he has found many more foods that he enjoys eating.  He loves seafood, chicken, beef, pork and most pasta dishes. We still have struggles with textures of certain fruits, vegetables and grains, but generally, he has more variety than I ever thought he would have.

Our main problems come with the incredible amount of food he eats.  Yes, I know, I know, he is 14 and that’s what 14-year-old boys do, right. Yes, to a certain degree.  We started seeing a major change when he started his first med, Risperdal. One of the main side effects was increased appetite……and they weren’t joking.  I know some families that have taken their kids off this med due to the weight gain it initially can cause.  For us, the weight wasn’t a big issue.  Ever since he was a baby, my son was always underweight.  The gain from the med actually brought him up to a normal weight for his age.  It was the food habits that threw us. The intense inhaling of food, it was non-stop eating all day, every day.

I have spoken with other parents who’s kids have this issue and some of them actually go shopping every day and only buy food one meal at a time.  It amazes me that they can not only find time in their day to do that, but can afford to do that. I have taken to coupon shopping and buying items in bulk.  It helps to have a membership at Sam’s club, where I can get snack foods in individual serving packages, this cuts down on eating a whole box of cheezits or a bag of chex mix at one time. For special treats, I tend to buy them around the time we are going to eat them.  For example, if I am going to buy ice cream, it will be on a Friday, because I know that Saturday my son will probably have a friend over and we might want ice cream if we all watch a movie.  If I purchase it any earlier in the week, it won’t be there on Saturday.  My son’s major addiction is to Cadbury mini eggs.  Last year, I bought a bunch of little bags when they were on clearance after Easter and kept them hidden in a bin in my closet, that way I could give him one at a time.  I grew up in a house where we rarely had snacks or treats around and I think it led to my major sweet tooth as I got older. I don’t think it’s a good idea to remove these things all together…..I just don’t want him to eat them in one sitting, but I feel horrible having to hide food.

I know that his eating issues are a combination of his medication, his recent growth spurt and the fact that he is a 14-year-old boy. I just hope that it will eventually even out.  I have a long history of high blood pressure and diabetes in my family.  I am afraid that if he doesn’t slow down or doesn’t add more exercise into the mix, he will end up with physical health issues on top of his mental health issues.  I think I am going to implement an exercise rule this summer.  He has to let me take him to the gym every day if he wants computer time.  I don’t know if it will work, but if it does, at least it will make up a little bit for his caloric intake.

Any thoughts on tricks or tools that worked for anyone trying to moderate their child’s food intake would be greatly appreciated.

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