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A culture built on sugar

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

As soon as Mike made the decision to start making coconut kefir commercially and wrote the business plan, low and behold, one of Mike’s work applications actually found its target and he received a job offer as a product manager at a company that manufactured industrial equipment. We were thrilled that he got the job, but torn as well, not wanting to give up this fermenting idea. So while he worked by day at his new job, he started working at night and weekends on his new endeavor. Basically everyone we told about the start-up said we were crazy and wasting our time. Mike finally had a steady job and we were off welfare, so why screw it up? My family was against it as well. They just wanted me to be stable and not risk going backward financially. But something in me whispered that this was our calling. We had to make it available for the people who needed it. And what a synchronicity it was that for years Mike had wanted to brew beer. I don’t think it was by chance that he was drawn to fermenting at a young age. I believe it was all in preparation for this opportunity to help others in a challenging situation.

At first, Tula was eating her own meals, separate from what the family ate, but it was getting way too complicated. I asked Mike what he thought about putting us all on the Body Ecology Diet. At this point he was still overweight and a somewhat glass half empty guy, but he couldn’t dispute what an amazing effect it had had on Tula. My reasoning was that we only had to conform to this diet for a few months and then we could return to our normal diet. What we didn’t know was the profound impact it would have upon all of us—and that we would actually still be eating the same way 12 years later! But the hope of eating “normal” foods again was enticing enough to stick with it.

The hardest part of the diet for us was giving up sugar. We hadn’t realized how much we had been consuming until we gave up the “crack.” Mike would call me from work and say, “Someone laid out cookies at the end of the hall for everyone to share and it’s all I can think about. I can’t concentrate on work. Please help me be strong.” Talk about addiction! He had already conquered alcohol and this seemed to be even harder for him.

When I took the girls down to the park with our friends and their kids, the other parents would bring a tub of animal cookies, while my contribution was freshly made seaweed cooked in coconut oil. Some friends were sympathetic and would make an effort to hide their snacks, while others would make it clear that they would not be inconvenienced by our diet and would blatantly be handing out cookies to every kid. It felt frustrating and I started wondering why sugary snacks were part of many get-togethers.

We invited friends and their children to a dinner party at our house. They accepted, knowing what they were walking into, since they were well aware of our new diet. I told them we would provide everything, especially since I wasn’t going to explain the dos and don’ts of our diet and expect them to bring something in alignment. As I watched them arrive with separate food for their kids, I knew this night wouldn’t be easy. Our friends' kids turned up their noses at our food as the mom pulled out “their meal.” The kids ran around our house dropping pieces of white bread on our floor. I was a wreck. I bent down and scurried around foraging for crumbs and following their every move to make sure Tula wouldn’t pick up the fallen pieces. I vowed in my mind we wouldn’t be doing this again. Why couldn’t people just enjoy (or even tolerate) one night of healthy food? Why do parents of our generation give their kids so much control over what they eat? When did the kids become in charge? If I had given in to Tula’s wishes rather than provide what her body needed, she would still have autism today. Even my own family didn’t see the point of being so strict. They were witnessing the incredible advances Tula was making in a very short time, but thought the diet was extreme. “Everything in moderation,” my mom kept telling me. From what I'd read and what I noticed with my daughter, there was no room for moderation. We were in this 100 percent.

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