• The Harlie Russell Team

The Tantrum Cure

Fussy eater is not a word I would use to describe Harlie. Fortunately she has always been happy to eat whatever was served at meal times, even from a baby. I never had to come up with new and exciting ways to sneak her vegetables into her favourite foods, she just ate them! This was all fine until our life got busy and I got lazy preparing food, mainly snacks.

I found it easier to throw packaged snacks into my bag when heading to appointments for Harlie to munch on. There's nothing worse than being out of the house for hours with a hungry child. When Harlie started school, this continued. Her lunch box would contain biscuits, muesli bars, fruit sticks and whatever was easy to pack during the morning chaos.

What I didn't realise was how much this was affecting Harlie's moods. Every afternoon without fail, Harlie would have tantrums. Sometime these would last over 2 hours. More often than not this would clash with her physiotherapy meaning the hour long session would consist of about 10 minutes of actual therapy. I began dreading the afternoons knowing no matter what I did, she would have a meltdown. I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells around Harlie in case something I said or did would set her off for the next couple of hours. It was exhausting for both of us and our quality time together was almost non existent.

It felt like an uphill battle so I basically gave up trying to fight the tantrums and just let it happen day after day. What I didn't realise is I could stop them. I could control them. It wasn't about what I did or said at all, it was what I was feeding Harlie.

When Harlie joined the gym in October 2017 to strengthen her muscles post SDR surgery, her trainer spoke to me about the kind of diet that would give Harlie the best chance at building muscle. It consisted of high protein, healthy fats, low carbs and no processed sugars. That didn't seem too difficult as I figured Harlie ate relatively healthy anyway. She didn't eat lollies and chocolates and had meat and vegetables almost every night. Boy what a shock I got when I started looking further into her diet.

What I discovered was almost everything Harlie ate during the day contained added sugars. Even the little packets of sultanas I was sending with her to school were packed with extra sugar. I thought I was doing the right thing, but I had been feeding her sugar all day and wondering why she would have meltdowns in the afternoons.

That week, I changed everything. The packaged foods went into the bin and were replaced with only fresh food. Instead of muesli bars and biscuits, she had carrot sticks and cashew nuts. Peanut butter sandwiches were replaced with meat and vegetable kebab skewers. I also found it took about 10 minutes each day to prepare a colourful, healthy lunch box.

What happened next, I would never have imagined. Harlie woke up smiling each morning, was excited to get to school, happily smashed through an hour gym session and ended the day completely tantrum free! As I continued this new healthy diet change, Harlie's overall mood improved dramatically. Even her school teachers commented on the positive change they saw in Harlie through her learning.

The new diet has now become a complete lifestyle change and Harlie is reaping the benefits being happier and stronger. I no longer dread the afternoons as I feel confident she will make it through the day without breaking down. I always knew sugar was bad, I mean, that's widely known, but I had no idea just how big an impact it had on our lives. Harlie is still getting all of her nutritional needs met each day, if not better than before. I cannot believe how such a small change has turned Harlie's moods around. We now have plenty of quality time together and she is getting more out of her day.

The best part is, Harlie is now aware of the progress she is making physically and it motivates her to push harder. She can now stand in her walker while she helps me prepare her lunches each day in the kitchen and is excited to make her lunch box as colourful as possible. Goodbye sugar, goodbye tantrums.


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Brisbane QLD, Australia

©2017 BY THE HARLIE RUSSELL FOUNDATION LTD. Photo credits Linda Wiseman & Shaun Clifford