May 18, 2011

An Elephant In The Room?

We all know there's a lot of resistance in the medical world to using a blenderized food diet for tube-fed folks, but we don't often talk much about the resistances from parents and carers.  Many of the same resistances are there of course, like worries about tube clogs, getting proper nutrition, extra workload, hygiene, cost and of course the simple problems of not knowing it's an option, or how to even think about starting.

But I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that many of the common reasons against are, for a significant number of people (especially parents) simply foils used to justify a decision that's really based on something else. Something unmentionable; like shame and embarrassment.

Put yourself for a moment in the shoes of a typical person from a country like the US or Australia.  A typical person, let's be honest, eats a really bad diet.  You may or may not eat badly, but I'm talking about the majority, whose eating habits and dietary health have been incontrovertibly exposed and explained in countless studies. Most people manage to be happy feeding themselves and their apparently-healthy kids a highly processed, unbalanced diet high in fats, starches, meats, sugar and salt until something goes terribly wrong because of it. Even then many do not change their ways, seemingly preferring an early death after years of dialysis rather than give up their comfort food habits.  Most people are overweight, and most of the overweight are technically obese.  It's simply become normal, to the point where people who have through their own acts and choices made themselves obese believe that airlines discriminate against them by not making seats big enough or charging them for two tickets.  If you are not this person, then please now spend just a moment imagining being that average person feeding themselves and their family too much of a bad diet heavy on the pre-packed, take-away, meat/fat/carb triumvirate..........

.......and then see yourself with a child who now needs for some reason to be tube fed.  Pause for a moment. Then someone suggests you can feed your child a diet of real food (they don't have to miss out on their hamburgers!) with a high-powered watch yourself as your brain conjures images of doing just that.  You're really going to blend that KFC bucket/cheese pizza/burger and thin it with sugar-laden fizzy drinks every night?  Or are you perhaps going to have to face the guilty weight of the food pyramid, vegetables other than deep-fried potatoes, and so on?

You know you eat badly, even though you fool yourself into contentment through the soothing normalcy of it all (and the brain chemicals produced by high sugar and fat contents etc) but to imagine doing that to what you now see as a medically fragile child through a blender and a tube no less......wouldn't that threaten the very way you lived your own life?  Perhaps you might even blame yourself a little for that child's plight.  What a terrible place to find yourself.

Processed food has become trusted too.  It is produced (most people believe) in safe conditions and since the relevant government board certifies it safe to eat then it surely must be OK.  I think this belief is transferred straight on to canned formula, but in an even more powerful way, in that it is also a medicalized product - so it must be excellent, surely!

Stories are legion, and survey results show clearly that having a tube-fed person at home receiving a blenderized diet (whether it's you or someone you care for) almost always improves a family's diet by simple virtue of increased awareness of what food actually is.

I'm suggesting, in short, that people who eat badly and know it (that is, most people) are a little threatened by the in-your-face act of blending and tubing food.  So they are far more likely to stick with formula, because it's easier than admitting the ways in which you have been failing yourself and possibly your family too.  Isn't it?

Harsh, sure, and this is just my opinion.  But am I wrong?  And if I'm right, what can we do to make this easier for people who want to do the right thing by themselves and their families, but who are stuck in the great western 'unfood' trap.  Let's not be blamey, we're all susceptible to some degree to the bombardment of messages around us to consume, to treat ourselves, to enjoy, to be *normal*.  Can we use BD also as a tool to improve the lives of carers and parents more directly too?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. thanks for writing this. My husband and I need to eat better and thought that changing our daughter's diet might help us. So far I have used the Vitamix for her once. Broccoli and formula (she never throws it up). Guess it's time to get down to brass tacks... I feel a bit of fear going forward honestly.

  2. I think you make a good point... What I wish caregivers/parents who do not feel ready or able to do a full BD is a partial approach. Even just adding one jar of fruit or vegetable baby food each day would be a huge improvement to an all formula diet. A shot of wheatgrass juice now and then... just a bit of color and real food. Personally I find doing the full whole foods approach of BD for my daughter one of the most rewarding and empowering things I do in life. It is a great source of pride and a natural thing for me since I breastfed her and prior to her tube the plan was to make her baby food at home.

  3. I am very aware of the fact that my daughter eats so very much better than I do. I think her tubie has allowed her to have a far more healthy diet than I would likely be providing her if she were an oral eater. Though I do blend in some processed foods (crackers, cereal), she gets her fruits, veggies, and beans every single day. She eats more of those than I do. But the flip side is, I am beginning to eat more of those than I used to, because I have to stock the fridge for her. I suppose I'm achieving the age-old hope of making my daughter's life better than my own, at least in that way. Doing something for her is a lot easier than doing something for myself though (as I sit here eating cold leftover pizza...that I would never blend and feed her!)

  4. Much like Wagner Three, I am so aware that Grace eats a better, fresher, healthier diet than I do! I sometimes think that I should eat the way she eats (and sometimes I do!) but it's no work me to do it for her but it feels like a hella lot work to do it for me.

  5. I certainly think there is something to this, but I have very active -- read poorly behaved -- twins. Their difficult behavior is to a birth-related brain injury. Add to this that I have NO help. I cannot even go to the grocery store, let alone prepare healthy food. Canned formula arrives at my door and is paid for by insurance. I feel bad about feeding them junk, but as I speed all my time just trying to keep them from hurting themselves and destroying things, I do see how I can do BD. I used to eat healthy myself, now I eat junk too.