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Regardless of the conclusions reached by medical researchers about Feingold’s theory, the ultimate arbiters of whether the Feingold diet worked or not were hyperactive children and their parents. Parents had to decide to attempt the diet and adjust their shopping, meal planning, and cooking; monitor their children for compliance; and determine if the diet worked. Their children had to agree to the new regimen, refraining from the processed foods—particularly snacks, drinks, and desserts that they had previously enjoyed—and resisting pressure from peers to surreptitiously eat such items. In some ways, the greatest barrier to acceptance of Feingold’s hypothesis was not the reluctance of physicians to support his theory but the ability of parents and children to employ it. Why did families try the Feingold diet? What strategies did they employ to cope with its restrictions? Did they find it to be successful? Based on oral history interviews of parents who implemented the diet as well as adults who had been on the diet as children, this chapter seeks to answer these questions. Understanding the experiences of families who tried the Feingold diet not only provides insight into the validity of Feingold’s hypothesis, but it tells us a great deal about the ability of patients and their families to inform debate about intractable medical controversies. For example, the experiences of Feingold families demonstrate that physicians who warned that the diet was virtually impossible to employ were incorrect. Although families found that the diet was difficult to adhere to, and many were not able to persevere with it, others did succeed, often despite the lack of support from medical professionals. Typically, though not exclusively, the more successful families were those in Feingold Families Chapter 8 131 which the parents were married, educated, and financially secure and in which the mothers in particular demonstrated the diligence, assertiveness, and observational skills necessary to stick to the diet; ensure that school authorities, relatives, and friends of the family adhered to their dietary wishes; and determine for themselves whether the diet was effective. The success for many families , often over a period of decades, suggests that the results of double-blind trials should not have been the only way to assess the efficacy of the Feingold diet, and that improved understanding of patient experiences can inform the development of medical knowledge and health policy. “Sounds Like a Lot of New-Age Hooey, but I’ll Try Anything to Help the Boy” There were many reasons why parents decided to try to the Feingold diet. Frustration with treatment alternatives for hyperactivity and concern about the food supply spurred numerous parents to seek out other solutions. But it is also important to note that parents who turned to the Feingold diet did so for a variety of specific reasons and in the midst of differing circumstances. While some parents found out about the Feingold diet soon after their child’s behavior had become problematic, others had endured years of attempting various treatments unsuccessfully. The rationale behind the diet likewise met with different audiences: the notion that food additives could affect behavior fitted neatly into the ecological ethos of some parents, but it seemed preposterous to others. Parents learned about the diet from a wide range of sources, sometimes when they were actively looking for an alternative, and other times in a more serendipitous fashion. Although many families found out about the Feingold diet through word of mouth and chance encounters with other Feingold families , others learned about it via a variety of media sources. Not surprisingly, none of those interviewed found out about the diet through medical journals. Families could find out about some aspects of the medical debates, however, through FAUS’s newsletter, Pure Facts, which published summaries of research conducted to test Feingold’s hypothesis. These differences in how parents discovered the Feingold diet and decided to try it not only highlight how, in many respects, Feingold families were a diverse group but also how unconventional medical ideas reach patients via many different routes. It would be a mistake, in other words, to assume that Feingold families were all living an organic, bohemian lifestyle and that they all patronized alternative health practitioners. Although the families may have eventually come to share certain beliefs and values about nutrition and psychiatry, it is clear that they did not all do so when they first heard of it. 132 Chapter 8 Parents differed, for instance, with regards to their experience of...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813551029
Related ISBN
9780813550169
MARC Record
OCLC
775302263
Pages
256
Launched on MUSE
2012-06-08
Language
English
Open Access
No
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