Erica Reid Pens a Book All Mothers Should Read
by Tamara Mellon
Sagaponack author Erica Reid channels her family’s struggle with food allergies into a new book
Erica Reid and Tamara Mellon, former chief creative officer and cofounder of Jimmy Choo, have been dear friends, “since we met in St. Barth’s on a sandy beach,” remembers Reid. “And we’ve been [joined] at the hip ever since!” Both East Enders and mothers, the duo discusses Reid’s new nonfiction book, The Thriving Child: Parenting Successfully Through Allergies, Asthma and Other Common Challenges, which recounts the difficulties she’s faced raising a child with allergies and offers helpful suggestions and advice.
TAMARA MELLON: Tell me a little about the journey you went through with your eight-year-old son, Addison, and what inspired you to write this book.
ERICA REID: When he was 22 months old, he became really sick and was lethargic. The sparkle was just not there in this vibrant child. Then he was diagnosed with pneumonia. That began the journey. From pneumonia we went to upper-respiratory infections, being told he had asthma, being told it was this and that—it was never ending. Ultimately, it was food allergies. I was feeding my son so much sugar, so much white flour, things that he was sensitive and allergic to. I didn’t recognize food sensitivities, but they were suppressing his immune system and causing his lungs to get inflamed. Now he’s come around and is so much better. I honestly think it was 100 percent diet-related. Figuring this out didn’t happen overnight, this was trial and error, and it’s still a work in progress. I knew my children benefited from everything we had experienced, and with The Thriving Child, my goal was to help as many parents and caregivers out there as possible and share the journey I’m still on.
TM: What I love about this book is that you teach things beyond just diet. There’s an organizational side of it and amazing suggestions, like not putting junk food at children’s eye level and keeping treats out of the home.
ER: I do try to work at making sure we have healthy options at home, and I prefer to leave the less healthy foods—the flour, the breads—for when we go to a restaurant. For instance, last night when our kids went to dinner, they had their ginger ale, their appetizers, their entrees, and I let them have dessert. Since I know healthy options are provided for them at home to sustain them throughout the day, I felt fine. It’s not like they eat that way every single day for every meal, so I let them enjoy themselves.
TM: Breakfast time is a real struggle with my 10-year-old daughter, Minty. She doesn’t feel hungry for anything, and I worry about her.
ER: I say just do the best you can, stay positive, and remain patient, and always have something healthy available. My daughter Arianna is becoming the same way as she gets older and more influenced by the children at school. Socially, what we’re consuming has become a conversation piece amongst young children, and kids do talk about what their parents eat, whose parents are vegetarians and vegan. And they discuss food not just from a dieting and weight perspective, but diet as a whole—who’s wheat-free, gluten-free. Arianna is not on a restricted diet, but I feel it’s my responsibility to give her the awareness she needs so that she knows what she’s putting in her body. She’s old enough where I’ll say, “It’s totally up to you. I trust you and you have to learn to trust yourself and to make your own decisions when it comes to eating.”
TM: You have some amazing contributors in your book. How did you go about choosing them?
ER: I wanted mothers who were dealing with the challenges of having both children and a career. There’s Holly Robinson Peete, a mother of four, an actress, and an advocate. She has a child [with] autism, and I was just so moved by her constant battle and inspired by the fact that she never gives up. And Laila Ali, the daughter of Muhammad Ali, a mother and an athlete—she has beaten so many records and has contributed so much to the sports industry and the world. I wanted to hear what things she feels are important to instill in her children. And my own mother, who is in the “Discipline” chapter of the book, raised three girls as a single, divorced mom. I wanted to know how she cracked the whip with us.
TM: What healthy-eating spots for kids in the Hamptons would you recommend?
ER: I love Provisions Natural Foods Market & Organic Cafe, though my number-one choice is my kitchen at home. I know where the food is coming from and I know if it’s really been washed and cleaned. The Thriving Child put me on the bandwagon of becoming friends with my kitchen, and I always say now that the kitchen is my pharmacy and the refrigerator is my medicine cabinet.
The Thriving Child is available at bookstores throughout the Hamptons; Erica Reid will be signing books at BookHampton in East Hampton in August.
photography by eric cahan