Monday, April 8, 2013

On to Weight-ier issues

I have an obese 2.5 year-old.

It is true, medically speaking my cute little boy is obese.

Last week he had a check up for his hydronepherosis and after his measurements were punched into the computer the nurse casually told me, "it's telling me he is off the charts, don't worry about it, I'm not sure what they mean by that."

"Does it mean his BMI is unhealthy?"

"No, no, we don't calculate BMI, we just chart growth."

But his growth doesn't fit on your chart ... what you are telling me, all while refusing to say it, is that my toddler is too fat.

I appreciate the fact that no one says this to me. In fact, I get quite the opposite response.

"I love his little belly!"
"Reid is solid!"
"He's such a good eater!"

I hear one of these three compliments several times a week. No one calls him fat, partly, I think, because a little chubbiness has never been anything to worry about in our children. Chubby babies, in many cases, are the cutest ones!

But our country has an epidemic of weight problems -- eating disorders on all ends of the spectrum. Some people refuse food in hopes of building the perfect body, others go to food in hopes of pleasing their soul. I think we all tilt one way or another at different times in our life. We can't be perfect, even when it comes to food. I know my kids will never have perfect health (one born with hydronepherosis, the other laryengomalcia), but as a mother I can't help but feel like I've failed my little obese boy. I'm the one that is in charge of his eating habits, his exercise routine, his screen time.

If he's obese, it is my fault.

Now, before I get a bunch of "cheer up" pity comments, I want to be clear. I know there is a deep flaw in the way a child's BMI is calculated. As far as I understand it, 5% of our kids will always be obese, 10% will always be overweight, and another 5% underweight. According to the way BMI is calculated in teens and kids only 80% of them can be "healthy" even if all 100% are within the same range.

Reid was born in the 95-percentile, for both height and weight, and he's never dipped lower than 90th. As an infant Drs would tell me "He's well proportioned, sure he is big for his age, but he is balanced and growing and that's all that matters."

And then something magical happens, our infants/toddlers turn 2 and we start using the BMI calculator. Suddenly a toddler that was big but proportioned is labeled obese. Suddenly, even though your child has been in the 95th percentile their whole life, you need to magically will them into 85th or below in order for them to be healthy.

I don't know how to do that.

So this juggle between feeling guilty and trying to reassure myself that he'll just always be one of the biggest kids his age continues.

What is my point then, in sharing this with the world?

I don't know.

But I do know I'm going to start having Reid chart his food. Kids his age should chart their chores, but I'm going to give him a sticker to check off his three well balanced meals, two fruit or veggie snacks, and one treat. Maybe I'm going to make him do this for my own peace of mind, and maybe I'll just raise a kid who has a complex about weight. Who knows?

Maybe I should just keep the chart in my pantry cupboard and track it myself, so that he never knows I'm putting him on a diet at age 2.

That's probably what I'll do. But I also have to tell his nursery leaders that just because he'll never tell them when he is full, doesn't mean he should keep enjoying snack time. Same goes for Grandparents and other care givers. I am going to have to make a conscious effort to talk to anyone who might feed him.

I almost feel like I should buy him a shirt, kind of like those "don't feed the ducks" signs at your local pond.

"I know my big belly is cute and I'll never say no to more food, but my mom wants me to be healthy, so please don't offer me a single bite without her permission first!"

That'd never fit on one shirt. What to do, what to do?

I guess the light at the end of the tunnel is ... the snow in Wisconsin is finally melting, and that boy LOVES walking to the neighborhood pond.

And maybe the NICU nurses present at his birth were right, maybe he'll grow up and play for the Packers ... and we'll all be rich.


Mel said...

So I kind of had to chuckle at some points while reading this. First I don't think you need to go to the extreme of tracking what he eats, but definitely have a conscious mind of what he is taking in. Livy at one point was considered "heavy" for her age as well. I think she was 3. She is definitely solid when you pick her up. But looking at her you would not think her as obese. Everyone's body is different. Sofia still has her little toddler belly as well. I don't think they get rid of it until about 4 or 5. If he still has it then, then I would start being more concerned. He is 2. It takes awhile to get rid of the baby "fat". He has always been a big kid, and probably always will be. But again, just try to teach him good eating habits now and definitely limit junk food and sweets. You are a good mom, and you take very good care of your kids. Don't let this get you down. You are doing a fantastic job!

Megan said...

Healthy eating is good at any age, but I think all of your kids are likely to be pretty tall given how tall you and Ben are, and it's fine if he's got some meat on his bones! All within reason, right?

Anonymous said...

Spot on, Mel! I couldn't agree more.

Part of your problem Liz is your parents. You look at us and think, "What the crap? I don't want Reid or Nell to be so unhealthy!" Well I've got a secret for you -- my parents didn't chart anything and I was in the normal range and on the skinny side, if anything. I am what I am (at present) because I made me this way. Wish I could blame Beulah P or Bud H, but it's not gonna happen!

Can't wait to see you! Won't be long now...


Troy and Lisa said...

I read a great article recently from Beauty Redefined about BMI and how unaccurate it is. He doesn't look obese at all! He looks happy and healthy! (and I'll be trying to convince myself of the same cuz my 5-month-old is now the weight my little girl was at 1 year)

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