at annabel’s 18 month checkup, our pediatrician looked at me somewhat sternly. she was still on the curve for weight, but riiiiight at the top. and at 65% for length [somehow], this apparently put our MD on guard a little bit.
and for a while after this visit, i have to admit that i was too. for the record, i think that annabel is the cutest, most beautiful child i have ever seen [not that i’m biased or anything 🙂 ]. i love her squeeze-ability, her sturdiness. and i know her diet is quite healthy! she isn’t terribly picky [though getting pickier . . . ] and drinks zero juice, loves water, and eats the same things that josh and i eat [no mac ‘n’ cheese habit!]. but after our ped commented, i did start to get a little worried. i think that this is because i happen to work in a field where i see frighteningly overweight children quite often. 10 year olds pushing 200 lbs who are debilitated by their size. 6 year olds who outweigh me [or they did in my non-pregnant state]. depressed teens who are physically and emotionally paralyzed by an extra 150+ lbs. i’m not saying that this is true for every overweight 17 year old — perhaps some are well-adjusted and healthy, and they just don’t get referred to an endocrinologist. but many that i have seen make me incredibly sad. treatment often feels incredibly FUTILE, too.
and after that visit, i thought — is our ped implying that MY adorable toddler is headed in that direction? is it even remotely possible or likely?
it turns out that:
a) it isn’t likely [this relatively well-regarded calculator gives her about a 4/1000 — 0.4% — chance of ending up with a true obesity issue during childhood]
b) it will be better for everyone — EVERYONE — if i just follow normal toddler eating recommendations, without worrying about it.
i learned this from reading child of mine, by renowned pediatric RD ellyn satter. her book made so much sense to me and i felt so much better after reading it. the guidelines are laid out for EVERY child – those on both sides of the spectrum, and also right down the middle.
the main guise of the book:
parents are in charge of deciding what, when, and where children will eat.
children [from infants to teens] are in charge of whether and how much. satter believes [and i do, too] that with a variety of healthy food provided, kids [and even adults, but that can be tougher] will self-regulate and find their natural set-point. some kids will be smaller, and others bigger. and both are ok! but most likely, they won’t self-regulate to an unhealthy point.
some of her more specific recommendations included:
— offering 3 meals and 2 snacks [where ‘snack’ does not have to mean unhealthy – often can be just as nutritious as traditional ‘meal’ offerings] daily, in a predictable fashion
— meals and snacks should be eaten at the table, not while playing
— keeping mealtimes casual and never pressuring a child to EAT MORE / EAT THIS / STOP EATING / etc.
— always provide at least one item on the plate that the child likes — even if it’s bread, rice, a fruit, whatever — but do NOT cook/cater to the child or do any short-order cooking. [i have always been against the idea of ‘kid food’ and continue to be, so i loved this one.]
— have family meals whenever possible. i wish we did this more – it’s the one area where i am failing a bit. we always have breakfast together, and of course lunch and most dinners on weekends. but weekday dinners are tough.
— sometimes allow for treats, to avoid them becoming ‘forbidden fruit’. we don’t give annabel dessert-type foods regularly, but maybe one treat-type food [a cupcake, cookie, whatever] something like weekly. [it’s worth it alone just to hear her pronunciation of ‘cupcake’ = ‘tup-tate.’ omggg.]
i really just loved her overall tone, and for me the absolute best part was that i realized exactly what were my responsibilities [see above] and what i truly should not worry about. in the absence of a syndrome or endocrine disorder [which i can say quite confidently that annabel does not have 🙂 ], children will learn to self-regulate. in the end, all i can hope for is that she has a healthy and happy relationship with food to stay with her forever.
#1: just for the record, i was quite a chubby baby/toddler, too. i was also TALLLLL – my 18 month stats put me at 95% height!! josh as a child was super short and super scrawny [sorry babe, you were! but you were still cute], and grew like 4″ after graduating from high school. so parents – don’t assume that your kids will look the same as adults as they do as toddlers.
#2: one issue i did have with the book was that satter does not really address the potentially bad habits that are out there today — candy/junk in classrooms on a daily basis [not just as treats], juice as default beverage, etc. for the records, i DO think there are things that can interfere with self-regulation and they are not always easy to avoid. but that tends to be more of an issue for older children.
#3: i am now trying to bring these recommendations to my practice when appropriate, and have recommended satter’s books to a few parents. i’ll have to let you know if i get any feedback.
and on another note:
YOGA. a knows tree [shown below], warrior [sort of – she forgets the arms] and down dog. omg, i love this age.