Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Talking to Children About Health and Weight

At LaLa's last doctors visit it was mentioned that she was below average in weight. KiKi is also slightly below average in weight. I am overweight and their dad according to Air Force standards is overweight (even though to normal people he is a healthy weight). LaLa's doctor mentioned to me that I need to pack on the calories in her diet. He recommended peanut butter, nutella, cheesy sauces, creamy sauces, basically anything that has a shed load of calories packed into not much food since she is a child and has a child sized appetite. I of course agreed with him while in my head I groaned because being a heavier person myself I have a hard time resisting things such as peanut butter, nutella, cheesy sauces and creamy sauces (and chips, and cakes, and chocolate, and bread, and french fries, and cheese burgers...).

LaLa the whole time was listening with intent and when we got back into the car had loads of questions for me.

La- Mom, what does it mean that I am under weight?
Me- It means that you are really thin.
La- What are calories?
Me- They are the energy in food that give your body what it needs to run. If you eat more calories than your activity burns off then you gain a bit of weight. That is what the doctor is asking me to do, give you more calories.
La- So I need to get fatter?
Me- I wouldn't say fatter, but you could stand to gain a few pounds in order to be more healthy.
La- Do veggies have calories?
Me- Yes.
La- Do I need to eat veggies? I don't like them.
Me- You need to try to eat more veggies.
La- *sigh* So, also because I exercise so much I need to eat more calories?
Me- Yep, because your body keeps burning all those calories that are in your food off.

About a week ago I started WeightWatchers. LaLa, being the ever observant seven year old that she is, noticed that I was paying a lot of attention to the food labels and plugging them into a special calculator before I would eat this week. She finally started asking questions a couple of days ago.

La- Mom, are you trying to eat a lot of calories?
Me- No, I don't need to gain weight like you do. For my age and height I am overweight and it is kind of like you being underweight. It isn't very healthy and I need to be healthy so that I can be able to play more with you and your sister.
La- So you are trying to eat less calories?
Me- Yep.
La- You need to exercise too!
Me- I certainly do.
La- OK. That sounds good.

It sure does little perceptive one, it sure does.

I don't think that children should be held in the dark about health and how weight can affect health. I do think that children should know that self worth should not be tied to weight. I think that children should know that maintaining a healthy weight is about health and not appearance. I also think that teaching children how their bodies work is good! This important knowledge that they can carry on into their adult lives. Maybe if us parents stop dancing around the issue and start teaching our children about healthy living and healthy eating we wouldn't have an epidemic of overweight children.

11 comments:

NFAH said...

I take issue with your doc's advice re: La. Packing on unhealthy calories just for the sake of hitting some 50th percentile "average" weight is NOT the way to develop healthy eating habits for life in a little kid!!!

Mom in High Heels said...

Indy is very conscious of what his food intake. Until he was about 5, he was always below the 5% line when it came to weight, but 95-100+% for height. He eats like a horse (seriously we can't fill that boy up), but is very busy so he burns it off quickly. He eats a lot of healthy foods though. He loves salad and often asks to have salad for dinner. Fruits and veggies are his friends. After the baby shower I threw this past weekend, I had a bunch of cut up cucumbers, red and yellow peppers and celery (his favorite) left over and he sat down with a huge plate and started eating. He loves them!
He does enjoy junk food, but knows they are a treat and should be eaten only on occasion. If only dh and I were like that. :) I'm not much overweight on a normal day and am actually considered underweight for being 7 months pregnant (I've gained about 7 pounds) and dh is at the top end of his weight by Army standards, even though he's perfect by "normal" standards.
Good luck with your WW! And I totally agree with NFAH above. Eating unhealthy foods just to get to a percentile is not a good idea. She just might be a skinny kid (some are).

unmitigated me said...

I'm not so sure your doc is correct either, in adding lots of fatty stuff to her diet. Although I think it's good to tell her all about what's going on. Some kids are just long and stringy until puberty!

Expat mum said...

Some kids are long and stringy for a long time. My 18 year old is still ike that and she eats a healthy diet.
It used to really bug me when doctors and other people for that matter, used to comment on her size in front of her. They wouldn't have dared do that if she'd been overweight. Grrr.

Anyway, also wanted to tell you about a giveaway you might like over at Pond Parleys if you haven't seen it already!

kendrasue said...

I'm with you on giving kids a good idea of what a healthy body is over a self-worth body. Whenever Leo asks why I'm exercising I tell him it's so I can keep up with him!

Muddling Along Mummy said...

Also not sure about the approach to add in heaps of extra calories, we have to watch what Littler eats and her weight because she can't have dairy but we don't add in lots of sugary stuff or at least the nutritionist didn't want us to

The interesting point is around showing good healthy eating and habits - I'm hoping that family meals and showing an active life will pass it on to the girls but do worry in case they pick up on the body insecurity I know I picked up from watching my mother diet on and off over the years

Granny said...

I don't know about packing on pounds with the fatty foods. Good healthy foods, yes (peanut butter etc) but foods loaded with fat, I would be very hesitant about that.

She is taking after your mother. I use to worry about her because she was so skinny when she was Lala's age. The doctor told me that if she wasn't sickly not to worry about it. She would gain weight as she got older LaLa is very healthy and I would just give her more veggies and fruits and not worry so much a the number of pounds. You were skinny when you were her age.

Papa and I were talking about our trip when we were walking the dogs today We are getting excited to see all of you.

Love
Granny

Jenni said...

A to the men, Kat. Well said.

rosiescribble said...

Well said. Love the idea of educating children that maintaining a healthy weight is about health not appearance. So important.

Jenn said...

I love that you are honest with your child yet focusing on the right things, Health. Being healthy as you know is a life long process. There are ways to add weight in a healthy way. Increasing good carbs yes but creamy sauces all the time is good for no one. I praise you a million times over for getting it right with your daughters. Weight, health, and body image should not equal beauty. The girls I used to babysit for I felt horrible for them. their parents were consistently telling them at 4-5 years old that they need to watch their weight and how that was linked to beauty. It broke my heart.

V. said...

I think it's great that you're approaching weight as a health issue, instead of a beauty/worth issue.
Do you agree that your daughter needs to gain weight? Packing on the calories for the sake of a weight chart doesn’t seem very healthy (assuming there’s no other issue). Some people are just thin. My nephew is really skinny, but his doctor said that's just his body type, he eats a good variety and quantity of food and some people are just skinny.
If you want to increase her caloric intake, maybe a nutritionist could give you pointers on how to keep it healthy. You could incorporate the calories in her snacks if you wanted to try to avoid weight gain with her- peanut butter sandwiches, cheese and crackers, guacamole, nuts, etc.
Good luck!