In the four years since N was born, I’ve gradually assumed the role of “guardian” of our family’s health. I am the nudge who urges our family to eat better, exercise and get enough sleep. I didn’t realize it for a while, but this role takes up a lot of time every single day, and it’s a big part of what makes motherhood a full-time job.
During N’s first few years, I was working much more outside the home. We established quick-and-easy habits for the sake of time, but they definitely were not the healthiest habits. While N has always eaten her fruits and veggies, she also ate processed food more often than I was comfortable with, and she certainly didn’t get enough outdoor exercise. Her days were long, and for a while we had epic bedtime struggles every single night.
Since Baby Sis was born and I began working limited hours from home, I have invested a lot of time and energy into creating a healthier lifestyle for N and our family. N eats more home-cooked food now; we often have play dates at the park; and N’s earlier bedtime has calmed our nighttime routine (most nights). I’m proud of the changes we’ve made, little by little, that have improved N’s health and our family’s.
But in some ways, I still feel like I’m coming up short. Last week I took N to the doctor for her 4-year well visit and found out she is (still) in the 75th percentile for weight and 50th for height. This has been a consistent trend ever since N was born. When I asked the doc about it, she fired off her checklist.
“Does she eat fast food?”
“No, she’s had fast food a handful of times in her life,” I replied.
“Never. And I only allow her one serving of fruit juice per day.”
“Well, yes — once a week I serve whole-wheat pasta with homemade tomato sauce.”
“Is she drinking whole milk?”
“Then maybe just cut back on the carbs — you know, bread, rice, pasta.”
This is essentially the same advice we received from a different doctor one year ago at N’s 3-year well visit. During the past year, I took that doctor’s recommendations to heart and tweaked N’s diet accordingly. Yet those small changes haven’t seemed to make a difference, as far as the weight and height percentile is concerned. (Also, the doc at last year’s visit railed against the antibiotics used in chicken in this country — but when I buy chicken I look for “raised without antibiotics,” so that’s not the culprit in N’s case.)
This year the doc mentioned that N is about to go through a growth spurt, and that her physical development may soon even out. But ever since N was born, she’s been a “curvy” girl, and I don’t see that changing. I don’t mind her being “curvy” one iota — as long as she is healthy.
But that’s where I’m a little frustrated. While the doctors aren’t saying that she has a weight issue, they also aren’t telling me “oh, you have nothing to worry about.” So of course, I worry, and I wonder — what else can I do?
N already has a more healthful start than her father and I did — she willingly eats her vegetables (knock on wood!). Tonight I saw her devour a helping of green beans before she even started on her mac-and-cheese (which was a smaller-than-normal portion, following the doc’s advice). I can only hope that Baby Sis — who started solid foods today and already laps up rice cereal like an old pro! — has her sister’s palate for veggies.
And now I’m going to suspend my worrying for 24 hours while the Halloween candy spree commences!
If she’s well, and eating ok foods I wouldn’t worry. Tracking 75th centile weight is **normal**, irrespective of her height. If she’s gaining weight, i.e. crossing centiles upwards, that’s the time to get exorcised. Children need fat in their diet as their brains are still developing – sure it’s energy dense, but in moderation it’s healthier than binging on energy-lite foods.
IMHO the consultation should have run along the lines of – “is she well?”, “is she growing normally?” “is she getting exercise & not eating rubbish?” – if the answer to all is yes, then big props to the parents and that’d be the end of the chat.
Best of luck! An over the pond reader.
Thanks for the feedback. Sometimes we Americans need a little “over the pond” perspective! 😉 Seriously, our society is slightly crazy about this type of stuff. It’s true that many kids in this country have serious health problems due to diet and exercise, but there also has to be some acknowledgment of normal growth patterns. Not everyone is going to grow up looking like Barbie — and that is OKAY!
Hope all is well with you guys!!