As I sit here about to write this week’s column, I am snacking on baby carrots and a sugar free JELL-O double chocolate pudding cup. For dinner I had a bowl of butternut squash soup containing 3.5 grams of fat and 110 calories. Oh, and a diet soda and, fine, three baked potato chips. Am I fixated on what I eat? A little bit. The thing is, I used to have an eating disorder. Many years ago I was obsessed with what I ate, how many calories I consumed and how much fat. The scale ruled my life; a fluctuation of weight even just up a pound could affect my mood for the entire day making me scream at people in traffic and fight with boyfriends. Thank God I got over it through a lot of therapy and for many years I’ve lived happily with no scales in my house and just my jeans to tell me if I’ve started gaining too much weight. And they’re stretch jeans so it kind of takes awhile.
But ever since I’ve had a skinny baby it’s all gone to shit. Let me explain: You know how when you have a baby the first thing you find out is how much they weigh? Well, normally, that’s about the last time you have to worry too much about it. Most babies gain weight at steady pace and if by chance they gain a lot of weight becoming a fat, happy baby, doctors and parents alike are all the more pleased. That’s how it worked for my first child, but one of my twins started out at two pounds six ounces and stayed that small for way too long. At first when I got her home from the NICU I didn’t notice there was a problem because, let’s face it, how much formula should a three pound baby eat? But while her sister gained steadily at every appointment, Sadie stayed light. Too light. With every appointment we had, the scale barely moved. The pediatrician asked me to keep a log of every ounce of formula she took in.
That’s when the obsession started creeping back in. This time it was an obsession based on how to get more calories into my child. I still couldn’t get her to take in enough formula so she was put on medication to stimulate her appetite by a pediatric GI. I barely noticed a difference but when I brought her in for her first follow-up, I was more nervous to put her on the scale than I had been to take my SAT’s. She’d only gained a few ounces. My mood took a nose dive and I realized right then and there I was back on the eating disorder roller coaster but now I was focused on someone else and I was trying to make them fatter! Everyday my mood was dictated by how many ounces of formula I could get her to take. In order to figure out why she ate less than Calista Flockhart on a diet, we started making the rounds to occupational therapists, nutritionists and a new GI.
After she started solids and made her way through all the first foods my eating disorder stepped up a notch. I became hooked on the calorie counts and fat grams of every type of baby food on the market. When I discovered that a tiny jar of Gerber’s chicken contained 7 grams of fat I practically threw a parade in its honor. When I found that Beechnut Apple Delight had 90 calories in one jar I bought stock in the company. Every bite was accounted for, every time she turned away from a bite, from a meal, I felt it as a personal failure.
My daughter gets weighed more than any baby I know and I get nervous for each and every weigh-in. Her next one is on Monday and I’m praying she’s gained from her last weight of 13 pounds 7 oz. When I am forced to get weighed, I will only do it on a completely empty stomach and bladder, totally naked, including earrings to make sure there isn’t an extra sixteenth of an ounce to ruin my day - even if I’m in a doctor’s office which makes the nurses uncomfortable but, hey, I just want to be accurate. When Sadie gets weighed I try to sneak in a big feeding before hand or at least a pair of socks.
I go to great lengths to find ways to put fat on her little body. Butter gets melted and added to every meal – the full fat kind, baby. Not the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Zero calorie spray I use on my toast. Never before have I been so excited to know that a tablespoon of olive oil has fourteen grams of fat! Bananas, the most fattening fruit, used to cause me fear. Now I buy more of them than a monkey with an allowance. I will not rest each day until she’s had as much as I can get into her.
I think I’ll be happy if I can just get her to fifteen pounds before her first birthday. I mean fifteen and a couple ounces would be better… oh boy, looks like I’ll be heading back to therapy.