A Weighty Matter.

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.

 

nabbie
01.29.09

I am obsessed with my kids's eatingsleeping and pooping. If one of these is off...I'm off! I can't even begin to imagine the everyday stress of getting Sadie to intake a normal amount of food. Hang in there girlfriend...Better days ahead.

amywillardbrown
11.25.08

It is so hard not to get caught up in the numbers game. My daughter was born premature as well, but was a whopping 5 1/2 pounds (pretty big in the preemie world). She had reflux and was very slow to gain. Lovely words like "failure to thrive" were thrown around. I also stressed over every little thing that went into her and ramped up for her ped appointments. Then I started looking at her and realizing that she was small, but not sick. Once we elminated the stress, things went a lot better, but I always dreaded the weigh ins. We were excited when she weighed in at 18 pounds at 1 year and thrilled when she reached 22 pounds at 2. This week she turns 3 and for the first time I am excited to go to her check up...she has done a lot of catching up this year. Remember, kids grow at their own pace into all different sized adults. And in our supersized world, perhaps starting out on the lower end of percentile charts isn't so bad!

mom again
11.19.08

really people, are some of you not actually reading? offering idle advice like like she'll eat when she's ready is not appropriate. We aren't talking a toddler whose eatern well, gained weight like gangbusters so far and has suddenly hit the slow-down. No, we are talking about a child born underweight, who has had weight gain issues all along and the need for more complex intervention is necessary--and for the mom, all this is accompanied by an Alanis Morrisette type irony of a previous eating disorder.

(I got here by looking for help getting a kid to eat. I have a tall skinny 18 month old who has always been averse to new flavors and textures. We'da oh so gradually gotten him to eat a small variety of foods. Not much range, but at least there were items from all the food groups. He was gaining weight, though slowly, with his limited range.

Then he got tonsillitus and now rejects most actual solid foods, I guess he remembers it hurting to eat. But now we are left with a limited range of soft foods and purees. I'm so tired of 'offering' a variety of foods, and then throwing them out because all he ate was yogurt, or infant cereal, or stage 1 puree. It's been almost 3 weeks since the tonsillitus!

Writermom
11.18.08

Silpadagirl, I'm sorry and I hope you don't find this rude, but...not all kids will eat when they are hungry. Let me take that back. At your son's age, there is definitely not much cause for worry because, yes, kids will eat when they are hungry. But babies, will not necessarily eat when they're hungry. Medical problems can interfere with their desire and ability to eat. And once that happens babies can also develop food aversions which are very difficult to correct. I only say this because while you may not have cause for concern, I don't think it's fair to make a general statement like that that might just interfere with another mom, whose baby does have an issue, getting help. I'v seen way too many comments (not here) from people who say "don't worry about it. Relax." If there is cause for worry as backed up by doctors, and you don't worry, then who will?

silpadagirl
11.18.08

I have an almost 3 year old who weighs 24 lbs, and has for the past year. He is getting taller and is developing in every other way execpt his weight. I did obsess about it for about a year, but now I am seeing that its just his metabolism. My husband is a runner and I am not a big girl, but do struggle to stay in the low double digit size range. I have just figured out that he has his dads metabolism, and that as long as his speech and other skills are moving along, that I'm not going to worry about the scale. It sound as though you are also a petite person. Just think about that. Kids will eat when they are hungry.

fargozmom
11.18.08

Thanks for your advice. My husband and mother tell me to be concerned and worry less at the same time. These mixed msg cause all kinds of confusion.
Tomorrow morning my son goes to see the doctor and will be weighed of-course for the second time since seeing the OT for help with eating, I pray that he weighs at least 20 pounds.
Writermom, are you seeking help so that you do not go into full blown eating disorder again?

Writermom
11.17.08

Fargozmom, I don't think we are overdoing it with worry. When our children have a real problem, we are the only ones who can champion their cause. If you son is underweight and it's affecting his energy or causing problems for him, it's up to you to find a solution. That's what's so frustrating. Sure, if there's nothing more that can be done then maybe it's time to back off and let him catch up at his own pace. But if the doc says intervention is necessary (like in my case) of course we can't help but to worry!

fargozmom
11.17.08

My goodness... I can totally relate to this article. As a women in my mid- 30's, a recovered anorexic/bulimic, and mother of a underweight toddler I was so happy to know someone is out there going through the same things I am. My son is almost 17 months old and has yet to reach 20 pounds at his doc visits. He was born early due to preeclampsia (4 pounds 16 ounces), spent a few weeks in the hospital and has been healthy (yet too thin) ever since.
Currently... I think I worry to much about trying to put weight on him. I feel pretty confident that he will catch up soon to other children, however I find myself apologizing about his weight as if it was my fault. And especially to people who know I had an eating disorder a long time ago such as my mother.
I cannot say that I have fallen into any old habits from my past, in fact I think I am in overdrive trying to solve my son's eating problems with a cheerleader manner when trying to teach my son healthy eating habits.

Have you-- or anyone with a some of the same issues worry that our past eating disorders had a negative affect on our children? Are we overdoing it with worry?

workinmom
11.12.08

My daughter is two years old and barely on the cusp of what she should weigh. She is tall and skinny. And because she can't have wheat or dairy there aren't alot of carb filled foods that she gets.
When she was born we fed as much formula as we could get in her because she wouldn't gain weight at was deemed "acceptable" by the doctors. This is the same doc who also said it wasn't possible for her to have allergies to food when she had chronic ear infections. Four months of no wheat or dairy, or ear infections, has proved her wrong.

I guess what I am saying is that as long as your daughter is happy, eats food when you give it to her, and is not lethargic or cranky all the time, then she is probably healthy. Doctors run on averages "all babies should be...." when that just simply isn't true.
As her mother you will know when she is unhealthy...but that doesn't stop the worry does it? Good luck to you.

neuromum
11.11.08

Hang in there- that sounds really stressful! What do the doctors say? Do they still require you to be vigilant about recording everything she eats?