Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Weight Watchers

Last Friday, C went to her two year physical at Dr. P's office. I looked forward to sharing some of Cs newest milestones with Dr. P., like jumping, occasionally peeing on the potty, and sometimes speaking in sentences. C seems to learn something new every day and we are consistently amazed and amused by her many achievements and antics. I had no concerns regarding C's development. In fact, I believed she was thriving in every way.

When we entered the examination room, a nurse and nurse-in-training asked routine questions about our home life and C's medical history. They measured her height, exactly 36 inches. Next, they tried measuring C's weight. As soon as C stood on the rickety upright scale, she began to cry and seek immediate escape. The nurses suggested I plop her on the infant scale. Again, C screamed, begged, and pleaded to get down. In order to soothe her apprehension, we tried to weigh C's dolly. I stood on the scale, grinning as though I love nothing more than checking my weight, even 27 weeks pregnant. We let C play with the balancing mechanism on top of the scale. Nothing worked. Finally, the nurses led C to a digital scale in the next examination room. Although she only stood on the scale for one second, the nurses were able to record C's weight-34 pounds, 11.5 ounces.

We returned to our original examination room where the nurses entered C's information into the computer. Together, the nurses scrutinized C's chart and discussed something "not looking right." Calling me to the computer screen, they showed me how C's weight falls outside her projected growth given her height, age, and previous weights. Surely, the nurses thought they made a mistake and back to the digital scale we went. Again, C stood on the scale for one second and again the scale recorded exactly 34 pounds, 11.5 ounces. There was no mistake.

Since birth, Little C's weight and height have fallen above the 95%tile for her age, therefore I did not feel any concern regarding her current weight. She eats well, she is active, her overall health is excellent. Although I was not worried, the nurses seemed concerned and went to find Dr. P. Certainly, Dr. P. would reassure the Weight Watchers that C has always been big and this number was nothing to worry about.

After looking at C's chart however, Dr. P. also seemed slightly worried. She asked me about C's eating habits. She recommended we switch from whole milk to skim. She gave advice on portion control and waiting at least 20 minutes before offering C seconds. As I listened to her advice, I found myself feeling first defensive, then angry, then ashamed. Am I doing something wrong? Am I raising a child heading down a road toward childhood obesity?

I thought about our habits at home. Should I not allow Lil' C to drink an occasional juice box? Was I wrong to give her seconds at dinner last night? Do I need to throw out our box of Fig Newtons, even though they are the whole grain variety? Then, I began defending myself. For God sakes, my daughter eats quinoa! One of her favorite foods is broccoli. I told Dr. P. we do not have junk food in the house (not entirely true, but I do not share my Cheetos). We eat a balanced diet. I am a healthy cook. We take walks and go to the park almost every day. Dr. P. said she was certain we were doing everything right, but again mentioned we should switch to skim milk.

When we left the doctor's office my feelings of shame and anger gave way to insecurity. Maybe C is big because I am somehow negligent. C has always loved food. As a baby, she ate bowl after bowl of sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and yogurt. I never forbid her from having seconds. If C asks for more, I believe she must feel hungry and need the sustenance. While we stock our home with healthy choices, I certainly do not deny C an occasional hot dog, cookie, or bowl of ice cream. Since being pregnant, my own eating habits have steered slightly toward the unhealthy. Maybe I've steered my daughter in the same direction. I never once worried about C's weight, however leaving this appointment I began to wonder if maybe I had reason to worry after all.

Over the next week, a couple of incidents occurred that made me feel even more insecure. On Wednesday night, we celebrated Papa's birthday. After we sang Happy Birthday, Nana announced to the room, "Why don't we wait to serve cake until after C goes to bed. The doctor said she's overweight." While her statement was met with loud protests from the guests, C and I left very quickly. Heaven forbid we delay the family from eating cake. And last Friday while playing in the park, C sat next to a little boy on top of the slide. The boy's mother and I made small talk about our children and she asked about Lil' C's age. When I said she turned two about a week ago, the mother replied, "Oh my God! She's a giant!" Her son turned two in May and C was nearly double his size. Envisioning my enormous daughter trampling her fragile son on the playground, we soon headed for home.

Then I received a phone call from Dr. P's office. While I sat in a meeting, my iPhone vibrated, alerting me to a voicemail from the doctor. Clearly, a terrible message was waiting for me. Why does a doctor's office call, unless they have bad news to share? Unable to leave my meeting, I became increasingly distracted and anxious, fearing an endless list of terrible possibilities. By the end of my meeting, I convinced myself C had type I diabetes. I imagined a life filled with insulin shots and a gluten-free diet. Finally, my meeting ended and I was practically in tears as my shaky hands dialed voicemail.

As I listened to my voicemail, a nurse cheerfully told me C's blood work was normal and she was not at risk for lead poisoning. She did not mention C's weight. She certainly did not mention diabetes. Feeling great relief, I suddenly realized my worries were truly ridiculous. Yes, my daughter is big for her age. One day, she may be the largest child in her kindergarten class. She may soon outgrow toddler-sized clothing. She may like to eat a second, or even third, hot dog every now and then. But, she is healthy, she is growing, and she is beautiful. Worrying about her weight and denying her the chance to eat food she enjoys will only create further anxiety and possibly distort my daughter's views about food forever. I am not going to take that chance. We will switch to skim milk, but tonight, we are also going to eat some cake.


  1. This post makes me want to A) Call your doctor and tell him to shove it, B) bake your daughter a cake and come over and eat it with her, C) give you a hug!

    You baby is a baby!! She is only 2 - no way should you have to worry about what she eats. The fact that she is eating is a great thing...And hearing comments from other people is so hard too. I mentioned that M was so tall in a previous post, and I hate when people call her "huge." She also has an abnormally large head (for which we had a helmet for 6 months of her life) and she used to get comments about that too - still does for the size of it! I wish people would all just shut their mouths.


  2. Seriously. It was ONE visit. God, my kids are up and down with percentages all the time - all three of them. Penny was 0% and is now 50%. They do suggest switchign to 2% or 1% milk at age 2 (which we did) but I let my kids eat cake at a party. The part I struggle with is do I say "no cake until yo eat your dinner". Child of Mine says not to but they don't eat anything without threat. If your daughter is active, eats a variety of foods then DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT. Sounds like you finally got to a good place and I'm glad.

  3. WOAH. It sounds to me like you have exactly the right attitude. As long as she is healthy (and it sounds like she is) there is no reason to introduce body stress at age 2!! Kids come in all shapes and sizes. If she is eating nutritious food and exercising she will be fine, and it is only up to you to teach her (and her grandparents!) to love the body she has.

  4. Thanks for the kind words, mamas!

  5. I love your last paragraph, especially the last sentence. It is scary, especially raising girls, to think about all the negative messages (and the focus) that they do and will receive about their appearance and body shape/size. Good for you for being a positive influence in your daughter's life, making sure she feels good about herself and has a healthy attitude toward her body and food. I wish more people in society were aware of the damage they can do to young girls and were more sensitive and thoughtful about this. Best of luck to your daughter- I am sure she is JUST FINE!!!

  6. More support and agreement for the comments above and your concluding paragraph. I can only hope that if your doctor realized the stress her words have caused you, she would put more thought into what she says to parents about children's weight. Clearly we need to have a better understanding of whatever standards they are looking at when they make comments and recommendations about eating habits; if we have some context maybe we can make an informed decision about how much weight to give their words.