Skinny Minny

God has blessed me with healthy kids. Sure, we’ve had our medical adventures, and naturally the usual bumps and bruises, but even colds and stomach upsets pass through our house with only a temporary disruption and not everyone being affected.

God has also blessed me with skinny kids. I, like most moms I know, expend vast amounts of mental energy trying to think of ways to sneak more fruits and vegetables into my kids’ daily diet. Like most moms I know, I spend a generous amount of time thinking about and preparing snacks and meals that are balanced and more nutritious than the standard fare offered via kids’ meals or school cafeterias or the snack aisles at the grocery stores. A homemade muffin, even one from a package, has to be better than a store-bought muffin. Cookies are after-dinner desserts, not mid-afternoon snacks. My pumpkin bread may be loaded with sugar, but at least it’s not loaded with high fructose corn syrup. Candy is eaten at Easter, Christmas and Halloween fairly exclusively, although long trips may warrant lollipops and M&Ms. After years, I finally cracked and do buy frozen chicken nuggets which I reserve for quickie meals or ones where the grownups get steak. I occasionally make Kraft Mac N Cheese and my spaghetti sauce comes from a jar, but this is balanced by homemade pizza dough and rolls. There is almost always more than one vegetable served for dinner. Dessert is only for those who eat a sufficient amount of the food served. Popcorn is for movie nights. Chips and soda are for parties only.

I think I have a moderate approach to food. My goal has been to instill in my kids a healthy attitude toward food wherein they recognize certain foods as treats and other foods as necessary for good nutrition and select an appropriate quantity from each category. Over the years, I’ve read tons of articles on childhood obesity and what parents can do to avoid it. I’ve modified the ways I used to cook and types of food I make: I’ve withheld butter on vegetables I serve, used chicken breasts and shunned dark meat, baked instead of fried, broiled instead of sauteed, limited potatoes and rice and pasta, tried to encourage fish even if it was just fish sticks. I’ve allowed my children to indicate when they were full. I’ve simply not purchased certain foods (chips, candy, sugary drinks) and avoided fighting with my children over their consumption by not having them as an option most of the time.

I’ve done lots of things “right.”

But I’ve been wrong.

Because my skinny kids, and in the spotlight for the past month has been my son, Billy, are too skinny. This is not a problem that I have ever personally had to deal with. Once, maybe, I’d like to be too skinny. For a day, perhaps. I would much rather have to work at keeping some meat on my bones than work at keeping it off. And I’d much rather have too skinny kids, than ones who sneak into closets with fistfuls of candy. But still, I have the worry and concern that comes when doctors look at your kid with a critical eye and ponder what could be wrong with him.

Last month I took three of the kids for physicals, and although all are skinny, Billy is off the charts in height and weight – off the lower end, not the upper end. This led to a referral to an endocrinologist who ordered blood work, a urinalysis, and an x-ray of his hand to look at bone growth.

In between the pediatrician and the endocrinologist, I had thought long and hard about my son and his height and weight and the possible causes. My motherly analysis decided he just did not eat enough food. I recorded his caloric intake for a day, and it was under 800. But he was “full.” After the endocrinologist listed for me the tests she thought ought to be run, I asked her if seeing a pediatric nutritionist might not be a good idea, since I was pretty sure that he wasn’t eating enough food, and I desired guidance in what kinds of foods I should have him eat. She lauded me for being a pro-active mother, which I thought was bizarre, and put me in for a consult.

We had the blood work done, and while waiting for the results I managed to get to the pediatric nutritionist. I told her about my food philosophy described above, and she said that it was well and good for lots of families. But not mine. My kids don’t sit still at a desk all day long (I often wish they did). My kids don’t fend for themselves in the kitchen for snacks and even frequent meals. My kids don’t sit alone in front of the TV with a snack or their dinner. My kids don’t associate people and food – they play with little regard for eating (they eat with quite a bit of regard for playing instead). They don’t live from meal to meal, but from game to game. I must add that, quite to my complete embarrassment and annoyance, all five of my kids were in the exam room for this discussion and did everything they could do demonstrate just exactly how active and non-food focused they were.

The bottom line is that my kids now no longer get to decide that they are full. They get ice cream for dessert. They get chocolate Carnation Instant Breakfast heaped into their whole milk multiple times a day. They get Flintstones Complete vitamins which vaguely resemble candy, and I am very thankful that they have child-proof caps. They have to stop playing and sit down and eat their breakfast or lunch or snack until I say they can get up. We’re now eating chicken thighs instead of breasts, buttered vegetables and rice, and more pasta.

After the lab results came back, the endocrinologist called and said they indicated that Billy was healthy in every way, except for one: he was anemic. Possibly this was a result of diet, but possibly it meant something else. She put in a referral to a pediatric gastroenterologist. We went to see this GI doctor yesterday. Fortunately for Billy, he had gained a whole pound in two weeks, which comforted the doctor and added credence to my assertions that the child is simply underfed. Had he not gained any weight, she would have been completely baffled. The kid has all the outward appearance of being healthy, but his consistent drop from the 50th percentile in height and weight at age 2 to his less than 3rd percentile at age 7 is so “remarkable” that the experts seem strongly inclined to study his “case.” I have this strange feeling that Billy is the trick question on the final medical exam – only the “trick” is that he really is healthy and really just needs to eat more food, but the experts think there must be something more…the other answer is just too easy.

But since he has gained weight, mom’s tactic seems to be working, and maybe, just maybe, a wait and see approach would be best in this case. So, we’ll continue to stuff him up like Hansel at the witch’s house, and in four months or so, have his anemia and weight checked. That’s around the time the baby is due. Maybe we’ll all be able to back off on the ice cream by then. I know I’ll need to.

Billy asked me yesterday if this was the last time we’d be going to Walter Reed. I responded, “Just don’t do anything crazy, Billy. No dramatic events in the next two weeks, ok? And then, yes, hopefully, this will be our last time at Walter Reed.” God willing.

10 thoughts on “Skinny Minny

  1. We force feed milk shakes around here too — to one really skinny kid. All the rest stand around and lick their chops! Well, they get little milkshakes and he gets jumbo ones!

  2. Don’t worry too much… I had the same problem too as a child and I turned out fine… as long as the weight and height are proportional, that’s all that matters, even if it’s off the chart. Good luck!

  3. All of mine are skinny too; you will see that when you meet them. And I think part of the reason is that they fill up fast. Big Brother always looked like one of those kids who needed a “care” package. Now he runs distance so he’s still skinny. He was totally off the chart for a while. The doctor said that as long as he is healthy (very!), growing at his own pace and eating, not to worry about it–and to give him calorie-dense foods like peanut butter, string cheese….more bang for the bite.

  4. Michelle – You might try ensure or boost drinks. We have a skinny minnie in our family as well. THe drinks are pricey, but pack a lot of protein and calories.– Kelly

  5. You know what though…stick with carnation with whole milk…I was doing a lot of boost and ensure…look at the engredients…canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil…you don’t want that kind of nutrition. Surprisingly, whole milk and a little carnation instant breakfast is not only cheaper than ensure, it’s healthier (imho). If fat is what he needs, keep it good fats…cause even skinny people (like myself) can have bad outcomes from the wrong kind of fats. There’s nothing wrong with just having him eat all the same things you did before, just insist he eat more of it. You’re doing a great job!

  6. The nutritionist suggested the Pediasure drinks, which are expensive, even at the commissary (ten bucks for 6 drinks!?!). They probably don’t have the same things that the drinks for adults have. My husband was always the second smallest kid in the class (he went all through school with the same friend who was the smallest kid in the class). He’s average height and weight, as is his friend. He ran cross country in high school and was scrawny as could be. I never expected to have bulky kids.I’ll have an update tomorrow, though, on this saga. Another phone call and more headaches…

  7. I’ve always wondered about that notion of letting kids stop eating when they want. We had to eat all of our dinner growing up, and I do not have an “unhealthy relationship” with food! I’m not going to battle with them or anything, but they must eat all of their dinner if they want dessert, end of story. And it’s absolutely awful to sit at the table watching everyone else eat ice cream without you!

  8. I am the skinny minny of my clan…so I will get along well with your kids! 🙂 Your approach to being healthy is what’s important. My little sister (12) has the childhood obesity problem (though my parents are in denial so severe they seem to not see it) and is in danger of becoming a juvenile diabetic. I think that as conscientious as you are, you will be fine. I think too that you’re right to be wary of those docs wanting to study Billy. He’ll be fine. But saying a Hail Mary for ya’all just the same. 🙂

  9. Somehow I missed this post until just now.Wow.You say a lot of interesting things here. They say our children help us earn our way into Heaven. As someone who has struggle with weight and food issues, cooking for my children has taught me more about the self control that that I lack. They do have different caloric needs than we do and yet no mom wants to be cooking two separate meals. I have had to learn to refrain from the food I prepare for them because their little bodies need it and still find a way to all sit down at the family table together.

  10. Michelle,I applaud your efforts to feed the kids healthy meals. Keep on truckin’! Don’t know about your side, but Bill comes from a long line of skinny minnies – both Dad’s & mine. Mary was thin until high school & Grace was thin until her thirties – when bad habits set in. Until a doctor messed with my thyroid, I was 5’5″ & 104 lbs. in 9th grade.Dad & I both grew up with similar food groupings – mine was a pie divided in threes. 1/3 was fruits & vegetables; 1/3 was meat, fish & dairy; and 1/3 was bread, cereal & other starches. Of course, this was in the day when all children were as active as yours.In addition, both of our mothers allowed a snack of 2 small cookies in the afternoon – if it was at least an hour before dinner, preferably 2. Dad’s mom used to sneak in additonal nutrition by adding Kretchmer’s wheat germ to muffins & any place else where she thought it wouldn’t be detected. She also used to make good sized hamburgers by adding bread crumbs and egg to the beef (mine used to put in chopped onion – the only onion I liked). My mom also used to put unsulphered molasses in my milk. (I was a very picky eater & worried her half to death.)Don’t beat yourself up over this – Sarah & Jennie C. have the right idea. I vividly remember sitting at the table until I learned to like liver!Love, Mom

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