My son, Connor, is skinny.
He’s not quite thin enough to worry his doctors, but I’m a little concerned. He turns 12 this week, and he carries only 79 pounds on his 5-foot frame.
Connor’s weight puts him in the 25th percentile among U.S. boys his age, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Translation: About three-quarters of his peers weigh more than him.
I guess I should calm down since many parents have the opposite concern – their kids are too fat. Childhood obesity is a rampant national problem. It’s more than tripled in the past 30 years, according to the federal government.
Seems like parents always fret over their child’s development – either physically or academically, or both. And I’m certainly no exception.
I could focus on Connor’s height, which places him in the 65th percentile, according to the government chart. So he’s taller than most boys his age.
But I keep looking at him and wishing he’d gain weight. If he put on 10 pounds, he’d jump to the middle of the pack for boys his age. If Connor packed on 20 pounds, he’d leap to the 65th percentile – matching his standing for height.
Our problem: A picky eater
Connor is a picky eater, and it drives me crazy. I was probably the same way when I was his age, but I don’t remember. If Connor had his way, he’d eat exclusively cheeseburgers, fries and cookies. So if I indulged his dietary wishes, he might quickly gain weight.
But I certainly don’t want Connor to get hooked on junk food at an early age and run the risk of obesity down the road.
Do any other parents face this dilemma? What do you do about it?
I searched the Internet for articles on picky eaters. Here’s a good one from the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. It offers 10 tips for picky eaters. Among them: Be patient when introducing food and don’t offer dessert as a reward.
“Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food, which might only increase your child’s desire for sweets,” according to the article by the Mayo staff.
I offer Connor healthy fare: fruits, vegetables and dairy products. He’ll eat some fruits and cheese, and he’ll drink milk occasionally. But vegetables? I might as well be trying to make him digest rotting garbage.
I didn’t like vegetables as a kid either. But now I do (with a few exceptions like lima beans and brussel sprouts). Maybe Connor will gradually adopt a more diverse, healthy diet.
Fortunately, his school plays food cop. Kids who buy their lunch, like Connor, must pick a fruit and vegetable each day. This is a new policy this year, and I think it’s fantastic.
When I was his age, we didn’t have any cafeteria restrictions at school. I would routinely order greasy cheeseburgers and fries, barbecue potato chips and ice cream sandwiches (sometimes two). Talk about empty calories!
My childhood weight
Despite this junk food diet, I had a hard time gaining weight – just like my son. I played on the football team, and I remember desperately trying to put on weight the summer before I entered high school. I weighed 160 and wanted to get to 180 so I could keep my position as tight end.
My parents bought big jugs of protein powder that I mixed with milk and ice cream in a blender. Sometimes I’d throw in a banana for extra calories. I’d sometimes drink two of these frothy, 18-ounce concoctions a day.
The crash weight-gain diet worked. When my sophomore year began, I did indeed tip the scales at 180. And I wound up keeping my starting tight end position, even with increased competition.
Now, I eat a fraction of what I did back then – and struggle to maintain my weight of 230. I’ve cut out some of my favorite foods, such as fried chicken, pizza and ice cream, so I can still fit in my pants.
Maybe Connor will face the same situation when he’s in his mid-50s. So I guess I should rejoice that he’s too skinny rather than too fat.
As parents, we must watch what our kids eat. Introduce healthy food at a young age. Don’t let them always pick what they’ll eat. Keep an eye on your child’s height and weight in relation to others their age. If your child’s development concerns you in any way, contact a doctor.