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“I can’t take it anymore! I HAVE to eat something!”
I was appalled when that came out of Jack’s mouth the other day, shortly before bedtime. He’s been starving himself? He's only 11! I thought I’d done a good job talking about healthy eating, with a big emphasis on “eating lots of fruits and veggies so you’re too full to overeat the heavy stuff.” How did my message not get through? How did I not notice warning signs earlier?
He’s been overweight for about a year. At his annual checkup last August, he’d grown 2 inches and gained 25 pounds- about 15 pounds more than he should have gained. Since that time, I've tried repeatedly to get him to be more active, as well as trying to get him to drink more water and eat more fruits and veggies. That worked for a time. He slimmed down a little this fall when I was strict about making him eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies each day, making sure he had protein at every meal, and got regular exercise. But then life got in the way, and the new habits were forgotten.
I really noticed his extra weight about a month ago, when we were going through some hand-me-down clothes. I realized that the only pair of dress pants that fit was a “husky.” As a toddler, he wore a “slim”! I commented on this, and mentioned that all 4 of us need to lose weight. After that, he started cutting back on portions. I was a little worried at first, as he seemed to be cutting back on total food intake without increasing his fruits and veggies. Is he getting enough nutrition? But then I figured, he’s probably been over-eating for the past year, and now maybe his appetite is more in balance with his actual caloric needs.
I can tell now that his belly is less padded than it was, and the scale shows a loss of 5 pounds. He’s clearly at a healthier weight, although he still needs to slim down some more. I thought everything was moving in the right direction until his comment at bedtime the other day- tense and hungry and stressed out- and immediately calmed down after having a bowl of cereal. That’s when I realized HOW he lost those 5 pounds- by cutting down his portions to the point where he always felt hungry. That’s not healthy eating- that’s the beginning of an eating disorder!
We had a nice, long talk about health and nutrition that evening, and those discussions are continuing. I explained to him that what he DOES eat is more important than what he doesn't eat. It’s never a good idea to end a meal feeling hungry- his body needs fuel for everyday activities as well as for growth. It’s good that he’s not over-eating; continuing to eat after he’s full is a bad habit, and likely what caused the weight gain in the first place. But he took it too far to the other extreme, and that’s not healthy either.
I've gotten him to eat more produce over the past few days. I’m encouraging him to drink more water, so he doesn't eat when he’s actually thirsty. Soon I want to get him exercising regularly.
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