Monday, May 16, 2011

On Eating (part 1)

I have two sons.

My Boys

They are very different from each other.

One has curly brown hair and green eyes.


He's the spitting image of his father.
He's got a heart the size of a lion.
He can be kind of a space cadet.
He loves fruit and vegetables.
He's overweight.

The other has straight blonde hair and blue eyes.


He may resemble his mother just a bit.
He's a creative marvel.
He's can be a little mean.
He loves dessert.
He's a scrawny bean-pole.

Before I get started on this story, I want you all to know that I asked for and received permission from all parties involved in this tale. I specifically asked Derek if I could share his story, and he said it was fine with him.

About a month ago, the four of us were sitting in the living room, talking and being silly - pretty much an average evening - when Derek asked a question that broke my heart.

"Mom?" (because all questions by youngsters in this house start this way...even when Dad is present.)
"Derek?" (because I am a smart ass.)
"Why are all of you slim, and I'm not?"

At this point, tears sprang into my eyes and my throat closed up and it was all I could do to not give in to them. Derek has always been big. He was over 9 pounds at birth. There has never been a time that he didn't check in at the 90th percentile for weight. But over the past year or so, I've really started to see some changes in Derek's shape - his cute little belly has grown into an uncomfortable paunch and its size has started interfering with his physical activity.

In short, my sweet butterball baby has become an overweight young man.

And, while I've noticed it, I've been reluctant to say anything negative about it, because the last thing I would want to do would be to make him feel bad about himself. I'm very thankful that he brought it up first - because now he's in control of the changes he needs to make.

We talked about food choices, and calories and metabolism. Derek says he rarely feels really hungry - he just eats when it is time to eat. This is dramatically different from Joshua, who lives to eat - and is constantly hungry. Derek has a sluggish metabolism...Joshua's is similar to a Formula 1 car.

We talked about genetics and the role it plays in body shape and how Dr. SmartyPants struggled with his weight around the same age, as did my dad, brother and nephew - and how my metabolism more closely resembled Joshua's, although it has slowed considerably through the years.

And Derek decided that he wanted to change his body shape and how he eats. I did some research about healthy weight loss options for pre-teen boys, and found a book to help him understand how your body uses food, and what kinds of foods are best to eat to promote healthy (gradual) weight loss...

...and came up with this one. It's such a simple concept for helping kids make good choices with regard to their eating, and it's been a fantastic road map for all of us - even the hyper-metabolized Joshua.

On the whole, it's been an easy transition. We eat fairly healthily most of the time anyway, although sodas have been a constant issue, we like chips, and Joshua's need for dessert at every meal kind of negates the vegetables I love to serve. Sodas have now been relegated to once a week, and honestly - they've been choosing other things instead, even with the option of having one - I've seen them order iced tea or  lemonade instead. Desserts are special occasion things, but sugar free pudding is a good substitute when they have a craving. Strawberries with stevia, instead of sugar, are even better. We switched from 2% milk to fat free milk. And we're drinking much more water.

I've watched them both reading nutrition labels and figuring out calorie content per serving, and seen their eyebrows raise up when they realize that they can have 40 goldfish crackers or 5 tortilla chips for the same caloric content. I've seen them measure out a portion size, rather than just filling up the entire bowl full of cereal and milk.

It's like health class all up in here.

We've all been weighing in once a week and so far...

Well. You'll have to wait for Part II, where I'll disclose the numbers (including how we came to the conclusion that Derek was, indeed, overweight) and talk about my struggles of helping him make those wise choices every day. Let's just say for now that it's hard being a mama...

Until some fruit, y'all...