My son, Gaige, came home from school one day very sad because some kids kept telling him he had a big belly. My heart broke for my little 4 year old. At this young age, my son weighed 66.3 pounds and was 45 inches tall with a body mass index of 22.7. A normal BMI for kids my son’s age is 14.
As a mom, I truly believe we don’t see flaws in our children that others may see. I knew Gaige was bigger than most kids his age. I didn’t really see how much bigger he was. With a desire to fix the problem, I made an appointment with our pediatrician.
I discussed the teasing and my family history of hypothyroidism with our pediatrician. After testing, we found out Gaige had a normal acting thyroid, but his cholesterol level was high. Both my husband and I work in health care and understand the effects that high cholesterol could have on an adult. What would it do to our son?
We were referred to the NEW (Nutrition, Exercise and Weight Management) Kids™ Program at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. We had our first appointment in December 2008.
We saw many people during our visits to the NEW Kids Program including a nurse practitioner, dietitian and psychologist. A physical therapist found that Gaige had some weakness in his legs and was slightly behind developmentally because of that weakness. I now understood why Gaige didn’t want to participate in sporting activities. When he complained that his legs hurt, he wasn’t just wanting to be carried after all!
Gaige’s physical therapist gave us some home exercises to do. We also were encouraged to try different activities with Gaige until we found one he liked. We found that he loves to swim and play floor hockey.
We also got advice about meals and snacks. The goal of changing Gaige’s diet was to maintain his weight as he grew. We wanted to work at getting his cholesterol at a more healthy number, too.
Gaige could drink a gallon of milk in two days. I did think it was a lot, but never thought this was a problem because he was getting calcium. We needed to cut back. We were given great alternatives to some of Gaige’s favorite foods. The staff also suggested some low-calorie drinks. We didn’t want to limit too much. Instead of eating four cookies for a snack, we chose one cookie and a fruit or veggie. These changes would help Gaige and our whole family.
Every person I met in the program never made me feel judged. They always were kind and set reasonable expectations. We had ups and downs … in Gaige’s BMI and in our emotions. The staff gave me the tools and support I needed to keep from making the same mistakes again. In October 2009 we learned that Gaige’s BMI decreased to 21.9 and his cholesterol was in a healthy range!
We took Gaige into the clinic for a BMI check in April. We again got to see some improvements in his BMI – 20.6! I am proud of my 6-year-old son. He has learned a lot about healthy choices. We will continue to monitor Gaige’s cholesterol and BMI, but we now have the extra knowledge to help keep Gaige healthy.
~ Jacqui, mom from Menomonee Falls, Wis. and believer in Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s NEW Kids Program, guest blogger