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Jul 8, 2013
02:36 PM
Health Kick

Of Warts and Weight

Of Warts and Weight

My son has a plantar wart on his foot. That baby is big, and we haven't had any luck with over-the-counter remedies. It seemed like it might be time to take him to a dermatologist to have it frozen off. But when I mentioned it, my nine-year-old, who typically has a high pain threshold, completely freaked out. Tears. Hysterics. Slammed doors.

At first I couldn't figure out the extreme reaction. And then it hit me.

Before Owen went to his pediatrician for his most recent well-child checkup, I asked the doctor to talk to him about his weight. Owen has always been the big kid—high on both the height and weight charts. Until about two years ago, his percentiles aligned pretty well. He was never that knobby-kneed, scrawny little kid, but he wasn't overweight. I called him sturdy.

Then his weight started to creep up. Depending on where he is in his growth trajectory, he can veer toward chubby. If I'm being entirely honest, I suppose the scale would suggest he is overweight. He's not obese by any stretch of the imagination. He plays all kinds of sports (some pretty well) and eats a fairly healthy diet. But when he's not in a structured activity, he's on the couch and I can hardly get him to budge. I haven't found the right way to motivate him to move more. I've suggested a family 5K. Walking the dog. Basketball in the driveway. I've rationed TV and other screens. I've stopped baking things he likes (and I love to bake). I limit treats. We avoid foods like pizza that he tends to overeat. So I wanted some help from a more-or-less objective professional.

Well, the conversation with his pediatrician was strained and awkward. Owen clearly felt humiliated and ashamed. He grew quiet. His face was flushed, his head down. He hardly spoke on the way home, and since then he has bristled at the suggestion of going in for any reason.

At first I didn't connect a dermatologist visit with that excruciating talk about making good food choices and being active. Now I realize that Owen fears that any doctor is going to bring up his weight. And even though the doctor never used the "F" word, Owen heard it. To him if you talk about his weight, you're really just calling him fat. So, understandably, he usually doesn't want to talk about it.

Then recently Owen started to bring it up. He compares himself to other kids. He compares himself to me. I try to encourage him to make good choices while balancing the fact that he's a nine-year-old boy who deserves ice cream every now and then. We talk about being healthy, not about being overweight and certainly not about his size. I try to do what the experts suggest, but I fumble around and usually botch things entirely. I can tell his weight bothers him. And that bothers me.

In my eyes, he is an amazing, talented, funny kid. He's not too big at all. He's just my sweet little boy—with a nasty wart on his foot that we can't treat because all conversations lead to weight.

No matter what anyone says about the terrible twos or those hard days at daycare, this is the hardest part of parenting for me. I see what the problem is and I can't for the life of me figure out how to fix it. I don't even know how to talk about it. And loving him madly doesn't make the warts or the weight or the worry go away. 

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About This Blog

Contrary to the title of this blog, I'm not always on a health kick. I try (for the most part) to eat well and exercise regularly, but I'm far, far from perfect. I do, though, enjoy learning about health trends and scientific discoveries, and I hope to share information and pose questions that you might find interesting or useful. Hey, if you get a little inspired while you're reading, all the better. Just don't expect it on a regular basis. I'm a writer, not a celebrity trainer.

Why health? Well, I've been around the block enough times that I don't take it for granted anymore. I also recognize that our health is the result of myriad factors ranging from genetics to diet to habits to socioeconomic status to prejudices and beyond. It's a complicated puzzle with different pieces for each of us. That means there are few guarantees or absolutes and still a ton to discover. I never liked the rigidity of science in practice, but I love the insights it produces.

So let's start 2013 on a Health Kick. With any luck, we'll all be better for it.

– Jennifer Garrett 

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