Tuesday, January 10, 2006

This Bit of Brilliance Brought to You by the Back of a SlimFast Can

No, really. And yes, I've used SlimFast, just not for weight loss. I'd explain, but that's a rabbit trail, and I'm determined to stay on topic today. Um, what was I saying? Oh, yes, the back of the SlimFast can. It lists the required Nutrition Facts, but next to calories, it also says, in parentheses, "energy." Like this: Calories (energy): 240. I guess it doesn't occur to most people that calories units of energy. They're the fuel in your tank, people. You need them, and the SlimFast people want you to know about it.

And so do I. In fact, I want a four-year-old to know about it.

Mary Liz is a bit chubby. At first I thought it was just her baby fat hanging on, but it's become evident that it's not, that it's a symptom of a larger problem, which is that she loves to eat and watch television, but doesn't enjoy a lot of physical activities. Last year at her check-up, her doctor suggested that we do what is necessary to thin her out a bit. For my part, I've been limiting her food portions and getting her outdoors when I can. I take the long way to walk where we're going. We get off the bus at a farther bus stop than is necessary. I take half the food off her plate when we go to a restaurant, explaining that it won't fit properly in her tummy, and I don't offer her seconds after a meal. So far she's bought it, but she's getting to the age now where: A) She's better able to understand making more complicated choices, and B) She notices when Jack gets a lot more food than she does. So I've decided to level with her about how it all works. At the same time, I don't want her to ever feel like she is fat or that anyone disapproves of her in any way because we have to work on her weight a little bit. In fact, the word weight doesn't make an appearance in our discussions. The word energy, however, does.

Here's how it goes, and you can use it, too: Food gives us energy. The more food we eat, the more energy we put into our bodies. The more activity and exercise we do, like walking and running and bicycling, the more energy we need. We want to have plenty of energy, but if we put in too much and don't use it, it's not good for our bodies. In fact, putting more energy in than we need and not using it makes it harder for our bodies to do everything else they need to do. So we need to make sure we have enough energy, but not too much. If we do a lot of activities and exercise, we need to eat more food. If we aren't doing many activities or exercising, we need to put less food in.

As a practical application, if Jack or Mary Liz wants a snack in the afternoon, I tell them that it's fine, but we have to make room for the energy first, so we go get some out by taking a walk or a bike ride. It's fine to choose not to get energy out, but then you can't put more in. So far the choice has been to get some energy out so they can have more. I then offer the choice between a treat bowl snack (one small piece of candy) or a larger healthy snack like half a pear or some grapes. So long as I am consistent, I think it will work out well. Now if I could only get all the people who feed her on that same bandwagon...


Shiz said...

Handled that like a pro, MaryMuses!

Cristin said...

Wow. Fabulous! Can I borrow this, word-for-word? My now 6 year old had always been 'solid', and though learning to ride a two-wheeler and a tremendous growth-spurt have helped, she is a carb-junkie, and trying to explain why she can't have any candy right now without making her feel fat (she isn't) is tough. Same thing as you, I don't want to set up any complexes for her, or make her think she needs a diet. It is tough.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I have to ask . . . Where did you get that coat?

marymuses said...

Shiz, that's because I AM a pro! (Stand back, people, I'm a professional.)

Cristin, you can print it out and read it like a script if you want to. I'm happy to share.

Anonymous, I got my coat at Panache, which is a little boutique in Chicago. They're super nice there, so if you're ever in Chicago, drop in and see what they've got.