Would a Supersize Soda Ban Change Your Family’s Drinking Habits?

Mason has never had a soda, and I’m hoping to keep it that way for a long time. It’s not that I’m worried he’ll become obese if he drinks it–he’s still a tall string bean of a kid, even though he has a huge appetite–it’s a health issue. All that sugar is linked to Diabetes and heart disease. And since he loves milk and water, I don’t see any point in hooking him on a junk-drink.

And surely it’s my right as a parent to decide what my son will drink, including exactly how much of it he will consume, right?

Well, mostly.

A new law in New York City, where we live, now bans supersize non-diet soda, sweetened teas, and other high-calorie beverages (defined as anything larger than 16 ounces) from being sold in cafeterias, restaurants, theaters, and fast-food joints.

Although I’ve supported the gross-out ads that run on TV and are plastered on subway cars to encourage people to think twice before tossing back a sugary drink–Americans do drink too much soda–this ban annoys me for several reasons:

* Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken it upon himself to champion a law that tells New Yorkers what we can and cannot drink. (Remember, he’s also the one who decided to lock up formula in hospitals.) Why should he have that right?

* The ban isn’t very smart. People can just go to a place where free refills are offered and drink as much sugar as they wish. If there aren’t refills, they can purchase two sodas. Or, they can go to the store and buy a jumbo bottle of soda. If sugar is the real concern here, why not look at smart ways to better regulate sugar?

* If health is the key concern, why aren’t there limits on drinks with artificial sweeteners? A recent study showed that massive quantities of diet soda is linked to a higher risk of stroke and heart attack. Researchers also found that diet soda packs on the pounds, too.

Bottom line is that this law isn’t going to change what Mason drinks–or, frankly, what we drink in our household. We don’t drink mass quantities of soda, but if we wanted to, we would. I think it should be our choice what we consume, not the government’s decision.

Would a ban like this where you live influence how much soda your family drinks?

Photo: Glass of soda via uchschen/Shutterstock.com

Childhood Obesity: Mom of Inspirational Nike Ad Star Doesn’t Get It

“At any point did you worry…that some people might [say], ‘Wow that kid’s really overweight and he’s only 12”?

Matt Lauer asked this startling question during an interview with Nathan Sorrell, the 200-pound, 5′ 3″ star of Nike’s Olympic ad campaign “Find Your Greatness,” and his mother on the Today Show this morning. The 12-year-old was chosen to participate in the campaign, which shows him running down a lone highway while a narrator talks about how we’re all capable of achieving greatness.


I love Nathan’s heart and his drive. I think that it’s great that he’s inspired to get into shape after participating in this ad. And I think that he’s an awesome role model for anyone who is trying to lose weight. I wish I could hug him. But it made me sick that he was in a position where he had to answer such a humiliating question on national TV.

I thought about the interview as I dropped Mason off at school (thankfully there was no vomiting incident this morning), stood in line at Starbucks for my  latte, and rode the elevator up to my office at work. The more I thought about it, the angrier I felt. By the time I logged onto my computer I was outraged.

Where were his parents while he was packing on the pounds? He didn’t become obese overnight. In fact, Nathan was so out of shape that he had to stop and vomit on the side of the road during the shoot, according to an ABC News report.

During the interview, Nathan’s mom Monica said that she was “wowed that Nike picked Nathan for their ad” and said that it was “something else to see your son on TV during the Olympics,” however, she seemed to be missing one critical detail: Her 12-year-old was in the ad, on TV, because he’s obese. She never once acknowledged that Nathan is facing a major health crisis for which she is at least partially responsible. Nor did she speak about how she’d help Nathan stay inspired to get fit.

Maybe you’re agreeing with me right now, or maybe you’re thinking that I’m being a mean, judgey mom. But when it comes to a child’s health, even if it isn’t my own child, I can’t help it. Childhood obesity is a major crisis in this country and we as parents are in a very powerful position to put an end to it. So why are so many of us dropping the ball?

I hope that Nathan gets healthy, and seeing his tremendous spirit on TV, I’m betting he will. I’d love to see a fit Nathan run in a follow-up Nike ad.

I also hope that his mom wakes up and does her part to help him succeed. Make him nutritious meals. Get out there and jog with him. Remind him that he was great even before Nike put him on TV. Get him healthy now, before it’s too late.

Photo: Sign via Stacie Stauff Smith Photography via Shutterstock.com

Is it Child Abuse to Give Your Toddler Soda?

Yesterday, Gawker shared a video from YouTube of a tot named Noah drinking root beer for the first time. Noah clearly loved the sugary drink, but many viewers weren’t charmed one bit. Here’s a sample of comments, cherry-picked by Gawker’s Neetzan Zimmerman:

“ONWARD TO OBESITY!!!!” “It’s like instant autism.” “Every time I see a parent feeding their kids soda I want to punch them in the face.”Some viewers even called Noah’s parents child abusers for letting him have the soda.

Although I think that it’s absolutely absurd to let your toddler drink soda, I don’t think what we’re seeing in this video is abuse. Noah seems to be a happy kid taking a few swigs of root beer from a straw. It appears to be the first time he’s ever tried it, and his reaction is pretty cute. C’mon, it’s soda, not bleach.

But I think that giving your kid soda can be abusive in certain contexts. If, for example, you’re giving your tot only soda to drink, along with a high-cal, fat-filled diet, I believe you’re committing child abuse. Your deliberately endangering your child’s health.

The childhood obesity epidemic is one reason that kids shouldn’t be drinking soda. (Adults shouldn’t be either, but I cheat from time to time, when Mason isn’t around.) We’re also seeing studies about how toxic sugar may be to our bodies. And parents need to be teaching their kids how to make healthful food choices at home, not introducing them to bad habits. Parents should model good eating habits too.

My bottom line: If your tot is thirsty, pour him a glass of milk or water. If he says he wants a drink with bubbles, give him sparkling water. There’s just no need to encourage him to drink soda, or to even make drinking it an option.

What do you think of this video? Do you let your tot drink soda?

Photo: Can of soda via Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock.com

New Study: Mothers Prefer Chubby Tots…But I Love My Skinny One!

Moms think chunky is cuter when it comes to their tots, a new study suggests. Researchers in Baltimore examined 280 mothers aged 18 to 46, 72 percent of whom were overweight themselves, and the moms who had overweight toddlers believed their children were normal weight, whereas the moms of underweight toddlers wished they were plumper.

The findings suggest that “U.S. mothers often do not have a realistic idea of their offspring’s weight, and many still cling to the notion that a chubby child is healthy child,” according to an article on MSNBC.

“A long time ago, it was OK to value a chubby baby when kids were underweight and we had potato famines and what not,” said researcher Erin Hager, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “It was a sign you’re doing well for yourself.”

“But that is not how it is today in the United States,” said Hager, whose study appears in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Although this study was narrow in its scope, I feel like it’s pretty representative of the opinions of the moms I meet.

As the mom of a skinny 20-month-old, I can relate with moms who wish their kids were plumper. There are times when I pray Mason would pack on five pounds, so I wouldn’t have to defend his size to other moms, or hold my breath every time he gets weighed at the pediatrician’s office. But, truly, those are my issues, and I’m trying to change my attitude. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on what a happy, joyful child Mason is.

What about you? Do you obsess over your child’s size?

Photo: Toddler via Chris Leachman/Shutterstock.com

Mom Who Forced Her 7-Year-Old to Diet Should Be Arrested

I was horrified when I heard that a mother put her seven-year-old daughter on a diet.  Then I found out that Vogue paid Dara-Lynn Weiss to write an essay for its current issue about the Weight Watchers-style diet that she forced upon her child, and I was absolutely appalled, flabbergasted, disgusted. Honestly, there are no words to adequately express my horror.

In her essay, the Manhattan socialite writes about the unconscionable actions that she took to slim down her daughter Bea once she noticed she “had grown fat,” including depriving her little girl of dinner and berating her when she ate junk food. There are also images of her and Bea modeling in the magazine–just one of the “rewards” that Bea got after spending a year on the diet and losing 16 pounds. (She also received new dresses and a feather hair extension.) The warped message: Thin equals beauty and privilege, fat equals ugly and unworthy. I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely not a message I’d ever want to give to my kid.

Not surprisingly, Weiss writes that she has a history of struggling with her own body image, and I agree with this assertion by Katie J.M. Baker of Jezebel: “Weiss was projecting her hatred of her own body onto her child throughout her year-long diet.” Only that kind of self-loathing could motivate you to treat your daughter this way–and then fail to recognize (or care) how devastating it would be for her to have to relive it through an article in a very popular national magazine. Imagine having your peers read this kind of thing about you; Bea’s classmates might be too young to really get it now, but this story will haunt Bea through high school.

The editors who commissioned this manuscript, as well as the people who gave Weiss a book deal because of it–that’s right, a book deal–should be fired. And this “mom” needs to be arrested.

I’m not making light of childhood obesity; it’s an epidemic in this country that afflicts 17 percent of our children, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and we can’t ignore it. But this mother’s horrific actions are not an appropriate solution. Starving your child and therefore depriving her of the nutrients that she needs to grow is child abuse. Why not teach her how to eat healthfully instead? And to be active as part of a healthy lifestyle?

In fact, I don’t believe Weiss’ motivations had anything to do with Bea’s health. Instead she strikes me as one of those appalling parents who view their children as accessories that can enhance their own image, sort of like the latest Birkin bag. In this case, Weiss molded Bea into a shiny accessory that was fit for the pages of Vogue, and I’m afraid Bea will pay for her mother’s selfishness for the rest of her life.

Weiss met her own goals, but at what cost to Bea’s mental health, self-confidence, and general perception of right and wrong? As Weiss writes in her essay: “When I ask her if she likes how she looks now, if she’s proud of what she’s accomplished, she says yes. Even so, the person she used to be still weighs on her. Tears of pain fill her eyes as she reflects on her yearlong journey. “That’s still me,” she says of her former self. “I’m not a different person just because I lost sixteen pounds.”

I wish I could hold Bea and rock her. I’d tell her that being a good person is so much more important than modeling a skirt in Vogue, and then I’d pray that she believed me despite her toxic upbringing.

Photo: Girl on a scale via Tyurina Elena/Shutterstock

Project Weight Gain Redux, Mason Meets the Co-Workers, New Discoveries

My little boy is getting so big. The time is flying by so quickly that it leaves me breathless if I stop to think about it. His 18-month check-up was yesterday afternoon, so I decided to bring him into my office afterward so he could meet my co-workers. Our adventure reminded me that being in a different environment is sometimes the best way to learn new things about your child.

When I arrived at school to pick Mason up he was curled on his cot, just waking up from his nap. He was playing quietly with a shoe and my heart melted when he looked up, saw that I was there for him, jumped up, and ran to me. He didn’t make a peep and I was so proud of him for not waking up any of his classmates who were still sleeping.

Discovery 1: He will follow specific routines, such as lying on a cot completely silent until nap ime is over, to meet expectations.

We schlepped to the doc’s office, and Mason sat in a chair in the waiting room eating his organic graham crackers and watching cartoons until the nurse called us back (left.)

Discovery 2: Without a doubt, he can follow directions. He’ll sit still in a chair for up to 10 minutes–even when other kids are running around right in front of him.

The new pediatrician that we saw was awesome–thorough but laid-back, upbeat and reassuring. (It was the same practice that we normally go to, but our usual pediatrician wasn’t there today.) I think we’re going to switch to her. I left the office feeling happy, not anxious like I normally do. Mason seemed much happier throughout the appointment, too, despite the big shot he got at the end of his appointment.

Discovery 3: Mason’s sensitive to situations and emotions, just like I am. He clearly picked up on my discomfort with the last pediatrician–and my ease with this one.

The only downer was when the nurse told me Mason hadn’t gained an ounce–literally, not one ounce–since our visit in January. I swear I thought the scale was broken. The doctor thinks his lack of weight gain is probably due to the terrible stomach bug that hit him last month. (The vomit-fest struck the afternoon I kept him home from school because he had a bad cough…I spared you guys the gruesome details.) He was so sick we almost had to go to the ER, so she’s guessing he lost weight during that time but had managed to gain it back before his check-up. Of course now we’re back to square one with another weigh-in in a few weeks to confirm that he’s back on track.

Seriously? Seriously?

What are the odds of Mason finally reaching his weight goals only to get hit with  the stomach virus from h-ll just weeks later? The doc said she was very optimistic everything is still fine (“He’s clearly thriving, look at him,” she said). But still.

After the appointment, we went back uptown to my office, and it was clear he immediately felt comfortable there. He walked around like he owned the place. He blew kisses and played Peek-a-Boo, performing for his audience of admirers. Taryn and Erica played ball with him. Tracy, our beauty director, let him play with the colorful bottles and jars on her desk. Jessie followed him snapping pics for Twitter (right).

Discovery 4: In a positive environment kids will warm up quickly, even if they’re in an unfamiliar place surrounded by people they’ve never met before.

Mason had so much fun that he let out a blood-curdling scream when I told him it was time to leave. It was deafening and mortifying–sorry Jessica, Kourtney, Taryn, and Tracy. Luckily I work in a place where everyone loves children. I don’t think anyone will hold a grudge.

On our way out we stopped by Katherine’s office, a friend who works at another magazine owned by the same company as Parents. Mason turned on the charm with her until it was time to go and she needed to put the iPhone he was playing with back in her bag. I forgot to warn her about the iPhone. The sudden loss of his favorite gadget in the world led to a spectacularly dramatic temper tantrum. Screaming, on the ground, in her office. She’s expecting twins in May, and I told her that I was sure little girls didn’t make such scenes. (If you’re a mom of a little girl you can stop laughing now….) But she handled it like a champ, and I think she still likes him. I think.

Discovery 5: Hide every iPhone the minute you walk into a room–never underestimate a happy toddler’s ability to have an immediate breakdown at the worst possible place and time.

After Mason went to bed last night, I texted Chris and told him I was “absolutely overwhelmed with love” for Mason. I think changing up our routine, if only for a day, was a fun way to bond. 

Project Weight Gain: We Did It!

Our 6 weeks were up. We had to take Mason to the pediatrician’s office yesterday afternoon for his weigh-in, even though it was the last place any of us wanted to be on our day off. Would we finally be on track with this whole underweight issue, or would we be going straight from the doctor’s office to the lab for testing? I was so nervous I felt sick. I couldn’t bear for anything to be wrong with Bug.

The nurse weighed him, and, we did it! We met our goal of increasing Mason’s weight just enough to get him back on the growth curve, and I’m very proud to say we did it in a healthful way (details below). He gained 1 pound and 13 ounces in 6 weeks; to put that in perspective, Bug gained just l pound between his 12-month and 15-month check-ups. He’s still in the bottom percentile for his weight, but he’s back on an upward growth curve, which was our ultimate goal.

Mason’s pediatrician was thrilled (“This is the kind of appointment I like to have!”), and, best of all, said he “wasn’t worried at all” about any underlying health problems. He explained that he needed to see whether Mason could gain an appropriate amount of weight if we increased his caloric intake. If Bug hadn’t been able to gain weight then it would have been a strong indication that something was wrong. Sound familiar? That’s because Richard Rende, Parent.com’s resident expert in child health and development studies, totally called it when he re-framed the situation for me a few weeks ago.

I feel so blessed. I’ve tried to put my fears into perspective–after all, skinniness runs in both our families–but the anxiety of Mason’s impeding weigh-in, and the possibility of our doctor discovering that Mason had a serious health problem, got to me last Thursday night and continued to nag me throughout the weekend. By the time our appointment rolled around yesterday, I was both afraid of what I might hear and desperate to get it over with. Now that we know that it was just a matter of giving Mason more calories, I’ll work to keep Mason’s caloric intake up in a healthful way. And by “up,” I mean just enough to keep up with the curve, I’m not trying to turn him into a sumo wrestler or anything like that.

Ironically, I had trouble keeping weight on when I was pregnant, despite the fact that I ate constantly. I’m convinced Mason has hollow legs. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the next one, if I’m lucky enough to have a second child one day.

The back story, in case you missed it:

At Mason’s 15-month check-up, our pediatrician told me that I needed to do “everything in my power” to fatten Mason up. (Mason’s tall–he’s in the 75th percentile for height–but he had completely fallen off charts for his weight.) We were to come in six weeks later and if Mason hadn’t gained enough weight then he was going to be tested for Celiac and the like. I silently freaked out–What if he’s really sick? I also felt bitter about the irony of having to fatten my kid up in a society where childhood obesity is a major problem. After all, as I said, skinniness is in Mason’s genetics..

Then I pulled myself together and got to work.

I put the extra weight on Mason by increasing his starch intake overall, with fruit-filled quick breads and whole-wheat pasta. I also added more healthful fats (a few drops of olive oil to sauces and extra avocado), as our pediatrician had recommended. I still made sure that Bug got a fruit and veggie with every meal, and I still served him lean chicken and beef as well as beans and lentils. And although I believe in occasional splurges, we kept the indulgences in check. He ate the same number of treats that he did before we were tasked with helping him gain weight. For me, it’s not just about weight, it’s about overall health. Diabetes and heart disease runs in Chris’ family and cancer runs in mine, and I believe that diet really does make a difference when it comes to these diseases. I refused to fill him out with sugary, fatty foods just to get him on some growth chart. Fortunately, it all worked out.

I’m sure lots of you have met exciting goals lately. Dish here!

Feeding a Skinny Kid in a Fat World

My beautiful boy making a hasty escape during our family Christmas card portrait. The pacifier was a bribe to get him to sit still–clearly, Bug called our bluff and bolted before the photographer could take our pic. Photograph by krwphoto@aol.com.

Confession: I’m still upset that my pediatrician wants me to fatten up my kid. Mason is at the top of the charts for his height but it’s apparently a problem that he doesn’t even register for his weight. At Bug’s 15-month check-up the pediatrician told me to do “everything in my power” to help Mason gain weight. I thought I had gotten over the upset I felt at that check-up, but nope. It all resurfaced Monday night when I took Bug in for his vaccines and learned that if he hasn’t put on ample weight in 6 weeks then he’ll need to be tested for Celiac and the like. No, No, No!! There can’t be anything wrong with Bug. I freaked out (silently) and then had to hold a sobbing baby while he got three shots. I waited to cry until that night, after Mason went to bed.

Here’s why I’m freaking out:

1.  The pediatrician called it “weird” that Bug eats well (or as well as any one-year-old) and drinks more than the recommended amount of whole milk but is still so skinny. Weird! WTF?!

2. It bums me out to replace some of the fruit and veggies that I enjoy feeding Mason with less-nutritious starches (although I’m trying to combat this angst by baking healthier starches).

3.  The biggie: In a society where childhood obesity is a major problem, why am I getting so much sh-t for having a skinny, albeit healthy, kid?!

Of course my personal baggage plays a role here, too.

I’ve been concerned about Mason’s string bean status since his eight-month checkup. I’m afraid Mason will be teased in school if he stays so skinny. You see, as a kid, I was teased for being super tall and super skinny. Luckily the ribbing I got was more good-humored than cruel –ie., at one point, a classmate gave me the nickname Chicken Legs in gym class–but to be skinny as a girl is much different than to be skinny as a boy. What if someone is mean to Bug, or makes fun of him?! As it is, I feel so defensive when some mom exclaims, “He looks small for his age!” I try to smile and shrug it off but I always feel like it’s some pointed remark like,  “Why are you starving your kid?”  The worst was when one mom told me that her kid could “eat Mason” because her kid was so much bigger than he is even though they’re only 6 weeks apart. Um, how am I supposed to react to that?

The good news in all this is that Mason has gained 8 ounces in less than two weeks. “Keep on doing what you’ve been doing!” the nurse said. “He climbed up a bit on the charts, so that’s great!” What I’ve been doing is dousing all of his food in olive oil, or at least the food that would taste good with olive oil, per the doctor’s orders. Not such a fan of this technique but at least it appears to be working and at least olive oil is considered a healthy fat. I know, I know…It’s time for me to get a grip and follow doctor’s orders without whining about it.

Fortunately I have plenty of supportive friends and family, including my fellow blogger Richard Rende, our resident expert in child health and development studies. I shared my plight with Richard at one point and he volunteered to see if he could find any studies relating to our sitch. His conclusion, based on what I told him, is that he suspects Mason is genetically predisposed to being skinny since both Chris and I were skinny kids. He also noted that Mason’s doc is probably trying to see if Mason gains an appropriate amount of weight after eating a high-calorie diet for a set period of time. If Mason doesn’t gain enough weight then the doctor will have important information that could help him identify any underlying medical issues more easily. Thanks, Richard, for re-framing the situation in a way that makes it less scary for me.  (Seriously, if you haven’t read Richard’s blog, check it out; I learn something new every time I read it.)

Have any of you been told that your baby or toddler needs to gain weight? If so, what did you do (or are you doing) to meet your doctor’s goals?

Should Moms Only Feed Their Kids Healthy Foods?

My post last week about Mac ‘n’ cheese sparked a debate about how moms should feed their children. Childhood obesity came up more than once. This afternoon fellow Parents.com blogger Richard Rende reminded me of that debate with his post on whether severely obese children should be separated from their parents. Once again, the question that’s been running through my mind since last Tuesday surfaced: Should moms only feed their kids healthful foods?

Mason’s at the age (11-months-old tomorrow!) where I control everything he eats. His diet consists of healthy grains, veggies, fruits, and lean protein but I do allow him splurges here and there. Mason’s not obese (he’s at the 3% mark for weight on the charts currently), but does that even matter? If he were obese then would occasional splurges still be OK?  Or should we put the kibosh on junk food in favor of all healthy food for our kids, all the time? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Photo from Clip Art Pal