Wednesday, January 16, 2008

As I suspected many months ago, the biggest challenge after taking E out of gymnastics is finding him enough exercise. Despite best efforts, I believe I am failing on that account.

Since he left his competitive gymnastics team last spring, E has put on about 15 pounds. He is still my gorgeous boy, and I adore him, but he is definitely fleshy. Everywhere. He is now wearing husky pants, because I gave up trying to find a regular size that fit him both in the seat and in the waist. His face is round. His arms are soft. He is soft.

I hear this happens to a lot of boys around this age -- they thicken and fatten in preparation for the famous adolescent growth spurt. I do see similar trends in some of his peers. But E's transformation of the last six months seems extreme to me.

Part of it is due, I think, to changes in E's overall desire for activity. That is, it's gone down. Instead of playing handball with the boys at recess, he plays Connect Four with his girlfriend (that's an issue for another day). Instead of asking to go to the park, he prefers to read on his bed. I wonder if sloth begets sloth?

He is still getting exercise, some, at least. P.E. twice weekly at school. Tennis class on Mondays. A less intense gymnastics class on Thursdays. Court games after school on Fridays. We try to take long walks on weekends. And baseball season starts soon -- after doing a weekly pickup coach-pitch game in the fall, both he and W decided they wanted to do Little League this spring. So we're trying. But the level of exercise is less intense.

And his appetite, always prodigious, remains the same. I am starting to sound like the Food Police -- he wants more, I say no, he begs, I say no, eat some fruit, drink your milk, eat your salad, then we'll talk about seconds. He is a healthy eater. Not hooked on sweets or chips. Likes Real Food. But, given the opportunity, I think he'd eat an entire flank steak. Or half a loaf of bread. Or three baked potatoes. In one sitting.

Of course, he's nine. This is likely a stage. He will stretch. I know all these things. But my family is full of people with lifelong, serious weight problems, men and women. M's family less so, but it's still been an issue. I do not want to set my kids up for a lifetime of health problems but, more important, self-consciousness and self-esteem issues.

I think constantly about my reaction to his weight gain: I am taking it very personally. I know that is much more about me and my own weight issues than about E. I am trying to be instructive without being judgmental. It is amazingly difficult.

Any suggestions welcome. Not about E -- I think I am doing all the right things there, healthy snacks, occasional treats, pushing exercise, modeling good eating habits. Rather, I am the one who needs help. How do I get over my discomfort at having an ever-pudgier kid?

W, so far, is a lean muscular string bean, good for him.