Monday, March 31, 2008

Eating to Grow... or Something Like That

As soon as the whole picky eating thing reared up and started poking its annoying head into my life, my mom started quoting the pediatrician she took us to when we were little. "Kids don't eat to grow," she would say, every time we talked about it. "They eat to grow."

I totally did not get what she was talking about. But she said it in this blithe reassuring way that clearly meant she didn't think I should worry about my kids eating or not. I knew what she meant.

But then I came across this same line recently, this time phrased in a way that made sense. In the Gary Taubes book (yes, Good Calories, Bad Calories again, but it really does contain a wealth of information about the history of nutritional science), he talks about a scientist in the 60's who studied growth and metabolism. According to this scientist: Children eat because they are growing. They do not grow because they are eating.

Ahh, this is what my mother meant, and her pediatrician must have been quoting this guy.

This makes a lot of sense to me. It's like how breastfed babies go through growth spurts and because they are growing, they nurse like crazy. No one ever suggests that a baby is going through a growth spurt because the mom ate a lot of broccoli and the baby happened to nurse a lot because it was bored and so therefore it is going through a growth spurt.

It makes me think of a preschooler I know who is the tiniest, wispiest little thing.... just like her mom, who is barely five feet tall and probably weighs about 95 pounds. The parents are always freaking out that the little girl is not eating enough. They are convinced that she is so tiny because she is eating so little. I think it's the other way around. I think she is naturally tiny, and she is eating so little because she is so tiny. If they put an IV with thousands of calories a day, would she grow up to be 5'6" and 140 lbs?

So I looked up caloric needs of a four-year-old. Just like most nutritional advice, it was totally retarded. Four-year-olds, this one source said, need 1500 calories a day. Regardless, apparently, of the fact that they may be a wispy tiny girl who is quiet and gentle, or that they may be a sturdy, hyper, explosive little girl like my daughter, who runs, bikes, climbs, yells, screams, and barely sits still for the entire day.

Even then, I had a hard time picturing my daughter eat 1500 calories in one day. Is it possible? I'm going to compile a list.

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