A Different Normal

Mateo was due for his kindergarten entrance physical exam and I was worried. Not because of his health: He’s a strong and active little boy. What I worried about was his weight, or more specifically the ratio of his weight to his height and body mass, referred to as his BMI. 

Mateo is not a tall boy. At his last appointment, his height fell just under the fifteenth percentile on the growth chart used by our pediatrician. His weight, however, hovered somewhere around the sixty-fifth percentile. The pediatrician asked me why.

 I confessed I occasionally succumb to the convenience of the McDonald’s drive-through and allow Mateo to eat french fries. But we never drink soda or eat chips.  Our diet is based on fish and chicken, with an ample supply of veggies and fruit. “How about juice?” the doctor asked. When I nodded, he clicked on his pen and scribbled something into his notes. “Mateo should be drinking none.”

 From that moment, french fries were banned from Mateo’s diet and his juice limited to a glass at breakfast. His lunch now contains three servings of fresh fruit and a serving of protein. His treat of the day is a scoop of vanilla ice cream at night. 

And you know what? At his physical exam for kindergarten, Mateo’s BMI had barely budged. I will continue to be vigilant about my son’s eating, but I don’t expect his body type to suddenly morph into that of his sister’s—long and lean. It will never happen. Children are born with different body types, which growth charts aren’t able to reflect. In addition, such charts are based on averages for children born in North America. For kids born elsewhere, a different “normal” may apply.

As I told my son’s pediatrician, Mateo’s size and proportion are common in Guatemala. With more and more children in the States now born in other countries, isn’t it time for us to recalibrate our standards?

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2 Responses to “A Different Normal”

  1. Sharon says:

    I had no idea this was up. Interesting esp. in light of the flack Michelle Obama got for wanting to make sure her kids weren’t gaining too much weight…

  2. Jessica says:

    Healthy weight is definitely a worthy goal and I applaud Mrs. Obama for calling attention to the obesity epidemic among some children. At least in our case, body type enters into the equation. I’ve searched for a weight/height chart for children born in Mexico/Central/South America, but haven’t yet found one. Thanks for the comment.

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