I have a confession to make: I had a fat baby. And, no, not the, "Oh, look at those cheeks!" sort of fat, either. He was a genuine porker, which in the age of childhood obesity-or ‘globesity’-isn't exactly trendy. In fact, it's positively scandalous.
In a world where kids are starving to death, ours are literally eating their way to an early grave. We all know that obese children grow into obese adults with all kinds of health red alerts-from heart disease to diabetes and cancer.
I don’t deny that child obesity poses a serious and very real threat. Fat is the genuine weapon of mass destruction of our time. Still, a little fear-mongering goes a long way. While recent campaigns to fight childhood obesity have their hearts in the right place, they have gone about it in utterly the wrong way.
The issue of childhood obesity is chicken-and-egg in its complexity, and everybody’s circumstances are unique. While it’s true that obese parents tend to produce obese children, the story doesn’t start-or end-there.
In my case, it was a baby boy, now preschooler, who has always been off the charts in terms of both his height and weight. This, in spite of having two tall, lean parents, and an uncle, by all accounts a portly baby, who's now a lanky six-foot-sixer. Needless to say, I’ve seen the future, and it’s tall. It’s probably skinny, too. Although, judging by my son’s current build, you’d scarcely believe it.
The pediatrician remained nonplussed by the climbing numbers on the scale. My son was healthy. Still, that didn't stop passersby-total strangers-commenting on and tsk-tsking at my son's size, at every turn. In the first two years of his life, we heard it all-sumo, linebacker, big guy, Michelin baby, bruiser-from every teller, cashier, construction worker, Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Sticks and stones, I reminded myself, yet the name-calling grew old, fast. As did the shameless ogling that inevitably shifted from my son to me. “What on earth do you feed him?” they'd say, incredulous, for as his mom, I must've been to blame for my son's size. I might as well have been killing him with my bare hands. At such times I could only bite my tongue, knowing the answer–a well-balanced diet, rich in grains, fruits and vegetables, and low in fat–wasn't what they wanted to hear or believe.
Nor would they believe that for the longest time his mother was militant about sugar. That not a drop of fruit juice had yet passed his lips. That she struggled to find a single nutritious item on kids' menus to feed him, whenever they went out as a family. And that every evening, in every kind of weather, they set out for a family stroll, sans stroller.
As my pork chop spurts into a slim preschooler, I've relaxed a bit, lest he come to covet the taboo. (The way I see it, there's no such thing as bad food, only bad attitudes to food.)
So the next time you see a chubby infant or toddler in the mall or grocery store, do me a favour-before you make a flippant comment or a silent judgment, stop and remember my son and a funny little thing called subtext.