Sunday, 18 September 2011

Ben's long-standing relationship with food...

Ben was a 'screaming baby'. If he didn't have a bottle in his mouth he would scream blue murder. With a bottle in his mouth he was as happy as larry, and he'd take at least 60 minutes to finish each bottle. This meant I had a breather of an hour or so before the incessant screaming would get me down so much I'd shove another bottle in his mouth...

Apart from probably feeding him more than I should have done, I ensured I was a 'text book' mother. I did everything right. Once Ben was weaned, I fed him pure fruit juices from the health shop. I made a succession of incredibly healthy pureed foods using Anabelle Carmel's baby recipe books as a guide. I never fed him sugary snacks, crisps, chips or anything bad like that.

As a toddler, Ben continued to eat a perfectly balanced diet and he enjoyed every morsel. If his next meal wasn't ready pronto he'd go bananas and start screaming and playing up. By now his nickname was the "Angry tomato" because his face was always bright red from screaming!

He'd throw screaming tantrums that were so loud and disturbing (for us and everyone else around him) that, against my better judgment but to maintain some kind of maternal sanity, I'd put a plate of something or other in front of him just to shut him up. It usually worked.

When Ben had grown out of the screaming in public phase and we could start eating out without the rest of the pub or restaurant giving us daggers looks, Ben hoovered up whatever child's meal was on the menu. It quickly became clear that children's portions simply weren't enough for his huge appetite so he 'graduated' onto adult portions far sooner than most children. And ate every single morsel. Plus an adult-sized pudding as well.

And I'd look at all those 'fussy' children pushing vegetables round their plate and eating like sparrows (which was the case with virtually every child that came to our house for a meal or birthday party) and feel so proud! My son wasn't a fussy eater. He'd eat virtually everything in sight without leaving a single scrap.

He loved my cooking, just like his Dad. Both of them would sit at the table (we always ate at the dining room table) and hoover up my latest culinary creation. I was delighted.

However I was aware that Ben wasn't exactly a skinny child. He'd been a 'bouncing baby', always wearing clothes of a slightly older child. Yet he wasn't 'fat'; he was the kind of baby that old ladies would admire. Time and time again, old ladies would say things like: "I just had to come over and tell you what a beautiful baby you have" and Ben would beam at them, basking in the admiration.

At primary school Ben discovered 'junk food' (care of other children's parties) and stodgy 'school dinners' - and he couldn't get enough of those either. However by the age of 8 or 9 I was aware that Ben was starting to carry quite a bit of 'puppy fat'; probably too much, really.

But he just loved his food...

A massive increase in sports activities at high school meant Ben gradually lost all that 'puppy fat' to be replaced with an awesome physique. Now, instead of the old ladies, it was the girls that would admire him while I basked in maternal pride thinking "This handsome, strapping boy is my son!"

So Ben's life has comprised polar opposites as far as food is concerned:

The first 14 or 15 years when he loved food with a passion and put away enormous quantities of the stuff, gleefully hoovering up whatever was put in front of him and usually asking for 'seconds'.

... And the following 2+ years when he STILL loved food with a passion but avoided eating it as much as he possibly could. In just 3 months over the summer of 2009 he lost one quarter of his bodyweight and the handsome, muscular, strapping boy became an anorexic waif. Also, the incredibly healthy and fit body started to show the strain. His bones protruded like a concentration camp victim; his skin became dry, red and scaly; his hair started to thin out; his pulse dropped to a dangerously low 29bpm on a number of occasions... And goodness only knows what was happening to his other internal organs.

Back in the days when I used to feed him on health shop fruit juice and incredibly healthy home-cooked baby food I used to feel so proud that my son would grow up tall, fit, strong and healthy without any of the unhealthy attitudes towards food displayed by his 'fussy eating' peers.Unlike many of them him he wouldn't have a body potentially compromised by years of eating the wrong kind of thing.

Yes, I felt sure I was giving him the very best nutritional start in life which would hopefully lead to a lifetime of physical and mental health.

Funny how things turned out...

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