Thursday, May 29, 2014

Motivated to Get in Shape

We took Kai to a new pediatrician a few weeks ago. He showed us an interesting chart that showed Kai’s height and weight at various ages. He told us that Kai was currently at the 30th percentile for height, and 80th percentile for weight. Not a good combination.

We have been aware for some time now that Kai was overweight. His diet has generally been pretty good – few processed foods, very little sodas and packaged juices, a good amount of vegetables and fruits, and desserts only on days that he has a lot of exercise – but he still has the bloated belly that he’s had all his life (and which is common in kids with autism).

Though I did find out at the doctor’s office that my wife had been taking Kai to McDonald’s three days a week when they did not have time to come home after school before he has to go to therapy. She decided that from now on, she would prepare something healthier for him to eat in the car.

We know that exercise is important, so we have tried to make sure he is physically active. He has his regular weekly swim lesson, weekly fitness group led by his swim instructor, his weekly boxing class (that is now on break for the summer), our weekend morning runs, and short exercises on weekday mornings.

But all that did not seem to be enough. We needed to do more.

We also decided that though we could try to do these things, it was important for Kai himself to want to embrace healthier habits.

And the best incentive to motivate him was to tie his fitness to the amount of time he could use the iPad.

My wife has a scale that measures body fat percentage in addition to a person’s weight. Since he is a growing boy, we thought that body fat percentage, rather than weight, would be the best measure. We decided that we would measure Kai’s body fat every week at the same time, on Saturday evenings after his bath, before dinner.

The first time we measured, he came out at 28.5% body fat. Not good at all.

That first week, he was very motivated – after all, his precious iPad time depended on it – and he voluntarily cut his portions.

“Dad, I’ll just have half of the pizza (instead of the usual amount).”

The following Saturday, we saw that his efforts paid off. He was down to 27.0%.

But the next week he slacked off. I think he thought that he would not have to keep working at it.

His body fat went right back up to where it was before.

So the third week he was again determined to lose the fat. He spoke to Mom about the “big test” that would be coming up. He wanted to eat less.

And on Saturday, when he stepped on the scale, he had his best showing yet.

Our goal for this is not so much for Kai to hit a particular number. Rather, it is to instill in him good eating, exercise, and lifestyle habits that will hopefully stay with him for the rest of his life.

Hopefully he won’t just rollercoaster, going down one week only to go back up the next. It will probably take a lot of persistence on our part to keep him focused on the big picture.

But for his long-term health, it is critical to build good habits from an early age. Let’s see how we do.


  1. Best of luck with that...I hope he does well! What percentage of fat should he have?

    He has the cutest feet! ha.

    1. According to one chart I've seen, the healthy level for boys is age is 23% or less; 24-28 is overweight, and 29% or more is obese, so he is already on his way to a more healthy level.

      Thanks, Betsy!

    2. OK..that's very interesting. I'm impressed with what just a week did for him! I wonder if drinking more water would help, as with any weight loss program. My boys don't drink enough on their own and I've recently made a point of having them all drink more water.

      Keep us posted on Kai's progress. I hope he can keep it up! He certainly seems active enough, it must be the food intake. I'm guessing cutting out the McD's has helped a lot. ha.

    3. I am a big believer in drinking a lot of water and have been encouraging Kai to do that.

      He had a mostly healthy diet overall from before so I wonder if his metabolism is slower. Cutting down the McD's is helping, and probably his self-motivated portion control as well.


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