Fat is Important



Lots of kids are skinny.


I was a skinny kid. I have some skinny kids. I’m related to skinny kids. Honestly, I think a ton of kids are just naturally skinny, so long as they get adequate exercise and eat reasonably healthy foods.


The point is: skinny kids aren’t exactly rare. I know at least as many people whose kids wear a “slim” as those who do not. I hear endlessly about how critical those waistband adjusters are. And– believe me– I’m grateful for them, too!


But my C.? Well, she goes beyond skinny. 


It’s not that she only weighs 36 pounds at ten days shy of seven-years-old. It’s not even that she’s only in the 3rd percentile for weight– that’s just who she is and that’s “her line”, if you will. The doctors aren’t concerned about it and neither are we.


C. just has SO little fat on her body, it’s ridiculous. She’s skin and bones and veins. Well, and cut little abs that make me giggle because they seem so utterly out of place on our otherwise “low muscle tone” little girl.


The fact that her body fat is so minimal isn’t typically a huge issue. But it does cause some extra problems that you might not initially suspect.


No one is surprised to learn that she gets cold really, really quickly and easily. It makes sense that skinny minis have a hard time staying warm and everyone seems to understand right away why C. would need extra layers to keep her toasty when the temperature drops.


What people DON’T realize is this: it’s very, very easy for our little girl to overheat, too.


It is a constant balancing act to keep C. warm enough, but not too warm. When we hike? We have to monitor her very, very carefully. She gets pale and splotchy and feverish if she gets too warm. She doesn’t really sweat and her body gets hot quickly. If she gets too hot (or too cold, for that matter), she may even vomit.


The thing is– fat is insulation. And, just like with your house, insulation helps keep out both cold and hot. It’s an important part of maintaining a moderate temperature. And our girl just doesn’t have enough of it.


And, so, I meet with the school nurse and sign a form that indicates a risk of hypo- AND hyperthermia. I seek permission to leave different articles of outer-ware in the classroom so C’s layers can be adjusted as the temperature fluctuates through the day. I sit at home and fret if the thirty-degree morning melts into a fifty-five degree day by recess time, wondering if she’ll be dressed appropriately for the warmer air.


Would she have been a skinny kid anyway, had she been born full-term? Probably. Like I said, skinny kids are pretty common and she’s got some genes leaning that way, for sure.


But would we have this temperature issue had she had a full 39+ weeks to develop?


I’m really not sure. I think this one may be one of those “chalk it up to prematurity” things that we just deal with…


But, for today, if you find yourself annoyed at a little roll or pucker here or there, just remember–


Fat is important.

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9 comments to Fat is Important

  • Becky

    You made me laugh by mentioning her cut abs! My 26pound 3.5 year old has fabulously cut abs, too! She’s terribly skinny and I think it could only be because she was a preemie. Her genes would not be condusive to her size had she been a full term kiddo. She, too, tends to get cold very easily. We haven’t yet noticed her getting hot easily. Good thing for us to look out for as she gets older. But those abs – they could make elite athletes drool with envy. She’s a little monkey so they get a lot of workouts as she scales furniture and walls!

  • We’ve got a skinny one too. :-) At 6.5 he’s about 37-ish pounds or so. And that’s with multiple tablespoons of butter and coconut oil every day. But my sisters and I were all like that as well as kids – always falling off the growth chart.

  • Oh how I get this! Until he hit puberty, my 15 year old was the same way. He had extra clothes all over the school, and we had to force hydration constantly year round.

    We had one instance of over heating, and that was enough to teach us the right way. The scary part, it was 75 and a gorgeous day. But not enough water and he went down hill fast.

    Even now, at 15, we keep cool wash clothes handy when we are going to be outside for long periods of time, it does help. I have seen the “sport towels” at stores that stay cool for longer times, I may get one of those.

  • Carrie

    My little guy who is about 35 pounds at 5 is the exact same way. He was almost full term (36 weeks) but has always been slim and he has a terrible time regulating his body heat. Most people think I’m crazy when I say that…

  • Susan

    I totally understand. My son was -30% for weight when he was little. By age 3, he was up to 2% for weight. We were so happy by age 6, he stabilized at 10% for weight (which he has been at for the last 5 years.) My son is super athletic. I’m not sure if that helps with the cold/hot thing. He actually seems pretty warm all the time. He is constantly taking off his sweatshirts. Hopefully your little one will reach 10% and he hyper/hypothermia won’t be a problem any longer. At almost age 12, my son still doesn’t eat unless we make him (is that a preemie thing?)

  • Amy

    Mine is a little one too. Full term but due to allergies very limited diet for a long time. Even now that’s he’s grown out of the allergies he’s still little. We were super excited when we HIT the 3%! He can’t regulate his temp very well either. When he’s cold he’s freezing and when it’s warm he’s flushed burning up so fast. It’s a never ending stuggle. I dress him in layers and he’s getting good at taking them on/off when needed.

    • Layers really are essential when they don’t have that little layer of fat! It’s so funny that we don’t typically think of fat as helping us regulate temperature in the heat, but it really is true.

  • Kristen

    My M and your C are so much alike. M weighs 36 lbs right now too, and will be 7 next month. We continue to struggle with the temperature issues as well. Summer and winter are both very difficult times in our household. Swimming is a challenge, and she can only be in the water for a certain amount of time. M just went through all the endocrinology tests for short stature, and everything came back normal. While we are very happy for normal testing, we feel like we need some answers. After reading your post, I am feeling more reassured that this can just be a genetic thing, and that M is okay! I hope your Christmas was wonderful!!!

  • Dawn

    Thank you. I needed to see this. My son is at the other end of the spectrum. He’s a husky boy who is overweight for his age. I try to get him to eat healthy and stay active, but it’s difficult sometimes when we’re busy and I stress that he’ll end up overweight and unhappy like me. I need to remember to stay positive. He doesn’t stress about his weight, he’s healthy and happy. I’ll keep watching what he eats and getting him to stay active when I can, but healthy and happy is what’s important.

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