One day my daughter was with me while I was running errands. We made a quick stop at a grocery store and loaded a shopping cart down with packs of soda cans. After grabbing a few more groceries, we struggled to push the heavy cart to the checkout lanes. As we got up our speed and rolled past the deli meats, one lady stared at me disapprovingly. I knew what she was thinking. Assuming she could plainly see why my daughter is overweight, she shook her head and said, “Ugh! I can’t… I just can’t…” as she turned away from us. I wanted desperately to set her straight, but the cart was rolling with a lot of momentum now, and it wasn’t worth my effort to bring it to a stop just to tell this lady how wrong she was.
Tonight my house is quiet and my brain is active, so I thought I’d send out a public service announcement: if you see a child with weight issues in the grocery store with a mom whose cart is full of soda, please reserve judgment. You just might not know as much as you think you know.
The lady in the grocery store did not know my daughter has a rare genetic syndrome called Bardet-Biedl syndrome that causes obesity. She didn’t know my daughter’s hypothalamus does not correctly receive the satiety signal and that she lives every day of her life feeling hungry, even when she’s eaten enough. She didn’t know my daughter’s hypothalamus believes she is starving and tells her to seek and eat food with intensity, or that a starving hypothalamus will tell the body to decrease metabolism so my daughter only burns 75 percent of the calories a healthy child burns. This lady had no idea this genetic syndrome also causes fat cells to more rapidly store fat than in a healthy child.
The lady in the deli aisle didn’t know we’ve worked incredibly hard to control my daughter’s weight, including placing her on special diet, restricting her calories, and encouraging daily exercise and participation in sports. She didn’t realize my daughter’s endocrinologist had praised our efforts at our last appointment and declared my daughter was “the healthiest child with Bardet-Biedl syndrome” she’d ever heard of.
But you may be thinking, “surely drinking soda doesn’t help the problem.” And you would be correct. This is one reason my daughter hasn’t had a sip of soda in over six years, and why we strictly limit fruit juice to 3 ounces per day — just enough to help her absorb her daily iron supplement. So why did I have a cart loaded down with packs of soda cans? I’m a mobile home park manager. It’s my job to fill the soda machine every few months.
Please be careful to not judge, even when it seems you know the situation. You just might not know as much as you think you know.