Health

Friday 22 August 2014

'Jake went from obese to healthy by cutting sugar'

My story: Laura Bohan and her son Jake (6), Co Tipperary

Laura Bolan and her son Jake. Photo by Fergal Shanahan

When Jake was three, Laura took him to her local health centre for a routine developmental check-up.

She was in for a shock – Jake's weight, the nurse told him, put him in the obese section of his health chart.

"He was flagged as a concern," Laura recalls.

"It was a shock to me because I thought he was a chubby but healthy child. I came away from the health check and started keeping an eye on Jake's diet."

On closer inspection, she realised her son was ingesting high amounts of sugar throughout the day.

"For his breakfast he'd have chocolate-flavoured cereal and a juice or else warm milk with a teaspoon of sugar in it."

Jake brought a packed lunch to his creche – it consisted of a fromage frais yoghurt, a ham sandwich made with white-sliced bread, a banana and a fruit drink.

He was collected from childcare by his grandmother – Laura works until late in the evening – and had a healthy, home-cooked dinner, though the portion sizes, Laura thinks now, may have been a little large. During the evening Jake would have a snack – biscuits or creamed rice.

"When I really looked at the amount he was eating, it was quite a lot for a three-year-old," she recalls.

When Jake started school at age four, Laura took the change in his routine to introduce some fundamental changes to his diet. Out went the fruit juices and the sweetened milk and in came water. The sugary cereals were replaced by porridge.

"The school was promoting a healthy diet and his teacher had voiced concerns about his inability to concentrate as much as other children. I looked it up and I realised that the sugar could be contributing to his lack of concentration."

His school lunch changed too – to a bread roll filled with ham, a banana and an apple.

Jake has soup after school, and, later, dinner with his grandparents.

"His granny is very good," says Laura. "She has a healthy diet herself and Jake's portions are more appropriate now."

Jake now only has sweet things at weekends – on Fridays, Laura says, she brings him to the shop for a weekend treat of a drink, a bag of crisps and a bar of chocolate.

During the week, if she feels he deserves a treat, he gets a little toy or a packet of swop-cards:

"My policy is moderation in all things," she says. "It's about achieving a balance."

Jake is quite active. Laura takes him skateboarding and when she took up jogging, he went with her on a few occasions.

"I find that if I do something, Jake will follow suit. He also plays soccer with his uncle and golf with his grandfather. He goes walking the dogs with his granddad also – he loves a bit of one-on-one attention and particularly enjoys walking and talking with his granddad.

"He is a fine and healthy child, and is now a very healthy size. He never gets sick. He has a good diet and as much exercise as we can build into his day."

Irish Independent

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