« Every time a child smiles during a consultation, it reminds me why I chose this job: pediatric nutrition is enthralling».
My most significant experience in the pediatric field started in Paris’ Hopital Necker. When a child comes in my surgery, my number one priority is for him to leave reassured, worry free but, most importantly, without being under the impression that he did something wrong is being punished. Of course, communication with parents is also vital to the child’s success.
Unfortunately, children are often anxious to meet me but always end up relaxed as we tend to joke a lot during consultations.
The goal of the first consultation is to evaluate the child’s diet in his personal environment (at home, at school…). The objectives set will always be reachable and doable by the child as well as his family. Stress must not be generated, and we never talk about going on a diet for children! This word must be banished from your vocabulary! A dietary reorganisation is in no way a low-calorie diet. There is no need to give up the Sunday cake or the after-school snack with his friends. It’s about rebuilding the dietary structure all along the week at home and just a bit at school not to make the child feel left aside.
Within the scope of weight control, the very first goal, is that the child does not feel frustrated by too fast and too radical changes. The goal is to gradually modify the dietary environment. I never work with restrictive diets in pediatric, it is doomed to failure. The child will no longer feel satisfied and could develop an excessive eating behaviour as a result and this is everything I want to avoid for both the sake and the success of the child.
I also work with parents to teach them how to manage and avoid conflicts linked to food. A conflictual relationship between parents and their child would make both unhappy and would lead to a failure to re-establish a balanced diet.
For every child, the priority is not to get thinner but to stop gaining weight. Growth then allows us to fix the weight/height ratio. If the child loses a couple of hundreds of grams or a few kilos, it only means the body decided to unload a slight excess of mass. It is in no way a diet, but just an answer from the body who wants to get naturally and slowly thinner.
I never take away any food from the child’s diet, except under a precise written medical request presented during consultation. I do not and will not work on any restrictive diet on a simple request from the parents, without any tests results being presented. We only see this weight loss as a side effect of the progressive restoration of a balanced diet. It is not dangerous and must only be seen as a little bonus.
During follow-up consultations, we re-evaluate the dietary program with both the child and the parents in order to overcome encountered difficulties, keep progressing in its application and their involvement and their knowledge and awareness. Constant encouragement always remains my priority.
On a technical side, the child will always eat his fill without depriving himself. But it is food choices that will be decisive for repletion but also to answer the organism’s needs and give the body everything it needs to grow up fine.
Being a pediatric nutritionist is not an obligation to me, it’s a choice and a passion!