To parents on malnutrition

Looking at my kids finish their bowl of ramen today made me proud. They ate the meats, the vegetables and left nothing to waste. At 6 and 4, they did what I never did when I was a kid.

I was a typical boy, hating on my vegetables and being an extremely picky eater. As most kids went, I loved my meats and of course that McDonald’s down the road. Even when I bought that burger, I would request it plain…no lettuce or tomatoes. As all loving parents went, my mother just let me do whatever I wanted.

Looking back, it doesn’t take much to realize what that would have done to my health, but my mother didn’t know better. My health was in a word…crap. I would fall sick every other month. Flu, allergies, dengue fever (only once thankfully, the safer kind), strep throat…all in a typical year of events. She thought I was born with a weak constitution and I just accepted that as fact, until I was 30 or so, when I dug into “nutrition” for my own kids. She tried to fix the issue the only way she knew, using Chinese herbs to bolster my health or just by bringing me to the doctor’s for medicine. That however was merely a band-aid over a festering wound.

Then at 19, I contracted a bout of pneumonia. I was hospitalized for 2 weeks and didn’t actually recover properly for at least 2 years. My bacteria was extremely antibiotic resistant. In the end I had to have one injected into my veins directly to clear up my system. It was painful. Oh, and I was a case-study for the medical students in that hospital during my stay. Super antibiotic-resistant bacteria, no doubt the result of my frequent childhood sickness and the consumption of antibiotics to get me over them.

For a short period of time, I blamed my mother for letting me see the doctor too often but the story went a bit deeper. If my mother was to be faulted for anything, it was that she never went the extra mile to make sure I ate the proper foods.

  • She didn’t know better.
  • There wasn’t any place (no Internet) where she could have learned about nutrition. What she had available were hear-says and anecdotes from friends and family…hardly reliable.
  • Screaming at her son for not eating his vegetables was just not her policy. It was such a minor thing compared to…say…not doing well in school, wasn’t it?

As it was, it was my own fault, right from the start. But what does a kid know about nutrition…or care for that matter? Now that I understand nutrition a bit better, I know I was simply a malnutrition-ed kid in an affluent household, in my case, probably a lack of vitamins.

Now, I am usually the last to fall sick in the house when something goes around. Even if I do, a one-two day recovery is normal. With my own kids, I am absolutely draconian on whether they ate their vegetables and fruits. “Finish your vegetables or you are not getting up from the dinner table” is my policy. The tears they shed and tantrums they threw in resistance did not stand in my way. The result of forcing them to eat properly is, to say the least, encouraging.

So let this little story of mine be a lesson to all parents. If you love your kids, make sure they eat properly by hook or by crook. They will thank you later…and you’ll save a lot on medical bills in the meantime.

And it doesn’t appear to ever be too late to change your diet to improve your health.



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