Eating Healthy and Having Short Arms

Soapbox Time. 😕 Please, parents! If there is one thing that you can do for your LP child (or any child): teach them to eat healthy and keep their weight down. It IS so easy for LPs to gain weight and even tougher to lose it. I’m not talking about body image. We’re talking about keeping the weight off for health. Weight affects our back and legs, most immediately. If an LP teen weighs 100 pounds, they are already the weight of an LP adult before all the life stages that can cause weight gain. By life stages I mean, Freshman 15 in college and adulthood weight gain (drinking alcohol, eating fast food due to time constraints and convenience, etc.). Trust me! With every Freshman 15 (in high school and college), I gained the weight. Not all 15 pounds with each stage, but I did gain weight. As a woman, I had even more to gain when I got pregnant (20 pounds and more). The excessive weight can cause neurological back and leg issues. These surgeries can have complications. And LPs want to reduce or avoid surgery as much as possible. As much as we would like to live life limitless, we should try to maintain a healthy lifestyle to live life to the fullest!

Yummy, endulging Mexican food!

Like many LP adults my age, I have spinal stenosis issues. I didn’t have dwarf related health issues until my middle adulthood. Even though I didn’t do tumbling, gymnastics or other activities that can cause spinal stenosis, I have mild to moderate stenosis that gives me that tingling feeling (like I slept on my hand). Thankfully, my symptoms do not impede my daily life. I do notice that with the slightest weight gain (5 lbs. or more), the “tinglies” happen more frequent and become more severe. So I try to keep my weight down as much as I can, even if the junk food calls my name. Believe me, they do call my name! As an LP parent of an LP, I emphasize healthy eating to my children because obesity, diabetes and cardiac issues are genetic on both sides. Talk about double whammy with the dwarfism! If I can teach my children now, hopefully, they don’t have health issues early in their lives.

Healthy eating is difficult for everyone. It can be more difficult when a person of short stature cannot reach things in a kitchen to make healthy meals. Though I’m not wheelchair/scooter bound, I can understand how difficult it would be to use an oven, even more a pain to go from the fridge to the counter to the oven, etc. I think I lose weight just trying to cook a meal– going up and down the two stools in my kitchen. I have one kickstool that I love to literally kick around to get it across the floor. The other is just a stable Ikea step stool (the taller one called Bolmen). It’s taller than a normal one-step stepstool, but light enough for me to move with just my foot. The larger step gives me the height I need and I feel like I’m getting a workout with these high steps up.

In An LPs House (adapted from Dr. Seuss’s In A People House)

An LPs house (like ours) has things like . . .

Slow Cookers
Toaster Ovens
Rice Cookers
Cordless Water Kettles
Magic Bullets
French Presses
Jar Openers
and a wine opener!

An idea for a cooking alternative to an oven may be using a toaster oven/convection toaster oven. We’re not talking about the $15 toaster oven you get from Bed, Bath, & Beyond. You need to use something more powerful like this convection oven. I use mine whenever I don’t want to heat the whole oven for a small meal. We make mini pizzas with whole grain English muffins as a crust for fun pizza nights. Here’s a Toaster Oven cookbook I got my husband’s cousin for his Welcome to College gift. It has a lot of great ideas for cooking with a toaster oven.

Another idea is using a rice cooker/steamer. Being Asian, I rely on my rice cooker everyday. As soon as I had 2 kids, I had to think of faster, healthy ways of cooking. So, I’ve been using my rice cooker for whole meals. If you have a rice cooker/steamer that has 2 levels (one for the rice and one steam basket) it works great for rice and steaming fish with veggies. I got this book for my AH cousin who is trying to lose weight too.

Slow cookers come in all different sizes. These are great for those “fix it and forget it” days when we’re so busy. And with my busy schedule with the kids, sometimes I’m grateful for this wedding gift, even if I was skeptical at first. It works great for Asian recipes too, which can be more light than American ones if you omit the ones with coconut milk. I’ve made a lot of Filipino dishes with the slow cooker. Filipino dishes are traditionally stew or soup like, so it works well. I just reduce the oil and sodium where needed. I can’t forget my husband who likes more meat and his veggies hidden. We have this book on hand, but I try to tweak Asian recipes to make them more authentic. And with my Magic Bullet, I make quick sauces in small portions.

All of these appliances will work on your countertop or table (with extension cord of course). I’ve heard from other LP friends of mine who have a lot of countertop appliances. They use a power strip to make more room for these small appliances and to make it easier to reach. I personally have a difficult time reaching the back wall/backsplash to the power outlets, so this is a great idea.

As I was preparing our dinner for tonight, I realized that I’m really dependent on some basic things in my kitchen to help me cook effectively and efficiently. Otherwise, I feel like I’m working with Jolly Green Giant’s tools in the kitchen. So just thought I’d share AND ask. Here are my favorite tools in the kitchen:

  • a santoku knife: gosh, don’t you think that a chef’s knife is a bit unwieldy? I rarely use mine unless I really need to get some leverage to cut large pieces of meat or fish. I’ve been told by an AH parent of an LP who is also a chef that it doesn’t matter the brand of knife, but how you take care of it (sharpening, cleaning, etc.) Thank goodness! So I won’t feel bad when the husband doesn’t clean my knives after using it just to cut a bagel! OXO is just a great brand for ergonomic kitchen stuff.

With my hands being the size of a 7 year old, I’ve had a problem fitting oven mitts . It’s difficult to find those high temperature, heat resistant oven gloves to fit us because of the material. I found Amazon that fit me pretty well, but they don’t have as much selection online any more. Our LP hands are smaller and wider. We can risk having the oven mitt or pot holder fall off while we move the very heavy, hot dish. But here are some fun and useful ones I found: frog, orange colored and Pac Man!

What is your favorite kitchen tool to cook with?

Weight Gain at an Early Age

Question from a POLP (Parent Of A Little Person): Weight/Calorie question. For years my son has had extreme stomach issues and has been extremely underweight (achon). In the past year, he has started gaining weight. We are very very happy, but he just keeps gaining. So now we need to get realistic about what he eats. I saw the Dr. Judith Hall paper online that outlines 1000-1400 calories daily for LPs to maintain weight. Do you think that would also be about right for kids? We have switched over to healthier snacks, but I think that even his meals need to be smaller than they are now. Any experience or advice is appreciated!

Dwarf Mom’s Answer:

It would be best to consult with your geneticist who has experience in dwarfism. My son had weight issues at a very young age. Finally, at age 6, he gains weight at a healthy rate. A dietician would be able to tell you how many calories your child eats and recommend healthy options where your child needs certain vitamins and minerals naturally.

Dr. Judith Hall is a great resource. She has over 25 years experience with dwarfism and has written many papers. The Health Supervision Guidelines for Achondroplasia paper serves as an important resource for parents of children with achondroplasia and adult achons. Here is Dr. Julie Hoover-Fong’s paper on Weight for Age Charts for Children with Achondroplasia. It serves as a good reference for your general pediatrician who may not be familiar with dwarfism. Currently, she is doing a study on BMI (Body Mass Index) and the types of dwarfism. My husband and I both participated in the study at the last LPA National Conference.

Our gastro doc said it’s not only about what our son eats, but his eating habits are essential. She recommended things like making sure he doesn’t eat in front of the TV, sitting down and taking time to eat, and when he doesn’t like something, to not make a big deal about it and just keep trying later. Our son was sensitive to certain food textures when he had spinal compression. I didn’t give up on making sure he had a healthy meal. The book The Sneaky Chef really helped me get ideas on how to get good nutrition into the foods he loved. Sneaking in the veggies also helped with my picky husband, who is a carb junkie. I still use those helpful hints from the book. Trust me, this change in diet was not an overnight change. It took a while to learn how to shop healthy and not to give into the tantrums when he doesn’t want to eat the food. (Not the husband, the kid. 😀 ) Today, our son will eat practically anything we serve him. We don’t even have to order from the “Kids Menu”. He prefers the adult menu items. One of his most favorite foods would give some grown ups the willies: sashimi tuna.

Apple slices and stars with some mozzarella sticks cut in half. I've also pre-started unwrapping the wrapper.

Turkey sandwich with apples and celery to dip into peanut butter.

When he started going to kindergarten, we knew that buying lunch at school was more fun and tempting than bringing a lunch from home. Thanks to inspiration from my POLP friend and parent to our LP goddaughter, I started making snack and lunchtime fun with bento boxes. Our son thought it was so fun to open his bento box and find a surprise. I make sure to keep fresh fruit and veggies on hand in the house. Then, I put a fun spin on it when I pack it in the bento box. People eat with their eyes first. I try to make it colorful and fun with different shapes, but also include the major food groups with little, if any processed food.  You can find really fun bento box tools and inserts at your local Japanese store or even online. I learned a great tip from a parent of a child with hemiplegic cerebral palsy. Her son has gripping issues, like many LPs. So, I found some non-traditional bento boxes with snap sides for my son to be independent during lunch and snack time at school. Water is always the drink of choice for school and on the go. Besides his diet, we continue to keep him active in swimming and karate.

This blog entry is dedicated to Dr. David L. Rimoin, who taught me at an early age to take control of my health as an achondroplastic dwarf. With every doctor visit, he had a group of medical students and/or fellows with him while he explained the “classic markers” of achondroplasia. He always emphasized to me healthy eating and being active because of my back and legs. Those annual visits to see him made me listen up. Dr. Rimoin was an amazing, compassionate doctor who helped thousands of people in the dwarf community and beyond.

RIP Dr. Rimoin. We will miss you greatly and are indebted to you forever.

Comments 1

  1. Thank You! So much for having this site. I am a parent to a child adopted, who is in the 3rd % from her home country – where most people are what would be considered short. We are older and she has a condition that requires all food to be made from scratch. I won’t be around for the next 50 years to cook for her, so I need to find ways to teach her to cook for herself so that when she is on her own she will be healthy and not starve. She is 46 inches right now and cannot see over the top of the stove. She can now reach the bottom of the frig and freezer, counter and dishwasher, but can’t reach the faucet or the microwave. I am worried that cooking traditionally on a stove will be dangerous as if she doesn’t get much taller, she won’t be able to see and if she can see in adulthood, the grease will splatter at eye level. She is 8 now and old enough to start learning to cook, so I have started with a footstool and a rice cooker.

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