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Ask Fatboy: Issue 1 – My Son Is Skinny

I’ve had the honor of receiving my first question last night from a mother of a 14-yr old with CF. With her permission, I’ve posted it here to respond to for the benefit of all.

@cffatboy Can you teach my CF boy how to get fat?  🙂

-Rebekah Sprecher

That’s a great question, and one I’m sure my mom asked for years and years! Ricky is at that age where it starts to get hard to make your offspring do anything they don’t want to do, I’m sure you’re finding out. Typically you can’t get him to clean his room, wear the clothes you want, or take his medicine. Not knowing his development level after reading some of the extra battles he faces, it’s a bit of a tough call from my chair, but I’ll give it a shot having been on the same pew as him, even if not the same seat.

Battle #1: he wants to feel “normal”

He doesn’t want to feel like he has to take extra measures to be normal and definitely does not want to feel “special” in the stupid PC way society calls special now. However, it is to your advantage to twist his perception about some little things you can do to make him feel that he is actually better than others. It’s not often a CFer with Asperger’s and bipolar disorder feels superior in any way. I see he’s got siblings, so it’s important to not baby or coddle him into doing the special things that he needs. For example: he “gets to eat extra ice cream” instead of he “has to eat extra ice cream.”

Is he a picky eater? I sure was, and still have a general aversion to everything fat people crave that would help me out so easily: cake, ice cream, cookies, etc. Find something with high fat or high protein that he likes and treat him with it, spoil him with that food for doing his treatments, etc. The less he’s aware that he’s being manipulated into compliance, the better. It goes without saying, though, that if he wants to gain weight himself, then forget about the manipulating part and skip to my tips and such.

Battle #2: too much fatty food makes him bloated

Chubby boy!Believe me, I know! I was born with meconium ileus (ewww!) and jejunal atresia and had 25% of my small intestine removed almost immediately. I was on some ridiculously watered down formula for weeks, however I was a very chubby baby after that. It’s downright uncomfortable to eat as much as we have to and the effects get worse as digestion starts its process. My scar puts significant pressure on my gut when I stuff myself. Evenings can go either way in our house, and I often have to excuse myself, much to the sadness of Beautiful, but better to take leave 4 or 5 times than… you know.

If his doctors have him on Zantac, he’s got to take it! If they don’t and they don’t have any reason with his other issues to not take Zantac, it helps the enzymes work a lot better. I’ve experienced the benefits. Unsaturated fats are much more easily tolerated and absorbed in my case. I’ve recently stumbled on a great fruit trail mix by Planters (we’re talking about 140 Cal. for 3 Tbs of mix!) and I think I see a correlation to my weight gain and fresh salmon. If I can talk Beautiful into the cost and palatablity of eating it every night, I want to try grilled salmon for dinner (or lunch by myself) every day for a week to see what that does. Salmon and chicken both have a ridiculous amount of protein, but salmon has the oily fat benefits.

Battle #3: it’s a lot of work to eat that much

I’ve been told my whole life about how much more I had to eat than I was. When I was a kid, I was supposed to eat 2,000 Cal or so, then it was 3,000, and now it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 Calories just to maintain weight. Check out my numbers in the sidebar to see that even though I’m pigging out, I’ve plateaued for a while. I’ll probably spike again soon, but I think my metabolism stepped it up a bit now that my body is getting so much more dedicated fat and protein than before.

Exercise is going to play a part in being hungrier than forcing oneself to eat constantly when food is the last thing on the mind. It’s more fun to play computer games or watch TV than eat, and I have a hard time doing both at the same time because most food requires a decent amount of attention if it’s worth eating (in my book). With his FEV1 stats where you say they usually, are keep him playing sports as long as he can. I played flag football clear into college, but things went downhill after I stopped sports. I’ve avoided sports for years, but I’m determined to get back into a sport for outside pressure to perform.

Battle #4: who cares?

He’s old enough, so perhaps he should get himself a blog to get a following to keep some outside pressure to do his treatments if that’s what he needs (the free is 1.36 million times better than Blogger, though /grin) and I’d encourage him to read other CFers like Ronnie even if he doesn’t like to write.

Let’s be frank, he may not care about how he’s doing outside just being able to survive. CFers generally fall into two distinct schools of thoughts/emotions: extremely driven and complete losers. Even the extremely driven can be emotionally hopeless in the ideal of getting married and starting a family. You can see plenty of us out there with their blogs, usually waiting for a transplant or enjoying their new lungs. The ones you don’t see are the ones with piercings everywhere, living at home at 30, never went to college, and never worked a darn day in their life! Need I tell you that those CFers just tick me off beyond belief? The bottom line is: if he doesn’t feel like anyone will want to marry him and there’s no point in having a careen and trying to earn his way into a Beemer, then nothing much is going to motivate him to gain weight or take care of himself beyond the bare necessities of survival. Even for those of us with those gifts and goals can have a hard time being motivated.

It has to come from within, but outside pressure of the right kind helps.

He’s 14, so he’s not going to tell you his inner-most thoughts and fears about this — heck, I was barely able to tell Beautiful after we got engaged — but you have to be aware that it’s a possible emotional roadblock. I knew I was going to college on scholarship, but no woman was going to want to marry me, right? After all, I was “supposed to die” at 18, I mean 21, I mean 30, I mean…

I hope that helps you, Rebekah. Anyone else is free to chime in with their feelings, memories, or ideas.


  1. Jesse,
    I can't tell you how excited I am that you're using your experiences to help other CFers.

  2. Jesse Petersen says

    We'll see how it goes! Woke up at 120lbs this morning, so I must be
    doing something right.