LIFE BY LOUIS: My visit to the nutritionist

Tuesday November 19 2019

She enquired as to whether he was a fussy eater or he is the type that inhales his food and licks his fingers. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH


By the time a parent in this city is through with the lengthy and challenging season called parenting, they will have visited basically every medical practitioner available in the field.

A few moons ago one of the young occupants of 8th Floor was unwell and we took him to see the paediatrician.

I deliberately use the term paediatrician in order to remind myself that it is indeed the correct title for the doctor who specialises in treating children. In my schooling days, I could not differentiate between a paediatrician and palaeontologist and this small mix-up caused me a lot of embarrassment when writing compositions.

I also drop the term paediatrician to announce to the world that I have indeed arrived in this city. Paediatricians are specialists reserved for aspiring meat eaters who also visit art galleries to buy wall paintings and run in Karura forest on a Sunday morning.

The paediatrician concluded that one of the reasons the boy was unwell was that his immunity was weak.

She gave me a lengthy analogy where she compared immunity to small soldiers in the body called white blood cells who fight with diseases. If the soldiers are weak, lazy, poorly armed or drunk for adults, one is likely to succumb more often to illnesses.


So we were referred to another specialist called a nutritionist.

Again you can only use this terminology in a sentence if you have pet cats that you carry in the back seat of your car and you only swim in heated swimming pools.

Nutritionists are the people who went to school to read while the rest of us were taking elective courses in dating and picketing.

They effortlessly talk of things like calorific value, lipids, fatty acids and glycerol. They remember the periodic table just as we learned about it more than two decades ago and they know which important vitamins are found in cucumber and lettuce.

The first meeting was polite. She wanted to know what we were feeding the boy on. She enquired as to whether he was a fussy eater or he is the type that inhales his food and licks his fingers. She scribbled down the food portion sizes and tried to match them with the ideal parameters for a boy of his age and weight.

She also weighed the boy, took his height and the circumference of his biceps and head. It was like a weigh-in session before a major world heavy weight title boxing bout.

She traced the measurements on the Y axis and the age of the boy on X axis and made an estimate of the gradient of the curve.

I was absolutely impressed that there are people who still use these mathematical computations in real life.

I am sure if Wa Hellen had taken me for head circumference measurements when I was young, the doctor may have noticed that my head was too big and too empty for my age.

Maybe he would have recommended that I eat more fish in order to have more brains inside the free space inside the skull.

Wa Hellen would have outsourced the sufurias to cook fish because she still believes that fish is for people from a certain region in the country and things should be allowed to remain that way.

If she had heeded the doctor’s advice, today I would be employed by NASA, not the political party but the big company in the USA that sends its interns to the moon to deliver breakfast to the senior astronauts who are based there permanently with their families.

The trap was awaiting us on the second visit.

She grabbed the baby and they sat on one side of the table while we sat on the other side of the dock like key suspects in a major scandal.

The head and biceps circumference measurements were repeated and she traced the graph again.

She was in a pensive mood; the graph did not have the right intersection at the Y axis which meant that the boy was still underweight.

“So, what has been going on? Is the baby feeding well?” she asked with restraint through clenched teeth like someone interrogating a notorious war criminal.

“He is just a fussy eater”, I tried to make light of the situation.

“Who gives him food?” she asked although she already knew that is the domestic secretary. We answered in the affirmative.

“Does she give the baby all the food or she eats some and throws away the rest? Can you bring her here during the next visit?” it was more of a command than a request.

“She just got married to our estate security consultant and she is already having morning sickness,” I lied. There is no way she was coming here to see us getting deep fried.

From there the situation just headed downhill. She took the curve trajectory very personally, and she kept referring to the graph and pointing heavily at the Y axis using a free pen she got from a pharmaceutical company salesman.

At some point, I was afraid that she would order me to calculate the gradient of the curve and identify the point of inflexion, and I cringed with fear.

She spent the next one hour lecturing us on the do’s and don’ts of feeding babies, and we left her office feeling like her assistant nutritional experts.

If you have a small baby especially around the weaning period, please spare some and visit a nutritionist. You will pay heavily if the curve flattens or has an undesirable plateau, but you will thank me later.