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Getting Over Average

By Dr. Justine Ward

I’m happy to be the person to tell you that you are NOT average. Although, hopefully, I’m not the first person to tell you that.

For some reason our society is obsessed with being average or “normal.” Parents are often very anxious to see that their children hit all of their ‘normal’ developmental steps, that they are a ‘normal’ size (height, weight), and that they can read, write, and count in time with their peers.

When we go for a physical exam, we want to fall properly into those sets of numbers that our doctors always compare us against. We want normal cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and body mass.

All this preoccupation with these narrow boxes that we and our children are “supposed to” fit into keeps our attention firmly focused on the wrong thing.

Average ranges are just that – averages. These numbers have been determined by looking at samples of the population, taking their measurements, plotting them on a graph and then pulling out the numbers in the middle.

Since the majority of the test results are above and below this average number or range, even in the “healthy populations” that they sampled to arrive at these numbers, very few people are actually at the average.

Even more importantly, all of these numbers that we compare ourselves against have no real meaning. Scores outside a reference range are not necessarily pathologic, and they are not necessarily abnormal in any sense other than statistically.

What most of us forget to think about when we are asking if our blood pressure is “normal” or if our child is in the right percentile for weight is how well we are functioning.

I have had several concerned parents tell me that their babies are considered too small and that their doctors have told them to start using a weight gain formula. In each of these cases, looking at their babies, I have seen bright, engaging, responsive, alert infants. They have all been infants who eat well, sleep well, have a clear spine and nervous system, go to the bathroom regularly, have no skin issues or digestive problems, and have properly functioning reflexes.

My question to mom and dad is this, “What will be better about your baby if they gain 5 pounds?”

Nothing. The answer in each case is nothing. In fact, feeding the baby a food that is not what they are designed to eat could actually create problems in their body. As hard as it is to go against the advice of a well meaning professional, sometimes, we need to think logically about these things. A well functioning, vibrant baby is exactly perfectly the right size, regardless of how it compares to other infants of the same age.

The truth is we all have our own normals.

Your body has its own levels of cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, vitamins, minerals, and hormones that it needs to maintain in order to work perfectly. I have no idea what those levels are. Nobody does. There is no textbook, lab range, doctor, or scholar who can tell you what perfect numbers are for your body.

If you are shooting for extraordinary health, you need to trust that when you give your body everything it needs to be healthy and remove all interference, your body will make exactly the right amounts of everything that it needs to be optimal. Chances are, that’s not average.



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