Childhood Obesity and Games, Part 10

Natasha Leggero

At age 14, Taylor LeBaron weighed nearly 300 pounds. His accomplishment was to cut his body weight in half; his goal is to help other young people do the same. He became a college student and, on the side, a motivational speaker. Daisy Dumas of the Daily Mail writes:

Over 18 months, the teenager, originally from Georgia, lost half of his bodyweight, turning his love of gaming into a motivational tool…. He blames his massive weight at the time [on] a combination of factors…

Disappointingly, it’s the usual suspects: overeating and lack of exercise. He offers a diet plan, which he understandably prefers to call a lifestyle plan. Yes, it’s true that deep and genuine lifestyle change is paramount. But LeBaron is perhaps too quick to deprecate the word “diet” as having a temporary connotation. Sadly, “diet” has been co-opted and corrupted to a point where it signifies, in the public imagination, things it never meant before. As an influential person, LeBaron could help to change that.

In 2010, he published the book Cutting Myself in Half: 150 Pounds Lost, One Byte at a Time. Again, the “byte” reference is to video gaming, for somewhat obscure reasons. In a way that is perhaps elaborated on in the book, LeBaron parlayed his expertise in video gaming into a tool to get him what he wanted and where he needed to go.

Maybe his method won’t work for everybody, but even if it works for only a few, it’s worth looking into. As LeBaron says, “Everyone deserves to be amazingly amazing.” He is further quoted on the origin of his own motivation:

I developed a plan that’s based on videogame strategies, which I call the Ultimate Fitness Game because the prize is a whole new lifestyle. Once I started playing UFG, I never looked back. In the next 18 months, my weight dropped from 297 to 147, and it’s the weight I’ve maintained ever since.


A program called Earn N Burn posts an inspiring mission statement on its website:

Our goal is to enrich the lives of our youth by educating them with essential knowledge that will motivate them to lead healthy and active lifestyles through the implementation of nationwide health and physical education programs, interactive fitness workshops, community service and interactive entertainment productions.

In this program, video games are both the means and the reward. Up to 150 students at a time can participate in a Dance-A-Thon, and there are game shows, a family night, fitness workshops and more. The kids, who are divided into teams, procure financial backers. In the promo video, students are instructed to get sponsors from among their immediate family, not by going door-to-door. If they collect a bunch of sponsors, a Gamin’ Ride truck full of video games comes to the school.

Childhood Obesity News mentioned a study that could not be completed as planned because some of the subjects lost interest and went off chasing newer technology. This will happen more and more frequently. Possibly it’s silly to even discuss any of these exergames, because when it comes to providing a virtual reality experience, the Oculus Rift and the omnidirectional treadmill may soon sweep them all away.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How I lost 150lb… one byte at a time,”, 10/21/11
Source: “About,”
Image by duncantrussell


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