Childhood Obesity Turning Points and ‘Loser’ Stories

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Thanks to the magic of Reddit, a website where anybody is welcome to contribute their experiences about anything, research can dig up a trove of information about some very personal issues. For instance, what moves a child or a young teen on the obesity train to pull the emergency brake cord and take control?

While in middle school, one young Reddit commenter with the handle Tons o’Fun got tired of the ridicule at the same time health class was covering the subject of how obesity can shorten a person’s life. Those two things together caused a change of direction. A chubby girl, who came to the conclusion that boys only wanted tiny females, wrote, “I pretty much had a different self esteem problem for every pound I wanted to lose,” and lost them she did.

Another teen, probably a bit older and more introspective, realized the hypocrisy of being attracted to, and expecting to date, a normal-weight person “when I was the opposite.” Even though they are technically not children, stories from former obese kids in their late teens and early 20s can shed a lot of light on the psychology and logistics of turning a life around. For a 21-year-old who had been fat for 10 years, it took a mother’s death from cancer to inspire the forging of a new path:

I thought about how horrible the food I was eating was and the long term effects it could be having on my body. I guess I just had a realization that this is the only life I get and I don’t want to spend it being unhappy, or have it end early because I didn’t take care of myself. I had to start taking responsibility for myself.

One “loser” story came from a male whose parents were both in the 350- to 400-pound range. At age 17 and 5’9”, he weighed 200 pounds and had some minor health issues that gave him enough of an excuse not to work out. Two years later, he was up to 240 pounds, and life presented him with the weirdest motivation ever.

His father stole an entire pallet of protein bars and designed a weight loss program around them, eventually dropping 100 pounds. Perhaps inspiration isn’t the right word, but the son took this as a sort of grudging challenge, which stimulated him to respond, “If he can do it, then I can too” — that is, lose weight, not steal 1,250 pounds of protein bars.

The young man switched from soft drinks to water, cut back on the fast food, stopped stuffing himself at every meal, and showed up for at least three gym workouts per week. At age 21 he was down to 185 pounds, but then needed surgery that left him inactive for two months. Meanwhile, the father was finally fired for stealing and, while unemployed, ate his way back up to 350+ pounds. This prophetic vision of a future self the son definitely did not want to be renewed his determination to get back to the gym as soon as medically possible.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Fat People Stories,”
Image by Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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