Tales of the Formerly Fat

Finish - St. Coca'sChildhood Obesity News has been looking into the lives and thoughts of some formerly obese people to see what can be learned. For a CNN iReport, Linda Roche shared the story of her earliest educational experiences:

By the time I started kindergarten I already had serious body image issues… In grade school my best friend was skinny as a rail. Together, kids referred to us as “skinny and fatty.” While the teasing hurt I didn’t know how to change things.

In the crucial summer following sixth grade, Roche lived with her grandmother, who had learned to maintain a healthy weight:

She taught me how to weigh and measure my food and count calories. She bought me Tabb to drink instead of sugary sodas and helped me stick to a reduced calorie diet. She also encouraged me to exercise. I did sit-ups, jumping jacks and walked every day. The weight began to come off and by the end of the summer I’d lost 22 pounds.

But—no surprise here—in middle school all the good lessons were forgotten and Roche was once again miserably overweight for a couple of years. Then, as it does for so many people, the prospect of high school gave new impetus to her determination to make a fresh start, and she devoted the summer vacation to that ambition. She charted her caloric intake and filled every possible minute with a variety of sports and exercise. The result:

I’ll never forget the thrill of ninth grade, blending in with the other students, no longer the butt of fat jokes and ridicule, free to be myself.

The ability to cook is a tremendous advantage, especially to someone without the means to sign up for those fancy prepackaged meal programs. Roche prepared ready-to-eat meals for herself, complete with calorie counts, and kept them either refrigerated or frozen. At mealtime, she could choose from a variety of quickly re-heatable dishes and avoid the temptation of snacking. Before the fall term started, she had lost 40 pounds, then lost another 10 during that school year, and maintained a pretty steady weight far into adulthood.

What a Formerly Fat Guy Learned

Christian Coleman, who used to weigh 275 pounds, trimmed 9 inches from his waistline over a year and a half. For GoodMenProject.com he wrote about the experience, which was not unalloyed joy. With a reduced caloric intake, and without a layer of subcutaneous fat for insulation, he felt cold more readily. Also, there was the expense of buying new clothes every couple of months.

One result of slimming down is value-neutral, depending on the man. When out running, this particular fellow was uncomfortable about being stared at by women—but someone else might feel differently. Another consequence was totally positive. Back when he was bigger and worked out at a gym, Coleman used to be challenged by guys who thought they were tough. After weight loss, other men seemed to become more civil and less aggressive, and he no longer felt “that a fight would break out at any moment.”

People also provided negative reactions. Astonished at the visible difference in Coleman’s physique, some were eager to offer him weight-loss advice—even though he was the one who had shed many pounds. People also had the annoying habit of volunteering their lame excuses for not getting in shape themselves, as if he was the official weight loss monitor. Others would say, “You’re so lucky you can lose weight easily,” a borderline insult which, at the very least, discounted all the hard work he had put in.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Pain of Childhood Obesity–The Year I Changed It All,” CNN.com, 07/21/14
Source: “7 Things No One Tells You About Losing 100 Pounds.” GoodMenProject.com, 06/01/14
Image by Peter Mooney

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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:

Presentations

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.

Food & Health Resources