I was the fattest kid in school all my school life. It’s a miserable way to spend a childhood, or any time, for that matter. To look at me today no one would guess it. I’ve been at my ideal body weight for over twenty years. I’m a mental health counselor. Some assume I have no idea what it’s like to be fat. But I know too well. I was obese and morbidly obese for 25 years, and I thought I was a hopeless case for a long time. But I discovered how to solve the problem 20 years ago, lost 140 pounds, and I’ve been helping others since. I know how to solve the obesity problem.
For two-thirds of us, the obesity epidemic is very personal. The physical suffering and cost of medical treatment due to obesity-related diseases is bad enough, but if you’ve ever been overweight yourself, you know that the real suffering associated with obesity is emotional —and no one is more vulnerable to that kind of suffering than children. It is painful to be made to feel defective, to be teased and tormented and criticized and judged. For fat kids, it’s every day.
But here’s the good news: Mothers are the most important and most powerful people in the world related to solving our childhood obesity epidemic. If your home supports habitual behavior that produces obesity, your obese child doesn’t stand a chance of getting better, no matter what the government and schools do. He or she will lead the life of an obese sick kid, almost guaranteed to become an obese sick adult. The only way an obese child can change is if the home and family changes, and that will only happen when mom says it will.
More good news: If you’ve been battling with weight yourself, deciding to help your child avoid or recover from obesity will not only spare your child, but it will solve your weight problem too! Here are some ways to get started:
1) Clear the house of high calorie junk food. Snacking and eating as if it was a hobby or a sport has got to go if you want to control your weight. Have plenty of fruit and diet soda in the fridge so they have something to grab when they need it, but a house full of cookies, snack cakes, chips, candy and ice cream is the house of an obese person. People who have solved their weight problem have none of that in their house.
2) Feast and party occasionally, not every day. There are no bad calories in my book, but some foods are so calorically dense and addictive that you can only have them on special occasions, and then you need to send them home with the guests. Those who have Thanksgiving every day, or party every night, are planning on being obese.
3) Help your kid find pleasures other than food. Everyone needs comfort and pleasure, but learning to use food for that is a sure fire way to create a compulsive overeater. Help them to learn how to have pleasure in healthy ways. Swimming, biking, playing with dolls and Legos, fishing, crafts, games and friends —these are all ways to make yourself feel good. And there are no calories!
4) Swim against the current. Our culture promotes overeating and obesity, and if you are going to refuse to go along with it and be obese, you’ll be rejecting the things that everybody else thinks are normal. Put your foot down with the kids, your friends, and your husband. Don’t go to fast food places unless they have healthy selections, which some are starting to have. When they whine for junk food (husband included) “just say no”, as if they were trying to talk you into letting them have drugs. (Obesity actually accounts for far more suffering and premature deaths than drug abuse.)
5) Become a calorie expert. Buy a calorie guide so you become an expert in portion size and healthy choices. There are no bad foods or bad calories in my mind, but until you get the knowledge of the caloric densities of the food you eat, there is no way to make intelligent choices. Eating without knowing the calories in the food is like going shopping at the mall and charging up all the things you like without looking at the price tags.
6) Never use the "d" word. I don’t believe in "diets" and "dieting." Never tell a kid you’re putting him on a diet. Believe me, it will backfire—just as it does in adults.
Mom: You can take the lead by modeling and demanding a healthy way at home. Start at home, with yourself and with your family, and the schools and community will have to fall in line. You will save your child and the world by focusing on your own habits and your home. Your child and the world will follow. No one gets in momma bear’s way when her cub is threatened, even poppa bear, and mom, your child is threatened. The Anderson Method (www.TheAndersonMethod.com) can show you how to change unhealthy eating behaviors and use positive "mind control" techniques to help your whole family feel good about food, have a healthy self-image, and feel motivated and hopeful.
William Anderson, MA, LMHC, is a licensed psychotherapist residing in Sarasota, Florida, specializing in helping people overcome obesity. He is author of the top-selling book, The Anderson Method (Two Harbors Press, 2009, $14.95), and is the creator of the unique behavioral weight loss program now offered by licensed therapists in many locales. Visit his website at http://www.TheAndersonMethod.com .