Children can become overweight or obese for many reasons, including genetics, diet, level of physical activity and psychological issues. Regardless of the cause, significant excess weight can have serious long-term health risks and must be addressed head on.
The Overweight Experience Journal, created by the Boston Children’s Hospital Department of Psychiatry and the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Program, represents the collective wisdom of patients and families living with weight issues. Here are some of their stories, in their own words.
Advice from teens: Coping with weight issues
Keep working at it
I think the most difficult thing about losing weight is motivation. Sometimes you just don’t want to do it and you want to say, “Forget it.” But you can’t do that; you have to keep working at it.
Little things add up
Eat your vegetables before your starch, and you may end up eating less starch. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and park on the far side of the parking lot — those little things really add up after a while. Also, nothing happens immediately. If I had given up while I was still gaining weight, I never would have gotten to the point where I was losing weight. There are so many factors that just persevering will make a difference.
Do it for yourself
Do it for yourself and not for anyone else, because I’ve been trying to do it for other people for years and it just ends up backfiring. Just do it for yourself.
Not that big a deal
If anything happens, like if you gain weight, don’t give up, ever. Don’t say, “Oh no, I gained a pound. It’s never going to happen — I am never going to lose the weight ever, and my whole life is going to be horrible.” Just say, “It’s not that big a deal, and I will try harder next time.”
It was hard to find clothes at first, because I was never a straight size; I was always in between. Then I came across a store near my house that carries clothes for plus-size girls, and I went there and it was like a dream. I could finally find clothes, and I wasn’t even buying the biggest size … I was getting one of the smaller sizes, and that made me feel really good about myself.
At a constant
At first it was really good to get weighed at the doctor’s, because I was losing weight. Now the program has just become the norm — the way I eat. I’m really busy with school, too, so I don’t have much time to exercise. I’m at a constant where I’m not losing, but I’m not gaining either. So it’s nerve wracking when I go to clinic.
Let it out
Talk to your parents about teasing. You can try to ignore how upset it makes you, but then it will just keep building up inside you until you explode. Let it out to your parents — vent. And confront the person who is bothering you. They will probably be shell-shocked if you go up to them and tell them, “I really don’t like it when you tease me; please stop.” But if they just keep at you, tell your mom and dad.
Advice from caregivers: Helping my child cope with weight issues
A change of lifestyle
I think the main thing that children with weight issues need is support. They need positive reinforcement, and they need to know that they’re not doing something wrong. This is something that is going to take a while to work on, and you have to work on it together. It’s basically a change of lifestyle.
If you can, you should definitely talk to a nutritionist. Inform yourself about what is healthy and what is not, because I think a lot of people have the wrong ideas. Try to keep healthy food and not junk food around, because having junk in the house makes it much harder on the child and it’s not fair to her. … Weight loss plans can be very frustrating for you and your child — it’s hard!
I think the greatest stressor is getting clothes that fit right and fit comfortably. We’ve had to change the way [my son] dresses, like getting him a shirt that doesn’t have to be tucked in and things like that.
I think that the most stressful thing, as a mother, is that [my daughter’s] health and well-being are what I live for. I just want her to be healthy and happy with who she is. Some people aren’t rail thin; some people are. I want her to be comfortable with who she is so that she can deal with the outside world, because there is some meanness out there. You get stressed out worrying about your child. My biggest concern is that she is happy and healthy.