Stories about: OWL

Two lessons I learned on my weight loss journey

Bobby, before and after OWL.

I was a patient in Boston Children’s Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) program in the early 2000s. At the time, I was not aware of how much of a positive impact the program would have on me later on down the road.

When I was in the program as a young teen, I weighed about 200 pounds. After leaving the program, I went on to play football in high school and continued to gain weight. By the time I gave up football after my freshmen year of college due to injury, I weighed in at 270 pounds.

That was when I committed to my weight loss journey and began using all of the information I learned in the OWL program. I found personal success using the foundation the OWL program gave me. Today I weigh 185 pounds.

I was recently given an opportunity to visit with the OWL patients who participate in the OWL on the Water (OOTW) rowing program and talk to them about my weight loss journey. This program gives kids an opportunity to build friendships with other kids fighting the same battle and learn the importance of exercise. There are two key points any kid on a weight loss journey needs to understand.

The weight loss journey is a lifelong journey.

Kids need to realize the weight loss journey will not end once they reach their target weight. There seems to be a common trend with people losing weight and then putting it back on. What kids need to understand is that once a target weight is reached, it is even harder to maintain that weight. Just because a goal has been reached, it doesn’t mean they can stop exercising and stop watching what they eat. It is so important to make this a lifestyle and not just a phase. By making it a lifestyle, it will be possible to keep the weight off rather than regaining it.

Have a goal other than a number on the scale.

A lot of focus is put on attaining a goal weight. This can lead to a lot of frustration, because there will be ups and downs. I found it incredibly helpful to have a goal other than a number on the scale. It doesn’t matter what this goal is, whether it be a certain outfit, a certain activity or even a certain physical feature. These goals off the scale will help maintain the motivation to keep pushing down the weight loss road.

The OWL program and OOTW are helping kids realize a healthy lifestyle is possible for them. They can do anything they set their minds to as long as they fully commit to it. I look forward to the next opportunity to speak with these kids because I want them to know they aren’t alone and they can have the same weight loss success I have had.

OOTW participants enjoy a guided workout.
OOTW participants enjoy a guided workout.

This video tells the story of OWL on the Water, a partnership between the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital’s Optimal Weight for Life Program and Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI). Many of these athletes develop strong supportive peer relationships and learn important life skills. They become invested in their own health, start asking important questions and begin to look at their future with new possibilities. Many more have moved on to athletic programs in their local communities such as swim team, field hockey, basketball, cheerleading, dance, Cross Fit and more.

About the blogger: Bobby Bilodeau is a 25-year-old young professional who is enjoying the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. Bobby grew up playing sports and now likes to golf and ski in his free time. He also enjoys hiking, running and spending time with his family and friends. Bobby has a very strong desire to travel the world and explore all the incredible places it has to offer.    

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David Ludwig answers TEDMED community questions about childhood obesity

After spending more than 15 years researching evidence-based ways to prevent and treat childhood obesity, David Ludwig, MD, PhD and director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital knows that obesity is a complex epidemic that can’t be fought from only one angle.

After TEDMED classified childhood obesity as one of its Top 20 Great Challenges of 2012, the public was invited to submit questions about the state of the epidemic and how we might go about reducing childhood obesity. Of these questions, 10 were selected by TEDMED and posed to Ludwig. Here are his responses.

1. What are the top 10 causes of obesity in children, and which ones can be reduced or prevented?

2. Apart from the genetic component of childhood obesity, what do we know about parents’ roles in influencing their children’s weight?

3. Are there affordable and effective programs to reduce childhood obesity that can be reproduced on a large scale?

4. Should we be concerned that campaigns against childhood obesity might have an unintended negative consequence of actually increasing the risk of eating disorders?

5. Studies reveal extraordinary variances in rates of childhood obesity among different groups, such as some Native Americans and African-American teenage girls. Why is this, and how should we address the issue in a culturally sensitive way?

6. What do we know about the impact of food advertising aimed at children, and how effective has voluntary restraint (on the part of food companies, restaurants, etc.) been in combating any negative effects?

7. Because of the relationship between obesity and the development of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, today’s children could be the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. Which elements of society (including but not limited to care providers, citizens, government, business, religious institutions, or any other group) should play a role in combating this problem, and what steps should they take?

8. Kids spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of various kinds of screens (phone, TV, computer, video game). Does this play a role in childhood obesity and, regardless, might screens also be enlisted as part of the solution to childhood obesity?

9. How do gender differences and body image issues influence childhood obesity and how should programs to address childhood obesity take these differences into account?

10. Schools have undertaken a number of special initiatives to combat childhood obesity, including: offering healthier lunches; eliminating soda from vending machines; and weighing students, then sending parents “fat” report cards. Do these programs make a difference? What can and should schools do to help their students achieve and maintain a normal weight?

Our approach at the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital is as extensive as childhood obesity itself—focusing not only on patient care, but also on clinical research, advocacy and community education, and on developing innovative treatments to effectively address each patient’s individual biology and behavior.

The Center’s clinical arm—The Optimal Weight for Life Program—is one of the largest and most respected childhood obesity clinics in the country, and we’ll continue to fight, treat and prevent obesity until every child is well. Request an appointment at one of our Boston, Waltham or Peabody locations.

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Step up to the plate

The New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital recently hosted a symposium for nutritionists, medical professionals and community leaders to discuss the USDA’s current dietary guidelines and new MyPlate icon. Here’s a brief video recapping this exciting meeting of these respected and nutritionally-sound minds:

To learn more about the symposium, which featured award winning chef and famed restaurateur Jody Adams, Sam Kass, assistant White House chef and senior policy advisory for Healthy Food Initiatives at the White House, and a host of other important speakers, check out this blog chronicling the whole talk. If you’d like to learn more about childhood obesity or talk to one of our experts, please contact the obesity prevention center.

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Fighting childhood obesity: SNAP v. soda

In the mid 20th century, hunger was a major concern for America’s poor. To better support malnourished families living below the poverty line, the federal government created the Food Stamp Act in 1964 to help provide healthy food to people in need.

America’s nutritional landscape has changed a lot over the past 50 years. Malnourishment is still a big problem in America, but in a much different way than it was back then.

Because of their lower prices and mass availability, unhealthy foods and drinks have become a staple in the diets of millions of Americans. Obesity rates in this country have grown to epidemic levels, with impoverished communities being hit especially hard. In low-income homes across the country, overweight and obese children now outnumber underweight kids by a ratio of seven to one.

To combat this epidemic, many states are trying to change what type of items people can buy via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-formerly know as food stamps). Because sugar-sweetened beverages have no nutritional value and have been closely linked with obesity, nine states, including Illinois, Nebraska, Texas and most recently New York, have tried to have these drinks barred from being bought with SNAP money.  In each case the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has said no.

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