Dieting is Deprivation. Deprivation does not work. Dieting must DIE!

Hi. My name is Melissa and I am addicted to food.

I am also a Lifetime Member of Weight Watchers.

Who cares, right? Well, I care. And, honestly, I think more people should care, too. Weight is becoming has become an epidemic in this country across the spectrum; it is NOT isolated to a certain age group, gender or race. Nay, today toddlers to the elderly are dealing with being overweight or obese.

I deal with it every day.  And as I sit here listening to Adele belt out ‘Don’t you Remember,’ it is hard to forget that my weight is a struggle every day. Now, I realize Adele is not singing about weight in that song, but it seems like a perfect song for this particular moment when I am thinking about my past. I remember. In fact, I will always remember.

I was 175lbs in the fourth grade. I remember that. 

I remember kids making fun of me when I was growing up because I was obese. That is something you never forget.

I remember trying to eat better. I even remember joining weight watchers when I was in middle school to try to lose weight. I did. Then I gained it all back because my peers started noticing and asking about my weight loss. When that happened, I was even more aware that people knew I was overweight.

However, 21 years later something hit me. At almost 300 pounds I knew something had to change. Even now I am unaware of what actually hit me; but something did. I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to be healthy. I wanted something else.

I attempted Weight Watchers again, as an adult. It worked. I dedicated every ounce of my soul to losing the weight and meeting my milestones.

And my life changed forever.

Today I am a cool 120 pounds. I weigh substantially less today than I did when I was in elementary school.

Think about that. Right now, as I sit on my bar stool, listening to music, I weigh 55 pounds LESS than I did when I was in the 4th grade.

I want to cry. I want to scream. I NEVER want to forget how it feels to be fat and what it feels like to be skinny. It’s a delicate balancing act that I play with myself every single day; because if I forget how it feels to be either one of those things, chaos could ensue. What does that mean? Well, I will tell you. Forgetting that I was beyond obese growing up and how I felt deep down inside could allow me to become complacent. I never want to be overweight again.

Besides being an emotional drag about my life, what am I trying to say in this post? Well, if you are thinking that, I am glad. I do have more of a point. Let’s transition into that.

Obesity. Read it again. O B E S I T Y. It’s a horrid word. Now, put something more delicate in front of that word and watch it transform into something worse –

C H I L D H O O D         O B E S I T Y

That reads even worse, right? The children in this country are our future. We should be protecting them. We should be treating them correctly. We should be educating them. They should be healthy. I am ashamed sad that such a large percentage of children in this country are obese.

It is an easy disease to control; more importantly, it is an easy disease to prevent. Did you read that: PREVENT. Childhood obesity can be PREVENTED.

How? Well, I will give you some examples of just how easy it can be to prevent childhood obesity.

First, cook your own meals at home. And, no, I am not talking about deep fried fish sticks, chicken wings, popcorn shrimp, french fries and onion rings. Care enough about your children to cook them pasta, vegetables, wholesome meals.

Second, teach them why it is important to eat healthier foods. Explain to them why it is important to be healthy and active, to participate in social gatherings and to eat better foods.

Third, while you’re teaching them about all of the great nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, pasta, etc., teach them that they do not have to deprive their bodies of the fun foods. They can enjoy pizza and wings, french fries and onion rings; it important not to deprive them of ‘normal’ kid foods. Like I mentioned above, it is a delicate balancing act, but it is a critical balance.

Fourth, be active and involved with your kids. Make sure you lead by example because if you don’t, you are more likely to become complacent and your kids will too. Not only that, if your kids see you not following through with your advice, they will begin to question whether you know what you’re talking about.

Fifth, talk to the teachers, administrators, anybody in the school districts that will listen. Make sure they are serving your kids in the right way. It is important that you know what is going into your kids’ bodies; so, make sure that teachers are not ‘rewarding’ students with sweets. Do you think that is out of the question and absurd? Well consider this, my fourth grade teacher used to reward us every Friday with a big, delicious piece of sugar filled bubbalicious bubble gum. Now, that did not make me fat, but it makes a different to know what’s happening at school. In fact, my third grade teacher use to ‘reward’ helpful students with candy and treats. Again, that did not make me obese, but it is important to know what your child may be eating in school.

It is important to provide healthy alternatives in school, especially for school lunches. Now, once your drop your kiddo off at school, fate comes into play. You may very well send your child to school with a lunch packed full of delicious and healthy foods that will keep him/her alert and full for the remainder of the day. But that does not matter if your kid makes a deal with his/her friend about swapping lunches. There is a hope that another parent would have packed the same kind of things or that the cafeteria provides healthier lunches, but the reality is that not everybody is cognizant of health.

The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to obesity in this country.

Therefore, it is important to be as active as your school will tolerate when it comes to introducing new kinds of food for cafeteria lunches, talking with teachers to make sure they are cognizant of lunch swaps, etc. Somebody is going to have to be the BAD guy. And, yes, kids are going to see you as a bad guy. WHO CARES?! But with adequate oversight, life becomes less of a struggle.

Now, I am fully aware that the school day only lasts for so long and the majority of children are not coming from healthy households; there is only so much you can do without crossing the line of being too controlling and overprotective. Remember, this process is a very delicate balancing act.

That is important for two main reasons:

  1. Remember, a happy meal every so often is not going to cause obesity. So, I think it is a little excessive to freak out about things like that.
  2. If you are too controlling and obsessive, your kids will likely lash out in not so good ways.
    1. For example, a parent that is too controlling could make a child, when he/she is old enough to make his/her own decision, do a beeline right for all of the fast food restaurants and be a glutton. You do not want to deprive your kids of anything; you must teach them about that balancing act of healthy and not so healthy options.
    2. Second, if you are too obsessive over your child’s weight, he/she could develop a not so nice eating disorder. So, the malicious disease you so desperately tried to prevent reared its ugly face in a different way. Having an eating disorder is no joke. Believe me. Having eaten too much my entire life, I know how horrible it can be. So, I can imagine how difficult the other end of the eating disorder spectrum is also.

While there is so much chatter right now over the high percentages of overweight and obese people in this country, there seems to be the same amount of chatter about how to deal with it, especially among children. But nobody is doing anything on a large scale. That needs to change.

Here is what I can tell you on a personal level when it comes to dealing with weight at such an early point in life, especially when it comes to a child who is already overweight.

Nothing that you say to an obese child is going to feel good to him/her. That’s the simple and real fact of the matter. Believe me. And, I will tell you why.

We live in a skinny world. We, obese people, live in a country that is dominated by skinny people. It’s weird to think about when we hear that one-third of this country is obese. But we rarely see those people on television, in magazines and in other media situations. Everything that we see around us screams skinny. And, we know that we’re overweight. We know that we’re obese. We know that something has got to give, but we don’t want to give ourselves. We don’t want to give up on who we are to become part of the mold. We are so set in our ways and nothing else matters.

Being obese is scary; but, letting go of that obesity is even more frightening. It is our identity. It is who we are. And the longer we stay that way, the longer we identify with that body, that image, those excuses, our foods. Therefore, the longer we stay that way and tell ourselves that we are happy in that body, leading that path in life, the more comforted we are with our routine.

Believe me. I lived my entire life being overweight obese. When I moved beyond those mean people and into the arms of my mom who told me that I was beautiful and kind hearted, compassionate and brilliant; that I was a person who deserved love and deserved to love myself, I believed that. I believed every word that my mom said to me. My mom was there for me in moments of true personal disaster and insecurity; she was there to pick up the pieces and tell me to feel good about who I was. And, for a long time I hid behind those lies I told myself.

See? Even in moments of severe personal distress about being obese and being made fun of, I still stuck with my old habits. I turned to food. Food NEVER FAILED me. At least that’s what I thought.

But, food was failing me. Food was taking over my body; it was seizing my life. And, I deserved to have my life back.

I tell everybody that I have no idea what made me want to lose weight. Honestly, I think God pulled me from a very dark point of my life and put me on the right path. It is the only thing that makes sense to me, even as I sit here today. I know that the decision was made by me, but I have no idea why.

However, I was an adult when I finally decided to take back my life.

Enter: delicate balancing act.

A lot of these kids today may not have the time I did to make the decision; it is important that they take control of their lives back today, before it is too late.

How? How do you tell a young girl she has to lose weight? That is part of this vicious cycle of obesity. It is controversial on every level. But, I do not care about controversy. I would rather be controversial at a pivotal point in life and help change the lives of children than follow the status quo. Screw the status quo.

If people are serious about fighting this epidemic there are simple solutions that can be implemented right away:

  1. Educate teachers, school boards/districts, principals, etc.
  2. Implementation of healthy lifestyle, structure, learning tools in every grade level
  3. Healthy options must be introduced at all levels in every school
    1. And I’m not talking about just lettuce leaves and carrot sticks. Let’s be more creative and make it fun. President Obama is spending trillions of dollars? Write to him, write to your representatives, tell them your kids deserve better. TELL THEM YOUR KIDS schools deserve some money. Let’s stop talking about obesity. Let’s start doing something about it.

TELL THEM.

DEMAND IT.

YOU ELECTED THEM.

THEY WORK FOR YOU!

REMIND THEM THAT YOU’RE IMPORTANT!

Okay, let’s move passed the politicians in Washington, obviously my blood started to boil just thinking about them. How do we deal with the children that are already obese? How do you get them on a diet? How do you talk to them about their weight? All of these questions are very important and there are tons more, I know.

Let me tell you that the solution should NEVER be a DIET. Let’s think about the verb here in this sentence: I’m going on a diet. In its basic stage, it implies that you’re going to restrict yourself to eating less food to lose weight. I personally think the strategy of DIETING is WRONG!

I cannot remember ever dieting in my life. When I decided I wanted to lose weight, I joined Weight Watchers. The basic foundation of this AMAZING Corporation is eating for your body. There is no dieting involved with WW and that is why it works.

I think the idea of a diet is sending the wrong message to kids. If you’re going on a diet, you’re likely going to come back from it, too. Right? Instead of dieting, there has to be a fundamental change in one’s eating patterns and ways of thinking about food in order for there to be long term success. That is why nobody should ever approach this sensitive topic with the idea of dieting. It should be proposed and discussed as a lifestyle, a different mentality, a new path. It is something that must always be on. And, if that is the case, if the path is permanent, then deprivation cannot be a member of the process. Deprivation coincides with dieting. If dieting is not part of our future, then deprivation must die too.

Yep. Eat a cheeseburger.

I say EAT A PIECE OF PIZZA

Go out and enjoy some onion rings and wings.

But do it in a healthy way. That’s what we need to teach kids. Eat what you want in moderation. And if you introduce exercise and activity into your life as well, then HOT DAMN you’re going to be unstoppable and healthy.

That’s how you present the delicate subject of weight to kids. You don’t give them a book about how to diet and why you have to diet. That may only reinforce the insecurity the child has with weight already. It is important to sit down with kids and talk to them on an individual level to understand how they feel and what their fears are while also coming up with a mutual plan of encouragement, acceptance and change with regard to healthy eating.

It is important that kids know they do not have to give up their favorite foods to be healthy; while also telling them that other foods are important too. Having a conversation with a child is not as hard as so many people make it. They are people. You help them understand. You talk to them the way the deserved to be talked to. You let them ask questions and have concerns,  you let them freak out and then you bring them back to reality with comforting words, advice and ideas that will help encourage them.

REMEMBER, it is important not to tell kids they have to go on a diet. There is such negatively associated with diets, as there should be. Diets are no good. Diets don’t help the cause. In fact, they cause more stress on your body and mind. Diets should die. I think this is a critical piece of the puzzle: making sure kids know they are not dieting and do not need to diet. They need to know that pizza is coming along for the journey and they are going to be able to enjoy their favorite foods, but they are going to be eating it in a different way.

It’s the first day of the rest of your life.

I AM TALKING TO YOU AND YOUR KIDS.

It’s the FIRST day of the REST of your life.

DO NOT START IT BY DIETING.

Throw out the dieting books, magazines and internet printed guides.

Our lives are a delicate balancing act and weight is no different.

Balance it the right way with an actual life change.

Balance it the right way for your kids by getting involved, talking to those people who can help, demanding the time, money and effort of those people who have the responsibility of serving you and your family; do it by changing your food course for the rest of your life.

If people can balance it the right way, they will not have to struggle everyday. Believe me, once you have an issue with weight, it is ALWAYS an issue. Even after losing all of my weight and maintaining it for 6 years, I still struggle every single day. Let's do right by the kids in the country and help them not have to struggle every day like so many of us do. 

Because Life is Complicated Enough... I do not want you to feel alone in any of your struggles, especially this one. 

You do not have to struggle for as long as I did