Recently, I was in New York attending a conference on all things website. While I ended up learning tons, the biggest and best thing I learned didn’t come from one of the speakers. It came from a mom who told me all about her son, who is only 12, and who has already felt the acute sting of what it’s like to be an overweight child.
Even though he’s not obese, he is chubby and his “friends” and schoolmates constantly let him know it in the brutally honest way that only children can. He has been the object of jokes that made him feel sad, hurt and, worst of all, alone.
I remember what it was like being an obese kid. Even though I should have fit into clothes designated for kids my age, I had to get the next size or 2 up from that just to find stuff that fit. My “friends” made fun of my stomach and my lack of physical ability. I was called “fatty,” “Buffalo Bill” (that was a popular one), “Big Bill…” You name it. And I used to go home and cry, then eat to try to get rid of the pain.
I know exactly what this kid is going through because I went through it myself. Then, as I grew into high school it went from bad to worse. The absolute meanness of high schoolers was brutal, especially at a time when I was becoming a young adult trying to maintain what little positive body image I had left. That is how my sense of humor became so honed. I needed it to deflect that pain away from me – even if it meant being the butt of my own jokes about myself. Laughter was the only way I could hide that pain, and there was a lot of it.
As an adult, the insults became less but only because adults (well, most adults) learn to mask them. But nothing, absolutely nothing, can take the look out of someone’s eyes. You can tell what a person is thinking just by looking at them. Like when I boarded a plane or entered a restaurant...
All I want to do was tell her son it’s OK and that he is absolutely not alone. And thanks to her son’s story, my newly-found website knowledge and Michelle Obama giving childhood obesity the attention it deserves with her “Let’s Move” initiative, I am going to devote an upcoming portion of my own website to childhood obesity and weight loss. There are many of us “fat kids” out there who need a place to go to be safe from the barbs and stings of words that cut like knives and from being made fun of so we can win this “battle of the bulge.”
This mom told me her son has worked hard to get his own extra weight off but that he still says “Mom, I’m fat” when he slips or has a bad eating day (sound familiar?). But help is on the way, kid. Just know there are many of us out there who have not just survived being pre-teens and teenagers. We have taken the weight off and become healthier and happier people and you can do it, as well. As much as I have faith in the adults reading this blog to reach their weight loss goals, I have faith in you, too. We adults and you kids, alike, will get to our weight loss goals and we will do it together.