Hope for teens who struggle with weight…

When I first got into recovery, I told my cousin that I was getting help for the way that I was eating. She immediately told me this story: It doesn’t surprise me Mere. Don’t you remember when we were kids? You would always get mad about food. One time we were at the beach and our grandmother made a cake. She told us we couldn’t have it until morning but I went in to sneak a piece anyway. You followed me and said, “What are you doing?” Then you said, “If anyone deserves a piece of that it’s ME because of everything I’m going through with my parents divorce.”

Wow. This was an early piece of evidence that food was my coping mechanism for life. I didn’t even remember it happening. But I knew the pain I felt back then. No wonder I ate so much…and no wonder I continued to do it from the time I was a kid until I was in my 30s.

No young teen who is struggling with life needs food to cope. They just need someone to listen.  I met with a new client yesterday who is 14. She’s beautiful. We talked about food and how she sees it, smells it, wants it. She always just wants something so she eats and eats until she feels sick. We talked about her life circumstances and how they factor into the way she uses food to make the pain go away.  Unfortunately it only makes it worse because it numbs us, and then it makes us feel bad about our outsides. We talked about unhealthy voice triggers around her that she can’t control like television ads that make her want to eat, or the golden arches. We talked about what she can control, within herself through her own thoughts and choices.

She told me how so many kids at her school who are overweight like her need to talk to someone like me. So many of them are angry. They’ve become bullies. Of course they have, because they have stuffed their feelings down. They have nowhere to put them but in their stomachs and it only hurts them physically. It’s a one-ended relationship when they just need one where someone will listen.

She said people come in all the time and talk about how they should eat an apple or go outside and play but no one gets it. But you do. You get that we’ve just got to talk about why we are going to the food. We need you in schools.

By the end of our session she realized where that hunger was coming from and really started to hear her Healthy Voice. It was an amazing thing to be a part of – so incredible that I cried when I left.I am blessed that I’ve gone through a struggle with weight as a teen because it is through my struggle that I can help thousands like her.

EVERY kid deserves to get out of their unhealthy relationship with food, to find a healthy one. Before they grow up and start being guided by their unhealthy voice, they deserve to start living TODAY in their healthy one.

Weigh-In with your Healthy Voice

We are not our weight. We are not how much we’ve gained. We are not how much we’ve lost. We are not how much we want to lose. We aren’t going to be better when we lose it. We aren’t going to finally fit in when we lose it. We are enough right now.

If our loved ones monitor our weight-loss and we fear failure – remember the only reason they do that is because they only know what we know. All of us are groomed to think that weight-loss is the answer when it goes so much deeper.

Getting on the scale isn’t a death march. We don’t have to listen to our unhealthy voice that tells us we are defined by our weight. We are defined by who we believe we are DESPITE our weight. If we want to believe that we are our weight, it is the best time for us to choose NOT to listen.

In the show tonight, a number of campers chose not to listen to it. One said, “I don’t want to let a number decide my whole view of myself.” So happy to hear it! We all have a Healthy Voice that wants us to see we are SO much more than our weight…we just have to hear it.

Inspired by tonight’s episode of “Huge” on ABC family.

Raising the white flag on weight: what it really means

What I saw in last night’s third episode of “Huge” was the impact of weight discrimination. When a “normal” sized kid (whatever, it’s all relative) makes fun of an overweight one (like the tennis camp kids did), they feel rejected. They also feel anger and they show it by doing the character game they do to get revenge on the tennis campers. Just like any other kind of discrimination, weight discrimination breeds an unhealthy cycle.

The kids who are making fun spew venom and the kids who feel rejected want to spew it back. Often times the kids who are made fun of will keep themselves frozen in worthlessness (been there), or worse – become defiant about their weight because of how angry others make them, like the main character on the show. The insecure kid even shared at the fireside. He said, “It doesn’t bother me that kids make fun of me, cause stuff they’re saying is true. I’m excited to lose weight. I just can’t imagine what it will be like. What if will actually change anything.”

That broke my heart because it showed how much overweight kids and people in general have resigned to the label that others put on them. So the people who suffer focus on their weight label as their identity, rather than the amazing person inside. This kid has accepted that he isn’t accepted and he’s afraid of what it would be like if he was, so he stays stuck. No kid, no person deserves to be stuck in that place because of someone else’s beliefs about them.

At the end of the show, during the campfire – the Camp Director has everyone raise their white flags. She says, “What if we stopped fighting? Is it possible to stop attacking other people and ourselves and just surrender?”

Yes, a million times over. Yes. You may think that means that we have to give in to what everyone else says about us, that they’re right, that we do suck, that we might as well just keep eating. Nope. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t.

Surrender is much more powerful than that. Surrendering means giving yourself the power to change by focusing on your great qualities. Accept that you may not be able to control what THEY say about you or what society tells you that you can, can’t, should, shouldn’t do. That means they can keep saying all the crap they want, and you just shake it off because YOU have power over your thoughts and actions. They don’t.

So, redefine surrender as empowerment rather than defeat because I’ll tell you right now – as much as society is trying to put you in a box of needing to lose weight – you are SO much more than that.

Now my question for you is – knowing that, what could you do?

Check out Jess Weiner’s blog on the show too for more discussion…

Parents influence on weight issues

Great episode tonight of Huge. I really like how this show uses the different characters to portray how everyone has such similar but different things going on beneath the surface. Those of us who overeat have a million reasons why we do…that’s why no one can figure out how to fix us. But our emotional relationship with our parents can often be a part of it, and they showed that in this episode….

You’ve got the girl, Will I think her name is who isn’t close with her parents and doesn’t want to send them a letter because she resents their “You aren’t good enough” attitude towards her. I now know why she is the one who was hiding the food – her resentment towards her parents is what’s keeping her IN the food and angry at a lot of people. Her situation is one like many teens, overweight or not, whose parents aren’t around or they just want to fix the surface. I’m glad that by the end of the show, they gave her some Healthy Voice guides. Even though it looked uncomfortable for her when the overbearing Mom asked why she doesn’t like basketball and the Camp Director father tried to teach her basketball – you can tell it helped. She was able to get a shot, and then listen to the guy teaching her how to shoot it. They believed in her despite her absent parents.  Both of them are doing the most crucial thing – helping her develop an interest in something OTHER than fixing her weight. THAT’S how we find ourselves.

You’ve also got the girl with the overbearing parents. The campers are commenting on her parents and how June Cleaver-ish they are but in the end she is having that panic attack in the shower, and her Dad shows up to get her. It shows that even the kids who look like they’ve got the perfect family – have issues too!! Perfect families do not exist…We’ve all got to grow up to who we want to be. Unfortunately, that character may have a little tougher time with that if her parents are coming to rescue her.

Lastly, you’ve got the girl who likes the trainer. She’s calling her Mom to share how awesome camp is and her Mom goes into her stuff. She can’t even share how much she loves camp. You can see the pain in her face. This girl doesn’t have missing parents or overbearing ones, she’s got a Mom who sucks all the life out of her. Let’s hope she continues to grow despite that.

But all of this shows how we’ve all got our reasons for eating that go beneath the surface. Lots of times it has to do with our relationships. Many times it’s our relationship with our parents. But it shows how we ALL have issues and it shows how eating right and exercising aren’t the only things we need. We need our Healthy Voice to recognize why we eat or act the way we do!! And the whole exercise them in this episode shows how we can escape from our issues without using the food! We just gotta do it in a healthy way 😉

“Huge” Premiere Healthy Voice Thoughts

Overall I think the show was great. They touched on some good issues and brought in good humor to make it light. I was actually thinking at the beginning of my own teen experience. I remember feeling so alone, literally the only overweight kid in my class. I like that this environment helped these teens feel more accepted, being around people that can relate to them.

I LOVE that they are given a journal to express their feelings, and the one camper had her sign that says – “Beauty comes from within.” Those are really both positive Healthy Voice tools. I didn’t love that there was one girl posting model photos for “thin-spiration” -but I think it depicted how teens today do think that models/movie stars should be their inspiration.

I’ll be interested to see how they develop the whole cafeteria portion of the show. It’s reality that some girls have the diet mentality when they eat. It’s also reality that you go to a weight-loss camp and they are going to feed you healthy food. That is the perfect place for these kids to find out about why they choose the processed foods over the healthy ones. But, I realize that’s advanced thinking…

“Are you holding?” and the whole storyline with the girls sneaking foods that weren’t allowed…I think it focused a little too much on the “punishment” idea. How can you tell these girls not to have that food, if they don’t know why they don’t want it? It’s how I talked about my addictive foods in the past. Thankfully, I don’t need them as a fix anymore. I think if anything it shows you – Food Addiction is REAL people. The way they talked about it, is the way any chemical addict talks about their substance – I need it. I can’t live without it. Yes, you can – this is how…

I love how they are getting support in groups. Sad that they say they can’t share at home like they do here…Parents – I said it in my blog yesterday — let them share their feelings about the food! You may hear something you didn’t know!!

The girl who couldn’t believe that a boy asked her to sit on her lap – could TOTALLY relate. When I was a teen – never got asked out, never kissed a boy. When you are overweight – you just never think you are worthy of a boy liking you. SO NOT TRUE!

Last thing – the girl that got kicked off for purging…that showed me how REAL bulimia is. This is not an eating disorder you can see on the outside and FYI – a lot of overweight people suffer from it, contrary to pop culture belief. I think they did a little of the “punishing” with this too….by sending her off campus. They could have educated the kids more about it…how their eating may just need be behavioral, but they may have an eating disorder, addiction etc….

Lots of thoughts – but I know it’s the first of it’s kind and a GOOD start. I look forward to future episodes.

Healthy Voice tips for watching “Huge”

In just a few minutes, the series premiere of the show “Huge” will air on ABC Family. If you are planning on tuning in…here are a few Healthy Voice ™ tips for watching.

One note, don’t let the premise get you to a negative place that we have a problem of obesity in teens. Let it take you to a healthy place – that we have an opportunity to help these kids find themselves and this show is going to give you a glimpse of just one way of doing that.

1. If you struggle, know that you are not alone.  Often times when we’re overweight at a young age, we feel like there is no one who understands us, everyone just wants to fix us on the outside. Know that your appearance on the outside honestly has nothing to do with the amazing person you are on the inside, or the person you are becoming. Focus on the awesome qualities you have in your heart, and your talents – and you will feel less pressure to focus on your weight.

2. Mom and Dad, there is a lot more to the weight loss. My parents started me on diets at the age of 7 because they saw me wearing the pain of their divorce on my body. If we had known that I needed to treat the inside first, we wouldn’t have spent all those years and money trying to fix the outside and failing every time. Don’t take this show as a license to get your kid on a better diet. Take it as a sign that you need to pay more attention to what’s going on with them emotionally. Don’t try to fix them by just fixing their outsides.

3. If you don’t understand, hold back your judgments.  If you struggle, don’t see this as a way to beat yourself up about your weight. If you are a parent who fears your child’s weight gain – don’t use it is a vehicle to tell them they need to lose the weight. If you feel you want to judge these kids, think about your own struggles in your life. You may not be wearing yours on the outside of your body, but you have your own…try to see yourself in these kids and you won’t be so quick to judge.

4. That mind part of the mind, body soul is bigger than you think. Most of these kids have been stuffing down their feeling for a long time. There are a lot of factors that contribute to the eating. More exercise, less processed food is important – but these kids need to be emotionally accountable. They want to FEEL. They just don’t feel like they can. Therapy helps tremendously, but make sure these kids are getting coached on the new thoughts and behaviors that will replace their regular reactions to life with eating. They need a Healthy Voice ™ to guide them through a healthy life.

5. What you don’t know. If these kids have been doing this for a long time, they probably have developed addiction to certain foods or they have Binge Eating Disorder. Neither of these are bad things. They are ways to help them know themselves better. Unfortunately neither of them are acknowledged as mental disorders in the DSM-V but there is educational awareness, and treatment for both.

You can find more about Binge Eating disorder here at the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) website. You can find out more about Food Addiction here.

If you want to read more blogs on this show, check out BEDA Advocate, Chevese Turner’s blog here, and Jess Weiner’s blog here.

Check back next Monday. We’ll have some more Healthy Voice thoughts and actions you can take for yourself or your kids.