I think what really helped were the meal bars, because we can buy them in bulk, and he has one a day. He gets special permission– a note from the doctor saying that he can have one at mid morning. Kids have breakfast so early– I mean they’re on the bus going to school at like 7 in the morning, so they don’t have much time to eat a balanced breakfast. So he got special permission, since you’re not supposed to eat until lunchtime. The morning snack allows him to have a light lunch, and them he comes home and has another snack. I think it was an important factor in him losing weight. I think they really helped in his success, because speaking from personal experience, sometimes the overpowering desire for a candy bar can make you fall off of your diet. But with the meal bar you know they are not that bad for you. If you’re out somewhere, you can get one anywhere, and you can subdue your desire to eat a real candy bar.
Fatigue is one of the greatest difficulties for him; he really does get fatigued. Even people at his school told me he gets tired easily, not only during sports, but also during schoolwork. Whether it’s all related to weight, I have no clue, but I’m sure his weight does play a role.
I told the school nurse about Kaitlyn’s weight issues, because she needed to get weighed and the scale at home didn’t seem to be working. I had the school nurse weigh her, and I also had the homeroom teacher monitor what she was eating, because even though I packed her healthy stuff, she could still find ways to get other things. It’s so that she becomes more responsible for her weight. You know, they’re young, and it’s hard; she feels different from the other kids. Also, our doctor gave us a really nice pedometer, but the exercise is difficult; it’s like pulling teeth. I signed her up for a running group they have down here, where they teach the kids how to run– five year olds do it! It’s really a nice program. I would suggest getting the kids involved in athletics at a younger age. Just say, “This is what you have to do, whether you have the desire to do it or not.” They just have to participate in these things so that it becomes more of a habit.
We meet with resistance when he comes home from school and he’s hungry. They eat so early in the morning, especially in high school, and then they don’t have lunch until eleven or twelve o’clock. By lunchtime they’re ravenous, but they don’t have enough time to eat. So he gets home from school, and if there wasn’t anything he liked at lunch or he didn’t bring enough to eat, he’s very hungry by that time. So the issue is snacking. We try to be better about eating. He’ll bring a meal bar and a piece of fruit to school, and then have a yogurt after school instead of something that doesn’t fill you up like crackers or cereal. We’re trying to set him on a course, but a lot of it has to come from him; we can only do so much. He has to decide if he wants to do it.
Today my son mentioned that there hasn’t been any teasing at school, but we do remember a time when there was teasing. He would come home and be upset but just be quiet and not say anything. We’d say, “What’s the matter?” and he’d say, “Nothing.” Then we’d have to wait, and eventually he’d come out and tell us what was wrong: “Someone was bothering me today,” or “I wasn’t picked,” or “I was the last one picked for basketball.” That was one of the things that was hard for him. So we had to help him to find other activities at which he could excel. We have a sports oriented town– 90% of the kids play sports and are very athletic– so we had to find other things for him to do and other avenues that would allow him to feel successful.
Talking to the school
I really don’t talk about my daughter’s weight issues; she knows what she has to do. But I have talked to the school, trying to push the fact that they should have healthier alternatives for lunch. I don’t go to the PTA, but I know the people, so they’re going to try to do something this year, I think
It’s tough to help kids cope with teasing. They really have to feel confident about being accepted for who they are at home first. There are some parents who will keep saying, “You need to cut back. You need to cut back,” which only makes the child aware of their weight every minute. There’s nothing you can say about teasing. You just have to make them feel comfortable with the way they are, because kids are going to tease, and frankly there isn’t anything you can do to make them stop. Some kids are better at ignoring it than others.
Teasing and self esteem
Greg was going to a school where he hadn’t really been faced with much teasing. He may have had to deal with teasing once or twice, but it is really not an ongoing occurrence. The one thing that I would always try to convince Greg of is that there is more to what makes a person than how much he or she weighs or what clothes he or she puts on; there is something much deeper inside that is far more important than that. In elementary school I was taunted constantly because of my weight; they would literally poke at me. I was sort of the target that everyone used to direct their anger. If kids taunt him about his shape, we just tell him to tell them it bothers him and ask them to not do it. And if the kid continues to taunt him, we tell him he should go to a teacher or go to a parent and tell them, “This kid is bothering me.” In the meantime, we do our best to let our children know that they are extremely special and they are wonderful. That is something we try to instill in Greg to try to lift his self-esteem, so that hopefully he won’t have to endure some of the self-esteem issues that I have had to endure in my life.
I think my daughter had only one teasing incident, and it was a mild incident– it was a comment. She told me about it, and it wasn’t a hugely traumatic event. I just said to her, “You’re a beautiful person and the child who said that to you is probably just as nice as you. But they don’t know what they are saying, and even if they do, it doesn’t matter what they are saying.” It wasn’t long after that that she asked to explore the program. I think we staved off the teasing; we came and started addressing things before it got to the point where it became a lot of terribly cruel experiences, and that was part of our motivation. But when I heard about that incident, I really prayed that she would want to do this, because I didn’t want it to explode and become an everyday thing.
I find that talking about problems at school helps. My daughter is very open about what goes on in school. She’s not afraid to talk about it, and I think talking helps her, but sometimes kids need to be prompted. Ask, “How was your day? Did you have a good day? Did anybody give you a hard time?”
Snacks with friends
When my daughter is with her friends, or when she’s out of the house with other people, I don’t restrict her. I tell her friends’ parents to try to stay away from juices and sodas, but if the kids are having a sugary snack, then she’s allowed to have it. If they’re going out to a movie and they’re having popcorn or candy, that’s fine, but she should have water with it. I try not to make her feel different, but it’s hard, because I don’t want her to completely undo what we’ve done in one day.