Health: The Weighting Game

I have always been a “fat girl”.

I was a big baby and then a heavy kid. I was even a fat teenager. I never considered that “fat” was a bad word – it is what it is. But, to be fair, that was 40 plus years ago, and there were far fewer of us fat kids back then. Now, childhood obesity is referred to as an epidemic – and over one quarter of Canadian children between 12 and 17 are considered obese. In areas where there is a high population of newcomers, that statistic is even higher.

My son is overweight, and that is what re-started my weight loss journey – this time. I say “this time” because I have, quite literally, been on a diet [or a series of diets] since I was 11 years old. At age 11, when I was 135 pounds, my mother took me to my first Weight Watchers meeting. She, like all her friends, was overweight. In the 2 years I belonged, I gained 30 pounds and grew 6 inches. I was still fat, and knew nothing about how NOT to be fat.

In my teenage years I was very self -conscious of my weight. I hid in big clothes and didn’t join any sports. I didn’t date and I didn’t socialize. This is very common among kids and teenagers with weight problems, and often serves to make the problem worse.

I have been on every diet you’ve ever heard of. The “Cabbage Soup Diet” made me gassy. The “Atkins Diet” made me faint. “Nutrisystem” and “Jenny Craig” were too expensive for my budget.

I tried restricting certain foods. I cut out potatoes. I stopped eating rice. I stopped eating white bread. I ate only salads for weeks on end. But the one thing that all of these diets had in common was that I couldn’t stick to any of them for any length of time - they were too restrictive. I’d fall off the wagon and regain whatever weight I’d managed to lose.

My son joined a 2 year children’s weight loss program, run out of Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, called STOMP – Sick Kids Team Obesity Management Program. It’s a program drawing on all areas of medical expertise, physical therapists, nutritionists, social workers and dietitians to help teach obese teens about how to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles. If my son was going to make a commitment to this program, and to exercising and eating healthily for two whole years, then I should go along with him and embrace a life style change as well, right?

In September 2010, I made the decision to change with my son. I joined Weight Watchers (again). Over the last year and a half I have lost over 70 pounds and been able to maintain it!

Weight Watchers has changed a lot from how it was in the early 1970s when my Mother took me. Back then, I used to count calories and eat a lot of lettuce and canned tuna. Now I eat everything – just not as much of it as I used to eat.

I’ve also learned to include exercise as part of my life. I understand that the gym is a scary place for a lot of people who are overweight – I know it was for me. It can also be scary for women to go to a gym full of men, and even more challenging for women from certain cultures or religions. However, both Curves and Goodlife Fitness have women-only gyms and are sensitive to modesty requirements, using window coverings to ensure that women have a safe and female-only experience.

Beyond the gym, I learned how to just incorporate more movement into my daily life. I park 3 blocks away from where I work and walk up and down the hill where my workplace is. I swam in the pool every day last summer, and look forward to doing it again this year (when it’s not covered in snow!). My hand weights are cans of soup, and I do sit ups during TV commercials.

Losing this weight has changed my attitude, and changed my clothes! I’ve gone from a size 24 to a size 14 – from a 3XL to a Large. I’ve had to replace my entire wardrobe and it’s been a lot of fun. What it hasn’t been is easy. I’ve written down every bite I’ve eaten for 18 months. I go to Weight Watchers meetings every Saturday morning, and I’m still 25 pounds away from what I ultimately would like to weigh.

But it is worth every ounce of effort to not be that “fat girl” anymore.

Sick Kids Team Obesity Management Program (STOMP)

Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto is one of the world’s leading hospitals for the treatment of children and adolescents. In 2010 they developed a program to combat obesity in youth.

The STOMP program is available to patients aged 12-17 who are referred by their family doctor and have high BMI (body mass index). BMI is based on weight and height for your age and gender.

STOMP is an intensive muliti-disciplinary program where participants work with a team of physicians, a dietitian, a psychologist, an exercise therapist and a nurse practitioner. The adolescents learn healthy lifestyle habits, motivation and coping techniques. In addition, the kids socialize with each other, work out at a downtown gym and have classes on preparing healthy, tasty, low calorie meals.

Because STOMP is a complete approach to healthcare, some of the young people enrolled in STOMP may also require surgical treatment for their complex obesity challenges or have obesity-related conditions (such as sleep apnea) requiring specialty care – or other significant chronic illness (such as diabetes). As well, for extreme cases, the Hospital for Sick Children is the only facility in Canada currently offering bariatric (laparoscopic band) surgery to pediatric patients.

The STOMP program helps kids with obesity issues become healthy grown-ups.