Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Turn Teen Angst into Self-Pride

Me in 10th grade
Growing up, being a teenager, figuring out the world as you mature is hard enough.  But, when you add in pressure to be thin, beautiful, smart, athletic, and part of the “cool crowd”, adolescence can be brutal.  As I have discussed before, I was overweight as a teen.  Even by third or fourth grade, I knew that I was a little “chunkier” than some of the girls in my grade.  While I was not obese, I always carried a few extra pounds.  I was very athletic and preferred being on a field or in a gym over watching after-school specials on TV.  I was fortunate to have grown up in the 80’s when home computers were unheard of, video games were just emerging with Mario Brothers, and doing research involved an entire shelf of hardback encyclopedias from Britannica or World Book.  However, during this time, I was being raised by divorced parents – my mother’s schedule was full of multiple jobs, activities, and commitments.  So, a sit-down healthful meal was a rare occasion at our house.  Most of my meals were in the car or in a restaurant between activities. 

I did have some very memorable sit-down meals as a child.  Both of my grandmothers were wonderful cooks and like to show love through food.  When I stayed with my dad, we typically spent a lot of time with Granny.  My Granny cooked three hot meals a day and we sat at the table for each of them.  Now, keep in mind, Granny was a southern cook whose staple vegetables were “spuds” and “butter beans” and who repurposed empty Country Crock tubs into storage containers for bacon grease.  While these meals weren’t the healthiest, they were comfort.

My issues with weight came to haunt me in my teenage years.  I can remember dreading the free sports physicals each summer – we walked around with all our friends getting everything checked, including our weight.  I was so embarrassed to think that one of my skinny friends (or a cute football star) might get a glance of my weight on my sheet of paper.  I can also remember standing at my locker one day at school and hearing a boy call me “lard butt”.  It was cruel, and it made me even more self-conscious of my weight.  

Granny and me at my college graduation
The lifestyle we led during my adolescence is proof that a regular routine of poor eating habits, even with lots of activity can still lead to weight problems.  But it is even worse these days as our teens are overloaded with tech gadgets.  They can talk to their neighbor online or via text without even getting off the couch.  The world is literally at their fingertips – but this is leading to inactivity and an epidemic of obesity among our young people.  We can help our kids find healthier avenues.  Obesity, and all the medial and emotional problems associated with it, is 100% preventable.  I encourage families to sit down together and have a healthful meal.  For me, the most memorable part of my meals as a kid was sitting down together – the comfort was served in the time we shared.  All you have to do is swap the greasy, high-calorie fare for healthful choices – now you have comfort food that is also protect food.  After all, isn’t that what we want for our kids – to comfort them and protect them for the future?    

I have taken the steps to protect myself for the future.  However, even to this day, I still don’t see myself as a thin person.  I am still that chunky kid who will battle emotional issues that come with being overweight.  I have been able to overcome my fears and insecurities.  I don’t consider myself thin, but when I look in the mirror, I know that I am strong, healthy, and empowered.  I have worked hard and that gives me a sense of pride for myself.  I now want to give that sense of pride to a deserving teen.  I am currently running a Camp Champ Teen contest (see rules at http://www.coachdconsulting.com/). One young person will receive free coaching from me on nutrition and exercise.  I am also collaborating with local businesses who are donating fashion and beauty/grooming to the selected teen once they have lost weight.  Please spread the word to teens you know or any friends who have teenage children – even if they aren’t overweight, statistics show they have friends who are. 

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