My 15-year-old daughter, Lea (pronounced "Lee - ah"), is very petite at 4 feet 9 inches. Last August, a doctor appointment revealed that she and I weighed the same at 182. Her health and weight has been a source of anxiety for our family (and friends) for many years. For the past several years, our county has issued a letter to her father and I, letting us know that Lea’s weight is off the charts and they just wanted to make sure that we were aware (Yes, I find the letters offensive as they infer that I am indifferent to, or unaware of, my child’s condition).
While being careful not to nag, scold, or shame, I have encouraged Lea to be more physically active. She has declined, preferring to color in front of the television after school or listen to music in her room. I have encouraged her to be careful about the amount of sugar and carbs she consumes. She expressed indifference to modify her eating habits. I encouraged Lea to consider using SparkTeens but she thought that'd be stupid.
Lea would lament about how much pressure there was at school to “look the same as all the skinny girls” and she refused to go there. She said that she accepts herself as she is and she wished that I would accept her as she is, too. Of course, I assured her that I do! Lea has had her share of normal-to-acute teenage anxiety and depression, and yet she has fairly good self-esteem and plenty of independent pride. She has continued to resist me and I have not-so-silently worried.
It’s clear to me that "self-love" is the best weight-loss tool. I know that Lea‘s motivation would have come from within herself. So, while being sure to let her know how much I love her and value her exactly the way she is, I have encouraged Lea to understand health and to love and care for herself. I have encouraged Lea’s healthy sense of pride and personal responsibility. I told her that, although she is young and still learning about how her body works, she is the expert and owner of HERSELF. SHE is the one who will be caring for her body from now on. I promised to do my best to support, encourage, offer healthy choices, and get her professional guidance when called for and accepted.
I also tried to lead by example. When I lost 16 pounds with the help of SparkPeople this past year, I shared my excitement, awe, and pride in myself. I made sure to share with Lea and the rest of my family what behaviors I changed to achieve that success: eating breakfast , drinking at least 8 glasses of water everyday, counting and being aware of my calorie intake, eating more vegetables, trying to be more active, and, more than anything, paying attention to - and loving - myself.
Last August, Lea started high school. She had to almost sprint to get to her classes on time. I felt sorry for her on one hand. On the other hand, I thought those intermittent sprints would be good for her, especially, since otherwise, she was pretty sedentary.
Half way through the school year, Lea shared with me what she was learning about food and nutrition in her health class. I listened trying not to remind her too often that I’d been telling her the same things for years. She began to tell me, “Do you realize how many calories are in…?” And, “I don't really NEED that cookie. I will limit myself to one every other day.” And, "You know Mom; I just realized how many calories are in those crackers! I'm going to limit myself to five!" And, "You know what? I can eat smaller portions of food and still feel full!" She started eating breakfasts. After school, in front of the television, she ate more apples, limit her crackers, or opt to just drink a glass of water. These statements and new behaviors warmed my heart and I told her how proud I was of her that she was taking care of herself. I affirmed to her that she was making good, healthier choices.
I began to notice the clothes that were tight on her earlier in the year draped a little looser on her. Noticing that she seemed to be trimming down a little, I praised her and encouraged her.
Last week, Lea stepped on my scales and invited me to come read the results. I braced myself – as I usually do – and looked down to read… 155 pounds! What?!
LEA LOST 27 POUNDS this past year!!! All this time, I've worried and Lea QUIETLY lost 27 pounds! That’s a lot more weight than the 16 pounds that I have been jabbering and bragging about losing!
I am SO, SO PROUD of my daughter! Lea is taking care of herself and I have no reason to believe that she won’t continue! I am relieved and thrilled. With a little education, awareness, and support, LEA IS CHOOSING TO MAKE DIFFERENT and HEALTHIER CHOICES FOR HERSELF. The day-by-day better choices and behaviors have paid off! I am thrilled to know that my child has the vision to care for herself and that she is on her way to more and more success!