This is my son Kohl. The pic on the L was taken when he was 9. The one on the R was just before his 11th birthday. Yes, those are the same glasses.
At around 9 yrs old he was topping the scales at above 90 lbs. He's a medium framed kid, 90 lbs. is too much for him to carry and be healthy at the same time. Said Kohl, "I didn't like swimming with my shirt off, but I really didn't notice I was overweight."
Then, a kid from school said something derogatory to him about his weight. Kids can be cruel, you know? The words stung him, maybe stabbed him is a better description. Kohl was devastated. For the most part, he'd seem OK throughout the day, but in his quiet times, just before bed, he could think of nothing else and the sadness would consume him.
I didn't think much of it. He's an active, healthy kid and I was sure he'd grow out of his weight problem. As he did this, I was also sure he'd figure out how to handle the bullies who were teasing him. I figured he'd be a little sad for a day or two and then he'd just bounce. Be fine, you know?
Kohl didn't bounce.
He hung onto the sorrow for more than two weeks before I started taking him seriously. Before I started listening.
"What can I do Dad?" He asked me over and over, like a hundred times.
I kept blowing him off because I didn't want to make it into a big deal. It's a touchy thing to address childhood obesity. It's the kind of thing that if you don't do right, you can really impact a kid negatively. I was scared to try. Hell, adults can hardly deal with the intricacies of self-control and repeated failure. Can you imagine how much more confusing it must be to a 9 year old? I was so afraid to hurt him. I was afraid it would mess with his head. I couldn't decide which would be worse, would it do more harm to him developmentally to have his trainer dad start riding him about his weight issue, or would it be more harmful to ignore the issue and hope he grew out of it?
So, I minimalized it.
I gave him 2 things to do, figuring the less he had to think about the better. Here are the 2 things he did to lose roughly 25-30 lbs. (a full 1/3 of his body weight) in 18 months despite growing several inches in height and putting on a fair amount of muscle:
- I asked him to run 1 mile per day.
- I told him to quit eating sweets.
Simple, right? Well, the first thing was pretty black and white. Even so, he had to build up to it over time. Like, the poor little dude had a hard time running down to the end of the block (100m?) his first time. It was ugly, man. Turns out he wasn't quite as active or healthy as I had imagined. I totally overestimated his fitness and health level. It also turns out he is much more driven to be successful than I could have possibly imagined. For a year and a half, that boy didn't miss his mile. He ran it almost every stinking day. And if he was too sick or busy to get it done, he'd ALWAYS make up for it by running two the next day. Pretty proud of that kid.
The second rule wasn't so simple. He asked, "What are sweets?"
I tried to keep is simple and said, "Well, just don't eat so much sugar." He innocently asked, "What has sugar in it?"
That's when it dawned on me - EVERYTHING - has sugar in it! So, we had to make some rules. Here are those rules.
Rules For Not Eating Sweets
- You may NOT eat anything sweetened for the sake of being sweet. For example, wheat bread has sugar added, but not necessarily for the sake of being sweet. So, bread is OK to eat. However, if it is banana bread, or chocolate bread, or something like that which has the intention of being sweet, you can't eat it. This gets tricky to navigate, but the secret is, when in doubt - it's OUT!
- If you have a craving for something sweet, you MAY eat foods which are sweet if they are consumed in their natural form. In other words if you are eating it how it came out of the ground, off the bush, tree, vine, & etc. it's all good. However if you are eating a processed derivative of a food (dried pastes, juices, jams, etc.) it's OUT. This is true even if it says 100% natural.
- You have to follow the plan more often than not! Kohl and I love food. Sweet, sugary delectable foods give us a lot of pleasure and positively add to our quality of life. Neither of us want to live in a world without chocolate cake or cookie dough ice cream. So, we eat them, but only on certain days. We chose Fridays and Sundays as "free days." On those days we eat just about whatever we FRICKIN want. But on the other 5 days of the week, we are very strict.
- Major holidays and big celebrations are "Free Days." No, Arbor Day isn't a major holiday.
So, what do we eat? Well, just about everything that's NOT sweet. Pizza, pasta, casserole, hot dogs, hamburgers, it's all good to go. We don't really hold back from any of it. No, we don't go crazy and admittedly we've found ourselves eating much more cleanly than either of us could have imagined at the start of all this. I think that's just what happens when you are paying attention to your health through proper eating. And the results simply speak for themselves.
What are the results?
I told you about Kohl losing 30 ish pounds. What I didn't tell you is that he became quite the runner. In fact, he won his school decathlon as a 5th grader. He was then invited to the regionals where he also dominated most of the events with a physical component. Broke a record, in fact, for rope jumps in a minute, not to mention winning the 200m dash by 20-30 meters, or so.
Zachy Boy (many of you got to know him this summer as he manned the front desk) became inspired by his brother and lost 16 lbs over the course of the summer!
And I am down nearly 20 lbs from last March when I started it.
It's good stuff. Simple too. I'm not convinced all that figuring and conjuring of the more popular weight loss methods out there today are any more effective than simple, consistent, thoughtful & deliberate progress toward your goal. And no, I'm not convinced our "Stop Eating Sweets" method will positively work for everyone, but I'll bet it'll work for most.
P.S. The story above took me a LONG time to tell. I initially felt like I'd be exploiting my boy by sharing his story. I couldn't stand the thought of it. But then I asked Kohl about it. Turns out he is very proud to share his story. He said, "I just hope it helps someone."
Kohl is a good boy.