My Life as an Obese Teen
One hot Atlanta day, my middle school class went on a nature walk, picking up trash along the way. I tried to keep up, but after about 25 yards, I started panting and sweating. My leg muscles ached from the unusual strain, and I thought I might pass out from heat exhaustion. My teacher saw that I was struggling and asked if I was OK. I shook my head, and he stopped the entire group so I could rest.
I was humiliated when my class crowded around to see if they could help. It was a miserable day.
After school, Mom asked, “How was your nature walk?”
“Fine,” I told her. “We had a great time.” As an obese kid, you learn to be a good actor.
Most obese teens live double lives, just like I did. At home, they’re happy and outgoing. At school, they’re often lonely and discouraged. They may not share their negative experiences with parents because they don’t want worry or pity. Or they may not want parents to try to help because they think it’s impossible to get thin and healthy.
When I was 14 and weighed 297 pounds, I had a recurring dream. I dreamed that a fairy godmother gave me three wishes. One of my wishes was to weigh 180 pounds. Day and night, my excess weight troubled me.
My family is loving and supportive, and they would have done anything to help me. But incredibly, they didn’t think of me as obese. I was just Taylor—upbeat, opinionated, optimistic. If they’d known what I was experiencing as a grossly overweight teen, they would have helped me get fit.
Why didn’t my family realize I was obese? Because a chunky kid can turn into an obese teen so gradually that the people closest to them don’t notice.
Looking back, I wish I’d told my family:
• I’m scared.
I knew overweight kids could have heart disease, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
• Teasing hurts.
I laughed along with the kids who teased me, but years later, I still remember every hurtful word.
• I don’t fit in.
My weight placed a huge barrier between my thin peers and me. The more isolated I felt, the more I turned to food for comfort. And the more I turned to food, the bigger and more isolated I became.
•I want to be thin.
I acted like my weight didn’t bother me, but I promise you, it did.
When I thought about how much weight I needed to lose, it seemed useless even to try.
•Please talk, but I may not listen right away.
I would have listened—eventually—if my family had approached me about my weight.
I never said any of these things to my family. Instead, I just acted like being overweight was no big deal. I told myself that I had no control over my weight. My family’s busy, fast-food lifestyle and my inactive hobbies made it impossible to lose weight. Besides, I had the fat gene. I was meant to be a big guy.
As long as I could blame people and circumstances, I didn’t have to take responsibility for myself. Then one day when I was 14, I stepped on the scale and watched the numbers fly to nearly 300. Something clicked that day. I knew that every extra pound was there because of me, and I was the only one who could get rid of the weight that was holding me back from accomplishing my dreams.
How I Lost Weight
I set out to design my own fitness program, one that would be fun, healthy and effective. If I intended to lose the weight only once, I would need a plan that I could stick to for life. I love video games, so I created a plan based on gaming strategies. I set up a system where one dollar represents one calorie. Each day, I started with a certain amount of money, or calories, and I could increase my money by exercising. I had to “buy” everything I ate, and before I could buy junk food, I had to buy everything I needed for a healthy body. With so many food groups necessary for a healthy body, it never seemed worth it to buy a cupcake for $300.
I continue to play the game, which I call the Ultimate Fitness Game, all day. I start with a new screen each morning, and my goal is to keep from running out of money before I run out of day.
I’m now 18, and I’ve weighed 145 pounds for nearly three years. Getting and staying fit is tough, but it’s easier than a lifetime of obesity.