Day 6: Childhood Obesity

by carolyn on April 6, 2012

I haven’t been able to sleep most of the night, so I’ve finally started working on my “About Me” page. Through the 24 day challenge I am beginning to meet a lot of people who don’t really know me so it is time to fill them in. This is only a small part of my story. I didn’t know where to begin so I started at the beginning. Rumor has it, it’s a very good place to start.

* * *

On a recent business trip my coworker was telling me about her son’s career racing cars. He and I are about the same age and for all of the years I’ve known his family, I’ve always known him as a race car driver. I asked her what ignited his passion for cars and she told me that he’s loved cars and wanted to race since he was 2 years old. “That’s amazing,” I replied. “I don’t think I’ve ever been passionate about anything for my whole life.” Upon further reflection I realized that if I’ve had a lifelong passion, it’s been food.

Some of my earliest memories are that of food. I remember coming home from school when I was in Kindergarten and fixing myself a leftover baked potato with American cheese for an afternoon snack. My microwave skills eventually progressed to cheese quesadillas and English muffin pizzas. In elementary school the cheese trend continued and I would munch on handfuls of shredded cheese while watching music videos after school(oh, the nineties).

I've got the Christmas tree tights on. I think I was 4 in this picture.

From a young age I was familiar with the idea of second servings and couldn’t commiserate with my friends who didn’t want to finish all of their vegetables. You didn’t have to entice me to join the “clean plate club” by tempting me with dessert. I would clean my plate at least once-maybe twice-and then finish off an ice cream sundae in record time. I was the mayor of the clean plate club.

From the age of 5 I was introduced to the idea of dieting and filled out bubbles for each glass of water I drank, each serving of vegetables, etc. By 10 I was obese and frequented the local Weight Watchers’ meetings. It was awkward being a child in a room where the average client was a middle aged woman with kids. Clearly the sessions didn’t target my unique needs as an adolescent. Though I’m sure I saw some success through the program, the only permanent takeaway I have from the experience is a resentment for WW.

I knew I was different. I had to shop in the Women’s department from the age of 9 or 10 and still do. One of my best friends growing up, Katie, was always so skinny. She ate bacon and chips and stayed tiny while I was trying to stick to my childhood diet plans and still packing on pounds. I distinctly remember asking her to help me lose weight as we walked through our neighborhood one day. Like Katie and the other neighborhood kids, I played tennis and was on the swim team. For whatever reason, that didn’t really help me. I saw swim meets as an opportunity to buy nachos and Airheads. A fun day spent at the pool was filled with swimming and friends but it also had Papa Johns pizza deliveries and ice cream trucks every afternoon.

On the far right...I'm 13 years old here.

When I was 12, my family decided to move from Atlanta to Savannah. I thought this would be my big break. I would break all habits from living in Atlanta and enjoy a healthy, active, outdoors lifestyle in my new environment. I wrote in a going away letter to my friend that I thought this move would help me finally become healthier. Looking back I think it may have been what made things worse.

Though always the heaviest girl in class, in school, and probably in the city, I had a lot of friends growing up in Atlanta. I had at least 4 best friends, 20 close friends, and my birthday parties were probably the event of the year. In Savannah I never really fit in. I went to 3 different schools from 8th grade to 12th grade, but never had more than 1 more person I connected with at school and sometimes not even that. I had some minor weight loss successes in high school and maybe dropped a dress size or two, but nothing that would prove to be permanent or life changing. Looking back I feel like I could have turned myself around if we had stayed in Atlanta instead. But that’s just a “what if.”

Left. 18 years old. I thought I would never get bigger but boy was I wrong!

To be continued…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jason April 6, 2012 at 9:12 am

Carolyn,
Thank you for finding me yesterday and reaching out through my blog.
I’m just getting started with this process like you and I wish you great success!! One thing I try to remember is; it isn’t a diet. It’s a lifestyle change. Nothing is a quick fix and it takes time to destroy bad habits and replace them with new ones. Stay focused. It will pay off in the end!!
While reading your “about me” I felt I was reading my own bio. Just the female version! I was the same way growing up. Excited about getting home from school to make some horrible snack and sit in front of the television. No matter how much swimming, marching band, dance, etc I did, I never dropped weight.

I have put your blog in my reader so hopefully we can keep track of each other through this journey.

Good Luck!!

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2 Bettie April 6, 2012 at 10:05 am

Dear Carolyn,
I have been excited about your blog since you first started it in January and I think it is getting even better. You are a gifted writer with a great heart and mind. I truly believe that this is one of your purposes for which God created you. I am learning so much from you as you journey to becoming a healthier Carolyn. I am excited and grateful to be your mom. Thanks for your help as I work on becoming a healthier, slightly more than middle-aged, woman. Your writing so honestly about your journey is helping many people.
With much love and many prayers,
Your lucky Mama

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