I was an overweight kid. My whole life, my father never weighed less than 400 pounds. I had a lot going against me, as most fifth-graders do, when I started being bullied for being overweight. By eighth grade, at 35 to 40 pounds overweight, I knew I’d had enough. My fork in the road had arrived. I could be like my dear old dad (who I worshipped) and just keep gaining weight, or lose weight. If I lost the weight at least the fat part of the name-calling would stop, I thought. 

Making a change 

The summer of 1977 changed it all for me. I started running. I also ate boiled eggs, tuna from the can and salad greens, three meals a day all summer long. We now know this diet as paleo. Just before I started ninth grade, I was 35 pounds lighter and I haven’t moved much from it much since. I just completed a trifecta at the Spartan Races this past year at 54.

My dad, who died at age 66, weighed 550 pounds. He never got the change bug.  

Helping others

In his name and memory, I started an organization called Louie’s Kids in 2001. I have been working to bring awareness and change to the lives of overweight children and families for the past 17 years. What I learned over the years is that there is no ready-made formula for weight loss success. The truth is, I can’t say for sure what kind of impact Louie’s Kids programs have had on the hundreds of children’s lives we have been fortunate to cross paths with over the years. Many of the children we work with are 20, 30, or maybe even 100 pounds overweight. Every path was and still is different. Maybe their life is happy but they have overweight parents, indulgent grandparents, or even non-existent parents. Each kid has a unique story. Through run buddies, after school group therapy, weight loss summer camps, or organized family workouts, Louie’s Kids has worked hard to help forge new healthier paths.   

I could be like my dear old dad (who I worshipped) and just keep gaining weight, or lose weight. If I lost the weight at least the fat part of the name-calling would stop, I thought. 

One steady theme throughout all those stories was that kids don’t have to be that heavy to suffer the even heavier emotional problems and stigma that come with being overweight. I’ve learned that it’s not the kids we have to change in all of this, it’s the parents, and primarily the moms, of overweight children. The moms carry the weight of worry for their children and need support too. Unless mom changes their behavior around food, the dinner bell, the fridge and the grocery store, there isn’t much hope for their children.

Yvonne’s path to health

One of our most successful moms this past year lifts me up and reminds me why I am doing what I do. Yvonne’s story exemplifies how one mom’s decision to take her family to a workout changed her family’s unhealthy path and their lives. Yvonne’s life revolved around food and so did the lives of her kids. 

That was until the day she saw her 14-year-old struggle to breathe and keep up with the other kids. She shared with me that she hid her tears. She knew her kid was being bullied, but it didn’t stop her from going home and feeding them more for comfort. Yvonne was able to learn and admit that it was her own worry that was stalling her from helping her family and herself. Through cognitive behavioral counseling she learned that food was the emotional fix for everything going wrong in her life.  

Thankfully, Yvonne and her family found step-by-step help, and a new perspective at a Louie’s Kids workout. She was able to open her eyes to her role and responsibility in her children’s weight. 

Yvonne and her kids combined have lost over 100 pounds together. Luckily, this mom realized that not only did she expect her kids to workout and eat healthier, but more importantly, she had to be their example. Louie’s Kids showed Yvonne the small steps toward change and stayed with her each step of the way. Her first step was acknowledging the severity of their health by showing up for a workout. Next, she accepted responsibility for her own contribution to the ongoing bad habits at home and lastly, Yvonne put in the steady work of making weekly changes to those habits. She plans and cooks meals at home, cuts down on screen-time, keeps her mind and emotions occupied with a new crafting hobby and goes on daily walks. Yvonne’s daughter tried out and made the JV basketball team and she packs her lunch for school everyday. Her teenage son can run a timed mile three minutes faster than two months ago, and he brings a smile to the workouts now. Yvonne became a leader in her family. She put on her own smile and begrudgingly made it to the first workout. She took steps each week towards change. She set a remarkable pace, and her children followed her lead.