When you are working with a significantly overweight or obese teen, what do you see? A fat disgusting person with no-self control or someone struggling? Do you ask yourself the questions: What is really going on? Why are they over-eating? How much is physical, how much emotional? Is anyone to blame? What role has the child and their parents or carers played?
These are some of the questions that my guest blogger, Pat Antos, seeks to address in this post, writing as his teenage self. Having himself been an overweight teen and a morbidly obese adult, he knows firsthand the issues that some of our teens are struggling with.
While everyone’s weight-gain experience will be different, and the reasons behind it will vary, I hope that you will agree that this insightful post really helps us to understand more. It can motivate us to be better equipped in really understanding and helping our overweight teens with their weight battles and in seeing their weight as much as an emotional issue as a physical one.
Mum and Dad, I am building a box.
“Shut up can’t you see we are arguing?”
The walls will be strong.
“Patty Patty two by four couldn’t fit through the kitchen door!”
The walls will be high.
“Hey Karen, Pat likes you.”
“Ha Ha Ha Pat? Eww! Not him he’s fat!!”
I am afraid of my box.
“You are not smart enough, you will just fail.”
The top of my box will be strong.
“You are not good enough.”
I can’t breathe.
“Just give your leftovers to Pat he’ll eat them.”
“You are fat and ugly, no one will want to be with a guy like you.”
The walls will hold the top on tight.
“We don’t care what you want, do this for us.”
I don’t want this box.
“Just give up, don’t try.”
Don’t put me in this box, I am a good kid.
“You know you can’t do it.”
There has to be something better.
“You will be safe in this box.”
This not what I want.
“Do this, I am your mother, don’t you love me?”
It’s dark in here.
“I wish you were never born!”
Will you love me if I stay in my box now?
We are heavy, we are fat. We are the ignored, teased, thought-less of, and talked down to kids. We are the butt of jokes and sniggers from the world, and from our families. The holier than thou people who from birth were given perfect genes with an ingrained sense of good eating habits, blame the candy in our hands. Blame the food on our plates. Our families tell us to eat everything on our plates, plus the plate next to us. Then make fun and tease us because we are not skinny. Society tells us that we should be skinny, but its ok, it’s not our fault we are heavy. Our DNA, or the Chippy down the street are the real villains.
When we find we cannot cope with the duality of the world around us, we retreat into ourselves. We give in and take the easy way. After all we are told we are not good enough, so we blame the food, our genes, and our family history. All these conflicting thoughts contribute to our refusal to release the peace and calm we get from eating. That time when the world is shut out and shut down for a moment.
No one can understand what we go through when the world judges us on the visual beauty we do not possess. We are alone and miserable in our box. We play the happy go lucky one with a self-imposed happy grin on our faces so people will like us. We are not worthy but we don’t want to be alone.
We play the victim well. We play the fool well. We will even tell you we see the point that is made about how we look. In the end “low self-esteem” is just a statement that means nothing to us.
Our self-esteem was developed with a broken filter of the world. We were never validated for who we are nor were we nurtured to become who we truly could be. So despite our feelings of self-worth we want to be accepted by those who do not truly love us. We so desperately need to feel accepted so play the role we have been given. This does not make us happy mind you, so we retreat and do what we can to cope. So we eat. When we eat we take a deep breath and the world melts away, until we breathe again.
Want to reach me? Look me in the eye and help me see who I am on the inside. Help me believe I can. Let me know that I am important. Show me how I can move outside the box I have created.
Teach me how I am worthy of love that does not come with conditions. See me for me. Help me to see the true me behind the image in the mirror. I want to be loved, respected, and to be me. Help me find the courage to stand up and fight for who I am despite the box I have created.
When you have done all of that, we can talk about how to lose weight. My box is easy, hard, safe, scary, lonely and comforting. In the end it is what I have built. My box is all I know.
Food is my shield, my wall, and my friend. What will you be to me?