Once upon a time there was a kid. A kid who loved to eat. Not unlike many kids, really. But this kid was different. He didn’t just enjoy the occasional cookie or bowl of ice-cream. Or burger and fries.
No, he lived for food. And when he wasn’t eating, he was thinking about eating. At school he struggled to concentrate in class because he was always fantasizing about his next meal. Food equaled pleasure — and who wouldn’t want an instant ‘pleasure fix’?
So easy, so convenient, so accessible and so… instant. He was the poster boy for the quick-fix generation. By the time the kid was five, he was fat. By the time he was seven, he was really fat. Fortunately for him though, it wasn’t real fat; it was puppy-fat.
His loving mother had taught him all about puppy-fat.
It was a temporary condition which affected some boys and girls. She told him that when he got to a certain age, it would all go. So that was kinda comforting. Temporary fat… okay.
Nothing to really worry about.
Although the kids at school didn’t really buy into his mum’s (mom’s) whole puppy-fat theory. They came more from the “hey, you’re a big fat pig and we don’t wanna play with you” school of thought. While the taunting got him down at times, a chubby little finger in the peanut butter jar always proved to be somewhat therapeutic and relieve his pain. Food was his escape.
“How do they squeeze all that pleasure into one little jar?” he would ask himself. “So much peanut butter and so little time,” he would joke with his family. They always laughed at his jokes. Always supportive. They loved him so much.
“He is so funny and creative,” his parents would tell their friends.
“And gigantic,” the friends would be thinking.
By the time he was twelve he was huge. Morbidly obese. And according to dear-old mum, still in the puppy-fat phase. She still loved to cook for her “little boy” because it was one of the few things that “gave him pleasure”. And making him happy made her happy. And a happy home is a good home.
At school he was misunderstood. His mother wondered why everyone in his class was so determined to make his life a misery. Ironically, everyone in his class wondered why he was so determined to eat himself to death. Yep, home was his refuge, mum was his protector and food was his only joy.
By the time he was fifteen he weighed over a hundred and fifty kilos (330 lbs), he was a diabetic, had joint problems, respiratory problems, high blood pressure, and was the subject of constant ridicule. But not at home.
At home the “F” word was never mentioned. Too painful. His family would ‘love him at all costs’. His mother was always desperate to ‘protect’ him. And feed him ten thousand calories a day… er, I mean, love him.
If anyone labeled him fat, she would bare her fangs. The fact that he weighed as much as two or three of his classmates didn’t seem to register with her. “Sure he’s carrying a little fat” she would admit to her concerned friends but “like his father, he’s big-boned.”
Her friends would roll their eyes and bite their tongues. Mostly.
“The whole family are endomorphic; genetically predisposed to be… bigger”, she told her best friend one day.
“Maybe the whole family eats too much and moves to little,” her friend replied.
They never spoke again.
“How dare she attack my family like that; why do people need to be so cruel? Bitch.”
By the time the Junior reached his final year of high school, he could barely walk. He would struggle for fifty feet or so and then have to lean on something or, preferably, sit.
He missed as many days of school as he attended. And when he did make it to class, he had to sit at a specially built desk. He looked like an animal in a special enclosure at the zoo. He and his industrial-strength desk sat there like an island in a sea of ‘normal-sized’ people and desks.
His ever-increasing mass meant that he now had a permanent wheeze, endured constant painful chafing where his massive thighs rubbed, sweated profusely, and smelled like a yak. A smelly yak.
He also had some practical challenges when he went to the toilet but I don’t want to ruin your lunch or dinner, so I’ll leave it at that. More and more concerned people offered their support and help to the mother. She told them to mind their own business.
“I know what’s best for my son,” she would snap at them.
One day the phone rang. It was her son’s school.
The blood drained from the mother’s face, she dropped the phone and screamed a scream that only a mother could. Her whole body began to shake and she fell to the floor. Her husband picked up the phone and spoke to the person on the other end. He too dropped the phone and began to sob uncontrollably.
The woman lifted her head, turned to her husband and moaned, “How could this have possibly happened?”
While this story is just that – a story – for an increasing number of people, this tale is a tragic reality. I have seen this story (or similar) in the flesh many times over the years. Scenarios like this are playing out more and more every day, despite us being more educated, informed and equipped (to fight obesity) than ever before.
As long as we choose to call our fat kids anything but fat, we’re doomed. It’s not about being offensive or insensitive, it’s about being real, practical and honest. It’s not about inflicting emotional damage, it’s about preventing physical damage.
It’s about creating forever change. It’s about helping, not hurting. It’s about changing thinking, culture, habits and bodies.
It’s about being less concerned with political correctness and more concerned with doing what’s right. And to the ‘expert’ who argued with me on radio last week that we should never weigh kids because of the potential emotional damage, maybe you should be more concerned with finding a practical, physical solution for our fat kids — because based on our current trajectory, some of them will be dead from obesity-related conditions before they have a chance to really embrace all those ‘emotional issues’ anyway.
Let us know your thoughts on this emotional and provocative subject (either way).