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    Posted March 26, 2010 by
    claudiagarza
    Location
    ARCADIA, California
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Your 'Aha' weight-loss moments

    MY CHILDHOOD OBESITY

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     claudiagarza said religion, exercise and better self-esteem helped her get through childhood taunts about her weight -- MadisonCNN

    To whom it may concern, We live in a world where as human beings we are beginning to evolve into a higher conscious level. It is exciting to see that people all over the country are beginning to recognize the importance of healthy living in all aspects of life. It is truly inspiring that the United States Government has dedicated time and funding to partake in this awakening. With the leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama, we as a country are taking a more serious approach at the health crisis that haunts our youth. As we all know our children are facing an epidemic of childhood obesity that will shape the rest of their lives physically, mentally and emotionally. To help better understand the needs and the challenges our overweight children currently face, I am writing to you to share my own story and struggle of being an overweight child. I grew up an obese child. I know what its like to be the biggest kid in the class. I know what its like to shop in the adult section of a clothing store at age 10. I know what its like to be made fun of because I was larger than every kid in school. When I was 6 years old my parents moved my brother and I to California from El Paso Texas. It wasn’t until we lived in California that I really began to gain weight. At about 8 years old is when the weight started to become noticeable and I was labeled “overweight” by all of my doctors. The term obese wasn’t as commonly used on children in the 1980’s and 1990’s. By the time I was 10 years old I was so big that I couldn’t do certain physical activities that other kids did. I remember being in 5th grade and not being able to run laps around the track or do pull ups which were a requirement in P.E. class. My obesity had caused me to develop severe asthma which prevented me from doing intense physical activities without the aid of an inhaler. By age 10, I was weighing in at 140 lbs and bigger than my own mother. It was very painful being the biggest girl among my friends and school. I remember being in Girl Scouts and the uniforms that the girls my age wore were too small and my mother had to take me to a specialty store to find me an adult uniform like the Girl Scout troop leaders would wear. In class I dreaded the school desks because I never felt comfortable sitting in them. I was too big for them and every time I breathed my stomach rubbed against the edge of the desk making it hard to write. Throughout my childhood I was ridiculed and made fun of by everyone but much to my surprise more by my own family. It is very common in Latino families to have nicknames for every member of the family, most of the time you obtain your nickname by a characteristic you posses. Mine obviously was assigned to me by my weight. For as long as I can remember my nickname was and still is “Gordita”, English translation “Chubby”. My brother and I fought and argued quite a bit beginning at an early age, most of our fights resulted in name calling. My brother’s favorite phrase was calling me a “fat slob”. So for years and years my brother referred to me as a fat slob. After hearing that everyday for years I began to believe it. Although sibling rivalry is common in most families the impact it had on me psychologically was along the lines of brainwashing tactics. My father, in an attempt to “help” me lose weight he too would say inappropriate comments thinking it would convince me to shed some pounds. During dinner every night he would tell me that I could only eat half of what was on my plate. So before every meal he would signal to me from across the table to eat only half. As you can imagine this routine was excruciatingly painful and embarrassing. It gave my brother more fuel to our heated debates and made me feel guilty about eating. The one comment that scarred me for life was when my father sat me down and explained to me the psychology of how and what men find attractive in a woman. He began by explaining that the first thing a man notices in a woman is her face, then they notice their body and lastly their character and personality. He told me that men don’t marry women if they are fat because it is considered unattractive. I was 12 years old when my father told me that. It isn’t until now at age 28 that I realize that maybe there is some truth to that depending on the man but it is not entirely true for everyone. As you can see growing up an obese child is brutally painful mentally and emotionally, but the real twist is that I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be overweight. I knew that I had different needs than all the other kids but I still didn’t recognize that there was something wrong with it. Emotionally I felt, embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, lonely and sad but I didn’t know why.  No one ever explained to me what it meant to be overweight. Based on the comments from everyone around me, I put 2 and 2 together and came to the conclusion that fat equaled ugly. Although this equation never manifested as a cognitive thought, it was more of a feeling. It wasn’t until high school that I had the most painful rude awakening of my life. By the time I was a sophomore in high school I finally decided to lose weight. So over the summer before my junior year I went on a strict diet and a very intense exercise regimen. The summer of 1997, I lost 60 lbs and when the school year started no one recognized me. At first all the attention I was receiving was nice and it felt good but after a month or so I began to realize how different everyone was treating me. All of a sudden I had more friends and boys who would never look at me began to ask me out, I was even nominated for homecoming queen. Psychologically, I was not prepared for this kind of attention and it became overwhelming. I couldn’t understand that my weight had such an impact on how people viewed me as a person. I remember thinking to myself, “I’m still the same goofy Claudia inside I just look different on the outside”. At that point it hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that my entire life I had been judged solely on the number on a scale. I was devastated. The weight loss didn’t last long after my realization. I desperately tried everything I could to stay thin. I limited my food intake to 1 slice of bread and celery per day. I worked out excessively which I couldn’t maintain for long due to the time constraints of school and homework. As a result I developed an eating disorder. I went from extremities of anorexia bulimia to binge eating. I had heard from one of my peers the rumors that had started about my weight loss and how I had lost the weight by doing drugs. People began to say that I used meth amphetamines to lose the weight. I was appalled by these rumors because never in my life had I used or even thought of ever using drugs, but after the depression set in and I felt so depressed, angry, hopeless and helpless I went against my own belief system. I didn’t know who or where to turn to so I looked for and found crystal meth. My parents tried everything to help me. They took me to doctors and psychologists so I could get better but it didn’t work. Doctors prescribed medication after medication but nothing seemed to alleviate the pain I felt inside. Through the remainder of high school I spent my Junior and Senior year completely isolated from my peers. I lost interest in everything. I had been an “A” student all my life and by the end of high school I was lucky if I pulled in “C”s. The medication wasn’t working and the side effects made me feel worse.  Needless to say when I graduated I left high school hating the world and by then I was a full blown drug addict with an eating disorder. 1 month after graduation I was admitted into a mental hospital so I could get help with my addiction, depression, suicide attempts and eating disorder. I suffered for many years after that. I was weighing in at 220lbs and the anti-depressants made me suicidal so I stopped taking them. Instead I chose to self medicate and became addicted to marijuana. It took 6 years and several visits to the institution when I finally kicked my self destructive habits. By the time I was 23 years old I had another rude awakening. I got into some trouble with the law and I finally realized what kind of person I had become. Despite my obesity I had always been a sweet, smart, compassionate girl. From that moment I vowed to turn my life around. I stopped using drugs; I made a decision to lose weight, go back to school and was granted an expungement on my criminal record. I am now 28 years old and in the best shape of my life physically, mentally, psychologically and spiritually. I am at a healthy weight of 145 lbs. When I look back at my childhood I remember mostly the bad things but I have spent years healing myself and focusing on the good things. I like to believe that the pain caused by my family was not intentional. I forgave everyone including myself for the hurt, pain and emotional trauma that I felt because I was overweight. My childhood experience has motivated me to help children who are in the same situation I was once in.  The purpose of this letter is to share with you the emotional and psychological impact that being over weight as an adolescent has on one’s self esteem. Although my case may be extreme, being obese can change the course of a child’s life as they mature into adulthood. There is another dimension to just teaching our kids about the importance of nutrition from a physical and biological standpoint. It is vital that we also look at the psychological impact it will have in years to come. As medical science continues to introduce various medications for the physical problems of obesity, (i.e., cholesterol medication for 8 year olds), more than likely the rate of depression among kids and teens will increase dramatically. My solution is to build self esteem and confidence in children along with educating them about proper nutrition.  It is no secret that the media, newspapers and magazines emphasize that thin equates to beauty. Children who suffer from obesity more likely than not will develop severe self esteem issues. Along with teaching kids about making healthy eating choices it is crucial that we do not damage their egos in the process. Kids who are over weight know they are over weight but maybe not psychologically understand the emotions that come with being heavy. It is equally important to teach our kids to love themselves no matter what size shirt they wear or what the bully at school tells them. Parents also must learn to help their children accept themselves for who they are. Oftentimes, in an attempt to help their children parents will lovingly criticize and say things that may hurt the child emotionally. It is important to remind kids that they are beautiful and worthy no matter what they look like. As painful as this letter was to write I hope it will give some insight on what can happen if we do not incorporate psychological help for our over weight youth. My mission is to teach kids, parents and educators that there are organic solutions for obesity through self acceptance, love and awareness. With love for our future, Claudia Garza

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