That was it, the event that caused me to ‘change my life’, at least for a while. I took charge of how much I was eating, cutting my portions in half, and I exercised after lunch and dinner. Hey, I was 11. I didn’t know about letting food digest before doing jumping jacks, sit-ups and leg lifts.
It’s no wonder I was a chubby kid. I loved food from the get-go and I ate plus-size portions of all things fried, with buttered-up potatoes and plenty of dessert. Vegetables made a token appearance at our table, and our salads were the sweet kind: ambrosia, jell-o, and my personal favorite, graham cracker crumbs with whipped cream and chopped dates. Oh, my!
I lost weight that summer and I grew several inches, starting the seventh-grade as a normal-sized kid. But the weight loss didn’t stick. Now, a lifetime later, I understand why I couldn’t win at the losing game. I changed the outside me that long ago summer, but the inside me, my emotional self, didn’t come along on the journey.
When I was a chubby kid there weren’t very many kids like me. Sadly, that’s no longer the case. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 17%, or 12.5 million kids between the ages of 2 and 19, are obese. That’s double the population of my home state of Missouri. Why then, when there is so much nutrition information readily available, unlike when I was growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s, is childhood obesity on the rise?
Complex questions give rise to complicated answers: too little physical activity, too many high calorie foods with low nutritional value, too many people with little access to fresh produce. The external issues that contribute to childhood obesity are many, but it was an internal change that allowed me to finally succeed at achieving a healthy weight.
This may sound strange, but the ability to change my lifestyle, and consequently my life, happened only after I accepted myself exactly as I was. It was a small emotional shift with an enormous pay-off. I realized that my life was happening now, this moment, and I had been deferring happiness most of life. When I wanted to change the way I felt, more than the way I looked, the weight gradually came off and stayed off. I learned to feed my whole self, to choose foods that nourished all of me. In short, I became a Food Detective, reading ingredient labels with a passion; ever on the lookout for the hidden presence of sugar, salt and fat.
It’s taken me most of a lifetime to get over being a chubby kid. Now, I want to make a difference in the lives of kids who are in danger of growing up overweight with all that that means, physically and emotionally. I want to introduce imagination to nutrition, showing kids of all ages how to be Food Detectives, learning cool stuff about the stuff they choose to eat.
Facts can be forgotten, but a story lasts a lifetime. And though I don’t have a super power like the characters in my book, I do have the power to be my best, healthiest and happiest self by making smart food choices. And that’s a power I want everyone to have.
In addition to her role as a content strategist for business clients, Jan produces content for HenriettaSharp.com, using characters from Henrietta Sharp and the Magic Lunch Box to introduce imagination to nutrition.
The book is available now on all e-book platforms, with print and audio versions coming in November 2012.