One of the best things about fitsmiForMoms is our affiliation with fitsmi.com, a safe social network for teen girls struggling with their weight and ready to make a change. Listening to the girls on fitsmi gives us a lot of insight into the tremendous passion that many girls have to change their life for the better — and the often serious obstacles in their path.
Some of the obstacles are environmental — parents who stock the house with junk food or frequently take the family out to eat at fast food joints; lack of access to afterschool sports, an exercise class, or a gym — but by and large these problems can be solved. Teens can learn to cook and even shop for themselves, understand what to select at any restaurant or cafeteria, and with a little encouragement, begin to exercise anywhere — even if it’s running up and down a stairwell in an apartment building.
The more difficult problems are often the internal, psychological ones. Teens whose own parents have weight problems (often with tortured weight histories) have to wrestle with their parents’ baggage before making a clean break for themselves. Siblings who don’t have weight issues can make overweight kids feel miserable in comparison, especially if they receive “special” treatment from well-meaning relatives (this is why we often repeat the wisdom that the whole family should be eating healthy and nobody singled out on the basis of weight alone).
Last but not least, it can be extremely difficult for teens not to internalize society’s harsh stigma and paranoia when it comes to weight. “I am fat” too often equals “I am bad, stupid, lazy, ugly, unlovable, etc.” Everyone talks about “the obesity epidemic,” but more people need to realize the seriousness of our “weight-stigma epidemic” too. Needless to say, this kind of mean-spirited bias only makes the health problems more difficult to solve.
But back to the teens. Many of them come to fitsmi in a desperate or depressed state, but with a little support they blossom. And when they are strong enough to speak out, we run to listen! Their strength, ingenuity, and spirit shine rays of hope into our collective future. They want to change, many of them will change, and if enough cards fall in their favor they will help change our society — and future generations — along with them.
(and psst, teens aren’t the only ones with moving stories to tell. If you’re a parent of an overweight child or teen with a story to share, please let us know!)
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