This is an excerpt from an article I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald.
When I was a teenager, my weight started to creep out of control. I struggled to maintain it, much to the concern of my slim parents, who made their fair share of mistakes while trying to help me manage it.
I was never an overweight child. While they had total charge over what I ate and when, my weight was stable and normal. Once I hit teenage years, my eating patterns were up to me. My parents provided breakfasts, lunches and dinners but could not control my snacking, food sneaking and voracious teenage appetite.
Slowly, I ballooned. At first I was just a little chunky, then noticeably overweight. By 16 I was 84kg. At my height of 168cm, I was shocked to see this meant obesity on the BMI chart. The most I should weigh was 71kg. At 20 per cent above optimal weight, I slipped from being overweight to obese.
My parents knew the pain of obesity as both had an overweight adult sibling. The value they placed on remaining ”healthy’’ was high.
They didn’t always get it right. The highly-processed “low fat” food of the 1990s seemed to do more harm than good. At 16, I cried during a “weigh-in” at a meeting after the scale-lady told me I had “such a pretty face”, code (as we all know) for “fat”.
Dr Amanda Salis from the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders knows all about the pain of being overweight, having spent much of her earlier life that way.
“It’s uncomfortable, I felt ugly all the time, in summer I was hot,” she says. “What frustrated me about being bigger was that people didn’t understand it, especially when I was looking for help.”
Those she turned to didn’t have experience with what it’s like to be overweight. “There’re health professionals who haven’t walked a mile in the shoes of someone struggling with weight,” she explains. “They don’t understand you can be big, and you can be hungry.
“It was always eat less, move more and keep going until you get there – which never worked for me.”
My experience was similar. While a teenager, I always felt hungry, often for the wrong things…
To read the rest of the article, head to the Sydney Morning Herald.