As we approach a new school year, PLEASE educate your kids!

I originally wrote about this three years ago and felt it was time to repeat. Unfortunately, the problem I speak of is not likely to go away any time soon.

When we send our kids off to school soon for a new year, I ask all parents to educate them on an issue that is very close to my heart. We all try and teach our kids about being good friends, and about not discriminating against other kids due to their race, color, religious beliefs, or physical handicaps. Schools even offer programs now about bullying and the effects of it, but one thing that is never mentioned is discriminating against the obese.

Most people and many kids and teens still think it is okay to make fun of the obese person. I hear the sad stories from my clients and people we meet in our travels all of the time and it breaks my heart.  I know firsthand how this feels, and as I sit here, after losing over 130 pounds, and looking more like society’s definition of a “normal” person, it saddens me to see the difference in how people in general treat me and look at me since the weight is gone.

There is such a misconception that people who are overweight are lazy or are always that way due to their own failures. There is so much discrimination in social settings, professional settings, etc., and yet people who may LOOK healthy on the outside, but have addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, or those who don’t have an addiction, but who have a genetic disorder that makes them different on some way are never treated that way. At least not as often.

There is simply no denying that there are poeple with major food addictions, like myself, who eat for emotional reasons, just like so many I know grab a cigarette or a drink, or gamble, or go to a strip club. Other than smoking, which leaves horrid lines in the face, most addictions can be hidden to a degree.  Unfortunately, the people who turn to food as the drug of choice, actually show it on the outside. You cannot easily hide a food addiction as it usually manifests itself in obesity or bulimia/anorexia.  NEWSFLASH- obesity and anorexia are in many ways the same disease- in some it manifests itself through obesity and in some the opposite occurs and anorexia is the result.  But do we, as a society, discriminate against the super skinny person as we do the obese one?  NOT AT ALL.

Battling a food addiction is harder for many to kick than a cocaine habit.  Can you imagine telling a smoker, alcoholic, or pill addict that they have to live by taking just enough of that drug but not too much?  This is what a food addict has to contend with because we cannot live without food.

I was the person who ruined my metabolism with all of the crazy diets for so long in an effort to fit in and be accepted and normal. I had no idea I was a food addict for years.

I grew up a chubby kid. I absolutely know how it feels to go to school and have no one pick you for the kickball team at recess, and what it felt like to DREAD the physical fitness tests.

Kids are so cruel, and I can still remember things that were said to me in 2nd and 3rd grade. There is nothing worse than going through school watching all of your thin friends get to do things you will never do. It makes young girls go on crazy diets that really mess up our bodies.

I cannot stress the importance of teaching healthy eating habits at a young age and also in teaching tolerance and acceptance of others no matter what they weigh. The things I know now about the importance of fitness and nutrition, I wish I knew as a kid.  I would not wish the low self esteem and negative feelings I felt as the “fat kid”, on my worst enemy. It is a sad feeling to say the least.

Now my kids are learning young to choose fruit over cookies and water over soda. We do not keep Twinkies and junk in our house anymore unless it is a special occasion. Sweets and junk are a rare treat and not the norm. Soda is consumed when it is leftover from a party, and it is usually diet soda. I never want my boys to feel what I felt as a child.

I was really blessed in school with some good true friends who didn’t care what I looked like, but there were also some very cruel people. My hope is that these people teach their kids not to judge others the way they did in their younger years. The feeling of dreading getting on the school bus is a horrible memory for any human being to have.

All of my three boys are a healthy weight, and have been taught form birth to never judge people for any reason, and I think I was so adamant about that lesson due to my own experiences. My husband and I have a very diverse set of friends who are tall, short, skinny, heavy, wealthy, poor, Christians, non-Christians, gay, straight, black, white, very attractive, very average, etc. etc. etc. and they are all just as special to us as the other.

Having my weight loss surgery has been such a blessing, and I praise God daily that I was able to have it done and improve my health. This is what lead to my becoming a fitness trainer and a fitness nutrition coach.   And there is absolutely no difference in me on the inside, just less of me on the outside. So many people in this world missed out on getting to know me because they let the outer shell push them away from the girl inside who thinks she has a lot to offer this world!  Now, I offer it to those who take the time to know me and to know the person I am, not the shell I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I still do not fit the stereotypical media image of a personal trainer.  I am not a bikini model and never will be.  I am real, and I am healthy and i have curves that I love and my husband loves and I am proud of for sure!  This is part of why my clients love my program.  They know they are getting REAL. Fit and Flourishing is not about promises of magazine covers and a size 4.  It is about getting healthy in the real world.

It is now my mission to educate people on the realities of weight loss surgery and how it isn’t a cop-out or a sign of failure any more than treatment of any other illness. It is about a true and reliable treatment for the disease of obesity.  It is a TOOL.  WE HAVE TO LEARN TO RULE THAT TOOL!   I want people to know that just because you see a person walking down the street who is obese, do not assume that person is just lazy and doesn’t care about how they look. Just like you wouldn’t look at a skinny person and assume they are bulemic, or have some type of disorder.

If we all learned to think before we judge and to TRULY not judge a book by it’s cover, then we may all end up with a lot more really amazing connections in life. And for any of my friends battling any type of addiction or illness, I truly pray that you find whatever you need to kick yours, the way God gave me gastric bypass and therapy to help kick mine!

I urge you to explain to your kids that picking on the kid in school who is obese is just as bad as picking on the kid who is handicapped, or a difference race, or gay, or anything else that may make them seem different.  Bullying is wrong, for any reason.

Please let your kids know it is really ok to be friends with the chubby kid at school. They may turn out to be the best friend they will ever have and one that lasts a lifetime! And make sure they know that the chubby kid has feelings too, and things we say to kids can and DO last a lifetime.



About Erin Akey

I am a formerly morbidly obese wife, mother, Christian, author, speaker, water fitness instructor, nutritionist, anti-obesity advocate, and Emerald Ambassador with Plexus Worldwide. I am passionate about helping people fight the disease of obesity and also preventing and addressing obesity in children. I believe we have so many amazing tools available to treat this disease and we all need to take advantage of the ones we feel are right for us. I am also passionate about women taking the time to care for their needs. We live in a world where so many of us spend all of our time taking care of others that we neglect ourselves. I am all about making God the center of everything and letting His will take control of our lives and watching the beautiful blessings come from that release of power! Live, Laugh, and LOVE every day! Be grateful and be humble and watch the world around you change!
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