I watched one of the most powerful Oprah’s shows yesterday. The subject was an epidemic that is affecting the health of America’s children, and what’s also affecting too many adults. It’s not what we usually associate with adolescents: drug addiction, alcohol abuse, or smoking. It’s something more powerful and affecting more kids (AND adults) than ever before: obesity.
The children on the show show took part in a day-long intervention, just like what is often needed when children (or adults) abuse drugs or alcohol. But for these kids their drug of choice was food.
The intervention was to get to the real reason why these kids ate. And like Oprah said on the show, the reason they got overweight “goes way beyond junk food.”
On the show we got an inside look of these children’s lives. They spend their days in shame, guilt, depression, discomfort, stress or pain. In one way or another, they were hurting inside and ate for comfort, in search of acceptance, or to cover up emotions.
These kids also have to deal with the pressures and mistreatment from society. As one of the children said,
People talk behind these kid’s backs, treat them differently than other “normal” children, and judge them by what’s on the outside instead of what’s on the inside.
The intervention was a way to look beyond the food, and for the parents (and society) to understand what is really going on. It’s not just about eating right and exercising. And it’s not just about food. Food is only a part of the issue.
The real issue is the emptiness many people feel inside.
As one of the leaders of the intervention said:
As I watched the show I couldn’t help think of the parallel with adults. So many adults are hungry for more than just food, they’re hungry for something more in their lives — they’re hungry for acceptance, love, comfort, a satisfying job, or a caring relationship.
The counselors on the show then explained that before anyone (children OR adults) can begin to work on the larger issue – health – they need to tap inside and find the place where they hide feelings they cannot express or don’t express:
So many people today have built-up emotions, anger, or feelings inside that they’re not letting out. We also have many stresses. We’re juggling work, career, family, social life, and other everyday pressures. But instead of expressing our feelings, we’re keeping them inside and many of us turn to food to make us feel better.
On Oprah’s website, the counselors give tips for overweight teens, but they are just as useful for adults, and most of them I use with my own clients. The counselors stress the importance of getting support and being proactive about your health. They suggest seeing a nutrition specialist, and taking fitness or nutrition classes, as they are “great ways to empower yourself, keep you motivated, and change your life.”
I suggest you read the tips and while doing so, think about your own situation: Why do you sometimes overeat or not eat healthy? What feelings are you not expressing and using food to treat instead? What’s holding you back from empowering yourself and your family?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please comment below.