Weight Loss Confidential by Anne Fletcher
Fletcher, Anne. Weight Loss Confidential: How Teens Lose Weight and Keep It Off - And What They Wish Parents Knew (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company) 2006.
About the Author
Anne Fletcher is a nationally known expert on weight loss. A registered dietician with a master's degree in nutrition science, Fletcher has written several best-sellers including Thin for Life, Eating Thin for Life and Sober for Good. In 2006, she received the American Dietetic Association's Media Excellence Award.
Weight Loss Confidential by Anne Fletcher
When Anne Fletcher's teenaged son reached a weight of 270 pounds on his 6 foot 2 inch frame, it was painful for her on several levels. As a mother, she dreaded the social problems being overweight brought him. As a health professional, she worried that his obesity would damage his joints, cause diabetes, high blood pressure and other problems. As a well-known expert on weight loss, Fletcher felt embarrassed professionally by her son.
Anne Fletcher chose not to nag Wes about his weight. She did little to promote his weight loss outside of keeping healthy low-calorie foods around their house. She was afraid to do more because she well understood that too much emphasis on weight loss and micro-managing food could cause anorexia nervosa, bulimia or even more weight gains.
During his senior year in high school, Wes lost 60 pounds on his own. He has successfully kept the weight off for three years. He did it all himself by counting calories and increasing his physical activity.
Inspired by Wes' success, Fletcher found 103 other teens and preteens who lost 50 or more pounds on their own (26 lost more than 75; 14 lost over 100). She interviewed each one intensively and compiled the results of her research in Weight Loss Confidential.
The most interesting fact in the book is that the teens had similar experiences, came to similar conclusions, and ended up losing weight in similar traditional ways. The two exceptions are teens that had weight loss surgery. The teens went through several steps: getting motivated, starting a regime, losing weight and maintaining the loss. Fletcher deliberately chose people from diverse backgrounds: a Hispanic boy who lost 100 pounds, a native-American Eskimo girl who lost over 75, a pair of identical twins who lost over 50 pounds each and so forth.
In nearly every case, the teen got to a point when he or she was tired of being an unhealthy social outcast with low self-esteem. Often this was a point that their parents, siblings and extended family never reached: many teens struggled alone with diets even as their families continued in old habits. However, nearly all had the full and enthusiastic support of their parents.
The motivation to lose weight came from within the teens themselves. Many had tried crash diets and even fasting, but nearly all of them finally realized that they had to take the situation in hand and start eating in a healthy way and exercising more. Fletcher writes that many of the teens told her that the most important aspect was that they "needed to believe in themselves" despite past failures.
Like Wes, about half the teens lost weight completely by themselves. The other half used programs such as Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and youth-oriented ones like Trim Kids. Seventeen of the teens "jump-started" their programs at weight-loss summer camps. Once they learned how to make healthy choices at camp, they were able to carry that knowledge over into their everyday lives when they got home.
The most amazing part of the book is how the teens came to similar conclusions: in order to lose and maintain weight loss, you have to eat healthy foods and become more physically active. They may have tried low-carbohydrate, South Beach and other fad diets, but they ended up with common sense approaches such as eating smaller portions, cutting out sweets and sodas, adding more fruit and vegetables, ordering carefully at restaurants, and working out regularly by running or walking or in a gymnasium. When asked how they lost weight, none answered that they vomited or took laxatives, only five took diet pills, and only one smoked cigarettes. However, 86 reported that they exercised more, 48 said they cut back on high-fat foods and 47 "went on a diet."
When it came time to keep the pounds off, again there was no magic. They did not minimize the effort involved, although most said it got easier in time. All of them said that their hard work was worth the price.
Fletcher's book does not provide the quick magic most people are looking for in weight loss advice. The author is extremely careful about how she advises overweight young people. While she carefully points out the advantages of weight loss at any age, she does not encourage teenagers to create a different set of problems for themselves by becoming overly involved in food choices.
Weight Loss Confidential includes a useful fifty-page appendix in which Fletcher evaluates over twenty weight-loss programs and recommends websites and books to teens and their parents.