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She broke my heart, because I used to be her

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Old 12-02-2010, 12:11 PM   #1
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Default She broke my heart, because I used to be her

I volunteer as a tutor at an inner-city middle school once a week. I never know which student I'm going to see - many times, it's the first time I've seen a particular student.

Yesterday I was assigned to work with "D." She's 13, and while I'm terrible at guessing weights I would say she was easily 220 and about 5'4". She was so big she barely fit into the desk. When she had to get up to turn in some worksheets to the teacher, she struggled to get up, then squeeze back into the desk. Cookies (homemade by another tutor) were given out as a snack, and she took two, then asked me to go get her another one because she didn't want to get back up. I told her we needed to make sure all there were enough for the other students.

We talked about her Thanksgiving break and almost all of her stories were about food (fair enough, it WAS Thanksgiving), but it wasn't just the TG meal, it was the trip to the Golden Corral buffet and the pizza they ordered and the fried chicken her aunt made.

She reminded me so much of my adolescent self I wanted to cry. I remember thinking "normal sized" adults wouldn't like me, or would judge me for being fat. I remember feeling SOOOOO awkward in my overweight body, already struggling with being an awkward teenager. The big trigger for me was the cookies - I remember sneaking food and trying to get more than my fair share, and thinking 3 cookies was a small portion.

I don't really know where I'm going with this, except that I wish there were something I could do. But I know, realistically, there's not. It took me a lot of years to get my act together, and I'm afraid for D, and the others like her, that will struggle for years, or maybe forever, with their health and weight.

Sadness.
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Old 12-02-2010, 12:20 PM   #2
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Hmm. That's a tough spot to be in. On one hand, she needs someone to step in and help her, on the other hand you don't want to hurt her feelings, especially because you're there to help her with something non-weight related.

Maybe bring some healthy but tasty snacks and mention that you wanted a healthier alternative to cookies because once upon a time, cookies were the cause of a lot of hardship and self-esteem issues. See if that opens up a conversation with her. If it doesn't, or if she doesn't want to talk about weight/healthy eating, drop it for a while and try again some other time.

Either way, good for you. Unfortunately, when most people, especially kids, see an overweight person, they pity them or are even disgusted by them. Since you've been in her shoes, you have the opportunity to show her that she can change if she wants. It's going to be hard since she's so young, and I'm guessing her family doesn't care all that much about nutrition, so she isn't going to have support at home. Good luck! I hope you can help!
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Old 12-02-2010, 12:41 PM   #3
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Gosh that's so sad- but I'm guessing pretty much her whole family is morbidly obese unfortunately

There really isn't much you can do because 1- she might tell her parents and you could get into trouble for overstepping your bounds, and 2- her parents most likely do all the cooking and grocery shopping and they won't change their ways if you say anything to them

It's tough but I guess all you can do is pray things get better. How sad she has to ask you to get the cookie for her
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Old 12-02-2010, 12:41 PM   #4
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Thank you so much for being kind to this girl. You could be talking about my dd right now. In fact, I even checked to see what town you're in. DD is about 5'5" and 230, and it's soooo difficult to hear other girls her age/size struggles.
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Old 12-02-2010, 03:06 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beerab View Post
Gosh that's so sad- but I'm guessing pretty much her whole family is morbidly obese unfortunately

There really isn't much you can do because 1- she might tell her parents and you could get into trouble for overstepping your bounds
Actually that depends.
I actually had a tutor in the 8th grade at my HW, and although I do realize that the situation between you and this girl and what mine was with my tutor is different this is just sayin'. My tutor had actually lost around 60 pounds before taking on a tutor position and a lot of the time we'd talk about how my day went, did I like my classes, etc and of course at 260 pounds the absolute worst class was gym so that took up a lot of our conversation and one day she mentioned to me real casually "Well maybe we can work out? Even if it's not to lose weight, it's still good."
I mean if you were ever in a similar position with "D" you could do something along those lines. But I will also say that it's quite possible she doesn't want help yet and as sad as that can be there will probably be a day that she does want help and all you can really do is be there for her when that day comes.

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Old 12-02-2010, 03:28 PM   #6
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I know I am the only naysayer here, but if I were you I wouldn't say anything. Weight, weight loss, and dieting are such sensitive issues that it's best left alone for that individual to figure out themselves.

I am saying this because, what may be viewed by you as "being helpful" may come across as crude, critical, or judgmental by the person you are speaking to.
Maybe she doesn't view her weight as a problem. I have obese friends who tell me that they won't diet. The choice is there's to make. At her age (13), believe me she is already aware of the stigma of being obese as well as what constitutes "health food". I am sure that she has been told about her weight many times already by other "well meaning people". I know I was when I was her age and 200+ pounds.

I have a family member who had WLS who has lost more weight than me, and is now picking at me about what I eat. She claims she is well meaning, but I don't take it that way.

When I was 361 pounds, I was also told by other "well meaning people" the following: "I worry about your health", "you may die young", "maybe you want to think about eating healthy" etc.

All those people thought they were helping, but what they didn't understand is that their words only re-enforced my shame at my overeating and my self loathing.

Maybe this girl has an underlying psychological problem, and doesn't quite have control over her own eating habits.

Many people turn to food, drugs, alcohol, compulsive shopping, gambling etc to cope with many psychosocial and psychological stressors.

Those people need to work it out for themselves. Former drug addicts usually point to a pivotal moment in their lives that precipitated their change, rather than something someone told them. This is the same thing for most people who go into therapy, or seek to re-invent themselves. I work in mental health I know first hand.


People do things when they are ready, not when someone points out the direction for them
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Old 12-02-2010, 08:13 PM   #7
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You're a visiting tutor, so you don't know D that well yet right? I agree with Harsdottir - no matter how well-intentioned your motives, D is going to have to learn for herself that losing weight, getting healthy and eating better will be a worthwhile lifestyle change.

It is incredibly sad and difficult to see - I find myself wanting to reach out to every chunky misguided "mall goth" hanging outside JCPenney smoking cloves - but folks need to learn their own life lessons, and being "lectured" by authority figures at 13 9/10 times leads to doing the opposite of what said authority figures advise.

Big hugs for you JenMusic and for D.
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Old 12-02-2010, 09:01 PM   #8
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Prayers you find a way to help her in your difficult position to.
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Old 12-02-2010, 10:50 PM   #9
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There are a bunch of reasons it wouldn't be appropriate for me to do anything. I don't really know her or have any relationship with her (and probably won't, since the tutors get shifted around so much) and I don't want to come off as arrogant or know-it-all.

The biggest reason for me is exactly what Harsdottir said, though - I can identify with her WAY too much, and I know I would have been crushed if a well-meaning but misguided adult took the wrong approach with me. When I was in 7th grade, my social studies teacher kept me after class one day to tell me that she was in Overeaters Anonymous. I was so depressed after that, thinking that I was fat and ugly and even teachers wanted me to change. I'm sure my teacher meant well, but it was an incredibly hurtful thing for a 13 year old, and I wouldn't do that to anyone.

It's just hard, you know, seeing someone that is in a situation that reminds you so much of yourself in pain.

Thanks for the support!
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