You don’t have to go far to hear about, or even see for yourself, the very pressing reality that is childhood obesity. The numbers are staggering – 17 percent of U.S. children, according to the CDC – and the results frightening – as this is the first generation of children not expected to live longer than their parents. Of the millions of children and families facing these daunting health concerns, three of them come forward and speak out in tonight’s “Too Fat for 15: The Obesity Crisis,” a first-ever town hall special on The Style Network.
The “Too Fat for 15” series is in its second season, following a group of young teens during their time at Wellspring Academy, a weight loss boarding school. From that series, three students (Tanisha, Carysn and Rachel) will join host and co-producer Alison Sweeney, from Biggest Loser, and Ruby Gettinger, from Style’s “Ruby,” for a lively one-hour conversation about how to inform both children and parents about creating healthier lifestyles at home.
“They knew I was passionate about childhood obesity,” Alison Sweeney told us about becoming involved with the show. Saying that she’s a fan of the series, she added that “It’s so inspiring and so important to get this information out there.”
That’s just what this town hall is going to do, with topics ranging from bullying, which participant Rachel admits to having dealt with and overcome, to beating the excuses that keep us from being fit.
We had a chance to speak with Rachel, who appeared in “Too Fat For 15” season two. Now 15, an active Girl Scout, and preparing for her sophomore year at her home school of Fitch High School, she says “I’m one hundred percent past bullying.” She admits to being bullied because of her weight, wishing “someone would have [stood up] for me rather than watch… it would have helped me.” In the spirit of paying things forward, that’s exactly what Rachel says she’s doing now. “When I see two kids going back and forth, I will say something. I do my best to break it up because it’s not alright to stand and watch.”
Alison Sweeney echoes that sentiment with regards to parents empowering themselves on an individual level to do something not only for their own children, but for society as a whole. She shared with us a recent moment where she realized how bad the food was being served to her young son at his school, saying her initial reaction to her husband was to “pull him out of the program!” Once they discussed it, they realized it wasn’t only Ben who was eating it and that this was an opportunity to help all of the children at the school. “I’m writing a letter” said Alison, in hopes of taking the first step in making a healthier food program at the school.
One of the most inspiring things you’ll hear during “The Obesity Crisis” town hall is how these young girls not only have lost impressive amounts of weight, but how they’ve become more comfortable in their own skin and model how a healthy lifestyle is doable, no matter your age.
Rachel says she learned to eat right and exercise during her time at Wellspring, and that they didn’t teach her to exercise so much as to be active. For her, she found that team sports were a good fit and that she really enjoys ultimate Frisbee. Even at 15, she admits that managing school, a social life, home obligations, and exercise can be a lot to balance but she makes it a priority to make it all work. She lost 70 pounds on the show, and proudly shared that she’s down another 13 since the town hall filmed in April. “I’m pleased with myself and what I see in the mirror,” she told us. And while she says it sounds weird to say sometimes, added “I’m perfect.”
It’s that healthy body image that Alison says is one of the things she learned while working on “Too Fat for 15” that she wants to be sure to maintain at home with her own children, where she has her son and a toddler daughter. She says that once these teens need a facility like Wellspring “it’s a tough road to come back from. For me, it hits home how important every single home-cooked meals, and staying active.” Preventing obesity in children “starts right from day one” Alison told us.
Having worked back from that tough road, Rachel and her family have a healthy foundation at home now. Unlike Biggest Loser contestants who get to go home and control their environment, Rachel could have returned to the same place she left after finishing Wellspring. However, “my mom told me the day I started was the day they started. It’s a super hard journey, but it was easier knowing they were doing the exact same thing at home.”
“Too Fat for 15: The Obesity Crisis” airs tonight, Monday, June 27, 2011 at 8:00pm EST on The Style Network. You’ll hear from Alison, Rachel, and her classmates who she says are “family with each other” and text daily! You’ll also hear from Ruby Gettinger, who Rachel says was an inspiration because “she keeps on pushing through it” – not to mention, gave up her limo for the girls to ride in to the studio!