Imagine weighing 186 pounds, barely being able to move, and struggling to breathe. It’s a reality for many an obese American, but it’s truly heart wrenching when you learn it’s a nine-year-old girl. Admitting that she couldn’t keep up with her young friends while playing, and that bullies had become an issue, Breanna Bond was the picture of childhood obesity in our country. But not anymore.
Sitting with her parents and George Stephanopolous on Good Morning America today, a much slimmer, happier, and fitter Breanna graced the stage weighing 66 pounds less than her highest weight. Today, she’s excited to “be involved with my friends.”
An active member of the basketball and swim teams, Breanna’s transformation didn’t come without a lot of hard work, as any weight loss story does. Her mom, Heidi, was the force behind changing a weight problem that had started at birth. By kindergarten Breanna was 100 pounds, and her mom says they spoke with many doctors and specialists about her continually increasing weight.
When mom decided enough was enough, they not only pushed a tough love approach on Breanna to save their daughter’s health, but the entire family took part. “The whole family changed,” said Heidi. It started with four-mile trail hikes as a family and they had a “zero tolerance policy,” meaning they walked or hiked in the cold, the fog. “We’re doing the walk, no matter what.”
At home, Breanna spends one hour and fifteen minutes on the treadmill everyday, 25 minutes of which is spent running. As a family, they consume less than 20 grams of fat per day and keep sugar to a minimum.
“Start as soon as possible,” is Heidi’s advice to other parents. It’s advice that medical experts and children’s health advocates have been promoting for years. Start now. Start today. Change one thing. Just DO something! Childhood obesity is a modern day epidemic with repercussions that will last decades for these children.
Twitter and Facebook are flush with comments about how inspiring the story is, of one family’s journey to complete change their lives and their health in just one year. But it certainly raises the question of whether or not a “tough love” approach is right for kids.
One DIR reader, Jill Sandberg, posed these questions to us on Facebook: What do you think about the whole “tough love” aspect?
It depends on how it’s handled. This family didn’t put their daughter on a diet and continue to live their normal lives, the entire family made a drastic change together for the betterment of not just Breanna but all of them. Many a parent has tried a true tough love approach that ultimately doesn’t work, shaming or blaming the child and offering them little support other than criticism. What the Bonds did should be replicated in homes across the country. As a whole, don’t just call out that one member – a daughter or mother or father – has a weight problem, but recognize that everyone could be moving more and eating better.
“Don’t be afraid to do the tough love,” said Breanna’s father. “It’s their life at stake.” Those words should resonate in the ears of every mother and father. If your kid wants French fries and a Coke, tell them no. It’s tough to disappoint them, it’s tough to hear them whine and cry when they don’t get their way, but it’s also tough to watch your child not be able to run around a playground or chase their friends. It’s tough to hear your child come home and cry because someone called them a “fatty,” as happened to Breanna.
Biggest Loser host Alison Sweeney once made a comment about who is the parent in the relationship. Be that for your children, even if it means making the tough choices for yourself and your children. As Mr. Bond said, their lives are at stake. This isn’t a discussion of clean bedrooms or how long they practice their violin at night, it’s a matter of the quality of their life as children on through adulthood.
Breanna is no doubt standing on a firmer foundation as a fifth grader than most adults are and will carry with her these healthy habits for life. Her parents did save her life, and by sharing her story we can only hope that the lives of many more children are saved by parents who love enough to practice a little tough love.
December 12th, 2012