I came in about halfway through a show on teen obesity, during which sixteen brave teenagers shared their struggles with being overweight. They opened up about their fears, their failures but also their hopes for the future.
But what forced me to grab a box of tissues (no joke) were clips from an 8-hour intervention the teens had to go through to inevitably get to the heart of the matter-- to the reasons why they are overweight. And they don't have to do with junk food. The emotional confrontations were intense as the teens finally verbalized to themselves and their parents the things they had kept inside for so long. Things like hating trying on clothes in dressing rooms, being made fun of at school or feeling like they don't live up to their parents' expectations. Many said they were angry because of their parents' divorce and/or subsequent remarriage. And too many said they had thought of suicide before as a way of escaping the pain.
The story that struck a chord for me was that of a boy named Josh, who weighs more than 350 pounds. When I first tuned to Oprah, he was the one who was talking. And I immediately saw my brother. It wasn't so much how similar they looked-- my brother is, in fact, very overweight-- but what Josh said. Just like my brother, Josh has a poor relationship with his father.
"That's the reason why I east so much," Josh explained. "He's disappointed in me because I didn't turn out like he wanted me to."
My brother and father are hot and cold. They are so similar on so many levels, share the same hobbies and interests, but my dad is easily frustrated and my brother can be very frustrating. See, my brother is 22, just a year and a half younger than me, but we are polar opposites. He dropped out of high school (though he did eventually get his GED), has no job and lives with my parents.
It broke my heart when Josh said this:
"My dad does have these high standards, and if we can't reach them, he's disappointed with us and he gets angry. I try to do better, but it just doesn't seem like it's working. And when I'm sad, I'll eat, and I think I've been sad most of my life because I've been big most of my life."
It broke my heart because I think that is how my brother feels. He has said as much in the few times we have talked about it (my brother and I are not that close and he doesn't open up easily).
Of course, there are so many other reasons behind my brother's obesity. Everyone has a different story and the problem is more complex than can be explained in a blog. Sorry if I am a Debbie Downer, but I thought it was important to share. Because one of the take-away lessons from Oprah today was to be there. To be there for the people you love who are struggling. And to let them open up, to release the anger they may be holding inside. And to help them find what it is that they are truly hungry for.
All in all, the show made me want to be a better sister. To be there for my brother more, and let him know that he is loved.
Ok. I know this was a serious post, but I hope you will share your thoughts below. Thanks for reading, as always.
Image via Oprah.com