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Body Image and Weight Loss, from our resident teen reviewer Cuyler

We’ve talked a lot here at TLT about body image and how popular culture and ya lit can influence it.  Today, our resident teen reviewer Cuyler shares his struggle with obesity and 5 titles that deal with the issue of being overweight well.
Did you know that there’s a threat spreading around America more deadly than any flu? More dangerous than terrorism or murder? Something so insignificant as it builds inside your body, you may not even know you’re under its spell until it’s too late. And even then, you may not care enough to fix it.

There are many names for it. But we usually just call it plain ol’ FAT.

Nine million teens in America can clearly be classed as obese, and that’s just those under the age of fifteen. This is a rate that has tripled that of obese teens in 1980.

It’s swiftly becoming a common way of life, be that a deadly one. One that can wreck irreparable damage on the self-esteem of teens. Deadly thoughts of suicide can infiltrate their minds. Feelings of worthlessness prevalent in their thinking. It is a way of life, but it’s not one I wish anyone to live.

Because I have lived it myself.

I used to be an obese teenager. Not chubby. Not even fat. I was obese. I was easily the heaviest in my family, and wasn’t even old enough to drive yet. In all my school years, I was the heaviest person in class. I was the last to be picked in any sports and was constantly picked on by my classmates and those in grades above me. When word got out that I had crush on a girl, she told me that she never wanted to talk to me again. And when someone started to like me, the other kids couldn’t believe it. Because she was skinny and I was fat. Those two things just don’t compute with each other. It can’t happen.

I dreaded PE class. When we changed into our gym clothes, I was the only one to use the stalls when everyone else changed in front of each other. When I had to run laps, all I could think about was that people were staring at me, the funny-looking fat kid trailing behind the kids who’d already passed the finish line.

The two grades above mine were horrible, holding the door open for everyone else but letting it go when it was my turn. A few older students had nicknames for me like Crisco and Tubbs. Most of the bullying came from the grades above me, and with another two years of middle school, and then high school after that, I knew I couldn’t take it anymore. After my first year in middle school, I begged my parents to enroll me in a homeschool program. After the end of my sixth grade year, I never returned to public school.

You would think the torture would stop there, that somehow school was the root of all the evil, but it wasn’t. Even though I was homeschooled for the rest of my school years, the pain I felt of being obese was still with me, and grew stronger with each passing day. In public I would wear baggy clothes, hoping no one would catch a true glimpse of what lay underneath. It was so thick in my mind that I spent much more time than I should have had to picking out my clothes to wear for the day. It wasn’t a matter of what looked good, it was all about how much it would hide. I wore hoodies and sweatshirts all year round, despite the hot months of summer, because they hid my body the best. Everyone would ask, “Aren’t you hot?” I would just smile and say I was fine, even though I was sweltering underneath. I didn’t swim much, even though it’s one of my favorite things to do, and if I did I wouldn’t dare swim without a shirt on. And even then, when I got out of the pool, I made sure I did it quick and could grab the nearest towel to cover myself up. I didn’t start wearing just plain T shirts until I was nearly seventeen, because those weren’t real good at hiding things. Most of my wardrobe consisted of button-up overshirts and hoodies. I felt like Bobby Marks in One Fat Summer by Robert Lypsyte. Always focused on my being fat while everyone else was having fun.

The only solaces I found in my life was my family, who loved me for who I was and not what I was made out of, as well as countless books. Books relived the pressure that was my constant worry of me being fat. When I read, it took me to worlds where that didn’t matter how big I was. Writing did the same thing for me, creating my own stories to keep reality away for just a little while. Like a release. But even that could only keep it away for just a little while.

I had let my obesity control my life. I remember saying to myself one day that I would have to learn to be content with living by myself for the rest of my life because no one would ever want to be with this. And I was ready to commit to that. Until one day I got a letter in the mail.

That letter changed my life.

It was a letter from my health insurance company, saying that it now supported and would pay for enrollment into the Weight Watcher’s program. I’d been through so many diets, not a single one of them that worked, so initially I threw it into the “lost cause” pile. Then my grandmother gave me call. She said that if I enrolled in the program, she’d do it with me.

I guess I should say that that phone call changed my life instead of the letter, because after I hung up the phone with her, I decided I was going to give it a try.  It was the best thing I have ever done in my life. I went in, a fifteen-year old fatty at 260 pounds, and came out a year and a half later at 160. And my grandma did the same, losing a total of 50. We felt like we had conquered the entire world.

And nearly four years later, I’ve maintained a healthy weight. Though I still hold scars from the struggle, I have a much better acceptance of my body. My self-esteem is higher, I feel great, and I enjoy life much more without worrying about my weight 24 hours a day. And I realize now that it was much more than just losing the weight that had helped me. Over the course of that year and half, I came to realize that most of the torture I’d gone through was in my head. Yeah there was the teasing at school and sometimes in other places, but who was really putting myself through most of that? Me.

I don’t really know if people were constantly watching me as I ran those laps. I don’t know that people actually cared if I got out of the pool fast enough to cover myself up. And I’m sure they didn’t care if I wore regular T-shirts in public rather than a sweatshirt or a hoodie all year long. I was creating a world of torture inside my head, when in reality those things weren’t even happening. I had to realize that it wasn’t everyone else that had to accept me for what I looked like for the hurt to stop. It was me. I had to accept myself. I know that sounds unbelievably corny and fairytale-ish, but they put that kind of stuff in there for a reason. Because it’s true. This is shown in great tales like Myrtle of Willendorf by Rebecca O’Connell and Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going, both of which put much more emphasis on self-acceptance than the “you-must-be-skinny” sermon preached by modern media. Both characters Myrtle and Troy are undesirably overweight living amongst those who are skinny and don’t understand, and sometimes make sure they know it. But through the torture and teasing, they realize that they are beautiful in their own way. They begin to understand that it doesn’t matter what other people think, as long as they find the awesome in themselves, despite the weight.

And that’s what it comes down to. Sure, losing the weight is great, but unless you lose that harmful self-depreciating spirit and find the good amongst the fat, you’ll have more than just love handles haunting you.

On more than one occasion YA novels are about beautiful people. Not that that’s a bad thing, but there aren’t many out there that tell the “fat” side of things. But there are a few little gems out there that take that inner beauty into consideration more so than the outer. These are the titles that inspired me, and I think you’ll love too:

Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennett
Name Me Nobody by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
One Fat Summer by Robert Lypsyte
Myrtle of Willendorf by Rebecca O’Connell
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

The above are wonderfully written tales of being “fat” and realizing that being fat doesn’t define you. These are still great stories that you’ll laugh with, cry about, and maybe even relate to even if the main character isn’t your typical MC hunk or beauty.

Instead of constantly wondering who’s watching, why not open up one of these good books, enjoy your life, and feel great. Do the best you can, whether it’s losing weight or accepting yourself, and do it for you,and not for anyone else who thinks you should.
More About Body Image at TLT:

Cuyler Creech is a teen author who lives in Weatherford, TX. He loves to read, spend time with his family and friends, and most of all, he loves to write. Cuyler is 18, and has been writing for many years. He’s also a published author of one novel (not in print anymore) and focuses primarily on young adult fiction. His favorite books are dystopians and horrors, and his favorite time to read is during thunderstorms. He is the oldest of three siblings, one who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome and Autism, and is going to college to become a Pediatric Occupational Therapist.

 Cuyler Creech is a teen author who lives in Weatherford, TX. He loves to read, spend time with his family and friends, and most of all, he loves to write. Cuyler is 18, and has been writing for many years. He’s also a published author of one novel (not in print anymore) and focuses primarily on young adult fiction. His favorite books are dystopians and horrors, and his favorite time to read is during thunderstorms. He is the oldest of three siblings, one who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome and Autism, and is going to college to become a Pediatric Occupational Therapist. 

Book Review: Holy Spokes: a biking bible for everyone by Rob Coppolillo (with a TPiB)

It’s January, which means your TV is being flooded with weight loss ads and 1 out of every 1 person it seems is making a resolution to lose weight and get in shape.  Cycling is a great way to do that.

When The Mr. and I were dating, we spent a lot of time – at times almost daily – cycling through the canyons in California.  This was the first I had ever done it, and yes, I did it for a guy, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and living in the suburbs now, I miss those adventures.  I started out knowing exactly nothing about buying my first bike, what the various gears meant, and how to be safe.  Oh how I could have used this book!

Holy Spokes is divided into several informational chapters that include a brief history of the bike, finding your book type, and more.  There is some discussion about the environmental impact (or lack there of) in using a bike as opposed to a car and a look at using your bike for work.  Think Premium Rush starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (or if you are older, Quicksilver starring Kevin Bacon).  Also – movie tie-in!

Some interesting facts learned from Holy Spokes:

  • Many cyclists shave their bodies while racing, not for aerodynamics, but to aid in first aid and recovery in the event of a crash.
  • Crumpling your race number before pinning it on your jersey will help prevent it from keeping air and becoming a drag, literally.
  • There are bikes that fold to make commuting easier.

The one draw back to Holy Spokes: Lance Armstrong.  Holy Spokes was published just a few days ago,
right as the proverbial doodoo was hitting the fan for Armstrong.  He is, of course, mentioned in the book.  There is a brief mention of his wins with a disclaimer regarding “Lance Armstrong’s Dark Cloud”, which as we all know finally burst.  However, this is by no means the focus of the book and does not negate the depth and coverage of the information presented on the topic of biking.

Holy Spokes looks at all types of bikes, and all types of biking, from those who just want a leisure ride to those who want to cycle competitively.  What type of book you need depends on what you want to do with it.  Picture from Zestbooks.net

Holy Spokes is published by Zest Books (I am a fan), which means that it is presented in a way that is quick and easy to read while being engaging and informative.  There are information inserts, some short stories and interviews, and a few line illustrations that help you define and label various parts of a bike.  High recommended.


True story: I once had a bike festival at a library I worked at. It took a ton of work by a great committee, but we put it together.  A team of BMX stunt riders came and did a show in the section of the parking lot that we had closed.  The local police can come out and talk bike safety.  Do a giveaway for some bike helmets and, if you can get a generous donation or a grant, a bike.

You can do bike related crafts from the very simple to the more sophisticated, like using fabric markers to design your own bandanas.  For the simple, make a huge bicycle mural out of butcher paper on the wall and have tweens and teens decorate the bike.  Thinks stinkers!  For younger kids, it could even become a fun bike version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey: Put the Sticker on the Bike.  You can even use discarded magazines (Eco Craft Alert!) to make your own stickers as part of your event.  Information here.

If you have a big enough space you can set up a fun tricycle obstacle course and have teens race to see who can complete the course first without banging their knees completely off.

We have a local pizza vendor set up in the parking lot and they were selling slices and cans of pop.  It really was a fun little parking lot festival with a few indoor activities designed to move people into the library to browse so they didn’t just watch the BMX team in the parking lot and leave without thinking about using the library.

If you want to make a health festival out of it you can have a martial arts demonstration, someone talking nutrition, etc.

Holy Spokes, a Biking Bible for Everyone by Rob Coppolillo.  Published January 22, 2013 by Zest Books. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-1-936976-23-2.

P.S. I looked, but I didn’t have any pictures of The Mr. and I during our biking phase.  It’s hard to ride and snap pics.  Plus, it was long enough ago that we didn’t have smart phones.  Yes, I realize I just aged myself.