We’re believe that:

  • It's not our fault. Obesity is a disease, not a character flaw.
  • Effective, medically-supervised weight loss treatment for kids is too hard to find.
  • Parents should speak with kids about weight. Informed, empathetic discussions protect kids from the harm of weight stigma and bullying.
  • Great medical treatment for kids who carry extra weight combines lifestyle, behavioral and medical support.

Deb Rappaport, Treat Kids

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I'm not a doctor.

I created this community to share what I've learned finding treatment for for my own family so that other moms can get their kids help faster and easier. 

For work, I co-own Velatrio, a consulting company that does marketing, business strategy and product management for tech companies.

I live in Seattle with 3 kids, 1 husband, 0 pets.


So here's the story...

I started the Treat Kids community after years of asking myself, why is my kid so big? 

Why doesn't she ever say, "I'm full"?

Am I ruining her self-worth by talking about weight?

How can I protect her health without nagging and monitoring her all the time?

Such a bad day...

When my daughter was 10, in our pediatrician's office, I learned she'd gained 40 lbs in 18 months.

That is 4x the normal rate. She should have gained 10 lbs at most.

It wasn't a total surprise -- we'd noticed her gaining weight. I'd had a hard time finding her clothes, and we'd moved to eating as few carbs as possible and really pushing the exercise.

I was at a loss. 

She was eating well. She was exercising. If our family's lifestyle was the cause, why hadn't the rest of the family gained abnormally high amounts of weight?  

She slept well and nothing else was wrong. No school issues, no home issues, no life changes. We limited her screen time and ate family meals together. Though I hate cooking, I cooked nonstop. I churned out so many meals that I felt, and still sometimes feel, like I run an industrial kitchen.

OK, so 40 lbs (18 kgs) should have been alarming. 911 alarm-bell alarming. 

But my child was having a metabolic meltdown and... we didn't get much help or response from anybody.

And there's no one person to fault.

I don't fault our pediatrician - she's awesome. She referred us to an obesity clinic right away. She was highly conscientious and helpful, and ordered labs more than once. She couldn't have been more supportive, especially given the short appointment times and the high numbers of kids she treats every day. 

I fault the system and the fact that in peds, obesity and type 2 diabetes are new problems. Kids didn't used to get fat, and they never got Type 2.

I got my daughter on the wait list at the obesity clinic at Seattle Children's hospital and we waited 4 months. That's not that long considering its stature as a world-class hospital. 

At our first appointment, we saw a registered dietician and a PA.  They recommended my daughter eat less and move more. OK...sure. Already doing that and she's continuing to gain weight. 

The dietician asked, many times, in many ways, if she was an emotional eater. She asked in a such a probing way that I almost doubted myself. But no. My daughter is no drama. She's an even-keeled, easy, straightforward academically-focused kid. I'd seen no evidence of emotional problems.  

They suggested mindfulness. Uh, wha???

And, as a parting gift, they gave us nutrition advice circa 1981. Everything in moderation. Eat nonfat dairy. Pretzels and skim milk form a nice snack.

I'm not sure why, but we gave it one more visit. I think I was scared to handle the problem alone, and we'd already waited on the wait list.  But after a second useless visit, we quit.

Months passed.  We were completely lost.

The weight gain continued. She was eating better than the other kids in the family, far fewer carbohydrates, and my other kids weren't gaining weight. She swam on a team 3-4 days per week. We went on walks and I forced her to do interval running with me, running I feel horrible about making her do now. Nothing worked and she started having a hard time just keeping up with her friends and running around our neighborhood. 

One very lucky break - she wasn't bullied, teased or harassed. I'm not sure why we got so lucky, but probably because she was young. Only 10. It gets harder for older kids.

Nonethelss, this was the worst time. I felt it was my fault, but couldn't figure out what to do. My husband blamed me, I blamed him. We blamed her. 

I found a doctor.

Six months after we gave up on the children's hospital, we got in to see a family medicine doctor who focuses on metabolic problems.  By that time, 9 months had gone by since we'd seen our pediatrician, and my child was 10lbs heavier.  Her A1C, a test for diabetes, had been normal at that first pediatrician appointment.  Now she was prediabetic with an A1c of 6.2. Anything over 6.4 is full blown diabetes.

"Really," I said, "we eat well and exercise.  My other kids are normal."

She believed us.

She treated my daughter's medical problem seriously, like a medical problem.

It's been 18 months since we started real medical treatment - labs, medication, and monitoring. Care that could be offered by most clinicians.

My child lost 20lbs.  She's still prediabetic, but her labs are better. (Actually, it took 18 months, but she's no longer prediabetic!)

This isn't a Before-and-After success story. The After photo is the biggest lie in weight loss. There's no After.

There's only Before-and-Forever. Whatever you do to get to After, you need to keep up Forever.

She'll deal with this her whole life. Her metabolism could go haywire at any time, and she needs to eat healthy food, that keeps her insulin low, and receive skilled medical care to protect her organs from the insulin resistance and weight gain. 

Don't rule out treatment, even if your child has been big forever.  My child was always round, even as an exclusively-breastfed infant.

I'm not a doctor - and you shouldn't have to be to find your child great care.

In my day job in tech,  when a client is thinking of developing a product in a new area, say develop a new photography app, I immerse myself in the topic.  I read about photography, listen to photography podcasts, and go to photography conferences.

So when it came to figuring this out for my child, I did the same thing.

I flew to the national conference of obesity specialists in DC.  

I even arrived 2 days early for the board review, which is like an SAT prep class for the obesity specialist exam.

I'm not that bright but understood most of the conference even though I was one of the few non-MD/RNs there. (Well, I don't understand the Pathophysiology, but I'm getting better.) 

After that conference, I stopped blaming myself or my child for the problem, and that made it simpler to address.  The blame-and-shame "personal responsibility" guilt-trip of obesity is counterproductive. Kids who carry a lot of weight have a metabolic problem. You shouldn't have to fix it yourself. You need a medical team.

The path forward: treat obesity as a medical condition.

In trying to help my child, I was struck by how little help I could find. Even in a fairly big city like Seattle.  Treat Kids aims to help other families frustrated by lack of care, mixed messages and unhelpful pop-science.

Most clinicians - your pediatrician, family doc, or nurse practitioner -  can help you, but not every clinician will know how. 

If you’re laying awake at night wondering if you should ship your child off to fat camp, or pay to visit an expert in another city, let's find you help close to home.

Let's help each other to:

  • Navigate a complicated and often contradictory medical system.
  • Understand the science behind obesity in layperson's terms.
  • Parent through all of the challenges that come up for a family with a child facing obesity.

Shoot me an email at deb [at] treatkids.org to tell me more about you and your family, and how Treat Kids can help. And please join us in our private Facebook group

If you're really ready to dive deeper, you can read this long step-by-step post on how to treat your kids.

Glad you found this group and hope we can help. I know how it feels to be subtly blamed for making your own child sick when you're running yourself ragged trying to fix it. Helping your child isn't easy or short-term, but with good parents, good food and good medical care, it's possible.

Thanks,

Deb