“There are no quick fixes to weight loss,” says Mele Osai, a teenage girl who went from weighing 297 pounds to 154 pounds. Mele had been struggling with her weight since she was a child due to a poor diet and lack of exercise. Children like Mele who are obese or overweight do not just suffer during childhood; they might also continue being overweight and obese as teens and adults. “Your health should be a long-term concern,” she says. The revelation that she had to do something about her weight came to her in a doctor’s office when she learned that her health was at serious risk.
Mele Osai’s Story
16-year-old Mele Osai has made an incredible transformation by losing 143 pounds in 2 years. The Australian teen always loved food and eating, but her lifestyle included processed and junk food, minimal water, and almost no physical activity. When she was 14, a visit to the doctor revealed that Mele was insulin resistant. “I didn’t fully understand what insulin resistance was but I knew it could lead to diabetes, which made me scared for my future.” (3)
Insulin resistance occurs when your cells cannot properly respond to insulin. Insulin helps your cells store glucose for energy, but when glucose is not properly stored, it can build up in your blood. Your body might try to compensate for this loss by producing more insulin. Insulin resistance can eventually lead to increased blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes. (4) This diagnosis was a wake-up call for Mele who realized that she had to change her lifestyle.
In December of 2014, Mele started her difficult weight loss journey at 297 pounds. Her goal was to clean her diet by ditching junk food and replacing it with healthy, nutritious food, cut back on her calorie intake, and start exercising.
She cut her sugar content
She swapped processed food for whole foods
She avoided the temptation to over-eat
She mixed cardio with weight training
She started daily walks
Just like Mele, if you’re starting your own weight loss journey, it’s important to look at more than just the number on the scale. With a body composition tracker, you can stay on top of important measurements other than your weight, such as body fat composition, visceral fat, water composition, calorie intake and more! Tracking multiple factors at once can help paint a much more accurate picture than a standard scale.
Before she changed her diet, Mele would drink up to 2 litres of soft drinks per day. A 19-month study with 548 schoolchildren confirms that sugar-sweetened beverages can cause obesity in childhood. (5) “The cheapest things at the supermarket are always the worst things for you. Lollies, soft drink, chips. Unfortunately, because these were so easily accessible that’s what I’d have,” she says. (7)
Apart from eating junk food, Mele would also eat uncontrolled portions of food, even eating her brother’s unfinished food. Mele gave up on cheap, processed foods and swapped them with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. She also stopped drinking sugary beverages and increased her water intake. “I made sure to have balanced meals,” she said. “I’ve learned how to nourish my body and take care of it.” (3)
“I’d just struggle with being the bigger girl on the field,” she says about playing sports at school. (7) Being too young to join a gym at 14, Mele worked out in her backyard doing star jumps, push-ups, lifting weights, and riding an exercise bike. Today she walks daily and goes to the gym where she focuses on building muscle.
A study recommends free-form play as the best preventative factor for childhood obesity, because children don’t respond well to structured exercise programs and prolonged exercise without rest. The study also reveals that exercise is challenging for children who are already obese or overweight, confirming Mele’s school experience. (8)
“I distinctly remember playing hockey and the warm up being a run around the field so I’d drop my mouth guard in the sand and go to wash it, staying longer than necessary to avoid the run,” says Mele, whose size discouraged her from participating in school sports. (7)
Childhood and Teen Obesity in North America
Today, 17% of children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 in the U.S. are obese. (6) Studies cite unhealthy food and sedentary lifestyle in childhood as the precursors for obesity that continues on to adulthood. Empty and high-calorie foods, pre-prepared foods, and spending many hours on the computer or watching TV instead of participating in physical activity can increase the risk. (1)
Health Concerns Associated With Childhood Obesity
Obesity in childhood has been associated with many health risks and comorbidities. Cardiovascular risk factors such as increased blood pressure, insulin resistance, and an abnormal amount of lipids in the blood, known as dyslipidemia, as well as the development of type 2 diabetes are almost as common in overweight and obese children as they are in adults who struggle with obesity. (2)
“I felt so much better physically and mentally,” says Mele about her weight loss journey. “My clothes were fitting better, my fitness levels improved and I saw other benefits, such as clearer skin and enhanced energy, which all made me want to keep going. I am the healthiest I have ever been in my life,” she concludes. (3)
(1) Anderson, P. M. & Butcher, K. F. (2006). Childhood Obesity: Trends and Potential Causes. Childhood Obesity, 16(1), 19-45.
(2) Deckelbaum, R. J. & Williams, C. L. (2001). Childhood Obesity: The Health Issue. Obesity, 9(S11), 239S–243S.
(3) Holohan, M. (2017, July 5). The 5 steps this teen took to lose 143 pounds in 2 years and transform her life.
(4) Insulin Resistance. (n.d.). In Diabetes.
(5) Ludwig, D. S., Peterson, K. E., & Gortmaker, S. L. (2001). Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. The Lancet, 357(9255). 505-508.
(6) Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2014). Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA, 311(8), 806-814.
(7) Rudd, M. (2017, June 12). Amazing transformation of schoolgirl, 16, who lost 65 KILOS after her doctor told her she was at risk of diabetes when her weight ballooned to 135kg – and reveals how you can do it too.
(8) Sothern, M. S. (2001). EXERCISE AS A MODALITY IN THE TREATMENT OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 48(4), 995-1015.