Sign In at High School

High School Memories and Overcoming Obesity

Faith Anne NewsomeGrowing up, I was the definition of meek. I also carried more weight on my frame and towered above my peers. Despite this, I was a good friend to my fellow elementary schoolers.

However, In addition to my timid yet friendly nature, I was also painfully aware of my obesity from a young age, which affected my social relationships. I stayed home from field day because the weight of eye rolls when my peers saw Faith was on their team for the relay race became too heartbreaking.

Singled Out in Elementary School

My first memory of weight discrimination occurred in elementary school. My school would host students to perform health screenings. They made us stand in line and go up individually for weighing. They broadcast our weight to the entire class. Of course, I left with a red face and a knot in my stomach.

Further into the screening, they pulled me away from my peers and singled me out. The older students sat me down to tell me I needed to take my weight seriously and if I didn’t I would be putting myself at risk for diabetes and high blood pressure.

I was seven.

From then on, I tried every diet you could dream of – Weight Watchers, Atkins – the list goes on and on. I tried it all. I lost hope.

Both of my parents underwent Gastric Bypass Roux-en-Y while I was growing up. As I grew older I decided I wanted the procedure as well, but it seemed far into the future.

A Decision Point

Every bariatric patient seems to have a breaking point. A situation that leads them to overcome the fears of surgery to finally set the plan in motion. For me, it happened when I attended a university close to my hometown to watch my brother partake in a science competition. I barely fit into the seat, my thighs pushed painfully against the armrests. I focused so much on the embarrassment and pain I felt, I barely paid attention to my brother or what was going on around me.

It was then, that we first made my appointment with the Duke Healthy Lifestyles Team. A year later, the summer before my junior year of high school at age 16, I had gastric bypass.

Finding a Voice

Because of the decision I made, I have high school memories filled with tennis matches with my friends and runs on the weekends in trails behind the school. Also, after years of custom ordering clothes online, I was able to go to a store, find a prom dress that made me feel confident and dance the night away with my friends.

For me, weight loss surgery was like coming up for a breath of air after struggling through the currents and waves that characterized my obesity. For so long, it felt like I was drowning.

Weight loss surgery changed my life. I am no longer the meek elementary school girl, embarrassed to tears by her weight. I have hope and I have a voice.

Today’s guest post comes from Faith Anne Newsome, an OAC member and rising junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There she studies psychology and journalism. Working with the Healthy Lifestyles Program at Duke, she is developing an advocacy and support group for patients ages 13-18. She plans to continue her studies through graduate school and build a career working with childhood and adolescent obesity.

Sign in at High School, photograph by Phil Roeder, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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July 27, 2018

7 Responses to “High School Memories and Overcoming Obesity”

  1. July 27, 2018 at 8:09 am, Leah Whigham said:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Faith, and for all you are doing to help people with obesity!

  2. July 27, 2018 at 8:44 am, Jonathan Smith said:

    Inspiring reading! You truly have a gift of expressing yourself and sharing with others.

  3. July 27, 2018 at 12:59 pm, Angela Meadows said:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Faith. I’m so sorry you had to endure all that and reach the point at which you felt surgery was the only way out. I am so happy that your life is so much improved and I wish you well with your studies and your activism.

    But I can’t help but think, you are describing undergoing an invasive surgery with potential life-long complications in order to deal with extreme social stigma. I totally understand why individuals make this choice, and even briefly considered it myself once (there, that’s out in the open now), but I don’t think this is the right solution to a societal problem or one that we should be encouraging.

    • July 27, 2018 at 4:41 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Angela.

      I really want to caution you about assuming that you know everything that went into Faith’s decision to have surgery. I have spent time listening to Faith describe her thinking in detail and she is quite an impressive young woman, making good decisions for herself.

      When you use words like “the only way out” and “I don’t think it’s the right solution,” I know you well enough to know that your intentions are good. But when others read those words, they might hear a harsh judgement that you don’t intend.

      Also, given data on longer lifespans, improved health, and better quality of life for people who choose bariatric surgery, I don’t think that dire, unbalanced warnings about “lifelong complications” are very helpful. Most people think long and hard before they choose to have surgery. They think about the risks and they think about the benefits.

      You made the right decision for yourself, Angela. And you don’t have to justify it to anyone. I think it’s also important to respect the decisions that other people make.

  4. July 27, 2018 at 7:00 pm, Shannon Newsome said:

    I am very proud of the difficult decisions that my daughter, Faith Newsome, had to make in deciding to change the physical makeup of how she was born in order to gain the control over her weight. I watched as she went from a 6 lb, 13 oz newborn to a 33 lb 3 ft tall 1 year old. As her mother, I did everything by the book.

    Faith has been judged by many people, including her grandmother, for choosing, “the easy way” to lose 100 lbs. Her father and I have both had WLS. The health benefits, as well as the social aspects, have both been positive in our lives. We would not have encouraged our daughter to undergo such an invasive procedure at such a young age that could have taken her from us, or would have major problems for her, if the benefits didn’t outweigh the minor risks associated.

    Education and advocacy are key to WLS. If the information given to patients is not presented properly, they will not be as successful. Not all doctors are created equally. Some clinics are Centers of Excellence, while others are places I wouldn’t take my neighbors dog to have procedure done.

    WLS isn’t the answer for every person and every person has a right to his/her own opinion. But it is also my stance that we must all respect each other in the community of people who have struggled with weight issues. We must respect how each of us chooses to deal with those issues and not be judgmental just because it isn’t how you would chose to deal with your issue of weight.

    If Faith wants to advocate, give others like herself a voice, and know that the option is out there for them to have WLS because science has proven that the tool is effective, then we should applaud her effort.

    I wish that I would not have had to feel hopeless, as a mother, thinking it would be years before she would have the option to have the life changing option that I had. I am proudly 13 years out from surgery. I started at 250 lbs a size 24 and am still a size 6-8 140 lbs, no diabetes, no high blood pressure, and haven’t had to have another back surgery after the first!

  5. July 28, 2018 at 12:49 am, Shannon Newsome said:

    One last thing, as Faith’s mother and an advocate and proponent of WLS for adolescents and anyone for that matter.

    I gave a simple message to my mother-in-law who is against WLS. She believes that we should just change our eating habits and exercise and all will be right with the world – not ever paying attention to the years of struggle and hardships any of us faced with morbid obesity or the pain we felt inside from the physical and emotion scars or not being able to do things because of the weight.

    I said, “If We came to you and told you that Faith had pediatric cancer, there would be no questions asked whether you would want us to treat it with a minimally invasive procedure or an even an extremely evasive one. You would want us to whatever it took to save her life in the the end, or at least prolong it and give her a better chance at living a happier healthier life. That is what we are doing.” After I put it like that, it all made sense to her. Obesity is a disease. It’s not quite as scary or ugly a word as cancer, but kills just bad, although in different ways.

    • July 28, 2018 at 7:14 am, Ted said:

      Shannon, thank you very much for sharing your own perspective and experience. I have tremendous respect for your remarkable daughter.