Many obese teens use their weight as a shield to hide their true feelings—and Rich says this often causes them to act in ways they normally wouldn't. "They get funny. They try to go along with the crowd and let the jokes happen to them. They may get angry and act like they don't care," he says. "There's all sorts of different reactions depending on the kid and the situation, but it's always a role."
Between assuming roles, coping with broken families or sick parents and other stresses, Yvonne says today's teens are taking on a lot—and they're angry. Before anyone can start working on larger health issues, Yvonne says you must tap into a place she calls the "inner balloon"—a place inside where people hide the feelings they can't express. "Anger is one of the least socially accepted emotions. And when these balloons get bigger, it's one of the ones that often leaks out onto other people and hurts other people," she says. "That anger, if it's not expressed, it goes inside the body and we start to eat it or try to numb it out."
In order to start healing—no matter your weight—it's essential to confront that anger head on. Yvonne recalls a time her teenage daughter came home extremely upset. Yvonne asked her to come into a quiet room with her. To find out what her anger was really about, Yvonne asked her to complete this sentence: "I'm angry that..."
"So she looked at me and she said, 'I'm angry at you because you're always gone,'" Yvonne says.
Yvonne says her first reaction was to defend herself, but she held back instead. "So I said to her—and I think these are the two most powerful words we can ever say—I just said, 'What else?'"
Yvonne's daughter then started crying and opened up more about what was bothering her. "I looked at her and I said, 'I'm right here with you, baby. What else?' And she just cried and she screamed. She cried and screamed. It felt like an hour—it was probably 10 minutes," Yvonne says. "And then she [let out a deep breath and said], 'What's for dinner, Mom?'"
The lesson everyone can learn, Yvonne says, is to just be present. "There's no better way to say 'I love you' than just be there," she says. "Anger is often like the cork in the top of the bottle and it keeps everything stuck inside. So if we can get that cork out, it releases our passion, our joy. It gives us energy to make great choices in life."