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."
To help this group of teenagers express their inner anger, Yvonne and Rich had them complete the "I'm angry that..." exercise. Jillian is the first to bravely share her feelings. "You cannot do this wrong," Yvonne says.
With her parents, Nancy and Matthew, sitting nearby, Jillian starts. "I'm angry that I can never be as good as my sister," she says. "I'm angry that I disappoint my dad. I'm angry that I had to have my dad's cousin to make my prom dress. I'm angry that I had to ask someone to prom.
"I'm angry that my mom blames herself for me being overweight. I'm angry that when I see pictures of myself I just want to rip them up," she says. "I'm angry, just angry."
Jillian says the exercise was the turning point of her life. "It is so much easier to just keep that all in and put a smile on and say that nothing bothers you when really it's killing you on the inside," she says.
Nancy says hearing Jillian broke her heart. "She's always had a weight problem ever since she was a little baby, and I always tried to make it better for her or ignored her," she says.
Together, the family is working together to make a positive change in all their lives. Nancy says they've started grocery shopping as a family and want to start exercising together. They've also started communicating more honestly with one another— something Matthew says he never used to do. "Jillian gets frustrated with me because I do that. Sometimes she wants to talk and it's hard for me to open up like that," he says. "It's gotten a lot better since we've gone through this intervention. Jillian and I talked a little bit more."
Next up is Christian. Her mother takes the floor across from her. "Let this be like it's rain and it's not going to get stuck in you," Yvonne says.
"I'm angry that you're my best friend—my only best friend," Christian says.
Christian's mother is taken aback and says, "Oh," but Yvonne encourages her to stand strong. "Make whatever sounds you need to make," Yvonne says.
Even in her own anger, Christian works to help heal her mother. "I'm angry because you think [my weight] is your fault. This is not your fault," she says. "I'm angry because it kills your heart that I don't have a father. But it's not your fault."
Yvonne urges every family to use these intervention tools to begin their own healing. "One of the best gifts we can give to our children is for us to do our own work, to do our own healing," she says. "Tell the family, 'We're taking care of ourselves.'"
If you or a loved one are struggling with obesity, it's important to realize that food is only a small part of the problem. Ask yourself, "What are you really
hungry for?" Then, pay attention to a formula that Rich says is essential to change—notice, choose and act. "Notice what's happening, choose how you'd like it to be and then take action because you can't have the same old story again and get in a victim mentality," he says. "The key is that you do the emotional work you need to do so you feel like you have communication and you can work together, and that can actually put your attention in the same direction."
Looking for the freedom to move on or to help someone else move on? It can often be found in a simple apology. "We do the best we can as parents, but the truth is most of us had more training on how to drive a car than to be parents," Yvonne says. "We're going to make mistakes. The biggest mistake we can make is not admitting we make a mistake. So to go to our kids, and like so many of you did during the challenge day, look our kids in the eye and say, 'You know what? I made a mistake. I'm sorry.' Best gift we can give our kids. And it frees ourselves. It frees us all."
Find resources to conduct an intervention with your family
Printed from Oprah.com on
© 2014 OWN, LLC. All Rights Reserved.