Andriette Ward once topped the scales at 290 pounds. Today she's a physician who educates overweight children about the health risks of obesity, bringing a lifetime battle with her own fears, fantasies, and food appetites to the table.
The patient in the waiting room is 16 years old and weighs 500 pounds. Each morning his mother drives him to Jack in the Box for breakfast. At the vending machine in the hall of the Los Angeles health clinic, she buys him candy to tide him over for the 15-minute wait to see the doctor. Yet he is still hungry. He is always hungry.
If anybody is qualified to help this boy, it's Andriette Ward, MD, a pediatric obesity specialist at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. She works at two Los Angeles-area clinics in addition to her academic research, which is devoted to unraveling why so many children today are fat, and why so few succeed at losing weight. When she speaks on these issues—the childhood obesity epidemic, the rising rate of type 2 diabetes, why the current medical treatments are about as effective as using a squirt gun to stop a forest fire—it's with all the passion of an Evangelical.
Obesity issues are not merely academic for Ward, 41. She has struggled to lose 100 pounds over the past four years. And at 5'2" and 190 pounds, she's still working on losing more. Now, after years of on-again, off-again diets and rollercoaster scale readings, she's learned a few things about fostering a healthy attitude to food.
The foods I'm craving now will be available tomorrow. Pepperidge Farm and McDonald's are not going out of business anytime soon. My obsession with a particular food will eventually pass if I work through it.
It's okay to ask for help. Sharing my vulnerabilities actually strengthens me.
Food is just for the nourishment of my body; it will not solve anything else pressing in my life.
Taking the time to prepare my meals in the morning, even if it means I'll be late for work, is an expression of self-love.
From the February 2006 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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