Josia Reyes knew that reaching a healthier weight would require dedication, perseverance and a commitment to changing long-standing eating habits.
The nearly 16-year-old sophomore at Greater Lawrence Technical High School lived with his mother Jessica, a self-described food addict who was undergoing evaluation for bariatric surgery and the family diet was anything but healthy. Neither Josia nor Jessica cooked; all of their meals were from fast food restaurants. Josia often skipped meals and snacks, leaving him hungry and susceptible to bingeing on convenience food. A severe allergy to fruits presented another obstacle to healthy eating and weight loss.
On the surface it looked to be an uphill battle. But Josia and his mother came to the OWL clinic with two ingredients that would prove crucial to his success in the following months: motivation and a willingness to make changes together.
After initial appointments with a physician, a psychologist and a dietitian, they agreed to prepare at least six meals a week at home. Josia helped his mother with the food shopping and did much of the cooking himself despite a busy extracurricular schedule that included playing football, teaching music to children and playing the drums. He cut back on formerly large portion sizes of foods such as rice and other types of starch and compensated for the lack of fruit in his diet by making sure he was eating more vegetables throughout the day.
Importantly, he and his mother realized the significance of keeping a safe food environment at home. They eliminated former staples such as cupcakes and cookies and stocked the refrigerator and pantry with only healthy choices.
Josia and Jessica returned to the clinic three weeks after his initial visit. Josia, 13 pounds lighter, said he felt more energetic and self-confident. His initial weight loss fueled his desire to make even more healthy changes over the following weeks. The football season had ended but Josia didn’t waste time using the gym at his school, where he worked out three days a week.
Josia realizes it could be a year before he reaches his goal of 198 pounds but he and Jessica are confident he will get there. “If I knew then what I know now we wouldn’t have gotten so big,” she says. “(The OWL program) taught what to eat. It’s been simple.”