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Helping Randy Lose Weight: A Family Affair

Middle school OWL participant loses 19 pounds in 15 weeks with help of family

RandyIn only three-and-a-half months, 9-year-old Randy Allen has dramatically changed his poor eating habits and physically transformed himself. Gone are the junk food runs to the neighborhood variety store, the cans of sugary soda from the school vending machine and, most importantly, an incredible 19 pounds from Randy's 5-foot, former 159-pound frame.

     Randy, June '06

Randy has shed the weight in 15 weeks as a participant in the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Program at Boston Children's Hospital.

OWL brings together specialists in nutrition, endocrinology, behavioral medicine, social work and physical therapy who meet with overweight children and adolescents to help them develop a healthier lifestyle. The specialists use a variety of treatment methods, including diet and behavior modification.

Randy was introduced to the program by his pediatrician after his parents, Kim and Randy Sr., turned to her for advice for their son's lifelong battle with weight.

Ongoing struggle with weight

Randy Sox"Ever since Randy was born, he grew off the charts," says Kim. "His pediatricians kept saying 'he will slow down soon, he will slow down soon.'"

Unfortunately, Randy's weight increased and by 4th grade he was 159 pounds and just shy of five feet tall. "We had been having arguments about his size and it was just getting ugly with the weight," says Kim. "That's how we came to OWL."

Randy before his weight loss

"He wasn't too willing to do it at first but he was more receptive to the people there because it wasn't us telling him what to do," she says. "It is so much easier to put it in someone else's hands than fight with them yourself."

The OWL plan

Randy began the OWL Program with a medical evaluation which included a physical exam, laboratory tests and a comprehensive discussion of his personal and family history. The purpose of the evaluation is to check for underlying health problems.

"There were no real symptoms yet," says Kim. "But his triglycerides and cholesterol were a smidgen high. It was scary to hear this because he is young."

Randy and his parents also met with a nutritionist to examine his eating and exercise habits and create an individualized meal plan. For Randy, his plan included controlling meal portions, cutting out junk food from his diet, replacing soda with water and juice and eating three healthy meals a day. The plan also encouraged Randy to exercise.

Family involvement in OWL

RandyWhile Randy may be the only one in his family enrolled in the OWL Program, his entire family has adopted the OWL lifestyle. His family includes a brother and four sisters, all who do not have weight problems.

"The OWL Program has changed all of our eating habits," says Kim. "I couldn't ask Randy to do it and then say to his brother, 'Oh, here, you can have this but Randy can't.' We all do the program with him."

     The Allen family

The family support, says Kim, encourages Randy to stick with his new approach to eating since they all participate together. Plus, the family involvement is also teaching his five siblings what it means to eat healthy and exercise so they can avoid weight issues in the future.

"I hope my other children won't have a problem," says Kim. "Hopefully what they are learning now from OWL will go with them for the rest of their lives."

A new sense of confidence

Randy FieldDayWhile Randy has lost weight, he has gained measurably in other areas - most notably - his confidence.

"His confidence has gone up much more," says Kim. "Before OWL, Randy would be much quieter and now he is more outgoing and more talkative. On the playground, before OWL, he would wait for the ball. But now he asks for the ball."

Randy (right), school field day, June '06

Randy, in fact, moves better now and participates more fully in the football, baseball and soccer games he and his classmates play. He has even signed up to participate all summer long in a Boston tennis instruction program so he can remain active and learn the game.

Long-term outlook

Randy is still in the beginning stages of the OWL Program. While he has switched from attending the clinic every month to going every few months, he will still continue to meet with his doctor and nutritionist.

"The doctor he sees is wonderful," says Kim. "He is very friendly and down-to-earth. Even Randy likes him which is saying a lot for a kid."

Randy will also meet with a psychologist for the first time to discuss what triggers him to eat and why.

Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle will also be a key goal for Randy as he continues in the program. His weight loss may slow down with time so Randy will have to work hard to stay disciplined.

"We hope he can do it for his whole life," says Kim. "That's why we wanted to address it now. We didn't want to wait until he was 14 and say, 'well now we have a problem.' We wanted to do it now, make it lifelong and hopefully it will be inbred."

Making his own choices

Overall, says Kim, Randy has come a long way in his approach to diet and exercise. He, along with his family members, are making healthy decisions and changing their lifestyles for the better.

"Randy's best friend's mother recently took him to Dunkin Donuts," says Kim. "She asked Randy if he wanted a doughnut and he chose a bottle of water. Before OWL he probably would have had three doughnuts. Now he makes his own choices and does well."