Reporting Frank Vascellaro
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – One-third of all kids and teenagers are considered overweight or obese. Yet we hardly ever hear about kids who’ve lost a lot of weight.
Frozen dinners aren’t what most 15-year-olds eat. But Nate St. Martin isn’t like most teenagers.
“I weighed 385 pounds when I started [the diet],” he said.
He’s lost more than 165 pounds in 10 months.
“I couldn’t have any more than 2,000 calories at first, that’s where it started at,” Nate said.
He lost weight by cutting calories — down to 1,700 a day now. He’s also begun to exercise: two hours in the gym and a one-hour walk every day.
“Just a daily routine, and I do it every day, I’m so used to it,” he said.
But Nate’s routine wasn’t always like this.
“I was just sitting in my room all the time, going back and forth to the kitchen, eating a lot,” he said.
He packed on the pounds, starting in fifth grade, when his family moved and he struggled to make friends.
“He just kept getting bigger. And I guess we’d just go buy bigger clothes and whatever made him happy,” said Katie St. Martin, Nate’s mother.
The “aha” moment happened at the doctor’s office. His checkup turned into an intervention with harsh words about heart disease, diabetes, and a shorter life.
“I was just ready to start my life over and be a healthy person,” Nate said.
He got help at the Specialty Clinic for Children at Fairview Ridges Hospital.
“He wanted to make big changes right away, so we put him on a meal replacement plan from the get-go,” said Jessica Graumann, a nutrition specialist at Fairview.
By meal replacements, she means Lean Cuisines, Weight Watchers and other frozen meals.
“For breakfast I have Smart Ones,” Nate said. “They’re another healthy, frozen meal.”
Since his calories are limited, it’s easy to check labels and know what he’s getting.
“The meal replacements really do help because there isn’t any guessing,” said Dr. Claudia Fox, of Fairview.
But what works for Nate doesn’t work for everybody. And neither is three hours of exercise per day.
So what do the experts suggest for the rest of us?
“Some of the easiest switches would be to just to take the sugar out of drinks,” Graumann said.
Substitute water or skim milk for pop and juice. And control portion size.
“Half of the plate should be fruits and vegetables, a quarter of the plate is your protein – your meat – and a quarter of the plate is your starch,” Fox said.
As for Nate, the big, the baggy clothes are gone.
“He’s so happy. He wants to play football this year. And he was thinking about lacrosse,” St. Martin said.
A Facebook star is also emerging.
“Sixty people shared my photo, and I got like 600 likes on it,” Nate said.
After he posted his before-and-after pictures, other kids started asking for tips.
“They ask me what I eat, what I do, how many times I exercise a day, pretty much everything,” Nate said.
So now, the kid who used to camp on the couch is thinking about visiting other schools to offer advice and inspiration.
“It feels really good to be an inspiration to people,” he said. “It can happen, you can lose weight, if you just set your mind to it.”
Fox warns that keeping weight off is even tougher than losing it, so Nate will still have some hard work ahead.