DR. WALLACE: I've noticed that you always encourage overweight teens to lose weight for better health. I'm 19, and I'm a bit obese — so is my mother, so was my grandmother and so is my great-grandmother. We all appear to be healthy and happy, and our favorite foods bring us all great joy. It's just that we eat a lot of it, and we all carry many more extra pounds on our bodies than most women do.
I love being big and so does my family. I'm about 60 pounds overweight, and I wouldn't want to have a normal weight for my body build and height if I had to curb my appetite dramatically. I enjoy being a bit large and pigging out whenever I choose to eat. And, please, don't tell me that heavy people lack self-esteem. I exude tons of it! I'm outgoing and have many great friends and a wonderful social life.
Dr. Wallace, please, be kind to overweight teens. We are tired of everyone in the world trying to change us. Some of us don't want to change, and that includes my "chubby" boyfriend. I love every last pound of him! He's so cute, and he treats me like a princess. We all believe in the saying "big is beautiful"! — Big Happy Girl, via email
BIG HAPPY GIRL: There are some overweight teens who contact me to find out the fastest, safest way to lose weight because they often feel being obese hinders their social life. Counting calories, eating nutritious foods and engaging in regular exercise is usually what I recommend to them. I also remind overweight teens that obesity can be a factor relating to many ailments, including diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. I encourage overweight teens to lose weight for a myriad of reasons, but my concern for their health is paramount.
I'm aware that some overweight people enjoy it that way and don't want to change their lifestyle. To you, your mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, I wish continued happiness and good health. I absolutely respect that you all are very happy in your own skin. My wish is for you to stay happy and healthy for all of your days. Even if you plan to consume large amounts of food on a regular basis, a few, small dietary adjustments can greatly impact your health in a positive way. Keep that in mind, in case you ever feel the need to make a few adjustments in the future. In the meantime, I salute your happy family. Too many families these days deal with so many issues that make them unhappy, so it's quite nice to hear from one like yours that is truly enjoying life!
SUICIDE IS THE SECOND-LEADING CAUSE OF TEEN DEATHS
DR. WALLACE: Will you please tell me the warning signs for potential suicide victims? There are a few people I'm a bit worried about, but I am unsure if they are just a bit depressed, temporarily, or if they may be struggling even more than I realize from the distance at which I notice their behavior. — Anonymous, via email
ANONYMOUS: Suicide is, unfortunately, now the second-leading cause of death among teenagers, second only to unintentional injuries. Sadly, the suicide rate has steadily risen in this new century as well.
My research has yielded some serious warning signs, per your request. They include: noticeable changes in eating and sleeping habits; withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities; persistent boredom; decline in the quality of schoolwork; violent or rebellious behavior; running away; drug or alcohol abuse; unusual neglect of personal appearance; difficulty concentrating; radical personality changes; and complaints about physical symptoms, such as stomachaches, headaches and chronic fatigue.
Comments such as "I won't be a problem much longer," or "It's no use," may indicate verbal signs of suicidal thoughts. A teen who puts his or her life in order or throws/gives away favorite possessions after cleaning his or her room — if this is uncommon — may be considering suicide. A sudden, forced cheerfulness after a period of depression is actually another ominous sign.
Youngsters who attempt suicide are more responsive to suggestions than others. The occurrence of prior suicidal instances within a family or social group also seems to be a factor. Thus, adolescents from families or those in schools or groups in which suicide has occurred are more at risk.
Teen suicide often occurs after a loss, such as the death of a loved one, a breakup with a girlfriend or boyfriend or even a parental divorce. When such conditions exist, it is particularly important that adults be aware of the warning signs. Thank you for your thoughtful inquiry into this very important topic. As always, if you see ongoing behavior that truly appears to fit these warning signs, you should speak immediately to the family and friends of the individual exhibiting this behavior so that preventive contact can be made immediately.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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