By Sandy Naiman
(NC)—Today morbid childhood obesity is an increasingly critical societal, cultural, medical and emotional health issue jeopardizing every sphere of a young person's life from his interpersonal relationships to his academic abilities.
Robert Land Academy (RLA) cadet Peter Smith (who requested a pseudonym) used to be a poster boy for morbid obesity.
Not any more.
After one year of rugged physical fitness, regimented eating, structured military-style living, and his schoolmates' and teachers' support, Smith has dropped 105 lbs. Last summer he weighed 360 lbs. Now, at 15 and a much healthier 252 lbs., he's added years to his life, and he's on roll.
“This summer I hope to lose more weight to get down to my 210 pound goal,” he says.
Smith didn't lose his weight at RLA by dieting.
At home, he'd raid the fridge whenever he wanted. “I used to think I ate pretty healthy. When I got sad, though, I'd eat a lot. Emotions controlled my eating,” he says. “Now, I eat three times a day. I like the food here. It tastes good. They don't give you too much or too little. You control your portioning. Make choices.”
RLA Chef Bruce Ness, an alumnus and classically trained professional chef is “a believer in home-style cooking, food that sticks to your ribs, feeds the mind, body and soul, that carries you for the day.”
Before attending RLA, Smith admits he couldn't handle school. “I had poor study habits. I couldn't do my homework, couldn't even read. Now, I sit down, read, study for exams and do all my courses properly.
“RLA taught me how to set goals, value my nutrition, work out properly.”
Last year, he couldn't run one lap “without getting out of breath. I couldn't do anything. Nobody liked me. Now, I can run five kilometres in 32.3 minutes and do 40 push-ups.”
Smith had set backs. After foot surgery, he was immobilized for two weeks until RLA Deputy Headmaster Colin Doig helped him back onto his feet. They started running together.
“It was hard, but he stayed at my pace, pushing and teaching me how to run properly. I thank Major Doig for everything I've accomplished this year. Without him I wouldn't have gotten anywhere.”