Over the weightMy wife sometimes does not find my juvenile sense of humor, well humorous. She often tells me to quit acting like an 11-year old. But that’s only because she doesn’t know Andy Anzaldua.

Theresa Nash, clinical manager of Cook Children’s told me about him. She said he was an awesome kid who had been through the weight loss program at the medical center. Plus, I knew his mom, Lucy. She works in our Hematology department.

After hearing about Andy, I thought it would be cool if he wrote his own blog about what he’s gone through and his struggles to lose weight.

At first, Andy wasn’t too keen about sharing his story. But, he agreed because he and I share a couple of things in common. One, we both lost a lot of weight lately and two, we’re catholic.

Andy decided to be a part of this article after hearing a sermon at mass. He was so inspired by what he heard that Sunday morning, he decided to share his story. What a brave boy. He didn’t want to actually write the story, so I agreed to help.

Andy shares the common concerns of most boys his age. He makes sure his hair is perfect, his clothes and glasses are stylish and of course, he’s starting to wonder what the girls think about him.

Not too long ago though, vanity was the least of Andy’s concerns. His problems were much more serious. He had poor eating habits and didn’t exercise which is typical of many young children today. Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona said today’s children may be the first generation “that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.” Andy’s life could have been in danger, but that was not going to be the fate of this strong-willed, intelligent boy.

Following a routine visit to his pediatrician, Tom Rogers, M.D., Andy learned the sobering news that he was in the highest percentile in weight for a child his age. It was once inconceivable to think a 10-year old could be diagnosed with high cholesterol, but Andy’s was, and the news came as a shock. Andy needed to make some life-altering change. Now!

“I was very upset and sad,” Andy said. “I knew I had to stop. It was kind of heartbreaking to me. It was hard to hear. I was overweight.”

It was heartbreaking. The pain in Andy’s voice was obvious and I identified with him too. I recently lost my own fair share of weight after the birth of our little boy. I know how there’s no magic formula to losing. You have to eat better (and less) and exercise.

Andy knows this not so secret method too. But he found he could not do it alone.

His family gave him courage. His mom, dad and brother served as his support group. His mom, Lucy, talked to Andy about his eating. His older brother, Arnold, gave him tips on working out and his dad, also named Arnold made his favorite foods, but altered the ingredients to fit his needs. Andy never knew the difference and his dad made sure the whole family ate what Andy ate.

But Andy needed more help. Lucy signed him up for the Weight Management and Healthy Lifestyle program at Cook Children’s. A decision that Andy disagreed with at first. “I didn’t want to do something where other people could see me,” Andy said. “But I knew that I had to do something and doing the program would help me. But it made me feel kind of sad.”

As he finishes his sentence, Andy cried. Andy had been shy at first. It took a little bit for him to warm up to me, but this was the first time during the conversation, the pain of the past few months shows. But then the fifth grader brightens up as pride takes over as he discusses his achievements and what he’s overcome. From June to December, Andy made dramatic changes in his life and to his surprise, things began to change at the weight management classes he so dreaded.

“That was the starting point,” Andy said. “It really turned things around for me. I started feeling better. As I kept going and going, I thought, ‘This is really good. I can change.’”

Andy learned about proper eating habits and exercise at the classes and his mother taught him to read labels on food for nutritional content.

And speaking of pride. His mom beams when talking about her son. The changes have been dramatic.

“We get to see him thrive daily with this accomplishment,” Lucy said. “This makes his dad and I feel warm inside because we have a new son. His brother sees it too. I mean hands down – my little guy is PROUD and so happy! His self esteem has shot through the roof.”

She has reason to be extremely proud of her boy. Andy gradually began to change his eating habits and make better, healthy choices. Today, at home, he passes up sweets for a piece of fruit. He’s extremely dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle, eating fruits and vegetables. Andy surprised his parents with a will power that continues today. When he goes to parties, Andy will not have a piece of cake.

Andy began a walk to run program and started lifting weights that were appropriate for his age. During the summer, Andy took time out (up to two hours a day) to workout.

Once school started, Andy’s exercise routine was focused more on his sport of choice – soccer. The work has paid off on the soccer field. Andy, a goalkeeper, says he can run quicker and longer and jump higher than ever before.

He recently competed in a one-mile race. He thought he would run the race in about 25 minutes, but was surprised that he finished at the 15-minute mark.

“And that was up and down hills with tons of turns,” Andy said. “It was just great. At the end I had asthma issues, but that’s typical because I was running as fast as I can and hard as I can. And I’ll tell you I did pass a lot of kids. I passed a lot of my friends. A lot of them can run faster than I can, but I could run longer than they can.”

Andy won’t give his weight, but will say he’s lost 20 pounds over the past six months. He’s fit and healthy. His cholesterol has dropped and although he said he wants to lose a little more, he’s pleased with the attention he’s received at school with his new look.

“They saw me before, then they see me again and I’ve lost a lot of weight,” Andy said. “One day you go to school and the next day you work out, and soon you look totally different.”

Andy’s weight problems are behind him and it’s OK that vanity is now his primary concern. Typical, of any other 11-year old boy.

Overall, Andy feels great. He said he’s more energetic than ever before. The weight loss has helped him in many ways, including drumming. He may not be as good as his favorite, Rush’s Neil Peart, yet, but Andy is drumming better than ever and says it’s another good exercise for him.

Yes, that Rush. “Today’s Tom Sawyer. Mean, mean pride. Though his mind is not for rent. Don’t put him down as arrogant.” I couldn’t believe he knew who he was. This was my favorite part of the interview. We kind of geeked out together and it gave me a chance to let him know about my favorite drummer, Max Weinberg of Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Andy’s funny too. When I asked him if girls noticed. He went back to being the shy, little boy from the beginning of our interview. He wasn’t sure. Then while still looking down and he wanted me to add to this story, “He said with concern.”

It was cool to meet a kid like Andy. I’m so happy for him and so impressed with his accomplishment. I know it’s not easy to lose it and to keep it off. I know Andy will do it. And next time, my wife says I’m acting like an 11 year old. I will tell her thank you.


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