During much of her childhood and adult life Carol Haaz, 42, was on a roller coaster ride of dieting and gaining weight. She now has her weight under control and is helping teen-agers with the same problem. Haaz, her husband, Burton, and their three children live in Northridge.
When I was 7 I weighed about 52 pounds. When I was 13 I weighed 168. I have a picture of me at 11 that is disgusting. I was obese. At 11 years old I looked older then than I do now. Socially, I didn't fit in.
My whole life has been one continuous diet. There were always ups and downs. I've been on every diet that's ever been written up in a magazine. I did Stillman's diet, which is a protein diet. I took off a good deal of weight. I almost did myself in, because the part I did not know about was, when you eat nonstop protein you must drink enormous quantities of water. Protein just destroys your kidneys without lots and lots of water.
I had been a Weight Watcher off and on since '72. Four years ago I made up my mind that I had to give up the 2-year-old in me that was being stubborn and I had to do it their way.
I lost 26 pounds in 30 weeks. Wasn't the fastest thing I ever did, but since I lost weight I am a completely different person. Now I'm up in front of groups of 100 people six days a week, and I don't even bat an eyelash. Whereas four years ago if I had to stand in front of a group, I was dying.
I was dowdy. I mean I was really housewifey. I had no self-esteem. I didn't necessarily do my hair, put on my makeup, do all those things every day, whereas now I don't come downstairs until I'm together. I'm in a very different place, emotionally, than I was 10 years ago.
Three years ago my oldest daughter was going to a Weight Watchers adult group. She came home one day and said to me, "I cannot go to an adult group. They don't care about my problems, and I frankly don't care about theirs." When I went on staff, my boss said, "What would you like to do?" And I said, "I'd like to do a teen group."
We meet every Thursday afternoon, in Northridge after school. I have about 25 at a meeting, ranging from 20 pounds overweight to 75 pounds overweight and in age from 10 years old to 18. All of them are very supportive of each other, because that's the place where they're safe with their weight. I think there's a real need for kids to have a place where they can help each other rather than listening to more mothers telling them what they should be doing.
Most of the kids in my team group have parents who are fighting the battle one way or the other. They're either anorectic parents or overweight parents. They are pushing their kids to do this early so that they don't develop big weight problems.
I think the biggest step for any of us is wanting to be there. I have kids who come in who don't want to be there, and they never come back. Or they come back and they aren't losing. When the kids are ready to do it, that's when it gets done.
It's tough being in school where there are vending machines for candy and garbage. The school food is the worst. My son's menus from school are abominable. It's a hot dog and chips and fruit drink or cold milk, pizza and potato chips. So they have to brown bag it.
Every area of their life is affected by their weight. They have such low self-esteem, they don't think that they can make friends, they don't think that they can get good grades, they hate to go shopping. Everything in their life is involved with their weight. And it goes on into adulthood.
Fat people are jolly because they're hiding the pain, but I don't think there's anything funny about being overweight. I think people who are overweight are very unhappy people, and I don't care what they tell you. When clothes don't fit, when you go to the beach and you're covered from head to foot because you can't put on a bathing suit, there's nothing funny about it.