Story of Hope
Losing Pounds, One Step at a Time
In many ways, DeShawn resembles a typical sixth grade boy.
This week, his favorite movie is G.I. Joe: Retaliation. In his spare time, he plays football with his friends, cheers on all the Boston sports teams — especially the Celtics — and is a huge fan of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).
But, DeShawn is wise beyond his 12 years. He has already learned simple and potentially lifesaving ways to stay healthy.
A few years ago, DeShawn started walking to lose weight. Since that time, he has proudly lost about 10 pounds. That is a huge accomplishment for anyone, especially a growing child.
"It is challenging for a child in this age range to lose a significant amount of weight because children are growing taller at the same time. Adding inches to a body frame translates to pounds simultaneously, too,” explains Patricia Samour, RD, Director of Nutrition Services at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Eating properly as well as increasing exercise is key — no matter what age.”
If you ask what motivated DeShawn so early on in his life to make a major lifestyle change, he immediately points to his family. They told him about the many health risks associated with being overweight and encouraged him to do something to help prevent any potential problems in the future.
The timing was perfect. His school, the Richard J. Murphy School (the Murphy School K-8) in Dorchester, had recently joined BIDMC’s Walking Club.
With his family’s support, DeShawn met with a teacher to learn more about the Murphy School’s new Walking Club. The very next day, an hour before the first school bell actually rang, he joined a group of approximately 25 students for his first walk, all wearing pedometers to measure how many steps they took.
Supervised by staff, the students walked back and forth through the halls and up and down the three flights of stairs. They only stopped when they heard the sounds of the first bell ringing, reminding them to walk right into their first class.
“We had fun, and it was easy,” recalls DeShawn. “It’s a great way to catch up with friends, too.”
Three mornings a week, DeShawn and his classmates are still walking through the Murphy School early in the morning. In the nice weather, they enjoy walking around the outside of the school.
This past September, Karen Cahill, DeShawn’s principal at the Murphy School, made it mandatory for every student at each grade level to incorporate walking into the daily schedule for at least 15 minutes. Each student must actually submit a walking plan to her.
“BIDMC’s Walking Club is a powerful teaching tool that exposes students early on to the importance of walking for cardiovascular health — and brings to their attention that it is indeed fun, easy and free,” she says. “The feedback from our students has been very enthusiastic, and DeShawn is one of our great success stories.”
Last year, the Murphy School received the “Healthy Connections” award from Boston Public Schools — thanks to the enthusiasm from the students under the strong leadership and energy of Ms. Cahill. The school also received the “National Wellness” award in Health Education by the Department of Education.
So far this spring, BIDMC is providing 16 Boston Public Schools with pedometers and Walking Club kits. More than 4,000 students and staff in Boston have received supplies and are learning how easy it is to start walking.
DeShawn is glad to help spread the word about the health benefits of walking and how it helped him lose weight. Last month, he was featured in BIDMC’s new Walks of Life campaign, co-sponsored by the American Red Cross. In addition, he appeared live on Fox 25 with BIDMC cardiologist Joseph Kannam, MD, on National Walking Day (April 3).
An avid math student, DeShawn’s future plans include going to college and getting a good job. Based on the path he has already chosen, he is making great strides.
Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
Posted May 2013