FAT NO MORE:
A Teenager's Victory over Obesity
by Alberto Hidalgo-Robert
The Latina Book Club welcomes young author Alberto “Bert” Hidalgo-Robert. This courageous young man struggled with his weight all his life. At 14, he received a health scare that changed his world. FAT NO MORE is the result. It’s a journal, a memoir, a cookbook all rolled into a wonderful and inspiring package. In fact, I think Michelle Obama needs to recruit him for her campaign.
And don't think that this is a kid's book. It's more than that. FAT NO MORE can help kids, adults, families, friends of all ages. Learn more about Bert below.
Q&A WITH BERT
Is "dieting" a four-letter word? What is your opinion on dieting? Is there a miracle diet? Do any of them work? If not, why not?
According to the Dictionary, “dieting” means: the regulation of food in order to improve the physical condition. This definition sounds very similar to what I try to convey in FAT NO MORE and my new healthy lifestyle is all about – control my eating habits in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, one reason why I do not use the word “dieting” because in the American society when you say “dieting” people automatically think that you are starving yourself by eating a slice of bread for breakfast, a piece of fruit for lunch and broccoli for dinner. This is why I do not use the word “dieting” instead I use the word “healthy lifestyle.” So I can say that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not “a four letter word” – it is a lot of work. It is my daily job. I have to work hard at it to maintain it but it is very rewarding. I love working at it. I love knowing what I am eating and cooking. I love teaching others my tricks and tips. So I would love for the American society to learn how to say “healthy lifestyle” instead of “dieting”. The connotation is way more positive.
To answer the other parts of the question “is there a miracle diet? Do any of them work?” If you’ve read FAT NO MORE I share a lot about my “dieting days”. By the age of ten I had tried all diets known to a child. None of them work! I said it in my book and I’d say it again, “DIETS DO NOT WORK!” There is no miracle diet. Diets are very dangerous and very detrimental to people’s health. People say “oh but I lost weight!” My question is “did you keep off? Did you regain whatever you lost?” Most of the time their answer will be “I regained everything I lost” Diets are just waste of time. You might lose weight – I mean you are starving yourself; it is a step away from anorexia – but you never learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. And that’s my goal. I want to teach people not to diet but instead how to build, enhance and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
You mention in your book, FAT NO MORE: A Teenager's Victory over Obesity, that your life when you were fat was an example of what "not" to follow. What did you mean by that? And do you still feel that way still?
Simply, I do not want any family or young teen to go through what I went through. If I can put my story out there, and make an impact and be on the spotlight that’s fine with me. But I don’t want children to be told that they are at risk of becoming diabetic. I don’t want children to be told that they can possibly have cardiovascular diseases. It is just horrific – the picture of kids injecting insulin is just cruel. So my story of how I went from Baby Buddha to been diagnosed as a pre-diabetic teen is the story people should NOT follow. If they do not follow it that a plus for them. They will never be in my shoes – and then my goal was accomplished.
You went from Baby Buddha to El Gordito to Curly. As you grew into a teen, your weight was no longer cute but a burden. You hated yourself and your body. How? Where did you get the courage to enter the healthy program? And do you still have a contract with yourself?
I always say this to everyone, having a healthy lifestyle is a right not a luxury. This means everyone can “own one.” However, you need motivation in order to “own one.” My motivation or the catalyst, you can say, that lead me to make the move and change my lifestyle was the fact that I was diagnosed as a pre-diabetic at the age of thirteen. That scared the living life out of me. I have seen my grandmother, who is a diabetic, injecting insulin every single day – she is chained to it for the rest of her life; I’ve seen purple spots all over her stomach due to her injections; I’ve seen her dealing with glaucoma. It is scary stuff that happens to people with diabetes. That scared me. I somewhat saw myself in her if I didn’t make the change. I was able to see myself injecting myself insulin and that was petrifying. That was my motivation. I did not want to end like that – especially at thirteen.
Regarding the contract; I don’t have a set contract. The only “contract” if you want to call it, that I have with myself is that “I shall never give up. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle takes a lot of work and some days might me harder than other. But at the end, my life, my body, my mind are my temple and I shall take care of them in order to be happy with myself.”
You have a close family, whether it's your immediate family or long-distance family members. Your parents, abuelos, tias, tios y primos love you and you them. Yet for much of your life, your family hindered you. Take for example the three turkey sandwiches you couldn't say no to and got sick over. How do you say no to the ones who love you? How did you gain your family's support in your battle against obesity?
There’s nothing or nobody that gets in between me and my lifestyle. My lifestyle is sacred. I built it. I maintain it. I love it. Plus, my lifestyle is the one that helps me maintain my temple happy – happy temple, happy life! So, I feel entitled to say no – why entitled? Because I know anything and everything about my new lifestyle – I have the facts. So if someone offers something and I say “NO” I have ways in which I can say “NO” and explain why.
Now, I do not think that I’m hurting anyone anymore. Maybe before I felt I was hurting someone by saying the “N-Word.” But now, after so much work, after the love I’ve grown to have for myself and for my new healthy lifestyle, I feel that I have the right to say “No” to anyone – that been my family, friends, acquaintances, etc.
Gaining the support of anyone it is really hard. They have to see that you want it. That you love it. So once my family saw that I wanted to change my lifestyle and that I was learning to love my healthy lifestyle and myself they gave me their support and respected me. You gotta work really hard to gain support and respect. Once you gain them, you are golden. You have everyone backing you up!
Summer is almost upon us. There will be picnics, BBQs, beach parties, ice cream dates, etc. What advice do you have for kids and adults on how to survive the summer?
I have a rule to every season, event, activity, etc – it can either go very good or it can go very bad. BBQs are not the exception. Simple little things can make BBQs so unhealthy – such as, handing out ice cream, or giving out cake and or candy, sodas, sugary drinks, chips, sedentary activities (gossiping, chatting) and alcohol (for the adults) – little BIG things that can make such a great experience not so great. My tips would be the following: first, cut the extra fat off of chicken and meat; try to grill everything instead of serving anything fried; instead of chips try to give crackers and or baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and pieces of celery along with a fat-free salad dressing or dip; instead of offering sodas, just offer cold refreshing water – water does go very far; instead of giving out cake, ice cream or candy for dessert, serve in a big bowl, a freshly cut fruit salad; instead of letting kids partake in sedentary activities, plan some games such as a tournament and give out small presents at the end; and for the adults, instead of alcohol … well just omit that one!
As you can see, I’ve omitted a lot of the unhealthy foods out of BBQs. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have one or two unhealthy foods. But be smart about which ones you are going to let into your BBQ. And don’t make a big deal about those unhealthy foods. Try to always enhance and promote the healthy foods first!
At the end of your book, you state that Bert is your best friend, and you are Bert's best friend. Do you still feel that way? Is your battle with obesity over? Will it ever be totally over?
I started as El Gordito – unhealthy manipulating little chubby kid – and then did a 180 degrees turn and became Bert – a healthy young adult that has been fighting against an eating disorder since the day he can remembered and now he is winning the battle and trying to democratize health and help those that are in the same boat he was. Bert is me. I am Bert. And we make a good team. I embrace Bert – or Healthy Bert, I shall say – and Healthy Bert embraces me. We are a great team and I would not change it for anything in the world.
Battling with an eating disorder is an ongoing battle. I don’t think I will ever be done fighting against Obesity. I would say it is my burden, but that is not quite true, because I know how to control it and how to keep it in his cage; so I think I’ll say obesity is my challenge, and I love to be challenged. Thus, I do not think it will ever be over but one thing I can say is that I will never ever let it take over my life again. I got the tools, the tricks to kick its butt!
‘Shame on obesity for trying to destroy me once; shame on me if I let it try to destroy me twice’
How can readers find out more about you and learn about your wonderful recipes? Are you on Facebook? Twitter? Elsewhere? Please share your links with us.
I try to stay as current in the web as possible. So all my viewers/fans can check for more recipes, tips and tricks on how to maintain their healthy lifestyle at my website, Healthy Bert, http://healthybert.net/ They also can find me in facebook http://facebook.com/healthybert and in Twitter: http://twitter.com/healthybert.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alberto "Bert" Hidalgo-Robert studies biochemistry at Notre Dame de Namur University in California. He is also the founder of an online anti-obesity campaign, Healthy Bert: No Child Left with a Big Behind Foundation. He lives with his family in Redwood City, California. Learn more about him and his campaign by visiting http://www.healthybert.net/.