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Hadden advises young people to set goals

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Dining & Entertainment, Featured

Published on August 18, 2011 with No Comments

by Mike Siroky

Looking at Julie Hadden now, you see a fit mother of two who seems all smiles and totally in control of her own life.

That would be true, but also more an example of hard work to get and stay where she is rather than a person who has easily found her successful path in life.

And that is the message she delivered to a youth gathering Tuesday night in Valparaiso and will continue tonight at the LaPorte County Fairgrounds, finishing Thursday at the Starke County Fairgrounds. All the events are free. All start at 6 p.m., local time

Hadden is here under the umbrella of a Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH). The idea is to reassure teens that the only opinion about their own self-worth comes from within.

Parents and other important influencers can only do so much.

Hadden stresses her message applies to boys as well as girls. Girls may express their self-worth issues, but boys have them, too.

“All my life, I struggled with my weight,” Hadden said.

“I was an overweight child, a chubby teenager (who never got asked to prom) and a fat adult.

“In my early 30s, my doctor looked me in the eye and called me “morbidly obese.”

“It was shocking to hear those words because I didn’t realize it had gotten that bad. But my obesity was affecting the quality of my life and my relationships.

“I was desperate for a change. But when you’ve got 100 pounds to lose, where do you start?”

Ah. The word “Lose.” As our readers know, The Biggest Loser TV show can change a life dramatically. Valparaiso resident Marci Crozier continues to prove that off the latest edition of the show, as does her daughter, Courtney.

Before them was Hadden, a contestant on the fourth season. That was in 2007. Hadden would drop 97 pounds, the most of any female competitor that season.

As most people know, that is sometimes only half the battle. The hardest part may be walking the walk, keeping the weight off.

She has. She has also become, obviously, a motivational speaker and has written a book, “Fat Chance,” which is available on Amazon.com and at bookstores nationally.

“I attended that open casting call for ‘The Biggest Loser’ – doubting myself the whole time,” she said.

“I thought I had nothing to offer; no ‘story to tell.’

“I was just a simple person, a stay-at-home mom.  But I was selected out a field of more than 250,000 to be on the show.

“It turns out that so many viewers could relate to me because I was just like them.”

And that is the message she has dedicated to bringing to young people. She is just like them and they are just like her.

“I began the show with very little self esteem and a whole lot of self-doubt,” she said. “But I learned the human body is a very strong and powerful thing. We all pushed beyond what we thought was possible and achieved great results.

“Some people criticize the show for setting unrealistic expectations. I can understand that. But what it did was educate us. There is no easy way to lose weight. You have to move more and eat less. It instilled a belief in myself and my abilities.

“I also learned that anything worth having is worth working for and working hard for.”

She appreciates these local appearances with PATH. She knows what struggles all of us go through with self-image but especially wants to reinforce to young people that they are not alone in their wonderings about how they appear to everyone else.

“I am so excited to be sharing with young people as part of the Planned Potential Rallies for A Positive Approach to Teen Health,” she said.

“I am honored to be able to talk with these kids and their families about making good decisions as it relates to their habits and self-esteem.

“If I can share anything with them, it would be the belief that they are worthy of living the lives of their dreams.

They are worth the effort to make good decisions that will impact their future.

“Don’t listen to the lies the world tells you. Each person is special and has a special story. And what we plan for ourselves isn’t always what’s going to happen – but sometimes as life unfolds, reality is even better.

“I wanted to be “Miss America” – not the poster girl for obesity. But that’s not what was in the cards for me. And yet I find it so fulfilling to get to live the life I am living now.”

She said she is blessed to be able to be such a messenger and to have been able to share the message on national TV shows such as Oprah Winfrey, Larry King Live, Entertainment Tonight and others. She was even invited to tour the White House as a result of my experience on The Biggest Loser.

“But I can honestly say that the most amazing people I meet are the ones who come up to me in line at Target, or at the grocery store, or when I am speaking at an event; or the ones who email me or Facebook me – and just share their stories,” she said.

“They are the truly inspiring ones. Real people living their lives, working hard and making the world a better place.

“If I could tell young people (especially young girls) anything – it would be not to be defined by what the media tells you is beautiful.

“Hollywood sometimes makes us feel like ‘normal’ isn’t good enough. Believe me, I’ve struggled with it my whole life. Skinny is not always healthy.

“We have to be content to find a healthy body weight for ourselves and live life at that weight.  Don’t let your self-esteem come from a number on a scale or an image in the mirror. “

For more information on the rallies, visit www.pathblazwer.org. To get in touch with PATH, call 219-548-8763.

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About Mike Siroky

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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