Citizenship - Fighting fat

2nd November 2012 at 00:00
A health programme helps overweight teens to shine

When Kyle Vanes was 14 he had a 37in waist and could only wear men's clothes. He could not remember ever being a "normal" size and hated it when people called him fat. Although he played football, he was still putting on weight. He was bullied because of it and his life was miserable.

Things changed dramatically, however, when Kyle and his sister Courtney, then aged 10, began a 12-week intervention programme with SHINE Health Academy in Sheffield. The project, set up in 2003, works with more than 100 children aged 10-17 a year, addressing a range of problems caused by obesity.

Kyle, now 17, says: "SHINE taught me that it was what I ate that made me into what I was. I often ate junk and my portions were very big. I had lost confidence and suffered with anxiety.

"It took a lot of hard work with the training (boxing) and trying new foods, but I did it and I am really happy for it."

Kyle has now lost almost 3st (19kg) and 5in (13cm) from his waist. He appeared on Gok Wan's TV show Gok's Teens: the naked truth, sharing his experiences and success, and now visits schools in Sheffield with the SHINE team to highlight the importance of body confidence. He has also trained to become a community sports leader and runs sports sessions for new SHINE recruits.

About 3 million children in the UK are seriously overweight and at risk of chronic health problems ranging from heart disease to type 2 diabetes. Many also suffer from low self-esteem, depression or anxiety. In February this year, BBC Children in Need awarded SHINE a grant of #163;30,000 a year for three years to assist its programme.

SHINE's managing director, Kath Sharman, a former nurse and therapist for adolescents, says: "We support children with morbid obesity (above the 99.6th centile on the NHS's child measurement scale) who are either physically or psychologically disadvantaged. Many are bullied because of their weight."

Sharman believes the link with schools is crucial in identifying young people with weight issues and helping them to access early intervention programmes. "Contrary to popular belief, not all obese children are 'greedy and lazy'," she says. "Many are facing life traumas and use food to cope with these stresses, just as adults might turn to smoking, drugs and alcohol. We need to educate people to encourage young people like Kyle and Courtney to access our services."

For more information about the SHINE Health Academy, visit


Explore what it means to be obese, and how diet can prevent it, with a presentation from foodafactoflife.


Raise awareness - and money - to support programmes like the SHINE Health Academy by using resources shared by BBC Children in Need.


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