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Local student overcomes weight and bullying issues

Throughout much of Caleb Reece’s life, he has been the victim of bullying. Overweight for the majority of his years, Reece decided to make a positive change in his life as he prepared to enter high school. Since the end of the school year in May, 2013 when he completed middle school, his weight has dropped approximately 105 pounds. Once wearing size 46 jeans, Caleb now purchases 30-inch waist pants.
Bullying takes many forms, including cyber-bullying through the use of electronic devices, including telephones, computers, text messaging and websites; harassment or intimidation, physical harm or the threat of physical harm and emotional distress. A Tennessee Department of Education Bullying and Compliance report released in October, 2013 indicated there were 7,555 cases of bullying reported in Tennessee for the 2012-2013 school year. Of these cases, 5,478 were confirmed. The reports were based on race, color or national origin, sex or gender discrimination, disabilities and the use of electronic technology. In Johnson County, five cases of bullying based on race, color or national origin, as well as sex or gender discrimination were confirmed. These reports do not include the ones never reported to authorities.
Caleb’s bullying began when he was in the third grade, but at that time, he reports it was more students teasing and picking on him than any physical harm. Much of the abuse in elementary school happened while he was waiting in the line for school to be dismissed. His mother, knowing his fears, would make sure she was there early so he wouldn’t have to wait long. “I had a lot of really good friends that backed me up,” Caleb said. When he entered middle school, he reported he was tormented by fellow students and suffered mental abuse, as well as being kicked by his peers. “He got to the point where he was making fun of himself, and that hurt me, “ said his mother, Jaine Reece. Caleb would wear a hoodie year round, even in the summer, in an attempt to hide from his tormentors. According to Caleb, he was too shy to talk with anyone at school. Caleb added that he believed eating was a comfort for him. “I ate when I was bored, sad, tired, and nervous, “ he said. “It was an eating disorder. I didn’t care if I died or not, I hated myself.”
Finishing eighth grade weighing 260 pounds, frustrated and tired of the abuse, he began his weight-loss journey at the end of the school year. “This is going to be the last day these kids are going to make fun of me, “ Caleb announced to his mother. “ I was tired of being bullied and wanted to be a normal kid. I was threatened to be stabbed once,” he said. The threats and abuse were random so he never knew when or where they were going to come from. Both girls and boys were guilty of harassing him. According to Caleb, bullying is in an issue in elementary school, middle and high school. He has seen other students bullied.
Caleb is now 14 years old and a freshman at Johnson County High School. During the summer, he began to do research online and formatted an eating plan that would work for him. He has become an avid nutrition label reader and knows the carbohydrate grams on many foods. According to Caleb, the daily value for an adult is 300 carbohydrates a day and 65 grams of fat. His diet consists of eating less than 100 grams of carbs and less than 25 grams of fat. He found counting carbs easier than keeping track of the number of calories he consumed.
His typical breakfast is a bowl of Cheerios or Special K with skim milk and a piece of fruit, such as an orange. Lunch is simple, perhaps a Special K bar or a Nutrigrain bar. Snacks are typically an apple, orange or kiwis. “Bananas aren’t very good,” Caleb said.” They are low in carbohydrates but high in fat.” His evening meal often consists of Lean Cuisine meals or a turkey breast sandwich from Subway on whole wheat, without cheese or mayonnaise. He doesn’t eat cheese because although it is low in carbs, it is high in fat. Caleb can rattle off nutritional information on many foods. “I have memorized all the nutritional values of foods I eat,” he said. “I can’t eat something without looking at the label.”
He spent much of the past summer running laps at Ralph Stout Park, swimming in the local pool and spending time at the local gym. Caleb is also in the marching band and attended summer camp this past year, losing close to 20 pounds from all the walking and exercise. According to Caleb, he had changed so much in a few months the members of the marching band thought he was a new student. Each night he does 100 to 150 sit-ups and uses some hand weights, in addition to walking a lot. Caleb reports since he has lost weight, he finds himself more outgoing. “Everyone noticed that,” he said. “I used to be scared to look someone in the eye and was not confident.” He no longer needs medication for high blood pressure, allergies and asthma. According to Jaine, he used to suffer asthma attacks up to eight times each winter. He has been on and off steroids most of his life, and since he has lost weight, he hasn’t had to use them.
Caleb now weighs 160 pounds. He would like to lose a little more and be within the 145 to 150 pound range, a weight he feels is good for his age and height. “It’s not a diet anymore,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle choice.” Caleb would like to start a support group for kids with eating problems and encourage them to learn how to read nutritional labels and facts. “I want to make a difference,” he said.