Sharon weighed 536 pounds, had severe heart problems and took 22 medications regularly. Runners in sumo suits listened intently to her story at the Obstacles of Obesity 5K, held at Utah Lake State Park on Sept. 20 in honor of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.
Sharon’s children had to put her socks and shoes on for her, as she couldn’t do it herself. She couldn’t comfortably fit in a car and even had to use a seat-belt extender. “I prayed every night that I would wake up in the morning so that my kids wouldn’t find me dead,” Sharon said.
She told participants at the obstacle course that she has since lost 300 pounds, prompting cheers from the crowd. They yelled, “We love you, Sharon,” before taking off for the obstacle course.
Kenneth Larsen and his friends created Obstacles of Obesity to raise money for childhood obesity prevention and give people a fun but challenging opportunity to experience the mobility restrictions of obesity. “I’ve never seen anybody do anything for obesity awareness,” he said.
Larsen was inspired by a friend who was preparing for the Tough Mudder. “It’s an obstacle course, so it gives you time to take a breather. As a big person, you’ve got to stop and … catch your breath,” Larsen said.
Larsen said the proceeds from the race would go to WIC, the United States Department of Agriculture’s supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children.
“We found low income is a big factor when it comes to childhood obesity,” Larsen said. “WIC does such a great job to inform people about proper health and proper nutrition.”
Participants in the obstacle course had to climb steps, drag a tire 20 feet around a pole and back, walk on a balance beam while getting hit by dodge balls and move through “the gauntlet” — a team of opponents that try to hit them with their “battle sticks.”
Each of the obstacles signified the emotional challenges obese people often face. The balance beam with dodge balls symbolized overweight children at school who become “target practice” for bullying.
Participant and UVU student Sean Nagel believes childhood obesity awareness is a worthy cause. “That’s where it all starts. You can nip (obesity) there and teach these kids more positive things to do, more healthy things … rather than learning it at 20 or 30. It’s much more difficult then,” he said.
Adam Miranowski, another participant and fellow UVU student, agreed. “(Children are) the future, and if they’re super overweight, it’s just going to go downhill from there,” Miranowski said.
The team of opponents with battle sticks represented the bombardment of the media’s conflicting messages, like supermodels eating fast food.
Daniel Pierson, from UVU, blames advertisements’ portrayal of food for contributing to childhood obesity. “It’s advertisement. Like McDonald’s (with) all their toys. … It’s easy for a kid to want to go to McDonald’s.”
Another Obstacles of Obesity race is planned for spring 2015. More information can be found on obstaclesofobesity.com or the Obstacles of Obesity Facebook page.