A 275-pound Teenager’s Coming of Age Story
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Written from the unique experiences of Doug Pedersen, this self-improvement book—disguised as a memoir—is at once funny, poignant, and generous, while offering genuine advice. Providing intimate insights into being a “super fat kid,” an insecure teenager, and an over-aggressive, angry, and ironically arrogant Marine who was full of self-pity, Doug shares the negative emotional drivers and responses that drove him through a "binge eating life" before finding physical health, emotional balance, and spiritual wholeness. Tuna Breath invites us to intimately observe a troubling life journey in which the lessons to be learned are truly visceral and inspirational.


Being fat is an individual emotional problem. Being a fat teenager is a shared emotional problem that includes the parents – especially Mom. That’s why I wrote this book.

From my perspective, the emotional aspects of being a fat teenager (of being obese) are hardly emphasized at all. Turn on the TV, read websites or check out the latest books and you’ll see trainers, teachers, counselors, doctors, and “weight loss success stories” all talking about calories, food choices, and exercise. Don’t get me wrong; those things are vitally important. However, I know first-hand that the key, the real success to helping a teenager (a child) with a serious weight problem requires much more than just a food and exercise plan.

My experience as a super fat kid started way before “obesity” was a common description for seriously overweight people. I was seven years old. It was the 1980’s and before grunge music, the internet, or renewable anything. Gastric bypasses weren’t performed and drug makers weren’t advertising on TV. The Real World was the only reality TV show and we didn’t know The Biggest Loser. There weren’t any obese kids either. There were only small handfuls of super fat kids like me at each school.

I consistently gained massive amounts of weight for about ten years. Topping out at two-hundred-and-seventy-five pounds in high-school was the largest accomplishment I thought I would ever have. All of my dreams were dead. I seriously thought that I would be five-hundred pounds someday. I didn't know that my obesity was meeting my own human needs for certainty and significance in life. I didn't know that inadequacy, self-pity or self-loathing were forms of significance that allowed me to connect to myself – albeit in the most negative ways. I didn't know that my keys to freedom rested in meeting my human needs for love, growth and contribution. As a result, I was deeply insecure throughout those super fat years, which lead me to feel alone and privately unhappy most of the time.

Fortunately, my environment changed when I was eighteen years old. This was the first of three major turning points I describe in the book. I didn't have a coach or doctors to help so I starved myself and lost one-hundred-and-twenty-five pounds in eight months. Along the way I learned about my own body, desire, sacrifice, and self-discipline. Turning Point #1 was all about seeking physical balance.

You can imagine how happy I must have been. Ironically, from that point forward I acted very confident (even arrogant) and pursued my life ambitions. I joined the US Marine Corps and became a hard-charging war machine. I binged on this lifestyle. Deep on the inside, however, I was still running from my past. I hid things about myself, I was rigid with people, and I was still that sensitive, sometimes insecure and privately unhappy soul most of the time. By the time I left the Marines my emotions were still way out of whack. I was aggressive, quick to show anger, and hated certain people very much for little or no good reason. Turning Point #2 occurred when I finally acknowledged that my unhappiness (my hate) was my fault and when I decided to try and find a way to change my reactions/attitudes towards people. TP #2 was all about seeking emotional balance.

Seeking emotional balance isn't an easy task; at least it wasn't for me at the ripe old age of twenty-four. After the Marines I graduated college; pursued Wall Street and Investment Banking before eventually finding some success as a corporate salesman. Since being super fat I had achieved everything I had ever set my mind to, but yet I was still personally lonely, empty, and deeply unhappy. I didn't know at first but the same emotional drivers that contributed to my obesity had followed me into my young-adult and adult life. There's no doubt they were fully present and powerful. Instead, however, of using food to binge and meet my needs, over time I substituted aggression, alcohol, relationships with random girls, and the pursuit of money to binge on. Turning Point #3 occurred when I acknowledged this reality. My veil of blindness finally started to lift when I saw my life (my struggle) as it really was: my creation. TP #3 was all about healing the past; about seeking wholeness.

Since then I've learned that my well-developed binge eating habits and personality was a low road way for me to meet my own Human Needs; it was how I negatively connected to myself for a very long time. This is a key reason I decided to tell my story. Because I believe this is the risk for seriously overweight teens (and their parents) if they don’t get their emotional house in order. Specifically, several things are likely to occur if Mom doesn't help the teen or if the child can't tackle their emotional drivers on their own: 1.) The child never improves their health and actually gets worse (physically and emotionally); 2.) The child loses weight but regresses (yo-yo diets); 3.) The child loses weight permanently but continues to project other binge eating type behavior as they mature (like I did).

Please keep in mind that TUNA BREATH is not a "How To" book. Someday soon I will write a specific "How To" that details the four phases/actions in my coaching program. But for now, Mom should expect to go deep if she wants to successfully help her teenager with their weight problem – with their life. Because success really lies with loosening the death grip that inadequacy and self-pity has on her child. Simply put, Mom must prepare to help the child:

1. Understand their basic human needs structure
2. Identify their specific triggers and patterns
3. Analyze and re-write their rules
4. Neutralize their destructive vice(s)

TUNA BREATH is a "How I" story. It's my starting point and a "Can Do!" message for you, my reader. It shines a light on the bigger, deeper issue of weight loss and exposes the long-term emotional risks overweight children face. My specific story should be a metaphor for some to learn from. You can always count on my sincere honesty and my "all access" approach to telling the real story. My writing is sometimes funny, sarcastic, ironic, heated, or repetitive. I do this for a purpose. I want it to strike an emotional chord, so I also use language and word choices that are slang or that may seem aggressive at times. My true intention is to inspire Moms and their seriously overweight children to improve their personal foundation. Hopefully, my readers are moved to self-analyze in a new way; in a new light. And ultimately, I want Moms to understand and fully connect to their children; to communicate differently; to learn from my mistakes; and to help their children save the time that I wasted.

Thank you for reading my story!

Doug Pedersen is a strategic interventionist and founder of Playground: Global, a leading research and performance education company. His own history with child obesity and study of human nature fuels his writing, speech topics, and teachings, which are designed to help people understand and meet their human needs in balanced, effective, and healthy ways. In his latest project, Doug seeks to help mothers understand, communicate, and heal their seriously overweight children. Doug currently lives with his wife and son in the Washington, DC area. Learn more about the book or visit Doug at www.dougApedersen.com.


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