As a pre-teen, Jantzen McDonald loved to eat. While his siblings loved sports, he turned to food, and he ate so much that his grandmother, Jill, started to worry. His mother, Jodie, tried to pretend he didn’t have a problem, but a trip to pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Quentin Van Meter revealed that Jantzen wouldn’t live past 30 if he didn’t make changes. Now 14, he is living healthier and happier, and the entire family has learned some lessons. Jantzen, an actor who landed a part as an extra in the movie “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” is writing a book about his experiences to help other children overcome one of the most debilitating problems of today’s youth.

BEFORE THE TRANSFORMATION:
Jodie: What I understand, at school, instead of getting one breakfast, he would get two. Instead of one lunch, he would get two. Well, then he would come home and have one or two or three of your “afternoon snacks” that were not good for him.

For dinner, it would probably be home cooking, so my mom would make chicken and steak, hamburgers, fries, tater tots, whatever, and I’d probably eat one hamburger and then want another so I would eat another. Proportions were out of whack.

Jill: He was quite a bit heavier. His stomach really was huge and it went over his belt. I actually told Jodie, “You really better do something about it…” If you’re not responsible and you are responsible as a parent and it’s his health, every organ in his body is going to be affected by being overweight like that. It takes a village to raise a child and everybody’s responsible.

Jodie: I would be like, “Mom, come on, he’s just a baby.” I honestly just thought, “He’s growing and he’s wanting to eat more.” There came a point in time that I started really noticing, wow, we are eating one plate and he’s had three. And that’s when we were like, okay, something needs to be done. My mom was right.

THE TURNING POINT:

Jantzen: When I was 9 or 10, I went to the doctor and he put me on the scale and I was 114 pounds. I was 4’3”. He said you’re obese, but you probably have high cholesterol, and the problem with that is, by the time you are 29 you’ll probably drop dead.

Jodie: The doctor started asking questions like, “What do you do outside?” and I sat there in the chair and thought to myself, “He doesn’t do anything outside.” He’s basically a couch potato. He just likes to watch TV, to sit around and eat.
Jantzen: So when he said that, it clicked in my mind I have to lose the weight.

THE PLAN:
Jantzen: You have to give up stuff for 30 days to get it literally out of you. Any fast food I gave up for two months, and then the Cokes I gave up for a long time. You have that craving, but you have to say, “I will not, I cannot and I should not.” The best thing to do is think in your mind that I don’t need it.

Dr. Van Meter: What people need to do is just to learn how to portion the things they absolutely have passion about in the way of flavors and taste, to learn how to eat what they love and pay attention to that instead of Bok Choy dipped in fat-free yogurt for lunch. How in the world is that going to work in the long run?

Jodie: He gradually started reducing the sugar in the sweet tea. And then he got to a point where he just wanted water. You’d see him sometimes just carrying a water bottle with him, even to school. He would fill up his water bottle and have it with him throughout the day.

Jantzen: I eat breakfast. I don’t eat fries a lot. Now, if someone else gets them. I will have one or two. I proportion it. I don’t want to consume too many calories. I prefer grilled over fried.

Jodie: Instead of eating French fries we just started changing to fruits, vegetables, and one thing he did love, the nutritionist had told him, “Add fiber to your diet,” so I started giving him different varieties of Fiber One bars, and he found some that he absolutely loved. And so that really helped. It was a little bit of a sweet, but was filling him with fiber at the same time.

GETTING A MOVE ON:
Jantzen: When I’m active every day you sweat and you’re burning calories and your legs get fit and your body gets fit for it. Now the motto is an hour a day will keep the doctor away. My neighbor had a basketball goal, so I’d go outside and play basketball with him. We’d be playing basketball all day, running around and having a good old time. And then we played football, and later on we got workout stuff and I started working out.

Jodie: We bought him a bike, so he would ride his bike. And our church had an organized basketball team so we signed up for that. That really helped. I actually started noticing a difference just by him just getting outside and going and running and playing.

THE BIG REWARDS:
Jodie: The kid has always been outgoing. He is a character, has been since the day he was born, there’s just been something different about him. But since his weight loss, he’s just found himself. I mean he knows what direction he wants to go in in life and it’s just really neat because he had the opportunity to audition and become an actor.

Jantzen: I’d like to win all the acting awards. I’ve always wanted to be an actor. And now, I know I look good, so I can shine bright and get the part.

WORDS OF WISDOM:
Jantzen: I just know that I should help others because I know multiple people who are going through this. I want people to know that even if you’re 102 years old and you’re overweight or you’re nine years old and overweight, you can still lose the weight.

TOOLS OF MY SUCCESS:
Tips from a nutritionist. Counting calories and reading nutrition labels. Portion control. Trading low-fat foods like fruits and veggies for high-fat foods. An hour of exercise a day.