Obesity rates are in the Black community are staggering, but when you look at children and young adults, it’s even worse. According to the CDC, 11% of Black children are obese by age five. Wow. And growing up, Tevante Clark was no different.
During his teen years, Tevante was always overweight. He was often teased during high school about his 5′ 7″ 400-pound frame. He eventually ballooned up to 405 pounds when he was 19.
“When I would go out with my mom to pick up groceries or shopping, I would wait in the car because I was so embarrassed,” Tevante says.
Even when he started college — new surroundings, new friends–he still struggled with those feelings of embarrassment and shame.
“I was having suicidal thoughts because of my weight. I even wrote a letter about it that my mom found, and she broke down crying,” he adds.
“I was tired of everything; tired of people laughing at me, tired of being overweight, tired of being treated differently,” he shares. “I thought about committing suicide, but I didn’t want to leave my mother by herself.”
After discovering the letter in his bedroom, his mom said she knew something had to change.
“I saw how depressed he was getting, and that’s what hurt me the most,” his mother, Beverly Clark, says. But she was not going to let him struggle on his own. She had recently lost more than 100 pounds after a scare from her cardiologist who said she was on the verge of having a heart attack because of her weight. That experience made her believe her son could lose the weight, too.
She was convinced that all her son needed was some guidance about moderation. But Tevante just wanted the weight off. He came to her after many tearful nights and asked if he could get gastric bypass surgery.
As an employee at Duke University, his mother knew about the school’s wellness program Live for Life, which offers a 12-month weight-loss program for employees and their family members. She wanted her son to lose weight, but she also wanted him to try natural methods before committing to surgery. So she made him a deal: Enroll in the program and try to lose weight naturally for the first few months. If that method failed, they would consider surgery.
When he started in the program in July 2011, his goal was to only lose 40 pounds to qualify for gastric bypass surgery. At the start of the program, he was paired with a coach and a dietitian.