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Weight Loss Earns College Student a Rose Parade Ride PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 03 January 2013 04:58

San Fernando Native Jesse Campos Invited To Appear On Kaiser Float After Writing A Letter Thanking His Doctor For Changing His Life


It was at the age of nine that Jesse Campos realized for himself what others had been telling him.

He couldn't bend down and tie his shoes. He wasn't keep up with the other kids during recess.

But the San Fernando native wasn't confined by braces or other artificial attachments; he was simply too big.

As in 220-pounds of "too big." Fast forward to New Year's Day, 2013. Campos – now a Cal State Northridge freshman majoring in computer information technology – was riding a Rose Parade float sponsored by Kaiser Permanente as a living symbol of how a person can change their life and lifestyle through weight loss and discipline. Through the encouragement and supervision of Dr. Sharon Peng, a pediatrician at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Panorama City, Campos had lost 46 pounds as a youth and has maintained his new weight through exercise and control.

He was one of eight riders and 16 Kaiser physicians and staff members dancing alongside the 55-feet long, 18-feet wide and 26- feet tall float covered in more than 25,000 roses and other flowers, including dendrobium orchid florets, lavender sinuatoa statice, yellow strawflowers, button mums and carnations.

The float won the parade's Best Theme trophy. Kaiser's theme for its float was "Oh, the Healthy Things You Can Do."

"It was amazing," said Campos, when asked about his parade ride. "When you watch it on TV you see the floats but you don't 'experience' the floats. When you are on a float, you don't see other floats but you experience the float you are on. I could see [crowd] faces, people were screaming 'Go Kaiser!'

"It was also really cold out there. The costume shirt I was wearing helped keep me warm, but you could still feel the cold. But it was an experience I will always remember."

He could also think back to how far he had come in his struggle with weight.

His weight "was an issue all through elementary school," Campos said. "First I thought I would just be like this. Everyone in my family was big. It seemed normal."

Other people were telling him no, it wasn't. That he was too large. That maybe there should changes is his diet and lifestyle. But who can get a young child to listen?

Fortunately for Campos, someone did.

Dr. Sharon Peng, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Panorama City, became Campos' primary physician when he was 10. Like others, she told him he was too young to be carrying so much weight. But for whatever reason, Peng's words resonated.

"She told me this isn't how things should be," Campos said. "I don't think she was trying to scare me, but she told me 'do you want to die of heart of attack?' That shocked me; I hadn't thought of that before.

"Other people had told me to lose weight but they were too fear inducing. Or they'd tell me just try not eat certain things. (Peng) was a good combination of nice but firm. Her message got through." So by age 11, Campos decided to make changes.

He started with what he called "little steps," giving up soda and potato chips. "I went through a big bag of chips a day and drank about 3-5 sodas," he said. After a couple of weeks, "I noticed I wasn't feeling so sluggish and full. And the sugar crash I'd have after drinking all the soda, I didn't have that anymore."

Campos also bought a book on caloric consumption and started reading. "I found out that things weren't only about calories and sugar, but also things like cholesterol and sodium. And I began to realize all the stuff I had been ingesting.

Things like the hamburger his mother, Millie Campos, bought at the store "that had 33 percent fat in it." Or the fried chicken tenders and french fries he loved. Or those trips to neighborhood fast food restaurants where he would stuff himself when he didn't eat at home.

When Campos first started losing weight he wasn't sure how far he would go. But after dropping 10 pounds he felt more energized, and began adding exercise to his regimen. Millie belonged to a gym, but wasn't using the membership.

Campos started using a treadmill, and took morning physical education classes at Holmes Middle School in North Hills, and Cleveland High. He said he also did exercises that didn't require a structured workout – like walking the dog, or even walking several blocks in his neighborhood, anything that required movement and effort.

After losing the 46 pounds, Campos also made changes in his lifestyle. He's quicker to eat fruits and vegetables, and eat a sandwich rather that a high-caloric burger. He's also become more conscious of the size of portions on his plate.

"You can have healthy food but you can also eat too much of it," Campos said. "You can still eat what you want. I still eat what I want. But turn a bowl of pasta into a handful of pasta."

Campos' lifestyle change had an impact on his family members. Millie began going to the gym and alter the family shopping habits. An older brother, David, who had weight issues, began to follow Campos' diet to eat healthier and lose weight.

Campos remained a patient of Peng's until reaching his 18th birthday. He also wrote a glowing letter thanking her for changing his life's course.

The letter made the rounds at the Kaiser facility in Panorama City. Medical Center officials were impressed, and nominated Campos to ride on the Rose Parade float.

For Campos, it was an honor that left him glowing even on the chilly Tuesday morning event in Pasadena.

"It's exciting because it shows me I was able to do something well with my life. And I want to show other people you can do it," Campos said.

And to those who would seek him out on how to change their lives?

"I would tell them to always know they are not alone, that there is someone out there who will support them. Because of this they should do it because they now know it can be done."

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 January 2013 05:03