Behind the ‘zine: Kyle Pratt talks childhood obesity, value of hard work

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behindzine-pratt

Few interviews have touched me as deeply as this one — probably because I, too, was overweight as I headed into a new high school. I remember what it feels like to be painfully self-conscious and uncomfortable in your own skin.

But what struck me in 2011 about Kyle Pratt of Scottsdale was his incredible resolve and self-discipline. He was contemplative and wise beyond his years. A middle-school victim of bullying — and weight-gain-inducing medications he was prescribed to cope with that stress — Kyle hit bottom at 14, when he saw a photo of himself on Facebook. Then 270 pounds, he decided he “didn’t want to be the fat kid” in high school.

He entered a supportive and highly structured weight-loss program at Scottsdale Weight Loss Center. In eight months, under close medical supervision, Kyle lost more than 80 pounds.

Now 21, Kyle has maintained a healthy weight. The nutrition and fitness habits he picked up during his weight-loss transition are permanently imprinted in his thoughts, priorities and daily routines.

Kyle is working toward a bachelor’s degree in graphic design at Scottsdale Community College and is planning to transfer to Arizona State University in the fall. He works part time as a studio director at Star Worldwide Networks, a radio/TV network founded by his father, longtime Valley broadcaster Dave Pratt.

You had to pull upon tremendous mental strength and discipline to achieve your weight loss in 2010. Has that translated to other areas of your life? I was raised and taught that nothing comes easy in life. If you want something, you have to work for it. After my weight loss, any obstacle that comes my way is nothing I can’t overcome. My weight loss taught me the value of hard work and discipline to a point where I apply it in everything I do today.

Has it been difficult to maintain a healthy weight? When you despise the thought of going back to the way your health used to be, you make sure to do everything possible to avoid it. Nothing would be worse than to lose all the progress I made. I always make sure I am in my healthy range by clean eating and working out. If I find myself getting out of my healthy range, I am my biggest drill sergeant.

What are your preferred fitness activities? I work out seven days a week. That might seem extreme to some readers, but I know what it takes for my body to keep a healthy balance. I mix it up: weight lifting, jogging, bike riding or hiking. As long as I get in 30 minutes a day, I will be OK. I’ve grown to love it. Sure, it helps you physically, but I find it helps mentally far more.

Do you continue to monitor your food/nutrition intake carefully? I have an app on my iPhone that calculates my daily intake and how much I burn off from working out. I have been using it every day since the fall of 2013. It’s a great way for me to monitor and check in with myself.

How did your success with the weight loss affect your confidence/self-esteem when you entered high school? Do you think your high school experience would have been different had you not lost the weight? Completely. One hundred percent. The reason I gained the weight in the first place was from anxiety/anti-depression meds that I was put on in middle school because of bullying. I was already nervous enough about how I would be received in high school, not knowing a single person going in, so if I had gone into my freshman year as heavy as I was, my confidence/self-esteem would’ve been at rock bottom. Kids can be brutal freshman year; [they’re] trying to climb the social ladder and have no problem tearing others down in order to be popular, so I was very nervous. Thankfully, I made amazing friends and was more than well received by my class. I was grateful to make lifetime friends in high school.

What did you learn that might prove helpful to younger kids who are struggling with their weight? This is something I think about all the time. The first thing I always tell others is that they’re not alone and that it is possible to lose the weight that is bringing them down. If I could go back in time and tell my younger/heavier self one piece of advice, it would be to stop feeling sorry for yourself. It may sound harsh, but the truth hurts. I understand how depressing and degrading being heavy can be and the criticism that comes with it. It’s terrible, but you can either sit around and sulk in your own self-pity or you can find motivation in that by getting up and fighting back. Only one of those two options will lead you down the path of success. Have some faith in yourself. You are far stronger than you realize.

RELATED: A Matter of Will and Medical Science, our 2011 story about Kyle Pratt’s weight loss journey.

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