Katie: Childhood Obesity. How Some Kids Are Winning The War!

Keyanna Williams after losing 45 pounds!
Keyanna Williams after losing 45 pounds!

It seems every day somewhere the media headlines are addressing the childhood obesity epidemic in America. And with one third of all kids in this country overweight or obese, the topic is here to stay for a while. But there are some kids that are winning the war on childhood obesity.  This week Katie Couric featured a follow-up on a young lady that appeared on a previous show that was battling obesity at the age of 11. In that previous broadcast she was given a scholarship to attend a semester ( 3-4 months) at MindStream Academy, a health and fitness boarding school for kids. Keyanna Williams was proud to tell us that by the end of her stay she lost 45 pounds! She says she feels amazing and feels a lot better about herself. She feels confident that with the skills she has learned at MindStream, she will be able to continue to achieve her weight loss goals on her own. Congratulations Keyanna! What did she learn and how did other kids lose hundreds of pounds to transform their lives!

In a previous broadcast in April 2013, Katie along with People Magazine,  featured several success stories of overweight or obese children and how they and their families tackled their own personal American health crisis.

Keyanna WilliamsKeyanna Williams,  who lives near Charleston,  SC at 11 years old found herself weighing 230 pounds!  She told Katie Couric she enjoyed eating pizza, hamburgers, and french fries and couldn’t get enough chocolate. She realized at nine years old she had a weight problem when her cousins’ life jackets wouldn’t fit her. She found it hard to fit into the regular sized student desks and had trouble squeezing around her schoolmates on the school bus. She had been teased and bullied and called fat and ugly. But almost worse was as a beautiful female growing up, she found it hard trying to look nice because she did not fit into most clothes. Her grandmother, who raises Keyanna, felt she enabled Keyanna’s weight gain by allowing too much fast food in her diet and not encouraging Keyanna with opportunities for exercising. They both realized that Keyanna’s weight issues have impacted her social life in a negative way as well as putting her at risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Keyanna had visited MindStream Academy boarding school but it was financially out of reach (tuition is about $28,500 per semester). However, as a result of sharing her story on Katie, MindStream awarded Keyanna a one semester scholarship to give her a chance to become the person she wants to be!

Her stay at MindStream seems to have paid off! Not only did she lose 45 pounds, but developed weight management skills that will benefit her for years to come! She told us that she learned the difference between bad fats and healthy fats, micro-nutrients, and the importance of planning exercise workouts. She also learned how important it is to eat mindfully, to stop and think about what you’re eating.

Because family support is very important for the healthy weight loss success of children, Keyanna’s grandmother shared that she has also made changes in the home. They have made a lot of healthy swapping of food choices such as choosing brown rice and whole grain pasta over white. They take the time to read labels and to think before they buy certain foods. She supports Keyanna’s efforts in sharing with the family what she has learned from school and allows Keyanna to cook for the family. Cooking classes are a part of the curriculum at MindStream.

Keyanna’s advice to others who are struggling to lose weight is to know that you can lose weight and you can accomplish your goals. If she can do it then you can to.

Kris BeallKris Beall from Brandon, Mississippi also found help at MindStream Academy. He sought help after struggling for years. At age 11 he gained at least 25 pounds a year and by the time he was 15 he weighed almost 300 pounds. Now at 17 years old he has lost 120 pounds!

He was always tired, his feet hurt and he had trouble walking. His mother added that Kris’s mental state was so bad that he considered suicide. He just wanted to give up on life. He had a very hard time fighting his food addiction on his own.

Kris found that being away at boarding school meant being away from family and friends and other distractions that triggered his overeating. He said even though he was at MindStream to lose weight, the main goal that was focused on was to learn to be healthy. He now curbs his indulgences by running them off. When he was overweight he had trouble walking. He now considers himself a runner and will be doing a half marathon in the next few days!

Even though MindStream continually seeks ways to make their program available for the many kids that need them, a boarding facility may not always be the ways and means that helped others lose weight.

Charles HainesCharles Haines, who lives near Washington, DC, got help losing 115 pounds in a most unusual form for a young person today!  Charles struggled with his weight since he was five years old. By the time he was 14 he weighed 285 pounds! He was introverted, depressed at the way he looked and he didn’t want to be seen in public. One day with his mother’s encouragement he decided to start doing something about it. He got started by pulling out his mother’s old VHS tapes of Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies.  Why these worked so well for him was that they were low impact exercise videos that he felt was geared to his overweight poor physical condition.

Nadia and Sarah after losing 20 pounds each
Nadia and Sarah after losing 20 pounds each

Twins, Nadia and Sarah of Valley Stream, New York were each 20 pounds over weight at the age of eight!  This was a typical family of young children with a hectic schedule and they turned to readily accessible fast foods, snacks and candy.  But their concerned mother noticed their weight gain and turned to their pediatrician for help.  They lost the weight using the Red Light,  Green Light,  Eat Right program developed Dr. Joanna Dolgoff,  She explains that since most kids understand the idea of a traffic light ( red means stop, green means go, yellow means slow) she applied that concept to the foods they should eat and they eventually learn to eat healthy. The twins understood. They told us that Green Light foods are healthy foods that you should eat all the time, Yellow Light foods are foods that you can eat sometimes.  And Red Light foods are foods like pizza and junk food (food you should avoid!).

Dr. Dolgoff also said that it is key that families work on getting healthy together. Start using words like “we and healthy” instead of accusatory words like “you and fat”. Even if the parents are normal weight, there is always some healthy improvement that can be done together as a family. Saying things like “We can all try this new healthy dish” or “Let’s all go for a walk” makes no one feel singled out.

Mary Savoye, Registered Dietitian at Yale School of Medicine, developed a family based program called Bright Bodies.  This program focuses on overweight children and their overweight parents as well. The whole family attends interactive classes to learn weight management and nutrition. Afterwards they all attend exercise classes. Mary Savoye says this family approach to weight management is very critical because it is the parents that buy the food and are the role models for the family. This program teaches the parents about healthy eating, how to be better role models and how not to single out an over weight child.

One family since enrolling in the program says they see a big positive difference in the self-esteem of their daughter. They also find that they care more about their health, that they communicate more and are working better together as a family!

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