Scaling back on unhealthy habits

Experts weigh in on childhood obesity

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 21, 2016

 Before Jake Stewart, 18, of Richmond, joined Medical Weight Loss Clinic’s Pro-Teen program, exercise took a toll on his knees because of his weight.

Before Jake Stewart, 18, of Richmond, joined Medical Weight Loss Clinic’s Pro-Teen program, exercise took a toll on his knees because of his weight.

Photo provided by Hope Brown

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METRO DETROIT — When 17-year-old Jake Stewart looked in the mirror, he didn’t like the person looking back at him.

“I wanted to start losing weight, but just working out in the past didn’t seem to do it,” the Richmond resident said.

Stewart, who is now 18, played sports in high school, but because he was “heavyset,” he said the exercise took a toll on his knees. And his diet — that consisted of frozen meals that he would “throw in the microwave or oven and eat.”

After discussing his options with his mom, Stewart joined Medical Weight Loss Clinic’s Pro-Teen program, which not only helped him lose 100 pounds in a year, but taught him to maintain a healthy lifestyle, he said.

“It was mainly proportioning my meals and making sure that I was starting every day with a breakfast of some sort,” he said.

Stewart also went to the gym daily, and as he started to lose weight, exercising was easier on his knees, he said.

“Anybody can really do it. It’s mainly a mental thing. You have to be willing to not eat as much. … Once you dedicate yourself to it, the results show.”

Childhood obesity rates in America have tripled over the past three decades, and nearly 1 in 3 children in America is overweight or obese, according to first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative.

“We know that over time there’s been a very large increase in the number of kids battling childhood obesity,” said Dr. Meg McKeough, a pediatrician with the Henry Ford Medical Center on Farmington Road in West Bloomfield. “It’s a very large problem, needless to say, and we are working on it both in the medical world as well as there are people hoping to see improvements across our country.”

A child’s energy input must balance with the energy output, and McKeough said poor food choices and the amount of time a child spends on screens can have a negative effect.

“The go-to thing is often not the healthiest thing,” she said. “That has created this perfect storm for making it a challenge to give our kids the best opportunity to stay or achieve a healthy weight.”

McKeough — who prefers to use terms like “healthy lifestyle” and “healthy weight” instead of “obese” — said that kids who carry extra weight are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, asthma, orthopedic/joint problems and self-esteem issues. McKeough introduces the importance of staying active and eating healthy foods to parents and her patients when they’re young. For instance, she said, babies and young children do not need juice or sugar-added beverages. She also promotes the nationally recognized 5-2-1-0 message, which translates to — per day — five fruits and vegetables, no more than two hours of screen time, one hour of exercise and zero sugar-added drinks.

“This is truly a familywide message that if everybody works towards this, it could benefit everyone,” she said.

Stewart said his mom’s support while he was in the Pro-Teen program made a difference.

“There’s some days where you want to eat a lot of food, but there needs to be someone there to help you refrain from it,” he said.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and the week of Sept. 19 has been declared as Childhood Obesity Awareness Week in Michigan. Throughout the month, Medical Weight Loss Clinic — which is a board-certified, physician-administered weight loss program — will give away 930 Pro-Teen programs statewide. Each of the clinic’s 31 locations will distribute 30 plans on a first-come, first-served basis. The programs are for children and adolescents who are 10-17 years of age.

David Paull, president of Medical Weight Loss Clinic, said that childhood obesity is serious and life expectancies are decreasing. But, he said, this epidemic can be stopped, and illnesses like Type 2 diabetes can be prevented.

In order to qualify for the free Pro-Teen program, teens must fill out a form online with an explanation of why they want to lose weight, and they must meet specific qualifications.

“It’s so hard for anybody, but especially for teenagers, to lose weight,” Paull said, explaining that not only do teens need guidance in what foods to eat, but they need someone to help them keep track of their weight loss and their lifestyle.

“Unfortunately, for our teens, it’s really reliant on a parent or guardian who prepares the meals … and we try to incorporate the whole family so everyone can be a support system for the teenager,” he said.

McKeough said she believes there are some benefits to weight loss plans if parents and teens support each other in areas like grocery shopping and meal planning. She said that Henry Ford Health System offers various programs for teens, including one for older teens that incorporates a low-calorie diet and another for 9- to 13-year-olds called Let’s Get Healthy.

McKeough runs Let’s Get Healthy. The 10-week program, she said, is designed for parents and children, and the classes are held at various locations across metro Detroit. During the program, families meet with nutritionists, trainers, pediatricians and even behavioral health specialists to address things like staying motivated and setting goals. Each class incorporates various exercises, and some have food demonstrations.

“It’s not truly focused on weight loss,” she said, stressing that the focus is a healthy lifestyle.

The difficulty with child obesity, she explained, is that each child is different and has a different metabolism.

“You have to keep trying. Try something, but don’t get discouraged, and keep working at it. There’s a lot of good information, but parents just don’t know where to start.”

For more information about Henry Ford’s programs, visit www.henryford.com. To apply for Medical Weight Loss Clinic’s Pro-Teen program giveaway, visit www.mwlcgiveaway.com.

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