New Weightloss Program Helps Kids Beat Childhood Obesity

POSTED: Friday, December 16, 2011 - 10:28am

UPDATED: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 7:30pm

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND- A year ago, 13-year-old Jason Wong of Baltimore, Maryland couldn't imagine having the energy to run on a treadmill.

"The best source of entertainment was the television, and basically all i ever did was eat," said Wong.

In October of last year, Wong weighed in at 195 pounds. Around the same time that his pediatrician told him he had high cholesterol, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and borderline childhood diabetes.
His doctor referred him to the Weigh Smart program at Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital. It's an intensive program for kids ages 8 to 17 that has a less traditional approach to weight loss. Half of the program focuses on education and learning how to change unhealthy habits for a lifetime. And parents are just as involved as the kids.

"This is not a program where you're going to drop Johnny off and he's going to exercise,” said Program Manager Michelle Demeule. “This is a program where you're going to come learn, participate, and take that home to the family members."

Many of the youngsters are dealing with depression, anxiety, bullying at school and significant health complications due to their obesity. Participants and their parents meet with a therapist and get one hour of education and one hour of physical activity twice a week for 10 weeks. Classes focus on nutrition, portion size, and food labels.

"The doctors are trying to be your friend, not trying to be your enemies, or forcing you,” said Wong. “They're more like they want to help you and the program works because you have a say in what you want to do."

Now Wong's entire family eats healthier, and he works out for nearly three hours a day, five days a week. On graduation day, he had reached his personal goal of losing more than 40 pounds after eight months in the program.

"When I look in the mirror, I look at someone who's physically fit and someone who still wants to by physically fit,” said Wong. “Anyone can do this, and if you can get one friend to help you that's one more than you had before."

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