W. Mich. teens take health into their own hands

(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Self-esteem can be a big issue for kids when they become teenagers.

Imagine how much of a toll obesity can take on their self-image.

Some young people, however, decided to do something about it, and they shared their stories with Newschannel 3.

"I wanted to get healthier at the time I learned I had high cholesterol," said Kevin Davis, who is working to lose weight.

"In my family, we have a lot of health problems, like high blood pressure, heart problems," explained Kayla Campbell, also working to lose weight.

16-year-old Kayla and 11-year-old Kevin may be young, but they already know their lives have to change.

"I began to write down everything I eat," Kayla said.

"I learned about healthy portions, keep a healthy lifestyle, move," said Kevin. "I love to dance."

More than 35 percent of American kids are overweight or obese.

The newest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control show obesity numbers are falling for children ages two to five, but teen numbers are staying the same.

"I'm going to hedge a little, and say it's probably a good thing," said Dr. Bob Siegel.

The doctor adds he's seeing effects from community efforts to stop the growing problem, and that overweight kids know getting healthy is not just about looks.

"They know the implications," Dr. Siegel said. "Things like heart disease down the line or diabetes."

Dustin was 19 when his heart problems forced him to have weight loss surgery.

It's not a common procedure for kids, but it saved Dustin's life. He's lost 160 pounds.

"I feel 100 times better," he said. "I used to not be able to walk from the grocery store parking lot to the store."

Dustin's new lease on life also forced him to learn a new lifestyle.

"I don't eat red meat anymore," he explained. "It's a lot of sticking to high protein, low sugar, watching everything you eat."

He's studying to become a social worker, to help other young people affected by obesity.

"I see myself maybe 30 pounds lighter, fit and thin," Kayla said.

A children's hospital program called Healthworks helps Kayla and Kevin stay on track.

Doctors say it's key to get kids support and get the whole family involved.

"They can alter the environment around the child," Dr. Siegel said. "They can be supportive."

"When you think you can't do stuff, push yourself harder and harder until you make it," Kevin said.

Keeping young people moving forward could be just what reverses a health problem affecting all families.

Parents can also make mistakes that could present setbacks for kids trying to lose weight, like keeping sugary drinks or poor food choices in the home.

Additionally, they shouldn't expect their children to get healthy or lose weight on their own.
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