LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The percentage of American adolescents who are obese has tripled in just 35 years. Now, one in four children battle significant weight problems that could lead to more serious health problems down the road. In this Healthcast, we discover how a nine-year-old girl inspired her entire family to shape up.
Weight has always been an issue for nine-year-old Rachel Walls. "It bothered me a lot," says Rachel, "everyone would always make fun of me."
Unlike many children whose weight gain can be blamed on inactivity, Rachel was active, but kept getting bigger. "I had done basketball, I had done all kinds of things like swimming," she says, "but I just couldn't lose it."
When Rachel was put on blood pressure medication in January, her parents knew bigger steps needed to be taken. Her mother, Jennifer says, "That really gave us, as a family, a strong warning sign that we needed to do something stronger than what we were doing."
That answer came through Kid Power - an 8-week summer weight loss program for children. Director Dr. Yoko Broussard says, "They learn about healthy eating, healthy exercise habits, how to read nutrition labels, how to get more involved in an active lifestyle at the same time, having fun doing it."
For the first time in her life, Rachel began seeing the pounds melt away. "At first I lost 18.2, but now I've lost 22 pounds," she says, "and I feel like a better person and I'm still going."
That drive to keep going is fueled by Rachel's family - a family of five that has lost 78 pounds in the past two months! Rachel's father, Rob says, "Never a doubt when the family does something together that everybody benefits and others benefit too, because they see what the family does and it kind of spurs them to get on the same track that we're doing."
Simple changes at home keep the Walls family on track. "We try to incorporate exercise - jumping jacks in commercials, doing heel lifts while you're brushing your teeth, doing some leg lifts," says Jennifer.
Daily exercise and good nutritional choices have helped more than the Walls family. Friend, Tyler Craft is doing the same thing thanks to the Walls and Kid Power. He took the money he won as top boys finisher in the program to stay active. "I went to Academy and bought two basketballs, a football, a tennis racket, a soccer ball and some shoes," says Tyler.
Like Tyler, Rachel can kiss her old clothes goodbye and she offers this advice to other kids in their own weight battle. "You know, I've been there and it's a hard place to be, but you just have to work really hard at it and don't give up," says Rachel.
Kid Power is a product of CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital, Women and Children's Hospital, the Children's Miracle Network and the Calcasieu Parish Medical Society. It will gear up again for enrollment next spring.