Valley center offers treatment, support for obese kids

Posted: Updated:
9 p.m. Extra: Child Obesity

Our children's expanding waistlines can come with a hefty price, ranging from diabetes to heart disease.

Well, another health risk is on the rise and a Valley center is hoping to prevent it from striking more kids.

Child Obesity Center 602-843-8333

Mayo Clinic Hospital

Strong Bodies

Breanna Leavitt is only 11, but her mother, Catherine, is already afraid that her daughter could be facing some very serious adult medical problems.

New information suggests 2 percent to 5 percent of American children over the age of 5, nearly all of them obese or overweight, have what's called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

"I think anyone with fatty liver disease, if they have it long enough, it can cause damage to the liver, cause cirrhosis and potentially require a liver transplant," said Dr. David Douglas with the Mayo Clinic. "And I think with kids having it at a younger age, they're going to be exposed to those risks for a much longer time.

"I think it's important to educate the public on prevention and preventing people from getting liver disease before it becomes a problem," Douglas said.

He believes there's a couple things people can do no matter what age they are to stay on a healthy track.

"I think if you're diagnosed with fatty liver disease, dietary modifications, increasing exercise, decreasing your calorie intake can have a significant impact on the disease," Douglas said.

To make sure Breanna has a clean bill of health, her mother enrolled her in the Child Obesity Center.

Obesity is a disease and you have to deal with it and come up with the solutions and the only way to do that is get help from someone else," Catherine said.

"We are a long-term solution because we don't just fix obesity and say, 'OK, take off the weight and eat better and it will all go away," said Michaesha Dennis, founder of the Child Obesity Center. "We recognize without an emotional eating component, their child will actually gain the weight back."

The center offers all kinds of treatment programs plus support for obese children and their families.

"It doesn't just tell us to do one thing," Breanna said. "It tells us to exercise, eat right, help your attitude and a lot of other things."

Breanna has already lost 12 pounds since joining the center two months ago. She not only changed her eating habits, but works out at least three times a week.

"So I know what she does like so if she can get through the things she needs to do that she doesn't really love, then I let her do the exercises she really likes to do," said Maria Escobar, a personal trainer at Strong Bodies.

Catherine realizes her daughter won't lose the weight overnight, but knows she's already taken the first step to a lifetime of health.

"Once you get over the hump and you expect that this is the way your life is going to be, it's great," she said.

"You've got to believe in yourself that you can do it and you have to do it with effort and say in your head you can do it, you can do it, you can do it," Breanna said.