When 14-year-old Marquis walks into class for the first time at Mallard Creek High School in August there is a very good chance his friends will be stunned! The rising ninth-grader has lost 25 pounds in the last 4 months. Marquis has been attending the Lean Teen Program on Prosperity Church Road.
Lean Teen is the brainchild of Jorge and Kalina Martinez. They had a similar business in Florida for three years and moved to Charlotte, opening here in February. The business is designed as a fitness and wellness center for kids and teens.
Many of the kids who come here are looking for that added push they need to lose weight, pounds that for some, came with painful teasing. I asked Marquis, "When you were teased what did that make you feel like? Mad," he told me. He said that's one of the reasons he enrolled in the Lean Teen program.
The Lean Teen Program focuses on education, exercise and support. In a group setting Kalina Martinez, who is a psychotherapist, leads kids in discussions about food and emotional eating. She also uses the group environment as a means of support, kids helping each other build their self esteem. "I think that is a key component they know they are not there on their own they will push each other," Kalina said.
Those enrolled in the program work out with a licensed trainer on a circuit program. They also learn about what foods are good for them, and what foods are unhealthy. Each client gets a personalized grocery list. They design it after determining what healthy foods the child enjoys so it's not a battle to get the child to eat a more healthy diet.
The program starts at $85 a month. When I interviewed Marquis' parents his dad Mark joked, "If I had a million dollars I'd give a million dollars for it, (this program). It's that great!" When asked about the emotional transformation he's seen in his son, Mark says it is remarkable the young man Marquis is becoming, "It's awesome just to have my son happy again and not to be picked on! This makes him feel happy, so we're happy!"
When I asked Marquis how he feels today, he says he's still got more pounds to lose, but, "I feel good about myself. I feel more confident….I have more energy, I can get up earlier and do more things outside without getting tired."
Jorge and Kalina have designed the Lean Teen program to be lessons their clients take with them beyond their office and gym doors. "These are habits that they're going to keep the rest of their lives. They're going to continue to eat healthy and exercise for life," Jorge said.
If you ask Marquis, he's certainly learned lessons about just how much he can work out - which surprised him. And he's learned a lot about food, "I've learned you're supposed to balance your plate with proteins, vegetables and fruit! When I was big I didn't balance my plate!"
Kalina works at the Lean Teen Program daily, while Jorge still has his accounting job. He loves both, but says seeing the kids transformed into a healthier happier version of themselves, "Well that is my passion in life," he told me.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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