Lean Teen program tackles childhood obesity

Program targeting childhood obesity
(Brigida Mack | WBTV)
(Brigida Mack | WBTV)
(Brigida Mack | WBTV)
(Brigida Mack | WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - If you've ever struggled with your weight, you know the effect it can have on your self-esteem and confidence. Now, add to that the struggles that come with being a teenager.

In Mecklenburg County, one in four teens are overweight. But one program in northeast Charlotte, Lean Teen, is working to win the war on childhood obesity.

Jania Purvis, an 11 year-old, says she was once bullied because of her size.

"I got picked on a lot because of the way I looked," she said.

In her first month alone, Jania has d ropped 11 pounds by overhauling her diet and exercising regularly. "I used to drink a lot of Powerade and I love Swedish fish," Purvis recalled.

Eleven-year-old Katherine Nickolich, a self-described former sweets junkie, can relate.

"Every night I'd have ice cream - now; desserts are fruit," she said. Nickolich also shared her go-to tip she's learned in the year she's been involved.

"Wait 15 minutes before you gets seconds," she said. "Because by then, the food will hit your stomach you may or may not be hungry anymore."

The program's approach is three-fold: education: teaching them proper nutrition and portion sizes; physical activity: weekly sessions include a workout where teens move to different stations every 40 seconds; and group sessions: boys and girls are separated and they're able to sound off on their struggles and learn how empowering self-acceptance is and the confidence it ultimately gives you.

Charlotte pediatrician Dr. Janelle White has referred several patients to Lean Teen and says, "you can see that engagement. You can see their motivation. You can see their sense of self-esteem and just the feeling, that I did this."

She believes the program's group sessions are particularly empowering.

"Our patients are among their peers," she points out. "So they don't have mom or dad or Dr. White in their way; it's their place and that's the space for them to be themselves."

Darik Robinson is the veteran in the group. The 17 year former diabetic says an incident at Carowinds was his turning point.

"It was a turning point for me because I was so mad," he recalled. "I really wanted to ride that rollercoaster."

Since then, he's lost 33 pounds through Lean Teen and says, "it has pretty much changed my life forever."

For Tatiana Moore, the change hasn't just been a physical one.

"Lean Teen made me stronger mentally," she revealed. "They have helped me look at things differently than I did before."

That includes the 13 year-old's self-esteem which she says has gotten a real boost since starting the program.

"Now my heads always up, I'm always smiling," she happily reports. "I'm always happy."

All of them agree that Lean Teen is the place for any young person who wants to take control of their health.

"If they want to get fit and eat healthy, they should come here," Purvis said.

For more information on Lean Teen, visit their website.

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