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Childhood Obesity in America

Photographies: Andy Richter / Aurora

Elizabeth and Freddy were tired of being fat. Both 16-year-olds had been trying to lose weight since elementary school, but diets never made a difference. At 5-ft. 5-in., 291-lb. and 6-ft. 1-in. 345-lb respectively, the teenagers were undeniably obese and at risk for hypertension, heart disease, sleep apnea, and Type 2 diabetes. Freddy had gained 40 lb. a year for the last three years.

In the past 30 years, obesity rates among U.S. children have more than tripled. Our national dialogue focuses on obesity prevention, but what do we do for kids who have already gained the weight? Freddy and Elizabeth chose to attend Wellspring Academy, a residential weight-loss facility in Reedley, California, to make a change. For these two teenagers and their families, Wellspring offered a commodity often in short supply: hope.
At Wellspring for nearly six months, they lost 72 and 82 lb., respectively, but that truly is just the beginning.
Today, their transformation continues at home and school, among family and friends. Nobody is destined to be fat forever, says Elizabeth. "Even if you do mess up, even if you do fall, what matters is you get back up again. You can always start anew at the next meal."

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