Treating the Adolescents!

We are just weeks away from beginning our journey into treating adolescents with excess weight.  This has been a dream of mine from the very beginning.  As much as I’ve wanted to take my practice in that direction, I have never felt fully qualified to spearhead an adolescent program.  Although I have been practicing medicine for twenty years, I have primarily treated adults.  

The solution to this dilemma was clear years ago – partner with someone who already has the knowledge and experience treating adolescents.  I thought this was going to take me years to accomplish.  Thankfully, Dr. Maribeth Orr stepped into my life at just the right time and she will be joining us in two short weeks!  In addition to being board-certified in Obesity Medicine, Dr. Orr has also been practicing primary care for the past twenty years – and she has loads of experience relating to adolescents and navigating the often tricky parent/child dynamics.  

I’ve been talking about this to everyone I know for the past several months and it’s amazing how many barriers and obstacles I encounter.  Most people think that the treatment of children with excess weight should be easy.  I’ve heard everything from “just take away their phones and make them ride their bikes” to “tell them and their families to eat less and exercise more.”  

Treatment of obesity in adults is difficult.  In many cases, it’s downright exhausting.  We know this.  We sit around after church and at soccer games bemoaning how hard it is to lose weight.  We spend over sixty billion dollars each year trying to lose weight – and yet the rates of overweight and obesity keep ticking up year after year.  

Given the difficulty treating grownups (who have mature logical reasoning and financial independence and so many other advantages), I don’t know why so many people think it’s going to be simple to treat children!  In fact, up to this point, successful treatment of childhood obesity has been a time-consuming, frustrating, difficult, and expensive undertaking. 

Despite the obstacles, it needs to be done. The need for evidence-based treatment is a critical health care issue because children and adolescents with obesity are at risk for developing many of the comorbidities seen in adults with obesity – and many of these children will have to live with these comorbidities their entire lives. Prior research suggests that when children with obesity attain a normal weight prior to adulthood, they have outcomes similar to those adults who never suffered from obesity.  This means we have to do everything we can to help them!

Paramount to treatment is the improvement of quality of life, which is typically poor in children with obesity. In fact, quality of life has been noted to be poorer in children with obesity than in those with cancer. Children with obesity suffer greatly from social stigmatization, are ostracized, and are bullied at a much higher rate than their peer groups with normal weight. Therefore, improving body image and self-esteem are especially important for children with obesity. 

I am so excited to see this part of my vision come to life.  I began struggling with excess weight before I entered middle school, and my weight struggle occupied a huge space in my life for so many years.  I remember sitting at a Jenny Craig meeting at age 14, listening to all of the grownups talk about meal preparation feeling completely out of place.  Back then, very few of my peers struggled with weight and there was no such thing as the internet to connect me to other teens that struggled.  Although I don’t think the internet has done anything to help children and adolescents with their self-esteem, it has provided a way for those of us in the world of Obesity Medicine to share our best practices and journal articles and experiences so that we can create a community for adolescents that are struggling today.  

Fingers crossed that we can make an even bigger difference in the world with this new endeavor! 

As always, if you have any questions or need me, you know where to find me!

Courtney Younglove, M.D.

ATTENTION LAWRENCE PATIENTS: 18th Street is closed at Wakarusa until further notice due to construction. You can access our parking lot via Research Parkway and Research Park Drive. Expect traffic delays and make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to our office.
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