There are still limited interventions for children and teens with obesity.
Obesity is commonly stigmatized in society, which can often leave people traumatized and insecure about their bodies. The same is true for two moms hailing from Albuquerque and Bethesda, respectively – who haven’t met but share a mutual childhood trauma. Both became adults in the ‘80s and were body shamed and stigmatized as children and teens in the ‘90s. Both women tried every weight loss pill, obesity treatment, and diet plan at the time and were always advised by doctors to limit calories and exercise more.
Since then, scientific research surrounding obesity has evolved and doctors now consider it an illness caused by genetics, different psychosocial and environmental factors, and the brain and other organs. Studies have also verified what both women feared all along: Diets normally don’t lead to long-term weight loss since exercise and food are only a small piece of the complete equation.
Both women felt scammed and disregarded by health professionals who saw obesity as a lack of effort and willpower. Now, both mothers have a 12-year-old child struggling with social issues due to weight, and both strongly desire to help their kids lead healthier lifestyles. Jen McLellan, one of the moms, is a childbirth educator who specializes in helping plus-size moms. She stated that she’s only known dieting all her life, which caused a great deal of harm to her body.
The other mom, Grace, is a software engineer who feels that obesity was her failure that detached her from the rest of society. Nowadays, there are more treatment options available for children with obesity that were not available in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Drugs such as semaglutide are approved for weight loss, and they work by suppressing hunger and boosting metabolism. Similar results are achieved by adolescent bariatric surgery.
Both options added to the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested treatment guidelines for kids aged 12 and above. These guidelines are designed to help pediatricians in their treatment recommendations, which can consequently impact the probability that a patient may get diagnosed, treated, or paid for care by their insurance.
The new guidelines have created a surge of awareness regarding the efficacy of weight-loss drugs, but they have also sparked controversy amongst parents who are now unsure of how and when to treat a child’s obesity.
Grace’s eldest child has been an active athlete, but around the age of 8 – with no changes to her eating habits – she began inexplicably and rapidly gaining weight, similar to how Grace had back in the day. The increased size and decreased immobility caused her a lot of stress and affected her moods.
Observing this, Grace immediately got her younger child on obesity drugs. She also took the help of a medical researcher who diagnosed the daughter with PCSK1 deficiency, a rare genetic disorder. Grace intervened and took steps before her daughter developed issues related to obesity. She had to face a lot of struggles dealing with paperwork to get the insurance company to pay for the expensive treatment.
Grace hopes the new guidelines will make it easier for other children with obesity to get proper treatment and insurance coverage.