Archived Story

Child loses 47 pounds through weight-loss program

Published 11:58am Thursday, December 6, 2012

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles addressing the struggles with obesity within Tallapoosa County.

Kaitlyn Henderson was 9 years old, 5 feet tall and 187 pounds when she went in for a doctor’s visit with Dr. Eric Tyler. She was also borderline diabetic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese. The percentage of obese children has tripled in the past three decades.

With Kaitlyn numbering among the 12.5 million, Tyler put Kaitlyn on medication for diabetes and recommended the Total Lifestyle Change weight loss program for children through Total Fitness at Russell Medical Center.

“She really wasn’t sure she wanted to do something like that,” said Audra Henderson, Kaitlyn’s mother.

TLC is for ages 8–13. It incorporates cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training, along with dietary guidelines for “children that have a true medical need for a structured program to enhance weight control.”

“I didn’t think it was going to be fun,” Kaitlyn said.

And in the beginning, it wasn’t.

“My first week, we were going outside and we were jogging around the hospital,” Kaitlyn said. “It was really hard to keep up.”

Kaitlyn began working with TLC in February of 2011, attending hour-long workout sessions three days a week.

To date she has lost 47 pounds.

“Kaitlyn’s been the one that’s been the most dedicated out of all the kids,” said fitness specialist Matt Parker. “Sometimes we have push her a little bit harder than we do the rest of them because it’s become a little bit easier for her.”

Kaitlyn said it’s hard to pinpoint when she could tell that the program was working for her, but her clothes – which didn’t fit when she began the program – were a big indicator.

“I was getting smaller,” Kaitlyn said. “I’ve gone from a women’s extra large to a large in junior’s and a medium in women’s. It makes me feel better. I used to feel awkward because I was wearing humongous clothing sizes.”

He favorite shirt now is a T-shirt with elbow-length sleeves that has a peace sign on it. And she can now find new outfits at some favorite stores, like American Eagle and Aeropostale.

“I couldn’t even shop at those stores because they didn’t carry my sizes,” Kaitlyn said. “Now I can.”

It also affected her softball uniform.

“I bought a uniform, and then I bought another one because it (was too big),” Kaitlyn said. “And then the second one I bought (was too big). The only thing that fit was my cleats.”

And Kaitlyn, who was able to stop taking diabetes medicine after six months, isn’t the only Henderson who has seen weight loss results.

“It’s been a change for the whole family,” Audra said. “The whole family is eating healthier.”

Audra said she has lost about 50 pounds. Her husband has lost about 75.

“It started as support for Kaitlyn, but it’s just been good for the whole family,” Audra said.

Exercising has been an integral part of the weight loss for them all, but eating right – directed by program dietitian Linda Moore – has also been essential.

“I eat smaller portions – I won’t eat as much of a bad thing, like fried food, as I used to,” Kaitlyn said.

That means limiting foods that used to be diet staples – like fried chicken.

“I like grilled chicken now,” Kaitylin said. “I eat grilled or baked chicken, or I even like fish now.”

Audra said eating better – and cooking better – was a real learning experience.

“Fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes was a real big thing in our house,” Audra said. “We found out that macaroni and cheese is not in any way healthy.”

Audra said explanations by the dietitian were eye opening.

“I had no idea that the carbohydrates that you eat turn into sugars that are bad for your body,” Audra said. “Learning a new way to eat was the biggest thing for us.”

And that’s one reason Parker said it is so important for health and fitness to be a family effort.

“The kids aren’t the ones preparing meals,” Parker said. “If the parents aren’t going to stick with it, then the kids aren’t going to see the benefits from it.”

Kaitlyn said she wants to reach 120 pounds. Her lowest weight since beginning the program was 127, and Parker said they are working to get back down to that weight and maintain it.

“You need to start healthy habits off with your kids at an early age because if you start off early (and it’s) something that they have grown up knowing their whole life, it makes it easier when they’re older,” Parker said. “You have all this stuff that is keeping kids sedentary instead of getting them out and getting them active … With her starting this habit early on in life, it’s going to be something she enjoys.”

Enjoying a healthy lifestyle is something that Kaitlyn is already embracing. In addition to TLC, she keeps busy with pitching practice and softball, as well as playing outside. She didn’t have to hesitate in explaining why she loves being in better shape.

“I used to feel tired all the time, but (since) I came here and lost all the weight, I don’t feel tired,” Kaitlyn said. “I have more energy. I get to play around with my friends and cousins.”

Staying motivated won’t be hard for Kaitlyn, either.

“Zumba is one of my favorite things to do, and I really like swimming,” Kaitlyn said. “I never really notice it’s a workout.”

And Audra said the family is staying right there with her.

“I just feel like kids need the support at home,” Audra said. “They come here, they learn the things that they need to do, but if they don’t have the support at home, they really can’t make a total life change.”