Saving Our Children: The Obesity Epidemic

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) - The reports inundate the airwaves. Obesity is called an epidemic and experts throw out stats that say 23 million children and teens are obese or overweight.

They say the current generation of children is the least active ever.

When people talk about obesity in the U.S., there is a lot of shame. News stories show bellies, bulges, and backsides, but rarely is a face put with the weight.

Why the shame? It's no secret that two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. And they're teaching their kids to live the same way.

ABC News 4's 30-minute special "Saving Our Children: The Obesity Epidemic" puts a face on childhood obesity and introduces several children struggling with weight and explore what adults can do to help.

The special report starts with Miracle, a girl who truly lives up to her name. At birth, she had two heart attacks, died, and came back to life. From those delicate beginnings she turned into the caregiver for her family when her mother fell ill.

The pressure on her to be a mother-figure at an early age had her turning to food to cope. Before long, she was overweight and unhappy.

Then there's Ashlyn, the girl with a loving family who battled bullying at school because of her weight. Students even told her she was so fat she should kill herself.

There's Jae, the bookworm who had to be coaxed out of his shell and into a healthier lifestyle. He had withdrawn into himself after he lost his mother at the age of 10 and his grandmother, the woman who raised him, had a stroke a few years later.

He quit caring about his life, but a friend stepped up and led him to a healthier way to live. But Jae started college and regained all the weight he'd worked off.

Then there's Reshawn, the shy middle schooler who locked himself away from the outside world and kept himself sedentary and in front of the television until he was overweight and being mocked at school.

And the final child the special introduces is Karmyn, the 5-year-old who is the size and weight of a 14-year-old. She was born six weeks too early, but her tiny stature quickly changed.

Her mother says she catches her daughter sneaking food now and doctors are worried that her body may start puberty early because it doesn't know how to understand the weight. Her mother is also worried about diabetes because she has recently been diagnosed with stage four renal failure and has been diabetic since she was 10 years old.

They are just a few of the 23 million faces that make up the childhood obesity epidemic in the U.S. But there's also another side to the story, the side of the people who have decided to do something to turn back this tide of unhealthy adults raising unhealthy kids who turn into even more unhealthy and overweight adults.

There are also the people who help, like the school nurse who takes on overweight students and helps them find self-esteem and programs that get them into healthy lifestyles.

And there's the man who is the face of turning around an unhealthy lifestyle - Bryan Ganey. Bryan has lost over 400 pounds and he did it the hard way - through diet and exercise. He turned away from fad diets and surgery and quick fixes and found success through a proper diet and a lot of exercise.

And finally, there's the man who has made it his life's work to help overweight children find a path to healthy lifestyle - Louis Yuhasz. The founder of Louie's Kids says the disrespect shownto his father as he died convinced him that he wanted to help people steer away from that kind of shunning.

Ultimately, saving children from the obesity epidemic isn't easy. It takes dedication, persistence, and hard work.

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