The growing problem

Amber Theirry
Amber Theirry

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - So how do you know if the child you're raising will grow up and become overweight?

There is no magic formula, but one look at the food you child eats and you can get a pretty good indication there could be a problem.

Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in the United States, and the south is seeing the brunt of the problem.

Amber Theirry is 11-years-old and has the kind of confidence that many children her age lack.

But behind Amber's confidence lies a problem that threatens her life.

She's among more than a third of the country's children who struggle with their weight. "Yes ma'am," Amber says when asked if she thinks she needs to lose weight.

Her mother, Crystal Thierry, says, "It bothers me to hear other people saying things about her."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the fattest states in the nation are located in the southern portion of the country.

And Alabama is among the heavy hitters.

In many cases the culprit is simply bad habits. Children are less active than they've ever been before and TV and computer games have taken the place of playgrounds and other outside activities."

Later in life that could spell trouble. "I think if you asked me today what's the leading cause of preventable death in Alabama I would say tobacco. But I think the trend says that over the next 10 to 15 years it will go from tobacco to obesity," says State Health Officer Doctor Don Williamson.

Dr. Williamson calls childhood obesity the number one threat to the country's health care system and says children are now facing health issues that once only plagued adults.

More chronic problems at an early age will result in the rising cost of health care, Williamson adds. "We are seeing an explosion of what use to be called adult onset diabetes, now called type two diabetes, all because of lifestyle all because of diet all because of obesity."

Amber's mom wanted to do something to keep her daughters' weight from spiraling out of control so she wrote an essay that got her daughter accepted into a summer camp for girls.

The camp helps children her age who are considered overweight.

"We went on hikes we did yoga and step classes," Amber says.

Along with exercise they learned healthier living tips and attended seminars with some with celebrities.

During the week long camp Amber lost a total of eight pounds and four inches!

"When I came back everyone was like "did you lose weight? Did you have fun?"" Amber remembers.

For some parents it will take some tough love along with a change of attitude towards food to help shed the pounds off our youngest citizens.

Since leaving the camp in June Amber has lost a total of 20 pounds and says she feels great!