Childhood obesity has skyrocketed over the years, and now doctors are seeing children with adult diseases.
“We have seen a 300 percent increase in childhood obesity over the last 30 years,” said Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta Dr. Stephanie Walsh.
She told Channel 2’s Craig Lucie children are getting diseases pediatricians haven’t seen before, “Adult diseases, meaning type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea. These are diseases we didn't really see in children.”
Lucie spoke to a local teen who struggled with being overweight, but turned her life around. Drew Beaty, 16, credits karate, her parents and her pediatrician for helping her lead a healthier life. When Beaty was 11, she was considered overweight.
"I remember when I used to go shopping with my friends, I'd feel bad because they were all a size 4 or a size 2, and I was a size 12," Beaty said.
Beaty's father, Renard, took her to a pediatrician. The doctor recommended the family keep a food diary to see what they were eating. The results showed something no parent wants to hear.
"When she saw that diary, she said, ‘It's you. You guys are the ones feeding your daughters,’" Renard Beaty said. "We actually felt guilty. We went from great parents to, ‘Oh my gosh, we are killing our kids.’"
Dr. Jeff Hopkins, a pediatrician at Northside Hospital Pediatrics, said what is happening is alarming.
"We've even had some children as young as 3 who have high enough cholesterol that it's something their family needs to a monitor," Hopkins said.
Hopkins’ colleague, Dr. Sally Marcus, said childhood obesity can have psychological impacts too, "Depression and anxiety. Kids who are overweight also are bullied more often in school and on the playground."
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has started training pediatricians throughout metro Atlanta on how to approach parents who don't want to hear their child has a weight problem.
Hopkins and Marcus went through the training.
"So, the approach we take is similar to the approach to helping parents quit smoking," Marcus said. “It's meet them where they are. Find out what it would take to change their level of motivation. So if they say, ‘I'm not really interested in making a change,’ then we may ask, ‘What would make you consider making a change?’"
It was a conversation that was hard for Renard Beaty to swallow, but one that has changed his life and his daughter's life. Together, they have lost more than 80 pounds.
“It's a lifestyle adjustment you have to make. But once you have that, you got it," he said.