Riverside Medical & Surgical Weight Loss Center in Hampton has launched a physician-directed weight loss program for ages 10 to 18. It's the only one of its kind on the Peninsula.

"The sooner you get to them and implement the change, the sooner you form the habit," said Felice Haake, D.O. "They're sponges. You can get to them early and prevent a lot of unnecessary diseases that are obesity-related."

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the CDC. It's not something kids automatically grow out of. Children who are obese are likely to be obese as adults, according to the CDC. Childhood obesity potentially sets kids up for a lifetime of health problems, putting them at risk of diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and several types of cancer.

Obesity can result in a lower quality of life for children. "They're sedentary, usually less active, eating incorrectly, have a lot more fatigue, aches and pains, and it leads to being more sedentary. It may lead to depression, getting picked on, and then eating more," Haake said. "It is a vicious cycle that can be broken if you're given the right tools."

Riverside Medical & Surgical Weight Loss Center already has a successful physician-directed weight-loss program for adults, and now those resources will be available to younger patients. The program is designed for children and teens who are overweight, which is defined as having a body mass index of 25 or greater. Participants may be referred to the program by pediatricians or their parents.

Participants will meet with Haake, an exercise specialist, a dietitian and a lifestyle educator. Through the program, children will learn about healthy foods and fitness, laying the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. They'll learn about proper portion sizes and starting off the day with a healthy breakfast, as well as how to handle social situations. "What to do in lunch when everyone's eating a Twinkie and you're eating an apple," Haake said.

The program is fun, engaging and geared toward kids.

Insurance can be billed for doctor visits, and some insurance plans may cover visits with the program's dietitian, exercise specialist and lifestyle educator. Follow-up visits will be every two weeks and, once progress is made, once a month. Parents are included in all visits. "We really need them 100 percent involved with this," Haake said.

Riverside Medical & Surgical Weight Loss Center is located at 850 Enterprise Parkway, Suite 1300, Hampton. The number is (757)637-7637.

Published: October 4, 2013