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Medical Centers help teens with weight lost

  • Published
  • By Maria Gallegos
  • Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs
A joint medical team from Brooke Army and Wilford Hall Medical Centers is conducting a 12 month weight management study for military dependent teens ages 12 to17.

The study incorporates specialists such as Adolescent Medicine Physicians, Adolescent Psychologists and Dieticians to provide care to those who live in the San Antonio area.

Kaitlin Sheridan, a junior at Cole High School visited with the ROTC instructor to inquire about the program, but she was informed that her height and weight rendered her ineligible to join the ROTC program. Ironically, she saw the flyer advertising a weight loss research program conducted at Brooke Army Medical Center requesting volunteers to participate in the research.

Mrs. Brenda Washington, mother of Lyynel, also a junior at Cole High School, read a clip in the Fort Sam Houston News Leader about the research program. She called the contact number to inquire about the program and immediately made an appointment for her son, who has battled with his weight since he was eight years old.

Two eager teenagers with two different ambitions determined to lose the weight, joined the research program and lost a total of 39 pounds within two months.

"I'm very excited, with me losing the weight- my self esteem improved and I am looking forward to putting on my bathing suit this summer," exclaimed Kaitlin, an athlete, who lost 14 pounds. "When my friends and I get together on Fridays for a movie night, instead of ordering pizzas we munch on vegetables and spend more time talking than eating."

"I have tried everything to lose the weight since I was eight years old," said Lyynel, an aspiring singer. "Dieting and exercising just didn't work. This program has educated me on eating the right amount of food and helps me think of healthy choices of what I eat."

"I have a lot more energy to move with my band than I have ever had before. All my friends and family are getting involved with healthy eating and exercise, which motivates me to keep on losing the weight. My lifestyle has changed."

"Kaitlin and Lyynel are two of the 37 motivated participants seeing a huge difference within the first two months on the program," said Principal Investigator, Maj. Jorge Cabrera, Clinical Investigation Fellow with Brooke Army Medical Center. "The goal is not just for teenagers to lose weight, but to have them maintain the weight loss through increased education on healthy alternative food choices and also to gain insight on behaviors which cause them to overeat. It involves the entire family to change for a healthier lifestyle."

"I too have lost 20 pounds since my son joined the research," said Mrs. Washington. "To set a good example, I have changed my eating habits to tailor to his daily routine and go with him to the gym to exercise; our whole family is involved. If I can do it, anyone can lose do it."

Cabrera stated this study will not only provide guidelines and standard operation procedure for a medical team to assist adolescents concerning obesity, but it will also help prevent and reduce costs for the military by preventing future health problems associated with obese teenagers. 

Based on the U.S. General Accounting Office, an average cost in 1998 to recruit and train each enlistee (no date on current cost available) of $35,000, a loss of over $150 million dollars by (DoD) per year is directly attributed to obesity. Currently, no data was found for either the direct and indirect costs of obesity on other military branches, but it can safely be inferred that a sizeable amount is spent on additional training and medical management for each branch.

Cabrera notes early detection and prevention of obesity is the key focus of the research to reduce the pool of eligible recruits, to decrease the alarming rate of overweight and obese active duty Soldiers and reduce the medical cost of health problems associated with obesity.

The Nutrition Examination Survey indicates active duty military comprises a younger workforce than the civilian sector, where approximately 90% of recruits are between ages 17-24. The age range of recruits includes adolescents that have tripled its prevalence of overweight and obesity. It is well established that an obese state during childhood and as a teenager is the leading risk factor for becoming and remaining overweight as an adult.

"This study is designed to incorporate the latest evidence-based research on behavioral and pharmacotherapy to address not only weight loss, but successful weight loss maintenance. There are no studies to date that provide such a comprehensive approach to weight loss maintenance in teenagers as this one, "said Cabrera. "It is designed to create an intervention for those teenagers who failed to diet and exercise, and their weight puts them at risk for health problems in the future."

"The key to my weight loss is the education I received from the nutritionist. I make better choices when I want to eat and eat small portions of food through out the day," added Kaitlin and Lyynel.

The research is conducted to look deeper into the minds of the individual and educate them about nutrition, not just looking at the outer appearance to previous weight loss programs, such as "Fit to Fight", where underlying medical and behavioral issue have not been addressed at an earlier stage.

"I heard boys and girls were getting teased by other students because they were considering joining the research," said Kaitlin. "I want to tell anyone who is considering: it does not matter what other people think, I'm losing the weight and I look good," she said enthusiastically.

For more information about the research program or to join, please contact Maj. Jorge Cabrera at 210.916.3440.