The weight of Mississippi, falling heavy on the state's children - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

The weight of Mississippi, falling heavy on the state's children

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Thirteen year-old Mollye Livingston has made big strides in the past year. The proof is in some family pictures. A photo from 2009 and a beach picture from last June show a much larger Mollye. Mollye was 211 pounds at just 5'5"tall. Now, nearly 40 pounds lighter, Mollye feels a weight lifted.

"It's so much easier to run around and do things and be active and stuff and I don't feel as tired anymore or sad anymore about it," Mollye told WLBT News.

Mollye's pounds started to shed last summer. She was one of thirty children enrolled in "The Youngest Loser." It's a nutrition and fitness program that started in Ridgeland.

Patrick House, the winner of season ten's "Biggest Loser" helped out. After weeks of hard work, Mollye shed the most weight out of all the "youngest losers," loosing twenty pounds. Since then she's lost an additional 16 pounds by walking, watching what she eats and drinking lots of water.

"I don't drink cokes anymore I don't even like cokes as much anymore and I don't eat as much," said Mollye.

By losing weight, Mollye is turning her health around, but thousands of young Mississippians continue to struggle with their weight.

"It's a huge problem," said Dr. Naznin Dixit. Dr Dixit is a Pediatric Endocrinologist at Batson Children's Hospital in Jackson. She said 40% of all kids in Mississippi are overweight. The doctor said it's a problem that starts at home.

"In order to change this we have to target the entire family," Dr. Dixit told WLBT News.

Dr. Dixit calls our current era "The Fast Age." She said fast food, a fast pace life, fast entertainment and fast technology all contribute to Mississippi's childhood obesity epidemic. It's a problem many parents deny.

"There was a recent study that showed that only 1% of parents of obese kids actually think the child is obese," said Dr. Dixit.

To figure out if your child is overweight or obese, Dr. Dixit said discuss your child's body mass index or B.M.I. with a pediatrician. A B.M.I. of thirty or more is generally considered obese. A B.M.I. equal to or more than 25 is considered overweight. 

Dr. Dixit said she's seen children as young as six years-old come in with health concerns like hypertension, type II diabetes and liver failure; all as a result of being overweight. Dr. Dixit calls it the "Six Going on Sixty Phenomenon."

Despite the poor health of many Mississippi children, advocates are making a difference. Patrick House's "Lean on Me" fitness, health and anti-bullying initiative has helped more than 15,000 children across the state learn how to improve their health.

"If we can make a difference in their lives now and let them catch the problems when they're young then maybe they won't have to do like I did and let obesity chase them into adulthood," said House.

Jackson Public Schools are making a dent in childhood obesity too. At Oak Forest Elementary School, fresh fruit, salads and whole wheat sandwiches are on the menu. Desert is served just once a month and foods are baked, not fried.

"I choose to bake everything, we have baked fries, baked sweet potato fries, so everything is baked," said Debra Jones, the Food Service Manager at Oak Forest Elementary School.

Eating healthier and hard work has been life-changing for Mollye. The proof is in a pair of pants, which are now too big.

"The Youngest Loser," program helped Mollye lose weight and learn about better nutrition. This year's "The Youngest Loser" program starts on June 2 and runs through August 11. The program is designed for children 10 to 13 years-old.

Parents have to put down a $250 refundable deposit to enroll their children.

For more details call the "Beyond Therapy Pediatric Group" in Ridgeland at 601-853-9747. Also check out their website at http://www.bptherapygroup.com/

Copyright 2012 WLBT. All rights reserved.

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