Mercy program aims to help teens achieve better healthWritten by Joel Sensenig | Managing Editor | email@example.com
Being a kid can be hard.
Being a kid struggling with weight issues can be even harder.
Over the past year and a half, staff at the Mercy Weight Management Center, 3930 Sunforest Court, have been trying to ease the pain for overweight adolescents and their families.
The center’s adolescent weight program is a six-month, research-based program that focuses on helping teens and their families make better choices on nutrition, behavior and exercise. Each week, families meet with Mercy staff for two hours, in addition to an hour of exercise.
“This program really gives the teenagers confidence to go out in the community or in their school and participate,” said Jenny Nelson, program coordinator and health educator.
Jammal Lee is on the front lines of teen obesity. As an exercise specialist at the center, Lee knows that many teens are intimidated by exercise.
“When they come in, they understand that exercise is strenuous, that exercise is no fun, that exercise takes work and I try to eliminate that thought process,” Lee said.
Not that he takes it easy on them. The program starts with five-minute, high-intensity workouts.
“I’m not a fan of working out a really, really long period of time,” Lee said. “These kids automatically have this fear, automatically are very uncomfortable when it comes to working out, so if I can keep that down to a minimum with the high-intensity level, they’ll understand that ‘Wow, first of all, that was really, really hard, but second of all, I conquered it,’” Lee gradually works the teens’ workouts up to 25 minutes in five-minute increments. Eventually, they find something in the program they enjoy.
“They’ll say, ‘Hey Mr. J, can we do that again?’” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. Finding what you love, and going after it hard.”
A team of health experts helps identify the issues each child and family may be facing.
“I find out that some of these kids are spending 12-15 hours of screen time a day, which is virtually their whole waking day on some sort of electronic device,” said Sheri Desmond, a certified nurse practitioner who conducts a medical review of each teen.
Kim Snyder decided to enroll her daughter Allie, 14, in the program after attempts at home failed.
“It just seemed like we weren’t seeing the results we wanted,” Snyder said. Allie will soon enter Phase 2 of the program, a more strenuous continuation of Phase 1. Allie has lost 22 pounds in six months.
Allie encourages other teens to look inward when making a commitment to becoming healthier.
“It’s really never OK to change who you are for someone else, but it’s OK to change yourself because you want to,” she said.
Lexi, 16, another teen in the program, has been involved since it began in 2013.
“The first day I came I thought, ‘This isn’t going to help me at all.’ But after the course of maybe a month I did see some type of results. … I got more into vegetables and fruits. I had my water bottle by my side. I was always on the treadmill. My mom and I cut out going to restaurants.”
Snyder said the program was exactly what her family was looking for.
“I didn’t want her to go on a diet. I didn’t want her to go into Weight Watchers. … I wanted her to understand this is a way of life.”
The program costs $100 per month, with scholarship funds available. Mercy Weight Management Center is hosting free informational sessions to learn more about the program at 6:45 p.m. Jan. 14 and Feb. 11. For more information, contact the center at (419) 324-9112.