Tamira Weaver has lost 70 pounds, but she’s gained a whole lot more in confidence, energy and zest for life. Tamira has been working with the team at our Healthy Lifestyles Center focusing on lifestyle changes that combat obesity. Together, Tamira, her family and the treatment team decided that weight loss surgery was an appropriate part of her comprehensive approach to weight loss and improving her health – and it’s one that is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics for youth with severe obesity, particularly those with other weight-related health conditions
In a policy statement published in October 2019, the AAP describes severe obesity among children and adolescents as an “epidemic within an epidemic,” that dramatically shortens life expectancy for today’s youth compared to their parents. Evidence over the last decade shows that weight loss surgery is safe and effective for adolescents when combined with ongoing dietary and lifestyle changes and performed in a center that has a multidisciplinary team of pediatric specialists. This data prompted the AAP’s recommendation that general pediatricians recognize surgery’s potential role in a comprehensive weight loss plan for severe obesity and discuss the potential for referral to specialized pediatric treatment programs with affected youth and their families.
“In the past, weight loss surgery has been viewed as somewhat of a last resort for the most extreme concerns with obesity,” says Melanie Bean, PhD, LCP, co-director of the Healthy Lifestyles Center. “This endorsement by the American Academy of Pediatrics really helps reinforce our approach to care - that weight loss surgery is considered as a tool and part of a comprehensive weight management program that might be an appropriate option for an adolescent with obesity.”
Adolescent weight loss surgery has been offered through the Healthy Lifestyles Center for seven years. Dr. Bean, co-director Edmond Wickham, MD, and their team work with families individually and in groups toward making positive and sustained behavior changes. This approach includes medical evaluation and treatment for weight-related health conditions, and behavioral weight loss treatment with health psychologists, registered dietitians and exercise specialists. Surgery might become a recommendation, but the cornerstone of all treatments is data-driven, empirically-supported behavioral lifestyle intervention.
“We know weight loss is hard. Surgery is not a fix. Surgery is a tool that will magnify behavior changes. It is fundamental to learn how to make behavioral changes in order to lose weight. It is those skills that make people successful post-surgically,” adds Dr. Bean.
A sophomore in college, Tamira had been through the steps and was having a hard time getting the weight off through diet modification and exercise alone.
“People come in all shapes and sizes. Our approach isn’t defined by a number on the scale, but by mitigating the health risks associated with obesity and helping people feel their best,” says Dr. Wickham. “We’re here to guide kids and families on a path toward better health by supporting their unique nutritional, physical and emotional needs and goals.”
Confident that she made the right decision to have surgery, Tamira looks forward to supporting others along similar health journeys, regardless of the tools they choose.
“My goal with this weight loss surgery was not just for myself, but also to advocate for kids and young adults that are in my situation,” says Tamira. “I want to live a long, happy, successful life.”
Watch Tamira’s story as she shares more about her ‘new birthday,’ newfound confidence to compete in pageants and her healthy future.