Eighteen-year-old Dylan Greer takes classes at home. He left school, in part, due to his size. He was close to 600 pounds.
The cute little boy with the big blue eyes wasn't always overweight. His struggle with gaining weight started in fifth grade with foot surgery, but the real problems began when his parents split while he was in high school.
Left to himself, he says he ate “a lot of fast food. My dad was working a lot. My mom wasn’t around, so we'd eat a lot of fast food. It got to a bad point over the summer. I couldn’t really do things. I couldn’t sleep normally. So much weight was on my chest that I wasn't able to breath right."
That was not the only health issue hidden inside his overweight body.
Doctor Denise Edwards, with the University of South Florida, found more. "When we first started evaluating him, we discovered he was not only overweight, he also had high blood pressure (and) diabetes. He was already showing signs of damage to his liver and his kidneys and he didn't know any of this. It was news to him."
Bill Greer, Dylan’s father, began to fear for his son. “It's scary. It's scary when they get this big. You just don't know what's going to happen."
What happened in Dylan's case is a USF program on the TGH campus called the Healthy Weight Clinic, which Doctor Edwards leads. Dylan learned how to take off the weight slowly - by first addressing why he was over eating.
Doctor Edwards says, “Yes, he needed the education on what healthy eating habits were. How much he should be exercising but also the how. So not just the what but the how to do it on a daily basis, incorporate it into his life and how to have better coping mechanisms for whatever it is -- stress, boredom, anger -- whatever it is you are feeling other than food."
Bill Greer adds, “Writing it all down is a big change because he knows what he's eating. Instead of fast food, were doing fresh vegetables and fruit."
Since starting the program, Dylan has lost almost 100 pounds and dad is truly proud.
Even though Dylan still has weight to lose, he's walking toward a very different future. Doctor Edwards can already see proof of that. “His hemoglobin a1c -- which is the measure of his blood sugar over three months -- has come down dramatically. His blood pressure is now normal. He had signs of liver damage on his blood test. Now, those are back in the normal range and his kidneys are dramatically improved."
Dylan says, “I know there are a lot of kids out there even younger than me who don’t know what to do or don’t feel like they need to diet, but once you do, your life gets easier. It’s easier to talk to people without feeling they're going to say something or be scared of you because you’re so big."
Doctor Edwards says she does not focus on a patients getting down to a certain number for weight loss. With Dylan she wanted ten percent weight loss at a time. Once a client reaches their goal, she'll see what's happening with their body, because everybody is going to be healthy at a different weight.
For more information on the Health Weight Clinic, visit http://health.usf.edu/medicine/pediatrics/ad_med/health_weight.htm.
Top 5 ways to keep weight off according to Doctor Edwards:
1. Do not focus on the number - focus on the behaviors and how you feel - healthy eating, increased energy, better sleep, increased physical fitness/endurance, how you feel in your clothes.
2. Look for new ways to keep it interesting - new recipes, different ways to exercise.
3. Try to enlist the help of friends and family to keep you motivated.
4. Keep a list of why it is important for you to be healthy and look at it often.
5. Do not expect to be perfect. Slips are normal and expected - just get back on track.
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