ATLANTA — Cream soda and salt and vinegar chips were once a favorite part of Zarea Adams’ diet — and part of the reason she was obese by age 12, at 170 pounds.
“When you’re at that age and you are surrounded by sugars and sweets, I didn’t think anything of it,” said Zarea, now 15, who lives in Lithonia with her mother. “Little did I know that was killing me the most.”
Three years ago, a routine back-to-school doctor’s appointment turned tragic: Zarea was like thousands of other overweight children in Georgia at risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and other ailments. However, with the help of a special camp launched by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for overweight children, Strong4Life, Zarea was able to turn her health around and is now healthier than ever at 140 pounds.
Thousands of children have made a similar turnaround in recent years in Georgia, a state that for years struggled to curb obesity rates. In 2007, about 1 million children were overweight or obese in Georgia; that number improved to 945,000 by 2011, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood obesity rates have been on the decline nationally, too, as health officials try to curb what has become a public health crisis.