High schools battle obesity

Lawmakers examine health programs based at school
"I played it off, but it did kind of worry me," Miller recalled Tuesday to ABCNews.com. "I thought I was somewhere near 350 or under."

"I decided right then and there that I had to do something to change that," Miller said.

Luckily, the 17-year-old junior didn't have to go far to take action. Rather than head off to a doctor's office or a weight-loss center to pursue his path to health, Miller signed up for a new program he'd heard about in class being offered at his very own high school.

With a small group of his peers, Miller started exercising twice a week. He started taking yoga classes and participating in group health sessions that were built into his school day. He began drinking water instead of soda and bringing his lunch. Soon, Miller said, he was "on a roll."

A little more than a year later, Miller had dropped 95 to 100 pounds.

"I didn't think much about it until I was weighed," Miller recalled. "I didn't even really pay much attention to it. I just remember being really energetic."

Now a 21-year-old college student who has lost a total of 137 pounds, Miller is one of several people testifying today at a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill. The hearing is the second in recent weeks held by a subcommittee of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions panel examining ways to curb childhood obesity. A House panel similarly holds a hearing Thursday morning about physical and health education for children.

A study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that kids' physical activity levels sink as they mature into teenagers.

At last week's hearing on the topic, Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, testified that childhood obesity can be attributed to tendencies that reinforce a less-active lifestyle both in school and out and to give children large quantities of food that is not nutritious. He said that as the price of food continues to rise, the obesity problem is compounded, especially for families who cannot afford healthier alternatives.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal the situation doesn't improve much as those children and teenagers become adults. Also last week, the CDC released numbers revealing that American adults are getting heavier and examining which states are most at risk.

The CDC said some 26 percent of the U.S. population was obese in 2007, up nearly 2 percent from 2005.

Despite a national goal to reduce obesity rates to 15 percent or lower by 2010, Deb Galuska, associate director for science in the CDC's division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity, recently told ABCNews.com that the numbers indicate, "it will be difficult for us as a country to achieve the 15 percent."

Fueled by supportive teachers and friends who noticed his weight loss, Miller said a school-based program was key to his success.

"It's a great place for the inspiration to happen right there inside the school because that's the place that we go to five days a week," he said.

To lose weight, the CDC recommends getting at least 30 minutes of exercise each day and replacing high fat foods, desserts and sugary drinks with items like fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

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