Obesity Reaches Preschool

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According to Kayla's social worker, Sandra Vieyra, tantrums are common for overweight toddlers. "I believe that Kayla has been rewarded with food, and I believe that therefore, emotionally, she likes her food and she wants more of it."

During dinner, Kayla's mother hides the remaining soup, but when Kayla screams for more, Matos relents. "I think it's a natural instinct for parents to react to a child's tantrum. It's easier to give in to a tantrum than it is to really stay firm. It's very challenging as a parent, the natural instinct is to go and fix it, save her."

But even after Kayla eats more soup, her tantrum continues for another 10 minutes. "She wants me to give in," Matos explains. Eventually, Kayla is sent to the downstairs neighbors.

'I Don't Want to Die Mommy'

Kayla's eating habits are taking a toll on the family. Her mom is frustrated because some of Kayla's other caregivers do not follow the diet laid out for her by her nutritionist.

Matos must leave for work at 2:30 every morning to earn overtime to pay Kayla's medical bills, leaving Grandma and Dad in charge. "My husband, my mother," Matos said, "They just wanted to give, give, give. And I finally put my foot down. I said we want to see her live. You've got to help me."

Two years after starting the hospital nutrition program, Kayla is still gaining weight.

"We're not sure if her parents might not be aware of everything she's eating, or they may feel as though she is more active … than she actually needs to be. We're a little baffled by it ourselves."

Kayla is still gaining weight, but her doctors are encouraged that the weight gain has slowed

Even though Kayla struggles to lose weight, her mother is not sure how much of the ordeal she understands. She is, after all, only 4 years old. One thing, however, is clear to Kayla: how big a problem being overweight can be.

When Matos tells Kayla to diet, Kayla responds, "I don't want to die Mommy, I don't want to die."

The Children's Memorial Hospital

Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children

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