June 11, 2009— -- If you'd met 16-year-old Georgia Davis a year ago, you might not recognize her today. Davis has lost 202 pounds -- nearly half her former weight.
"I was unhappy, I was eating the wrong stuff, I was doing the wrong things and now it's like the complete opposite," she said.
Davis, whose father died when she was 5, says she started caring for her sick mother at the age of 10. Ignoring her own health, she eventually ballooned to 460 pounds. The British press dubbed the 5 foot 6 inch girl "Britain's Fattest Teen," but it wasn't just the cruel title that motivated her to take action and lose weight.
"What motivated me was my friends and my family, and me thinking that if I keep going the way that I am I am going to die soon," she said.
Social workers at home in Aberdare, South Wales, helped Georgia get all the way to Wellspring Academy of the Carolinas in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains.
The academy, founded in 2007, is a therapeutic weight loss school that uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help kids get healthy. Georgia was eager for the help and the pounds started coming off -- more than 200 in just nine months. She says goal weight is approximately 150 pounds.
"She is someone that is very inspiring to everybody here," said Susan Borgman, the director of Wellspring, "because of all the students that we have, she definitely took the approach of 'I'm gonna get the most out of this.'"
Wellspring also runs an academy in California. The North Carolina academy sits on 220 acres and is home to 50 students between the ages of 11 and 18.
There's a proverb that says "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," and that's certainly true of Georgia's journey at Wellspring, which includes 10,000 steps on hilly terrain each and every day.
Those steps are measured on the pedometer that everyone at the academy wears, just one of the daily requirements of life at Wellspring.
From Fattest Teen to Happiest Teen
For Wellspring's students, each day begins with aerobic exercise, like walking, followed by breakfast. Food is abundant and varied -- there are three meals a day plus healthy snacks in between -- but always low fat. Backpacks are left at the dining room door to avoid food smuggling.
The kids live in typical dorm rooms and attend school every day, where they take a full and rigorous schedule of core courses each semester as well as classes in cooking, nutrition and fitness. They also attend group therapy sessions and participate in organized team sports. Once a week, students are able to make a phone call home.
The academy says that students enrolled for at least two semesters lost an average of 81 pounds, but the main focus at Wellspring is on a healthy lifestyle and for many of the students it's not just about weight.
"We also focus on goal setting and changing behaviors across the board so that students learn how to improve their self-esteem, self-confidence and set goals for life," said Borgman.
And with that in mind, Britain's former Fattest Teen is on her way to taking on a new title: Britain's Happiest Teen.
"There is so much more energy in me than I had ... before coming here," she said.
After appearing on "Good Morning America" Davis was set to return home to see her family.
"When I go home now I'm still going to look after my mum," Davis said, "but I know how to look after her without destroying myself."