Youth Obesity Concerns Experts

First, there was Generation X. Then came Generation Y. Now, a new American generation has emerged: Generation XXL.

According to the U.S. surgeon general, there's an epidemic of obesity among kids between the ages of six and 19. American children are more overweight than they have ever been.

Nationwide, about 13 percent, or one out of every eight kids, are overweight. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children and adolescents who are defined as overweight has more than doubled since the early 1970s.

Overweight kids are seriously jeopardizing their health, say experts, putting them at risk for heart disease, stroke, arthritis, hypertension, and even certain kinds of cancer. In a recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that increased obesity among American kids is leading to increased type 2 diabetes, which was once almost unheard of in children.

But the negative consequences of obesity go far beyond disease and physical pain.

"Kids that are overweight, fat, heavy, are miserable people, usually," says Keith Zucker, who owns a fitness camp. "They're happy in certain settings, inside they're not happy."

"Being overweight is kind of hard to deal with because you see most of your friends as, you know, slim kids and they're able to play that, you know, whole quarter in football or that, you know, whole period in a game of hockey," says Liam Bartholomay, a child who's suffered from obesity. "And then there's the one overweight child who's just really struggling."

Aside from the physical struggle, obese kids face another and possibly more difficult challenge: surviving the ridicule and abuse inflicted by other kids — and adults.

"They were calling me stupid, fat and, like, it just got ridiculous," Lauren Makowski, a 13-year-old who is struggling with her weight, said of her classmates.

And the taunts didn't just come from other kids, said Lauren. She said a teacher refused to let her outside for recess because "it was my fault that I'm overweight."

In an attempt to fight obesity, kids are being placed on diet and exercise programs. Unfortunately, these usually don't produce high success rates. Also, some parents are turning to diet aids that target children and even ones designed for adults, including prescription drugs.

Some experts worry these products will wreak havoc on young metabolisms. Others say the havoc is already there, that for obese kids who live in torment, losing weight is worth the risk.

Produced for by Mark King.