More than 14 million children and teenagers in the U.S. are living with obesity. It's a chronic disease that carries a lifetime of health risks.
Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is issuing new guidelines in the battle against child obesity.
It's a disease just like any other.
"When you are obese, people stare at you, people judge you," said Harley Boaz, who dealt with pediatric obesity.
At a time when Boaz should be having the time of her life, her life was literally being put at risk. At 16, she weighed 285 pounds.
"I was diagnosed with hypertension. I was prediabetic. I had high cholesterol," she said.
A new CDC study warns that type 2 diabetes will surge 700 % in people under the age of 20 in the next 40 years.
"About 20% of the pediatric population now has obesity," said Dr. Jennifer Sprague, a pediatric endocrinologist with Washington University in St. Louis
The new AAP guidelines are aimed at revolutionizing the way we approach childhood obesity.
"It says we should offer all of our treatments as soon as a patient is eligible for them," Sprague said.
She said for the first time, doctors have a roadmap on how to treat these children.
"It highlights that a 'watch and wait' strategy is not effective," she said.
The AAP guidelines include evidence-based recommendations such as motivational interviewing to behavior treatments and pharmaceuticals like the newly FDA-approved Wegovy. The medication is the first once-weekly weight loss injection approved for kids 12 and up.
"They can make a huge difference in patients' lives," Sprague said.
Studies show 95% of teens with type 2 diabetes who had bariatric surgery no longer had it three years following surgery, and 74% normalized their high blood pressure.
"I think there's always hope that if you treat this disease, you're gonna lessen the long-term consequences," she said.
The new guidelines also urge pediatricians to take into account genetics, physiology, socioeconomic factors and the environment - stressing obesity is not just about weight, it's a complex issue that requires a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan.