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Bubbly and extraverted, Alexis Harris loves listening to music and making TikTok dance videos — similar to many teenagers.

Thrice exceptional (diagnosed with ADHD, autism and a learning disability), she lights up when asked about her school — East Wake High, favorite subject — math, and hopes for the future — advocacy.

Alexis plans to transition into the helping profession in an advocacy position once she finishes high school. She understands all too well the importance of support to live a full and happy life.

That’s why when she was introduced to the Pediatric Weight Management practice, she jumped in with both feet.

WakeMed Children’s — Pediatric Weight Management

WakeMed Children’s — Pediatric Weight Management is a comprehensive practice that helps children and teens with obesity achieve a healthy weight and treat weight related health conditions. Led by Dr. Samareh Hill, a pediatric obesity physician, patients meet with a team consisting of medical providers, dietitians and psychologists working on healthy lifestyle with access to WakeMed Foundation funded programs including ENERGIZE!, personal training and cooking classes. Additional therapy options are also available for more severe cases including weight loss medications, meal replacement plans and bariatric surgery.

When the Weight Struggles Began

At the age of 12, Alexis began to gain significant weight.

Alexis says, “I was eating a lot of junk food: candy, sweets, chips and fast food.”

Nikki Harris, Alexis’ mother, believes her appetite increased as a result of an atypical antipsychotic medication to treat her daughter’s autism. As Alexis’ parents looked on over three years with increasing alarm, they took her to her pediatrician who switched Alexis to another medication that had the same side effect. While the third medication was not indicated for increased hunger as a side effect, by then Alexis had gained quite a bit of weight.

Alexis’ mother says of the pediatrician who monitored her weight gain, “Since Alexis wasn’t successfully losing weight on her own, Alexis’ pediatrician referred her to WakeMed Children’s Pediatric Weight Management with Dr. Samareh Hill. We’d wanted her to be considered for bariatric surgery, but at just 15-years-old, they wanted us to try a more natural method first.”

Pediatric Weight Management Results for the Win!

Dr. Hill recalls her first meeting with Alexis and her family at the practice: “Her parents were saddened by Alexis’s uncontrollable hunger while on her medications. Due to her rapid weight gain, she also had several medical conditions that needed to be addressed including pausing in her breathing while snoring, prediabetes and knee pain.”

After Dr. Hill assessed Alexis on November 2021, she started Alexis on a prediabetes and weight loss medication, referred her for a sleep study, and scheduled her with the practice’s dietitian and psychologist. Dr. Hill also registered Alexis for the three-month, twice-weekly ENERGIZE! program beginning February 2022. The first evening of each week involved cardio. The second evening of each week focused on strength training and nutrition.

Nikki says, “We wanted her in this program to help her stay physically engaged and meet more people. She is very outgoing and loves chatting with new girls in the program. We also added an additional day of walking as a family for 30 minutes each week to go along with the two days in ENERGIZE!”

During the three-month spring ENERGIZE! program, Alexis made incredible strides with powerful results — a 20-pound weight loss!

With a high body mass index and standing at four feet 11 inches, her excess weight made it difficult for her to bend over, tie her shoes, walk without losing her breath, dance and sleep soundly at night.

Alex, Alexis’ Dad says, “Her situation had gotten pretty serious before the ENERGIZE! program. She was having a hard time with so many basic self-care abilities. Plus, she was diagnosed with sleep apnea and required a c-pap machine to sleep at night since she would stop breathing multiple times an hour.”

In May 2022, after the ENERGIZE! spring session ended, Dr. Hill referred Alexis to the practice’s other fitness option — the personal training program. There, Alexis worked twice a week with a fitness trainer using gym equipment at WakeMed Raleigh Campus. During the summer, Alexis maintained her motivation, losing an additional 25 pounds by working with the trainer, walking three times a week and making healthier food choices.

Dr. Hill notes, “Over the years, we have treated thousands of children like Alexis who are looking for ways to connect to get healthy and be active. If it weren’t for the funding provided by the WakeMed Foundation for ENERGIZE!, personal training and our cooking program, we would never be able to offer these needed services for all our patients.”

Nikki says, “In ENERGIZE!, the nutrition class was helpful for Alexis because she heard from someone other than her dad and me about healthy food. She also loved that she was learning with her peers.

“And, we changed our lifestyle. We started eating at least two to three fruits and vegetables a day.”

Lessons Learned

In all, Alexis’ mindset changed as a result of participating in the Pediatric Weight Management practice, its fitness program — ENERGIZE! — and personal training.

Nikki says, “We had a breakthrough when one day she and her cousin went to McDonald’s, and she had the option to get a burger and fries, but said, ‘No, that’s okay. I’ll just get a salad.'”

Motivated by the positive outcomes from just one good decision at a time, Alexis now feels better than ever. She can perform all of her own self-care tasks and no longer needs a c-pap machine. She also not only can walk without losing her breath, but she can also run and has recovered her love of dancing.

Nikki says, “Her confidence has really increased. You should see her strutting around. When we started ENERGIZE!, she could barely participate in the activities. Now she can run, and I mean run. She can outrun me. That transition alone is amazing.

“She is at the point where she knows what’s healthy and what’s not. We have some days where we splurge by going out to eat or getting a sweet treat, but we try to do that in moderation now.”

Alexis has signed up for the fall 2022 ENERGIZE! session to keep up her momentum toward a healthy life. She continues to follow up regularly with Dr. Hill and her team.

Since participating in the Pediatric Weight Management practice from November 2021 to present, Alexis has continued to amaze with a total 53-pound weight loss!

Dr. Hill says, “I am so proud of Alexis for all the healthy changes she has made along with her parent’s support. She has improved her prediabetes and cholesterol labs and no longer complains about joint pains. I can tell her self-confidence has skyrocketed by her new, bright smile.”

Grinning, Alexis says, “I can do everything I want now. I love ENERGIZE!”


Who We Are

Under the medical direction of Dr. Samareh Hill, director of WakeMed Children’s Pediatric Weight Management, the ENERGIZE! Program is one of the fitness options of the practice. A core program goal for ENERGIZE! is to provide family-centered healthy lifestyle education through fitness and nutrition activities that positively impact families’ health behaviors. ENERGIZE! is available to youth who struggle with excess weight ages six or older and their families. This 12-week healthy lifestyle program is taught collaboratively by dedicated WakeMed registered dietitians and fitness instructors and takes place at 11 participating Triangle Parks and Recreation locations or community schools.

Since Parks and Recreation is a WakeMed community health partner, the ENERGIZE! Program takes place at 14 participating Triangle Parks and Recreation locations or community schools.

How it Works

All children and families who are interested in the ENERGIZE! Program are signed up within the Pediatric Weight Management Program. To schedule an appointment, please call the Pediatric Weight Management Program at 919-235-6439, option #3.

About WakeMed Foundation

WakeMed Foundation secures funding for all the community-based programs offered by the Pediatric Weight Management Program since 2018 — including the ENERGIZE! Program, the TEEN Gym personal training program and the Cook Well Eat Well cooking program. Through their ongoing support, the Foundation directly supports the mission of Pediatric Weight Management to reverse medical conditions associated with excess weight and promote healthy lifestyle changes for youth and their families. Patients who go through Pediatric Weight Management are enrolled in any of their community-based lifestyle programs, as appropriate.

In support of the ENERGIZE! Program, specifically, the WakeMed Foundation funds all fitness trainers and equipment in addition to providing the nutrition education staff. We are committed to keeping it no-cost to families to participate, as charging for this program would create a barrier. To offset costs, WakeMed ENERGIZE! partners with the local community/municipalities to provide the program. Community space is donated in kind.

This year, we plan to have 14 different programs held throughout Wake County, NC to maximize engagement as location and travel can often be an additional barrier to participation. During the program, we are also connecting families with activity opportunities in their community to encourage them to utilize local resources for exercise for long-term results. Expansion and replication of this program has taken place across North Carolina due to success rates.

Do you want to help bring more innovative care to WakeMed? Donate to the WakeMed Foundation.

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