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Know of any youth who have won an award or have a recent accomplishment? Send in your news on youth to Shephali J. Rele, Khaas Baat, 18313 Cypress Stand Circle, Tampa, FL 33647 or e-mail [email protected]. Be sure to include school name, grade and age.
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Shruti Sharma
Shruti Sharma, an eighth grader at Ocoee Middle School, will compete in the 79th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 31 and June 1 in Washington, D.C. Students from eight counties competed for the title of District Champion after which the 14-year-old was declared the champion. She scored the win for Orange County; 15 years after the last speller to represent the county emerged in 1991. Shruti's win was bittersweet for her because she competed the day after her grandmother's funeral. Because of their close bond, Shruti is confidently able to say, "My grandma wanted me to do well, and while it's hard to compete with her gone, I know she's watching over me." Shruti is a well-rounded student who enjoys ballet, tae kwon do, shopping and taking pottery classes among other interests. �I am really nervous because I will be competing with some of the most brilliant spellers out there. But at the same time I am happy that I have the opportunity to give it my best shot. I am going to take it one letter at a time and hope that my trip to Washington spells a W-I-N,� says Shruti.


It�s that time of the year for high school graduations. Khaas Baat would like to recognize the accomplishments of our graduates with a high school senior roundup in an upcoming issue. Please send us the high school senior�s name, school name, some achievements/awards, hobbies/interest and future plans, including college name and intended course of study. E-mail the information to [email protected] with GRADUATE in the subject line.


A serious epidemic facing our society today is childhood obesity. This is not only a concern because of the psychological stressors a �fat� child may face, but because there are real illnesses associated with obesity as well. These include diabetes, hypertension and other chronic conditions that were previously prevalent primarily in adults.

Several factors have been blamed for the increase in numbers of obese children. Some say that reductions in school physical activity programs are to blame. Others complain that lifestyles have become too sedentary; children sit and watch television, instead of running and playing �the way we did.� Still others lay the blame on the fast food culture, and accompanying super-sized meals

Teesta Sullivan

Between 1976 and 1980, only 7 percent of U.S. children (aged 6 to 11) met the criteria for obesity. Only 20 years later, 15.3 percent of U.S. children qualified as being obese. Professor Kelly Brownell heads the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. This group is active in pushing for governmental change to attack the U.S. obesity epidemic.

According to Brownell, there is a �huge amount of money to be made from a fatter population.� This problem is found even at the local levels. Brownell has pointed out that almost half of the U.S. public schools have exclusive contracts with soft drink companies. Should we be offering our schoolchildren Coke and Pepsi at lunch? What happened to milk, low-fat milk, chocolate milk or juice? Those are the choices I remember from my school days.

Everyone needs a certain amount of fat tissue; however, when there is too much fat, the result is obesity. How is proper weight determined? Health care professionals, in the United States, use growth charts. Even so, the definition varies. The American Obesity Association uses the 85th percentile of Body Mass Index (BMI) as a marker for being overweight, and the 95th percentile for obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chooses not to use the word overweight for adolescents, but categorizes children over the 85 percent as overweight, instead.

The calculation for a BMI includes both an individual�s height and weight. Researchers believe there may be a correlation between an individual�s BMI and certain health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

There is no magic pill to cure obesity, even in children. Following are some methods for weight loss and control:

Dietary therapy: A reduction of caloric intake is necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss. It includes education on caloric content and food preparation.

Physical activity: Increasing physical activity increases metabolism, in turn causing a decrease in weight, all other factors remaining the same.

Behavior therapy: Involves changing both diet and physical activity habits to healthier lifestyle choices that support weight loss and maintenance.

Drug therapy: Typically reserved for patients who are obese, or who suffer from two or more obesity-related conditions, in conjunction with being overweight. It is recommended that patients combine their drug therapy with changes to exercise programs and diet.

Combined therapy: A combination of a lowered caloric intake and an increase in physical activity.

Surgery: Considered only for adult persons with severe obesity, obesity surgery modifies the stomach and/or intestines to control the amount of food one can intake.

Parents need to be aware of the obesity epidemic. We need to guide our children and teach them about good nutrition and proper food choices. Junk food is fine � in moderation, but healthy food habits need to be established at home. Children learn their eating habits, as well as everything else, first from their home-life. Parents need to not only offer healthy snacks and meals, but explain to their children the importance of proper nutrition as well.

Professor Brownell feels that our current food culture is creating a society in which children are a �ticking time bomb. We need to focus on the protection of children,� he says. �It is difficult to alter the habits of a lifetime, but in prevention we may have the cure.�

Teesta Sullivan has a JD, a MSH and B.A. in Psychology. She is the area developer for FasTracKids and also president of Legendary Beginnings Inc., an authorized licensee of FasTracKids. She can be reached at (813) 908-5437.

Know of any youth who have won an award or have a recent accomplishment? Send in your news on youth to Shephali J. Rele, Khaas Baat, 18313 Cypress Stand Circle, Tampa, FL 33647 or e-mail [email protected]. Be sure to include school name, grade and age.

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