Teen's Story Shows How Childhood Obesity Is Changing

'The Cut' profiles a Missouri girl who lost 80 pounds through surgery and drugs
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2024 9:30 AM CST
Her Story Illustrates How Childhood Obesity Is Changing
   (Getty / MediaRec)

Weight-loss drugs such as the popular Ozempic are quickly changing the way people shed unwanted pounds. At the Cut, Lisa Miller takes an in-depth look at a particular aspect of all this—what it's like to be an American girl in this era. The story focuses on 15-year-old Maggie Ervie of Marceline, Missouri. She had an insatiable appetite from the start and grew up as a heavy child, with her obesity eventually being categorized as "severe." With the guidance of her parents and doctors, Maggie began taking an Ozempic precursor called Victoza at age 13 and had bariatric surgery six months later. She stopped taking the drug before the surgery, but resumed when her weight didn't drop as much as expected afterward. The combo worked: Maggie has lost 80 pounds, is now on the cheerleading team, and the middle school classmates who once teased her are now inviting her out to parties.

Of course, all of the above gets complicated—the question of how young is too young for surgery, the hazards of conflating body size with health, etc.—and Miller digs in. For Maggie's mother, Erika, the longtime fear she harbored that she was doing something "wrong" in raising Maggie has evolved—because, as Miller writes, she "knows her neighbors and people in the world beyond have things to say not just about Maggie's body but about the treatments she has chosen for it, too." As for Maggie, the story ends with her wondering about moving on to a different drug because her cravings appear to be creeping back. "Her obesity will require a lifetime of management," writes Miller, but the teen's doctor considers Maggie lucky to be young in this era because the drugs to help with that management will only become more plentiful and affordable in the years ahead. Read the full story. (Or check out other longforms.)

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