Return to Transcripts main page


Beyond the Fat; A Breath of Fresh Air; Interview with Swimmer Amanda Beard

Aired April 7, 2012 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Hey there. Thanks for joining us. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Today, I'm going to take to you Boston for a look at a new helping kids stay in the classroom and out of the hospital. We'll explain.

And then it's off to Phoenix and Los Angeles for candid conversation with seven time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard. She's going to open up about training through this tumultuous adolescence with a goal -- to let our kids know they're not alone when dealing with their problems.

But I wan to begin right here in Atlanta, with an in-depth look at a problem that affects every single one of us.

"Under the Microscope" this morning: beyond the fat. There's this new study suggests the obesity crisis in America may be worse than we thought. I know it's not what you wanted to hear.

But for decades, doctors have relied on body mass index or BMI. That's a ratio of height to weight. They used that to categorize people as either overweight or obese. But now, some researchers say our current BMI thresholds underestimate the problem.

You know, four in 10 adults whose BMI places them in the overweight category would be considered obese if their body fat percentage was also taken in account.

Obesity is a serious problem. We can't ignore this, because all that extra weight we know is cutting decades off of peoples' lives.

Now, if that sounds over the top or extreme, trust me, it's not -- especially for our children. Quite simply, many of our kids could be eating themselves to death.

Today, we're going to talk about solutions to get your health in check.

And joining us now from Los Angeles is Dr. Melina Jampolis. She's an internist. She's a board certified physician, nutrition specialist. I should point out, there's only a few hundred of these in the entire country.

And also in our New York is our friend, clinical psychologist, Jeff Gardere.

We're going to talk to them both in a second. But, first, let's do a reality check about what fat really does inside the body.


GUPTA (voice-over): As a father of three, it's especially hard for me to hear these stories: children dying far earlier than they should. In some cases, their lives cut short by decades. These are children, the worst case scenarios of the nearly one third of American kids who weigh too much.

(on camera): But you see, the thing is behind all those stats, behind all those numbers, are real stories. People are worried that what we're describing could happen to them. Let's go meet somebody.


GUPTA: How are you all doing?

B. GREENE: Good.

GUPTA: Just 12 years old and 250 pounds. Tiger Green has a story -- call it the new American story.

TIGER GREENE, 250 POUND 12-YEAR-OLD: In our family, when you're happy, we eat. When you're sad, you eat. And when you just are watching TV, you eat.

GUPTA: What do you eat?

T. GREENE: Lunch, I have like a big 15-ounce steak or something and like five Sprites and stuff like that.

GUPTA: Five Sprites, one meal.

I'm almost scared to ask about dinner. What was that like?

T. GREENE: Take lunch times five.

GUPTA (voice-over): It's hard not to smile but also important to realize that Tiger didn't get here by himself. He had help from the people who care the most.

(on camera): I have three kids so, I'm the last guy in the world who preaches about anything nowadays because I know the reality. But I mean what were you thinking when you saw him eating that much?

B. GREENE: As a parent, you know, you want to see your kids happy. And mistakenly, horribly mistakenly, when we were eating, we were happy and somehow that computed to be good parenting.

GUPTA (voice-over): Tiger's dad wishes he would have known this one startling fact: children with an obese parent are 50 percent more likely to be obese themselves, 50 percent.

GUPTA (on camera): I think a lot of people focus on what's happening, what you look like on the outside of your body. Have you ever thought about what's going on in the inside of your body?

T. GREENE: Not much.

GUPTA: Well, there's something I think I want to show you today. In fact, that's why we brought you here to this hospital. We're going to go and take a look and see what's happening to your heart, what's happening to your liver and see what you think. Ok?


GUPTA (voice-over): It's hard to believe this is a child's liver, all that white filled with fat -- fat, not just on the outside of your body.

(on camera): That's happening inside your body.

(voice-over): For me as a doctor, this is especially disturbing, because we see this with patients who are typically decades older.

(on camera): That's the top of your femur that's the bone right here that goes into your hip. It is pushing the bone over here. You should have a nice layer of cartilage in between here, nice cushion. And because it's so much weight that bone is literally pushed back and into that joint. That's going to hurt.

(voice-over): Of course your joints hurting is not nearly as frightening as what all that fat is doing to your heart.

(on camera): This heart is having to work so hard, that muscle is just getting bigger and bigger and bigger which in the heart is a bad thing. After a while, it's just not going to be able to work as well.

T. GREENE: It's scary because I know that could be happening to me right now.

DR. STEPHANIE WALSH, CHILDREN'S HEALTHCARE OF ATLANTA: One of those kids who has an early death from cardiovascular disease.

GUPTA: So when you say early death, are you talking about people in their 30s having heart attacks? What does that mean?

WALSH: Well, this is pretty unprecedented. We haven't really seen 8 year-olds with type 2 diabetes before, so we don't actually know what's going to happen. But it's very concerning.

The good news is we can do something about it.

GUPTA (voice-over): Tiger has already started.

(on camera): This is a pretty good-looking refrigerator. I mean you have a lot of fruit; you have blueberries, you have strawberries, you have fresh vegetables down here.

(voice-over): For Tiger, it's a point of immense pride. And that smile -- well, it means he's peeling off the pounds and those years.


GUPTA: Melina and Jeff, I should point out, tiger is continuing to shed pounds since we last him. And we checked in this week, he's down at total of 60 pounds now. He's trimmed 11 inches off his waist, and he's completely off some of the medications we were talking about.

But, you know, I think everyone pays attention to a story like Tiger and there is millions of overweight kids out there, Melina, as you know. I mean, how do you adjust their diets, how do you incorporate activity, what have you found that really works?

DR. MELINA JAMPOLIS, PHYSICIAN NUTRITION SPECIALIST: Well, it's certainly a challenge. As a mom, too, I know what we say to do sometimes, the experts, isn't always what happens.

But, first of all, hearing that story, limiting sugar sweet and beverages is one of the most important things a parent can do. And this includes lemonade, flavored waters, juice drinks. We are giving our kids hundreds of extra calories of sugar, and those lead to a higher risk of fatty liver. So, it's critical.

The second thing is you really need to make physical activity a family affair, because we shouldn't just limit computer time -- recent research shows that we need to increase that really active time that a lot of kids do but the overweight and obese ones don't. They're kind of more self-conscious. So, make it a fun family. You can't put them on the treadmill for an hour.

And last but not least, more family meals at home. We eat more than 30 percent of meals away from the house. We don't have control over it. And you really need to take control as a family of what your kids eat and set a great example.

That's great advice. You know, I take my kids with me when I do runs. I used to be reluctant because I was afraid I was leaving my kids behind when would go train or something. They come with me now, which is I think is really helpful for all of us.

You know, Jeff, one of the hard things I think and you heard the stat there, which if you have an obese parent, you're 50 percent more likely to become obese yourself as a child. What does a parent to do?

I mean, how much do you push as a parent in terms of addressing issues of overweight or obesity in your own child? A lot of parents seem to just look beyond it, saying it may be detrimental to even talk about it. What do you think?

JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes. I think what Tiger's dad was saying is that he felt that in order to be a good parent, he had to let a lot of that eating slide and look the other way. And we need to understand that you are a better parent when you are able to say no to a child. When that child walks in with iced tea, with a ton of sugar in it that they buy from the store, or they have those snacks, being able to say no.

Our kids extort us, they blackmail us because they'll say, OK, I'll keep quiet, I'll watch TV, I won't give you a hard time if you just let me eat this stuff.

So, it really is about being able to say no, and I'd love to see Tiger's dad do what you're doing, Dr. Gupta, that is to go out and work out with Tiger.

GUPTA: Right.

GARDERE: Because it's not just about inheriting a lot of those fat cells, but it's about what we're teaching our children by the way that we eat in an unhealthy manner. So, we have to model good behaviors for eating.

GUPTA: We're going to stay on this theme. Dr. Gardere is going to stay with us. Also, Dr. Jampolis is going to reveal some of these foods that she's talking about that can, in fact, sabotage our weight loss efforts.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: And we're back with SGMD.

Let's get right back to our panel. A fascinating discussion -- Dr. Jampolis, Dr. Gardere.

Melina, you say people often think they are eating healthy but, in fact, they aren't. And this is something I have been beating the drum on as well.

What foods do say tend to sabotage our weight loss efforts?

JAMPOLIS: I think the two biggest mistakes I see in my weight loss practice is salads first of all, people assume because it has vegetables in it that it's healthy. By the time you add on the dried fruit, dried nuts, salad dressing, the crotons, it can have more calories than a Philly cheesesteak.

And so, if you're thinking just by giving your kids salad when you're eating out at restaurants, you're doing a good thing you may not necessarily be. So you really have to be careful of those add- ones and make sure that you're keeping things more simple.

And then the second problem and I see this a lot with parents trying to get their kids healthier is these salty or sweet dried snacks, even the ones that come in 100 calorie packs. They're completely devoid of nutrients. They're highly processed. So, they increase -- they don't lead to any (INAUDIBLE). They increase blood sugar quickly. And most people don't have just 100 calorie packs.

So, these fat-free snacks really need to be restricted. They could be occasional treat as a child wants something sweet. But in most cases, I'd rather see them have a little bit of the real thing. It's going to be a lot more satisfying. Less processed foods are much better dealt with by the body. So, they make you more full.

So, those are biggest mistakes that I see in my office on a regular basis.

GUPTA: You know, Jeff, I think -- you know, people watch this and may be inspired to say, OK, you know what? I'm going to make a big change. I'm going to have this sort of all-or-nothing mentality.

And I heard you talk about this. You're not a fan of that all- or-nothing mentality. Yet, people want to make a change. They want to take advantage of that.

How do you keep people mentally on track?

GARDERE: Well, I think, Dr. Gupta, you have to let them know that they are going to fall off the wagon, that it's going to take a long time to get to where they need to go, they are going to make mistakes and it's OK. As a matter of fact, I like failure, because failure takes us out of our comfort zone, we learn from it and then we do better.

So, if our kids in fact eat something that is unhealthy, as the other good doctor is saying, well, yes, OK, that's a bad thing but don't beat them up over it. Instead lead them to where they need to be in a healthier manner.

GUPTA: Look, I hope this helps. We can e talk about this a lot. A lot of people pay attention to this.

So, Dr. Jampolis, Dr. Gardere, thanks so much. Hopefully, it helps a lot of people.

GARDERE: Thanks.

GUPTA: We have been talking about obesity this morning. It's one of the leading chronic illnesses for children.

But you might not know asthma is another. In fact, it's responsible for nearly half of all children's hospitalizations. It's one of the main reasons kids miss school.


GUPTA (voice-over): Eleven-year-old Thomas Brown loves basketball. But two years ago, you wouldn't catch him on these courts.

THOMAS BROWN, ASTHMA PATIENT: I wasn't able to play sports because my asthma got in the way. I had to go to the nurse every time I went outside, because I was wheezing.

GUPTA: Thomas' asthma was so bad he missed school, a lot. In fact, asthma is one of the leading causes for school absence, according to the CDC.

BROWN: I heard a wheeze, I'd like get kind of stressed because I knew eventually I was going to go to the hospital and stay.

GUPTA: And every time Thomas was in the hospital, his mom Chanese was there by his side, instead of at work.

CHANESE BROWN, THOMAS' MOTHER: Thomas was missing maybe five, six days of school, maybe a month, maybe a little bit more. And I was missing that same amount of work.

GUPTA: They spent a lot of right here at Children's Hospital in Boston.

DR. ELIZABETH WOODS, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL BOSTON: Asthma is the number one hospitalization -- diagnosis for hospitalization at Children's Hospital, as well as other children's hospitals.

GUPTA: To bring those numbers down, Dr. Elizabeth Woods helped develop the hospital's Community Asthma Initiative. This program has nurses and case workers like Massiel Ortiz and Margie Laurenci (ph), they make home visits to families with children with severe asthma.

But their visits always start here.

MASSIEL ORTIZ: This is where we keep our vacuums and patient supplies. We're just trying to reduce the dust exposure that the kids have in the homes.

GUPTA: Armed with vacuum cleaners, roach traps and more, Massiel and Margie head out to make home visits where they look for asthma triggers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to start with this room.

GUPTA: And educate families how to keep children breathing easier using an asthma action plan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of vacuum, they suck in, you know, all the dust, but then they'll blow out air to the back and just keep spreading. So, this one doesn't do that.

GUPTA: Looking back, Chanese she thought she did everything right, that is until they Massiel and Margie came to visit.

C. BROWN: When they came to the house, they were like, OK, you're trying really hard to do things right but you got some things that are not supposed to be here.

GUPTA: Since the program started in 2005, the initiative reports that participants hospitalizations have dropped 85th percent. Emergency room visits have gone down nearly 70 percent.

WOODS: It's not that we block emergency department room visits and hospitalizations in any way, but they actually don't need them.

GUPTA: And fewer hospital visits means more money saved overall. For every dollar invested in the program, it saves the community a dollar and a half, because fewer days are missed at work and school.

As far as Thomas goes, he's already seeing results. He went on his first class trip to Washington, D.C. last year, and finally gets to play outside again.


GUPTA: I love that because it's great results with some simple changes. That's what we're all about here.

Still ahead, seven-time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard is hard at work now training for what she hopes will be her fifth shot at goal this summer in London. But up next, she's going to opening up to me about an adolescence filled with abuse, eating disorders, even cutting.


GUPTA: Since her 1996 Olympic debut at the age of just 14 years old, swimmer Amanda Beard has won seven Olympic medals and is training to land a spot in her fifth Olympics, which is this summer in London.

But throughout her career, Amanda has struggled with a negative body image and also self destructive behavior.


SANJAY (voice-over): This little girl always dreamed big.

AMANDA BEARD, FOUR-TIME OLYMPIC SWIMMER: I was 10 years old watching the '92 Olympics. And right then and there decided, that's what I wanted to do.

GUPTA: Only four years later, swimmer Amanda Beard's dream did come true. The 90-pound 14-year-old walked away from the '96 Atlanta Olympics with a gold and two silver medals.

BEARD: After that, I had a huge growth spurt. I grew to about 5'8", and then I weighed about 130.

GUPTA: Her growing body sparked her struggle with a negative body image.

BEARD: All of a sudden, I wasn't swimming very well. And I blamed that all on because I got bigger.

GUPTA: Uncomfortable in her new body, she turned to bulimia. She began abusing drugs and alcohol. She struggled with depression.

But despite her inner demons, she continued to succeed in swimming. Her emotional low triggered a dangerous new habit.

She'd hide in the bathroom using eyebrow razors to slice small scratches on her arms or ankles.

It wasn't until her boyfriend, Sasha Brown, discovered Beard's self-destructive behavior that she began to seek help to overcome it.

Now at 30, four-time Olympian Beard and photographer Brown are happily married.

They're proud parents of 3-year-old Blaze.

BEARD: I went through all of these things. And here I am, happy, healthy with a great family and continuing on, trying to make my fifth Olympics.


GUPTA: And joining me now is four-time Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard, who is the author of "In the Water, They Can't See You Cry".

A lot of parents watching have grand dreams for their kids maybe one day being Olympic athletes.

Just quickly, what was your life I mean in terms of schedule? Like literally, what time are you waking up, how were you training, what was your lifelike at that point?

BEARD: It was pretty insane. Honestly, since the time I was about 12 years old, I was doing nine to 10 training workouts a week. I was waking up at 5:00 a.m. and working out for about two hours before I would go to school.

And I'd be at school all day and go straight from school back to the pool to train for another three hours, and get home about 7:00 p.m. at night and try to do an hour, an hour and a half of homework, maybe watch some TV. And I was in bed at 9:00 every night.

GUPTA: Collapsing.

BEARD: Basically, yes, I mean, trying to hold my eyes open.

GUPTA: Surgical residency, even harder.

BEARD: I don't know about that.

GUPTA: You decided to write this book. And as I said, writing a book is a vulnerable process. I want to ask you a couple questions about book. What prompted the book now?

BEARD: I talked to a lot of young athletes, and I look at them, in their eyes, and I talk to them about my experiences of growing up and being an Olympian and things like that and I can't do that without being completely honest with people. And I don't want to tell these girls that everything was fantastic, I trained, I had fun, everything was amazing, I won medals, and my life has been wonderful.

I want them to know that I had these struggles and I had issues and everybody does. And it is not something to be embarrassed by or ashamed of and that we can overcome things and move on and we can still be very successful and very happy within our lives. We just have to figure out how to make that happen for ourselves.

GUPTA: You know, I have three daughters as you may know, and I think my world view and my life view changed after I had daughters and I think you're an example in many ways.

And one of the things you talk about it was challenging, you cut yourself at certain times. First of all, when was this and what do you remember what you were feeling at that time?

BEARD: Oddly enough, I found a sense of relief from doing it where I would go into the bathroom and I'd make a small incision in my arm and have a tiny little bit of blood, and it was like overwhelming sense of calm and release because I had a big issue with learning how to communicate with people, talk to people, letting people in on what I was feeling and going through, and I had no other way of trying to let things go.

And that was the way I started coping with things, which is completely unhealthy.

GUPTA: It has been a roller coaster as you write about in the book, which is terrific and everyone should read, but any advice for women or men, or young people out there?

BEARD: You are not alone in this process. No matter how severe you are taking things, the step to being happy and healthy is really to find help and to talk to someone and figure out those next steps to take.

GUPTA: Amanda Beard, the great Amanda Beard, I'll try to be there in London and I'll give you a wave. You won't seem me.

BEARD: You should. Definitely.

GUPTA: Thank you very much. Thanks for joining us.

BEARD: Thank you. Of course.

GUPTA: Now, we got a check of your top stories just minutes away. But, first, you know, we all want to chase life to 100, right? Up next, a woman who chased life to 114. We're going to let you in on her secret.


GUPTA: Chasing life until the very end. One remarkable super centenarian, Dr. Leila Denmark. She got to age 100 and they keep right on going. Until, just last week, she passed away at the age of 114.

Her passion was pediatrics. By the time she finally retired from caring for kids at the age of 103, she was actually the oldest practicing physician in the whole country.

You know, I wondered about her chasing life's secret, and this is how she put it: Keep on doing what you do best. Never stop moving.

You know, I never stop moving. I think it's really good advice.

So, keep up with me at, on Twitter @SanjayGuptaCNN. Make an appointment, come back and see us right here on SGMD.

Time now, though, to get you caught up on your top stories making news right now.