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Teen Learns to Live 'Strong,' Lead

Stone Mountain resident and Redan Middle School student Zarea Adams has dropped at least 40 pounds after attending Camp Strong4Life.

Zarea Adams, 14, has already accomplished something many adults struggle with: she’s taken control of her health.

The Stone Mountain resident has lost at least 40 pounds since attending Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Camp Strong4Life in Winder last year.

But first, the Redan Middle School seventh grader got a good talking-to from her pediatrician during a physical exam. She was overweight, and with a family history of conditions such as diabetes, Zarea was strongly advised not to head down the same road.

“The pediatrician had a serious talk that was a little different than in years before,” Zarea’s mother, Andrea Jones, said. “It was the tone she used that day.”

Zarea recalled being told at that visit that she was “pushing toward obesity.” Soon -- after her mother discovered Camp Strong4Life -- things started falling in place to turn that fate around.

Before Zarea experienced the week-long Camp Strong4Life, the whole family also learned from the organization about healthy habits.

“I was excited about learning how to make a change for my daughter,” Jones said.

Now Zarea knows how to read nutrition labels, teaches a Zumba class, and encourages her peers to live a healthier life.

For example, when a friend talked about needing to walk her new dog, Zarea came up with an even better idea: “Let’s run around with the dog," she suggested. Now Zarea said her friend is also dropping some weight. And even though she didn't like the zip line at Camp Strong4Life (she made it, but was terrified) she managed to enthusiastically cheer on another camper who tried it.

The A and B student, who wants to be an Ob/Gyn someday, discovered more from the camp than the benefits of good food choices and physical exercise.

“Not only does it teach you how to be health conscious, it taught me how to be a better leader,” said Zarea, who heads back to Camp Strong4Life at the end of May.  “We were in a canoe and the canoe tipped over, so everybody’s screaming and yelling. I said, we’re not getting anywhere. I managed to get myself quiet and calm. I had to get the other girls quiet and calm. I couldn’t really do that before.”

So, what else does Zarea enjoy about her healthy lifestyle?  “Being able to go shopping now,” she said. “I love that.”

Before her weight loss, she said, “I saw a whole bunch of stuff that was so cute for girls my age to wear.” Instead of dressing in the latest fashions like she'd see other girls wear at school, "here I am in baggy pants and T-shirts," she said.

No more. These days, Zarea has to poke holes in her belt to fit some of those fashionable ensembles.

“I’m still losing weight,” she said. “I just bought a pair of jeans and I can’t wear them.”

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