LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Many people struggle with being overweight or obese. 

Sometimes their weight-related issues can start early in life. 

Baptist Health is helping our youth develop healthy habits through a 10-week summer program. 

Walking with a purpose, Jayla Smith, 15, smiles at the changes that are coming ahead. 

“I like feel more energized. I’m not as tired as I used to be,” says Jayla Smith, a Healthy & Active Youth participant.

Several weeks in the Healthy and Active Youth Program has helped Jayla get to where she is now. 

She’s lost more than 10 pounds so far and she’s never felt better. 

“They encourage me to lose weight and have fun with it,” says Jayla. 

Jayla says keeping the weight off is hard. 

That’s why she signed up in the this Baptist Health program to challenge herself to shed the pounds and change her habits. 

“I was very out of shape. I would go to the gym but would just walk on the treadmill because I didn’t know what else to do,” says Jayla. 

With the help of coaches like Natalie Williamson, participants ages 11 to 17 learn the ropes to fitness and healthy food.

“It’s not just something that’s popular at that one moment. It’s something that they’re doing every day that they go home and practice with their family,” says Natalie Williamson, Weight loss Program Leader.

Natalie says the goal is to make it fun. From cooking classes to exploring the outdoors, Baptist Health puts the focus on getting kids up and moving and how to understand the labels and servings found on most foods.

“That bottle or that bag of chips is just one serving. They don’t realize there is 2 to 4 servings in that one bottle or that one bag,” says Williamson.

Not to mention, how much sugar might be in that serving. A bit of perspective brought to the table helps teens like Jayla understand portion control. She says this doesn’t mean making drastic changes immediately.

“I just took a little step, little step at a time and it’s just a lifestyle,” says Smith.

A lifestyle she’s grasping by the handles, and putting into motion a routine that will pick up the next day.

The Baptist Health Foundation funds this 10-week program.

For more information on the Healthy & Active Youth Program, and if you would like to sign up your child, contact Emily Ryan at  501-553-1163, or Cynthia Gregory at 501-202-1119,

You can also learn more about the program and participant guidelines here.