By Britt Moreno
THORNTON, Colo. (CBS4) - Madi Michaud reaches up to the sky in a final stretch before setting off on a jog. The Thornton teen exercises now with new vigor.
Each step brings a sense of appreciation for her body and what it can do.
"It feels amazing. I love being 50 pounds lighter. Everything is easier," Michaud tells CBS4's Britt Moreno.
Three months ago, Michaud, 17, underwent bariatric surgery.
With 27 percent of Colorado kids being obese or overweight, it is a surgery kids are undergoing more often than ever. More families are seeking out this type of weight loss at Children's Hospital Colorado.
"I am not ashamed. I am proud. I probably would have been dead in a few years" Michaud tells Moreno.
Her weight has defined the story of her adolescence, and it is a tough one to hear. She started gaining weight when she hit puberty around age 11.
At first, she was not concerned because weight gain runs in her family and she thought it was just baby fat. The pounds continued to pile on and kids at school began to notice and started bullying her.
"I was surfacing 300 pounds" she said.
The athlete constantly played softball and swam, but still she could not lose the weight. She tried a variety of diets and work outs, but nothing helped shed the weight.
"This kid spit in my food, and told me I didn't need it because I was so big," she told Moreno.
She started skipping class to avoid having others see her and eventually she was shamed into switching schools. Michaud says at her lowest, most depressed state of mind, she tried to commit suicide.
That was the last straw for her mom, Kristen, who also struggled with her weight and had a weight loss surgery.
"It was scary. I didn't know if I could help save her" Kristen said.
She says the decision to get the operation for her daughter was not easy. She was initially shocked that teenagers could get this surgery. Plus, critics say the long-term health risks are unknown.
A team of 10 people at Children's Hospital supported and guided Madi and her family. These people include a medical director, endocrinologist, nurse practitioner, psychologist, social worker, dietician, exercise physiologist and surgeon.
Dr. Thomas Inge is the Director of adolescent bariatric surgery at Children's Hospital.
"Our system detects attempts at weight loss and detects it as a threat," Inge said.
That's why it is incredibly difficult for obese children to lose weight and keep it off. Inge authored the study on bariatric youth surgery for the Institute for Health, and he says the findings are interesting. He says there are health benefits to children getting bariatric surgery that far exceed the benefits adults receive from the surgery.
Inge says he performs two to four bariatric surgeries a month on adolescents at Children's Hospital. He operated on Madi whom he says was the perfect candidate because she was morbidly obese and had major health problems.
CBS4 was with Madi as she stepped on the scale at Children's Hospital during her three month check up. She was down another 18 pounds.
She tells Moreno she still thinks of herself as the "fat kid," and that "it's hard to forget what happened in middle school and what happened in high school."
She's hoping the memory of her old self will fade away, so she can embrace her new image.
for more features.