Too Young for Lipo?

Too Young for Lipo?
Now age 13, 155 lbs.: “Liposuction is not for every overweight kid,” says Brooke (with her parents). “But if they’ve made an effort through diet and exercise, and nothing seems to be working, I say go for it.”
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11/03/2006 AT 06:00 AM EST

As an adorably chubby toddler, Brooke Bates earned the family nickname Big Brooke. And her chipmunk cheeks were cute–until, of course, they weren't: When Brooke turned 11, she weighed 180 lbs., suffered from high blood pressure and was diagnosed as prediabetic.

A year later the 5'5" sixth–grader was up to 220 lbs. and a size 22, limiting her back–to–school shopping trips to women's stores like Lane Bryant and prompting a doctor to classify her as morbidly obese. "I used to think of myself as a giant balloon," Brooke, now 13, says. "Always expanding."

She tried to lose the weight; in fact she had dieted most of her childhood. There was the $1,400 low–carb plan her parents enrolled her in during third grade. Then Richard Simmons's Deal–a–Meal in fourth grade and Weight Watchers in the fifth.

Her parents tried to help at home by "getting rid of all the chips, crackers and cookies," her father, Joey, says. But regardless of any success she had, the pounds always came back. "Brooke seemed to be the kind of kid who gained weight from just looking at food," says her mother, Cindy.

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Then one day in September 2005, as Brooke was curled up on the sofa in the family room of the Bates's ranch house outside Austin, Texas, she watched a documentary on a subject that seemed to offer an answer: liposuction. An elective procedure that uses a metal tube and suction pump to remove fat through the skin, liposuction, Brooke thought, would solve her weight woes.

But when she brought the idea to her parents, they were less enthusiastic. "I thought, 'Do we really want to put our child through this? There's going to be considerable pain.' But Brooke was determined," says Joey.

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