At age nine, Max Seidlitz of Elkridge, Maryland, weighed more than 200 pounds, ate constantly and never felt full. That's when he was diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome, a genetic disorder of the 15th chromosome that causes learning disabilities and an insatiable appetite.
Today, Max is 17 and is still always hungry.
"Sometimes I do feel full," explained Max. "But five minutes later, I will be hungry again."
Under his father's supervision, Max eats a low-cal, high protein snack or meal every two hours. And the kitchen is always locked so he can't sneak any food.
University of Maryland Medical Center's Dr. Debra Counts says this drive to eat develops when the children are in elementary school.
"They shouldn't be punished for trying to grab extra food," said Dr. Counts, a pediatric endocrinologist. "Because they can't stop themselves."
Four-year-old Aaron Moyer isn't food-seeking yet. For now his parents are focused on treating his severe scoliosis and vision problems, and giving him the best childhood they can.
"I definitely have learned to take one day at a time," said Bretagne Cowling, Aaron's mother. "If I look too far down the road it can be scary."
These two families, along with other local Prader-Willi families, are joining forces to help combat the broader issue of childhood obesity.
"If we can control it in our kids then anyone can control it anywhere," said Lon Sedlitz, Max's father.
A group of these families recently met with members of congress to increase awareness about this over-eating syndrome and to provide input on the lessons they've learned while battling obesity.