Tackling obesity in youth is a big freaking deal.
What gets me the most is that kids just don’t arrive in this world shoving junk in their faces and sitting around in front of the TV. Nope. As parents, we play a huge part in this.
It kills me to see families taking their kids to McDonald’s regularly or giving the kids Gatorade or pop, and filling their lunches with packaged foods. I did all of this. As parents, we brought the potato chips into the house, didn’t limit the video gaming time, and fed the kids processed foods in the name of time and convenience for ourselves.
In 2009, my family did a Canadian TV program called “X-Weighted.” X-Weighted follows the get-in-shape journey of individuals over a period of six months. Our season of the show featured children and families. My husband and I were both obese, and our junior high-aged boys were overweight.
All of the chubby little kids that season were not feeding themselves junk or sitting on the couch for no reason. The parents have a huge impact. Well – this was us. We were a part of the problem. If not THE problem.
So, we decided to do something about it under the eye of a nation. Or at least, whoever watched the Slice Network.
We got on the show after they’d already started filming due to another family dropping out; that left us with three months of filming. The production company gave us $1,000 towards fitness-related costs. We chose to purchase bikes. Otherwise, we were on our own to figure out what to do to get in shape. The film crew was just there to record the story as it unfolded.
Our first step was to set a goal: at the end of the three months we wanted to do a family bike and hike adventure in the mountains, and be in good enough shape that this wouldn’t kill us and leave us as bear snax in the wilderness.
Second, we tossed out the crap food from the house. Processed foods, mostly. (I became a huge carb Nazi, which I know now was a little extreme, but it worked at the time.) Being the mom and the one who produced 98% of the family meals, I felt an extreme pressure to feed my crew with good stuff – whether they liked it or not. I had to develop a pretty thick skin.
Third, we got active. We hired a trainer, Jordan Galloway, to train us as a family. He had simple, effective boot-camp and gym-based workouts for us twice a week for about 10 weeks. We all pushed through and learned this stuff together, and Jordan worked brilliantly with the boys. The other side of getting active was to do something each evening and weekend that we weren’t meeting with Jordan. We didn’t limit the video gaming time, per se, but we just packed the schedule with walking, swimming, bike rides etc. Both boys learned to ride bikes during this time.
Fourth, we supported each other. This was tricky. My husband is super competitive and always wanted to win the weigh-ins, bike the farthest and burn the most calories. Having young teen boys, this sometimes backfired rather than inspired the kids. Overall, we encouraged and motivated one another to be better – for ourselves and our kids’ health down the road.
I learned a lot about our family during these three months:
- We’d been doing A LOT around food: snacks at movies, snacks at football games, special seasonal meals, etc. It was disheartening to learn so many of our favourite/regular foods were not really high in nutritional value.
- When given no choices, the kids conformed and responded nicely. Seriously – taking on that parent role of guiding the kids in their eating habits was beneficial. When they left to go on sleepovers or out with their friends, they knew to make the “best” choices.
- Taking care of the family felt really positive. My husband supported me in all the menu plans that came to the table. He used to be the first one to say “I don’t like what we’re having for dinner” and go make his own, and eat in front of the TV. Having a united front was a big deal, and eating together at the table, so important.
Over the three months, my husband lost 30 lbs, I lost 29 and the boys each lost 19. Huge difference. We did this by maintaining a healthy nutritional intake and being active. No pills, no shakes, no magic drug. We wrapped it all up with a wonderful family holiday of biking and hiking in Lake Louise and Lake O’Hara.
But you know, what worried me the most was that this wouldn’t stick. I think I even said on camera that I would never want to be 29lbs heavier again, ever. Ever. Why would I do that to myself?
Well… we didn’t keep our trainer, Jordan, after the show was done. It was an extra expense that seemed like a luxury. Without Jordan, we didn’t continue the more intense workouts. We did still go out and do things as a family, but we didn’t feel the pressure or obligation to do it quite as often without the cameras on.
Slowly – very slowly – white bread started creeping back in on demand from the family, and the whole grains mostly disappeared. I stopped being the carb Nazi and didn’t push greens as much as I used to. Meal planning – a huge amount of work – fell off the wagon a bit. Bagels, coffee with cream/sugar and the occasional box of Timbits started being a weekly treat from Tim Hortons. “I’ve lost 29 lbs, I deserve a treat.” It took less than a year to lose most of the healthy habits developed during the show. And then I started to gain…
First it was an extra 5lbs back on. Then 7. Then 10lbs, then 15lbs. Eventually, by 2013, I was back up and beyond my starting weight with the show. S-E-R-I-O-U-S-L-Y.
Perhaps part of the challenge is that I never sat down and addressed some of the issues that got me to that weight in the first place. WHY I am morbidly obese. WHY I now want to lose weight. What are my issues, man?? (And trust me, I’m still working on those right now)
Without getting to the meat of the problem, my newfound “fitness” was temporary.
With the exception of my oldest son, all of us gained weight back.
Which is ridiculous.
That’s part of the reason why, in January 2014, I decided to do something about my health, weight and fitness. I know I’ve done it before, and can do it again. So far, this go around, it’s taken me A LOT LONGER. Instead of 3 months to lose 29 lbs, it’s taken me 6 months to lose 35 lbs.
Every single pound is a fight. A lotta blood, sweat and tears.
And I feel like I’m doing it ALONE.
It takes serious drive and stamina (I’m breaking a mental sweat over here, people) to bring in the good stuff and be that lone example in a family of four. Okay, I shouldn’t play the martyr…I’ve been reaching out to friends and thank goodness I have awesome adventure buddies to do things with. BUT they’re not in my house, and seeing me every day, and checking on me to make the right decisions.
Moving forward into the latter half of my FAT TO FIT journey, I’m making promises to myself:
- The groceries I’m buying are super healthy. I will not pay for any groceries that are crap food. If my husband is along, throwing processed food in my cart, he can pay for that stuff himself. (I know that doesn’t entirely solve the problem but I need to take a stand)
- I will continue to be a low-key, positive influence in the lives of my family and figure out how to draw them in with love, affection and adoration to be healthier every day.
- I will invite, invite, invite everyone around me – family, friends, strangers – to be a part of my fitness journey, challenge groups, whatever. Let’s just be ACTIVE.
- I will get fit.
- I will not give up.
All said and done, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying that working for something good, awesome, right, etc takes time and commitment.
Do it for yourself, and for the positive impact it will have on the people around you, like your family and your little ones. I wish I had my act together when I was a young mum… a healthier start for MY kids. Make the change NOW!!
(Wow – second ranting post of the week…lol)
PS: I would link to our X-Weighted episode for you but Slice has removed the majority (if not all) of the X-Weighted episodes from the Slice Network website. If you catch us on re-runs, we originally aired December 24, 2009, in the episode titled “Hugh.” In all our crazy glory.