Fit Family Challenge: Game On!

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Carolina Parent’s Fit Family Challenge kicks off April 15 and runs through June 9. For the next three months, we’ll follow two families who agreed to take the challenge, sponsored by Coca-Cola, as they journey toward greater health with the assistance of a dietician, personal trainer and motivational coach.

We hope your family joins the Fit Family Challenge as well. Read our Fit Family Challenge FAQs and create your account today to help Triangle families challenge Charlotte families during eight weeks of fun, fitness and family togetherness. May the best metropolitan region win!

Meet the Hudsons

Robin Hudson remembers hearing some sage advice when she was a kid.

“I wish I had listened to my mother, who said, ‘Start exercising now. It will be much harder later,’” Hudson says.275x179hudsonsdogs2_001.jpg

Like many of us, the busy parenting years are starting to catch up with her. Hudson is a single mom. She has worked as a high school teacher and a paralegal while raising her 13-year-old daughter Nadia. Her lifestyle isn’t getting any easier, either. She is now a full-time graduate student.

But something has to give — and Hudson is ready. The one thing she needs is direction.

“Cooking a healthy meal is an ambitious goal during the week,” she says. “I have all these great ideas, then the produce sits in the fridge because we haven’t made it a priority.”

That’s when they sometimes turn to more convenient options: fast food and sugary treats.

“Nadia is active,” Hudson explains, noting that her daughter is a dance student and cheerleader. “She says, ‘I can eat McDonald’s and ice cream because I’m young.”

But Hudson doesn’t want her daughter to fall into bad habits. In anticipation of changing their lifestyle, she is already encouraging healthier options. Mom packs cucumbers and edamame in Nadia’s lunch. When her sweet tooth kicks in during the evening, Nadia sometimes grabs a clementine.

For her part, Hudson is back on track with exercise.

“In recent weeks, this challenge is more in the foreground of my mind,” she says. “It seems easier to make time for it. I’m taking longer walks with the dogs. It’s beginning to become a priority.”

And yet, she can see one of the obstacles ahead. She has had gym memberships in the past, and often found the exercise too taxing physically.

“That has been a deterrent for me in the past. I think about how much it hurts. I prefer walking and the treadmill. When you exercise in a way that makes you hurt, you’re not excited to experience it again.”

Hudson has one other concern. She and Nadia get by on a tight budget.

“I need some really sound and practical ideas for eating healthy on a single mom’s budget,” she says. “The better things cost more.”

With a clear plan, however, Hudson feels she has the resolve to make changes.

“Most important, I need to achieve a healthy weight, and Nadia needs to see me living purposefully in that regard,” she says. “I believe it will result in her replicating those efforts in her own life.”

Meet the Armstrongs

275x179-armstrongfamily_001.jpgOne year, during the holidays, Kim Armstrong asked her daughter what she wanted for Christmas.

“All I want,” Naomi told her mother, “is a fruit tray from Chick-fil-A.”

Ah, if only it were so easy all the time.

Kim and David Armstrong have three kids with three different approaches to nutrition. Fourteen-year-old George will eat most anything. William is 12 years old and a bit of a picky eater. He doesn’t care for fruits or vegetables, and he resists foods with certain textures. Naomi, 10, will pick at her food one day, then have a big appetite the next.

The different approaches make it difficult to prepare a meal the whole family can enjoy.

“Our biggest goal is to be enlightened about new and improved ways to cook foods and just to try new foods,” Kim says.

When it comes to exercise, the family needs some direction, too. The Armstrongs are home-schooled. Kim realizes the lack of scheduled physical education time is not ideal.

George played baseball a few years ago, but after taking a couple seasons off, he had fallen behind the skill level of his peers. While he likes to ride his bike, he spends time playing video games, too. William and Naomi also like to be outdoors, but neither one has a favorite physical activity or sport.

“My goal is to find what works for my kids as far as exercise,” Armstrong says. “We ride bikes, we go on trails, but there are other things. … We’re not sedentary people. I do my best to make sure they are outside whether it’s cold or not. I exercise the least of the five of us, and I try to work in as much as I can, but sometimes I put that on the side. I’ve got cooking and cleaning and everything else to do.”

The Armstrongs have already made one concession toward a healthier lifestyle. They are eating out just once a month.

“It has been very difficult,” she admits. “To make a good meal takes time. Sometimes I feel guilty if I have to throw something together. I have tried to plan out meals more. But we don’t want to substitute the money we’re saving from not going out with an excessive amount of groceries.”

While Armstrong hopes that she and her husband can shed a few pounds along the way, their motivation to improve their fitness is rooted in a broader idea.

“If we’re not healthy, we can’t do much for ourselves or anybody else,” she says. “That’s what our family is about. We serve in our church and our community. My goal is to stay healthy so we can continue to serve.”

Meet the Motivational Coach: Cindy Gouldingcindygoulding-bethmandel_001.jpg

Cindy Goulding is a licensed professional counselor, as well as a health and wellness coach and certified personal trainer.

She will work with both families to achieve success by setting goals.

“I always like them to envision a long-term goal,” Goulding says. “Without one, they don’t know what the short-term goals are to get them there.”

In her book Healthy Weight: It’s a Family Affair, she discusses barriers to good health, such as stress and busy schedules. She intends to keep both families looking ahead.

“Each time we talk, we will talk about their successes and their challenges and move forward from there,” she says.

Meet the Dietician: Maria Kennedy

mariakennedy_001.jpgMaria Kennedy is a registered dietitian and a licensed dietitian/nutritionist.

She acknowledges that families have established eating habits, so she won’t necessarily throw out the their daily menus.

“We’ll figure out what their needs are for their lifestyle,” Kennedy says. “If you give them unrealistic goals, then it doesn’t ever work.”

Both families expressed concern about making time to prepare healthy meals. She thinks a little advanced planning will help.

“I’m good at helping them with ways to make things at home,” she says. “Make meals in advance so you can spread it out over the week and not just grab something that’s quick or convenient.”

Meet the Personal Trainer: Ryan Faheyryanfaheynew.jpg

Ryan Fahey, our personal trainer pictured at right, is a member of the Certified Personal Trainer’s Network of Canada, and a canfitpro personal training specialist and fitness instructor specialist. He is also the program manager for Be Active Kids, an interactive health program created by BlueCross BlueSheild of North Carolina for N.C. children ages birth to 5 offering tips, ideas and suggestions for young kids to develop healthy physical activity and nutrition habits. He blogs at

Kurt Dusterberg is a freelance writer who lives in Apex. He is the Carolina Hurricanes correspondent for and the author of the book, “Journeymen: 24 Bittersweet Tales of Short Major League Sports Careers.”

Categories: At Home, Family Health, Fit Family Challenge, Health, Home, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Work-Life, Work-Life Balance