Taking the Challenge: One Step at a Time

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Courtesy of Stephanie Aberlich

Two weeks into the Fit Family Challenge, which began May 1 and ends June 26, we asked our panel of experts to assess our spotlight families’ biggest challenges. Then we checked in with the spotlight families to see how they were progressing. Here’s what everyone had to say.

THE EXPERTS

Gaye Esser, owner of Redefine Balance, is assisting both families with the motivational side of making lifestyle changes.

Her thoughts on the Lucas family:

“They are figuring out avenues to be active together rather than doing it individually. What does Felicia like to do and what is she willing to do? It's never too late to make a change. Make a change you know you are going to stick with.”

Her thoughts on the Prater family:

“Jenny needs to give herself credit as a single mom. With more goal setting she can make this more doable and acknowledge that they have accomplished something.”

Evie Houtz serves as the fitness instructor for the families and is a program director for Be Active Kids, which encourages elementary school children to increase their physical activity.

Her thoughts on the Lucas family:

“They're a very motivated family. They're ready to go, they have energy and they're close-knit. They stay together and get things done. The teens can hold each other accountable. The parents want to walk together. You can make walking as light as you want, or you can go faster or do hills.”

Her thoughts on the Prater family:

“Matthew doesn't get off the bus until 6 p.m., then he eats and does homework, and he's not fond of physical activity. He needs to think about cutting down on screen time and use it to be physically active, doing things like going outside and throwing the football. For the Praters, it's about carving out time for physical activity.”

Tracy Owens is a board-certified sports and clinical dietitian. She is the owner of Triangle Nutrition Therapy.

Her thoughts on the Lucas family:

“The biggest thing was getting some better snack ideas. Felicia wants to get rid of the junk food and sweets.” Owens says she advised the Lucas family to “Notice how you're feeling, and recognize the difference between hunger and appetite. Hunger is in your stomach. Ask yourself, ‘Why am I eating?’”

Ashley Acornley, also of Triangle Nutrition Therapy, is a sports and clinical dietitian, as well as a certified personal trainer.

Her thoughts on the Prater family:

“Jenny expressed the difficulty in preparing meals and shopping healthy. Their favorite time of day to eat is late in the evening and they have a sweet tooth. Ice cream tends to be their favorite sweet at night, so I suggested Skinny Cow ice cream, Outshine frozen fruit bars or making frozen yogurt granola cups."

THE LUCAS FAMILY

Felicia Lucas has her family focused. Along with her husband Kelvin, they are making changes to the way the family eats and stays active. Isaiah (16), Kelsey (13) and Silas (8) are active kids, but Felicia can't be with them every moment. By establishing better habits in the household, she hopes the whole family will benefit for years to come.

Photo courtesy of STEPHANIE ABERLICH

What is working well?

“The nutrition. I'm more cognizant of what we snack on. I'm trying to be more creative incorporating things into normal eating. Instead of cookies and chips, I bought string cheese and fresh fruit. It's a little adjustment.”

What has been the biggest challenge?

“We talked out our goals, how we can get physical activity 30 minutes a day, three times a week. My husband and I walk, and the kids get that at school and by playing rec sports. But the challenge is getting that activity together as a family. I have a friend who has rackets, so we borrowed them and played tennis as a family. For an indoor activity, we played a game together on Xbox.”

How would you describe your progress?

“We're off to a good start. We could be better, and I think we will in June when the kids are out of school.”

Has this been easier or more difficult than you expected?

“At first, I wondered how we were going to do all the stuff. But once it was on paper, the overwhelming-ness of it subsided.”

Do you think you can maintain a healthy lifestyle?

“I think so. My ultimate goal was to make changes that would affect generations to come. It has to be a lifestyle. The kids have to do something about it now. As an adult you have additional responsibilities. You don't want them to struggle at 35 or 45.”

THE PRATER FAMILY

Jenny Prater has her hands full. She is a single working mom who needs more hours in the day. Her son Matthew (11) is reluctant to give up screen time in favor of physical activity, while her daughter Allyson (9) is a little more open to going along with changes. But Jenny is trying. When we caught up with her, she was preparing a dinner of pan-seared chicken, rice and sweet potatoes.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PRATER FAMILY

What is working well?

“The kids took a trip to the mountains, and we went to a Fit Family Challenge event. Allyson has a pedometer, and she is trying. We both did about 5,000 steps today.”

What has been the biggest challenge?

“It's the motivation. There's not much the experts could tell me that I don't already know. It's a matter of implementing. How do I deal with my kids? I have to drag them through this. How can I make them happy and willing to do it?"

How would you describe your progress?

“I can't say we've met any of the goals. It hasn't really kicked in yet. One of the goals was waking up at 5 a.m. and doing three laps around the block, but I'm just so tired. I'm trying to get back in the habit.”

Has this been easier or more difficult than you expected?

“I wouldn't say it's hard. As far as snacking, I haven't been eating Oreos or crackers. I'm not bad in snacking habits, but maybe I could use some lower-sugar options.”

Do you think you can maintain a healthy lifestyle?

“Oh, definitely. Small changes can make a big difference. I want to be realistic. I don't think people like me (people who have depression issues) are represented — the kind of struggles a single mom who is overweight faces. If I can be the inspiration to somebody, I might help them see their struggles are understandable. Not that misery loves company, but it's OK to not be perfect.”

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

Categories: Exercise, Fit Family, Fit Family Challenge, Health

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