Trials, Triumphs and Takeaways of Fit Family Challenge (Part 3)

Big Muddy Mom Daughtr

Carolina Parent’s Fit Family Challenge may be winding down, but the lifestyle changes and healthy habits participating families have formed and strengthened can live on forever. Here’s a recap of the trials and triumphs our spotlight families will take away from their eight-week journey toward better health.


This family of five (pictured below courtesy of  Melissa Hayes Photography) faces a unique set of challenges. Mom Kim wants to make sure her three home-schooled children are getting enough physical activity. Making sure everyone eats a healthy diet is also difficult. All three kids have different eating profiles, as they are at different stages developmentally.

Kim and her husband, David, want to create better habits for themselves, too, so they can set a good example for George (14), William (12) and Naomi (10). Before the Fit Family Challenge began, the Armstrongs made a commitment to cut down on going to restaurants, which gave them a good head start.

What Were Their Biggest Challenges?

While the Armstrongs stuck to their plan of eating out just once a month, that put a little more focus on meal preparation.275x179-armstrongfamily_002.jpg

“Just making a point to plan ahead for meals, to have things prepared and ready (could be difficult),” Kim says. “We need to plan on the weekends what we’re going to do during the week. We’ve been pretty good about what we’ve fixed, but it would be less frustrating planning further ahead.”

Introducing healthy snacks, like fruits and vegetables, took priority. George bought into the dietary changes, but Naomi had a harder time accepting them.

“Our daughter did not like it much at all,” Kim says. “For her it was a huge challenge. It was something she really didn’t want to do, but we finished it together.”

Where Did They Find Success?

The Armstrongs have always been active and make outdoor time a priority every day.

armstrongsrunningbiking.jpg“What came easy was increasing the physical activity,” Kim says. “David already enjoyed running and the kids already had time outside, so increasing that wasn’t too difficult.”

The kids needed a little more encouragement, though, when it came to structured exercise. Their trainer, Ryan Fahey, a member of the Certified Personal Trainers Network of Canada and a canfitpro personal training specialist and fitness instructor, suggested particular exercises as part of increasing their activity level.

“Some of the exercises Ryan gave to us were a bit of a challenge just because the kids weren’t used to doing 10 reps of this or that,” Kim says.

But in the end, getting more exercise wasn’t so tough.

“We visited different parks and tried to venture out of our comfort zone, things that were a little different instead of just taking a walk every day,” Kim says. “They would usually bike three days a week, but instead of just doing that, George started playing more basketball. We incorporated going to the park and playing tennis, getting out on the walking trails.”

Can They Keep It Going?

“I think we can with a lot of it,” Kim says. “We’re already trying to retrain the kids to some degree as far as how they think about food. William is still a bit resistant, which I’m not surprised about because he’s stuck on what he likes — or what he doesn’t like.  But we will try to continue to incorporate all the aspects we have already.”

Best of all, the Armstrongs are seeing results. Not only is George playing in pick-up basketball games, but he recently grabbed a snack of carrots and water without any prompting. As of mid-May, David had lost 30 pounds, dating back to February, and 15 pounds since the challenge started. Kim had dropped 10 pounds since February and 5 pounds since the challenge started in a month earlier April.

What Did They Learn?

“You have to decide whether to do it wholeheartedly and accomplish what you set out to do, or you don’t really get into it and you’re kind of lackadaisical and you do it halfway,” Kim says. “If you see it through, you will see where you’ve come from.”


275x179hudsonsdogs2_002.jpgTHE HUDSONS

Robin Hudson is a single mom and full-time graduate student. As the years have passed, she and her 13-year-old daughter, Nadia, have fallen into some bad habits. (Hudsons are pictured at right Photo courtesy of Melissa Hayes Photography)

Hudson exercised on and off through the years, but a busy lifestyle crowded out her intentions to stay active. As she tried to keep up with Nadia’s dancing and school activities, she relied too often on fast food and sugary drinks and snacks.

What Were Their Biggest Challenges?

“It hasn’t been easy,” Robin says. “The hard part has been eliminating the sugar drinks. But we’ve replaced those and juices with water and Gatorade. It just makes sense to have water in the house all the time. That doesn’t mean that every now and then we might not grab a soft drink when we eat out. But both of us have really increased the water.”

Hudson’s schedule changed recently after picking up some shifts as a bartender. At first, that interfered with exercising, but she tackled the issue quickly.

“I learned that if I schedule my running dates with a partner, I keep my commitments better,” she says.

Where Did They Find Success?

“We’ve replaced a lot of foods that aren’t so good for us,” Robin says. “We don’t use Concord grape jelly. Instead, we use the spreadable fruit. We eat lots of fruit and raw vegetables throughout the day. Nadia actually takes those in her lunches. She will use whole-wheat tortillas to make turkey wraps.”

Hudson is walking between 40 minutes and an hour each day, with a little jogging mixed in.

“Nadia and I really enjoy walking together and we’re looking to find some bikes here before long,” she says.

Can They Keep It Going?

There is no wavering here. The Hudsons already feel like a success story. “I don’t think we could go back to the way we were,” Robin says.

When they rarely visit a fast-food restaurant, they make smart choices.

“At Chick-fil-A, you can ask for a multi-grain bun — and we don’t order fries,” she says. “We carry water everywhere we go, so we’re saving money, too.”

When it comes to maintaining the lifestyle, Robin has plenty of resolve. “I’ve started and stopped so many times before,” she says. “I just want to make permanent life changes.”

What Did They Learn?

To Robin’s surprise, the Fit Family Challenge has not been as difficult as she anticipated.

“Sometimes, we make things bigger in our heads than it is when we start doing it,” she admits. “What’s really important is that I’m consistently exercising and that we’re planning meals together and making the right choices.”

As of mid-May, Robin had lost 12 pounds and gone down one clothing size. But there has been an added benefit that she didn’t expect.

“Now that I’ve made it a habit, I can see that exercise is a way to alleviate stress,” she says. “Walking is just good for me. It’s become a necessity.”

Kurt Dusterberg is a freelance writer 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.

Photos courtesy of Melissa Hayes Photography 


Be sure to check out our Fit Family blog for insight from both families about their Fit Family challenge experiences, as well as advice from our Fit Family Challenge panel of experts: Ryan Fahey, our personal trainer; Maria Kennedy, our dietician; and Cindy Goulding, our motivational coach.

Categories: Early Education, Education, Family Health, Fit Family Challenge, Health, Health & Wellness, Health and Development, Lifestyle, Nutrition, School Kids, SK Health & Wellness, Tweens and Teens, Work-Life, Work-Life Balance