In an attempt to do more laundry or squeeze in another episode of The Good Wife, almost all of us skimp on sleep. And
that includes the Lehmans and Avaglianos. So we used data from their Fitbit Ultra activity and sleep trackers as well
as their interviews with Robert Oexman, D.C., director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Missouri, to create
personalized goals that would get them the rest they need. “Just like going to work and the gym, you have to make a
commitment to quality rest,” says Dr. Oexman. “Once you stop cheating the clock, you’ll look, feel and function
better.” Here’s how our families put zzz’s at the top of their list—and how you can snooze better too.
How the Lehmans Won
After a neighbor’s home was broken into almost a year ago, Anna started coming into her parents’ room in the middle of the night and sleeping on the floor. “She was scared that the same thing was going to happen to us and the
person would take not just our things but her too,” says Tiffany. “She would almost cry because she didn’t want to stay in her room.” And although Anna didn’t wake her parents, kids don’t rest well on the floor, says Dr. Oexman.
Tiffany also had an issue to tackle for this challenge: A self-described night owl, she didn’t turn in until 11 p.m. or later. As a result, she was not getting enough shut-eye and was skimping on time with Andy, who often hit the hay by 9:30 p.m.
“Sleep wasn’t something that I really invested much in before,” says Tiffany. “But I realize now that it’s a vital part of weight loss and overall health.” The result of their new and improved bedtime habits? Andy has more energy and is down 2 pounds. Tiffany dropped 2 pounds as well.
Their Top Tips
★ Go to bed together. Instead of spending mindless hours online or watching TV, Tiffany curbed her night owl tendencies and turned in when Andy did. “I really enjoyed that time we had together at the end of the day,” says Tiffany. “We talked, got to snuggle and had more intimacy.” All this made Tiffany realize that getting the right amount of sleep is “totally worth it!”
★ Keep the kids out. After just two nights of following Dr. Oexman’s method (see “Reclaiming Your Bed” on page 137), Anna was snoozing in her own room the entire night. One important thing: Dr. Oexman assured Anna that her fears were normal for a kid her age. “This way she didn’t feel odd about doing this on a nightly basis,” says Tiffany. “Now she’s sleeping great and wakes up in a much better mood!”
★ Unplug for 30 minutes. “Bright lights from devices like computers, TVs and cell phones decrease the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for making us feel tired and fall asleep,” says Dr. Oexman, who told both families to turn off all technology at least 30 minutes before bedtime. “This tip really helped because it forced me to unwind in other ways—like talking to Andy, reading and praying—and to not be overstimulated with images,” says Tiffany.
What They Won: The Lehmans racked up the most points this month for following good sleep habits. So Kingsdown decided to help them get an even better night’s rest by giving the entire family new mattresses. After answering questions about their sleep patterns, Kingsdown found the best bed for each of them. To locate a retailer where you can take the quiz, go to bedmatch.com.
How Did the Avaglianos Do?
Before the challenge, lights out at the Avagliano household was around 11 p.m. and alarm clocks went off at 5:30 a.m.
The teens weren’t getting the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours, and the parents were missing the 7- to 9-hour mark. Another issue: Peggy and Peter’s tendency to doze off on the couch while watching TV. Because they’ve already slept some, this makes it harder to drift off to dreamland later. Though many of us watch TV before hitting the sack, doing so is a no-no, as is anything technology related such as checking email or playing video games. Lastly, Peter’s snoring was a
potential problem because snoring can cause disrupted sleep. Peter benefitted the most from Dr. Oexman’s array of tips. “After about a week, I felt more rested and energetic, and it was easier to get out of bed in the morning,” he says.
Their Top Tips
★ Making an announcement. Dr. Oexman suggested that the Avaglianos hit the hay at 10–10:30 p.m. “We made a conscious effort to turn in earlier during the challenge, but between work, kids, the gym, cooking and living, sleep is not the highest priority,” says Peggy. Adds Peter: “Still, just being conscious of the hour and saying, ‘It’s time for bed,’ which I haven’t said to my kids in years, definitely helped.”
★ Starting a “no couch sleeping” policy. To stay alert, Dr. Oexman suggested the Avaglianos play a game or take a walk before hitting the sack. “And when you’re falling asleep on the couch, why not go to bed?” If one of them did nod off while sitting up, the Avaglianos took Dr. Oexman’s advice and woke the dozer. “We got an hour more sleep that way,” says Peter.
★ Eliminating snoring. “Loud snoring can stir the person doing it and his or her partner even if they don’t remember in the morning,” explains Dr. Oexman. He suggested Breathe Right nasal strips, which Peter tried. “I noticed that I didn’t toss or turn as much,” he says.
What has helped your family get more sleep? Share your top tips in the comments below.
Eating right? Check. Drinking enough water? Got it. Moving more? That was this month’s task for the Lehmans and the Avaglianos, our Healthy Challenge families. We urged them to get off the couch and get active. To do so, they used Fitbit activity trackers to count their daily steps, met with personal trainers and committed to breaking a sweat more often, whether they were shaking their hips in Zumba, mowing the lawn or swapping dessert for an after-dinner walk. Only one family walked away with a prize this month, but both reaped the benefits of putting one foot in front of the other and hitting the gym. Read on to learn how they worked it out.
How the Lehmans Won
Before this month’s challenge, Tiffany exercised four times a week by running, pedaling on a stationary bike, weight training, and taking kickboxing, circuit and boot camp classes. But her trainer elevated her sessions to the next level by having her push a weighted milk crate across the floor or do a continuous treadmill push (that’s where you unplug the treadmill and use your own body weight to move the belt in 30-second intervals). “This builds muscle and gets her heart rate up,” says her Gold’s Gym trainer, Lass Lassiter.
Andy thought he was getting enough cardio because his job as a building engineer requires a lot of walking. He averaged the most daily steps of all participants, with 13,362. “But your body gets used to the same activity day after day and eventually doesn’t have to put in as much effort to burn calories,” says Andy’s trainer, Wesley Keith of Gold’s Gym, who showed him cardio and strength moves that would help build muscle and trim fat.
Anna, 10, and Jack, 6, are too young for the gym but logged about 10,240 and 11,680 steps a day, respectively. Their parents’ trainers suggested the family play kickball and dodgeball and do simple calisthenics (like jumping jacks and squats) in the park. All that sweating paid off. “I’m wearing shorts I haven’t been able to wear in three years!” says Andy. Here, the advice that helped these winners take all.
Their Top Tips
★ Become unstoppable. Tiffany’s trainer taught her that it’s important to live a physical life and to look for exercise opportunities everywhere—even things like laundry and cleaning count as mini workouts. “I actually wanted to mow the lawn so that I could burn more calories and get more steps in,” says Tiffany. “One Saturday I ran in the morning and mowed in the early evening and I loved it!”
★ Focus on form. You may exercise often, but without proper technique you increase your risk of injury and won’t reap the desired results. “Good technique leads to strength, which leads to more muscle and less fat,” says Lassiter. To focus on quality, Tiffany cut back on quantity, doing just five sets of five reps of each exercise. “Before, I wasn’t feeling the impact, but since being shown the correct form I feel it and am seeing results,” says Tiffany. “For example, I’m getting some nice biceps!”
★ Make fitness family fun. “Kids don’t even have to know they’re exercising. Just get them outside and play,” says Keith. Tiffany and Andy heeded this advice but went beyond a simple stroll to the same-old playground. “We took the kids to a trampoline park called Sky Zone. Talk about fun and a workout!” says Tiffany.
What They Won: The Lehmans averaged 11,783 steps per day each. After all that walking, we thought they deserved a little relaxation. So SpaFinder.com sent them a $1,000 gift certificate.
How Did the Avaglianos Do?
Physical activity wasn’t high on the Avaglianos’ priority list before the challenge. Walking their dogs and cleaning their pool were about all the exercise that parents Peggy and Peter got. For their teens, Amanda and Michael, it was daily gym class at school and marching band three times per week. “When the choice was flopping down and watching TV or exercising, we’d always choose TV,” Peggy said. While that all changed, the transition was a process.
First, we teamed up the family with trainers at Tilton Fitness. Then we asked them to slip on their Fitbit trackers to see how active they were. Peggy and Peter both walked more than before—often hitting their goal of 10,000 steps a day. Mom and Dad also headed to the gym for spin classes, weight training and exercise on cardio machines four times a week.
In addition to racking up steps and stairs climbed on their activity trackers, Amanda fell in love with BodyPump, a weight-lifting class set to music, and Zumba, and Michael liked his sessions with their trainer, TJ Loos. “Being an older brother, I know the power of sibling rivalry,” says Loos. “Michael and Amanda tried to support each other, but they were also motivated to outperform each other.” Today the whole family has more energy, so they flop on the couch for TV time about twice per week rather than daily—a new habit that has reaped results. “Since we started the challenge, I went down one pants size and Pete says his pants fit better,” says Peggy, who got in about 7,000 steps per day.
Their Top Tips
★ Make it a contest. Although Peggy found it hard to squeeze additional steps into her busy workday, counting them did motivate her. “The Fitbit was a little reminder to move more and outdo myself,” she says. Peter and the kids competed against one another, comparing their daily steps at dinner each night. “We even got Fitbits for our two daughters who are away at school [and not part of this challenge], and created a family group on the Fitbit website so that we could see how we were doing compared to one another,” says Peter.
★ Find your perfect gym fit. For the first time ever, the Avaglianos joined a gym as a family—and they made sure it was the right one for them. “We know so many people at Tilton Fitness, which is a plus,” says Peggy, who likes the social aspect of the place. Adds her trainer, Ann Erik, “I believe this is helping them stay motivated and makes them feel like they belong.” The right facility combined with encouragement from their trainers has made gym time something the Avaglianos enjoy rather than a chore they dread.
★ Just do something. Erik suggested that the Avaglianos take a walk after dinner three to four nights a week. “We can’t do this as much as we would like, but the suggestion made us more conscious of trying to do things as a family,” says Peter, who averaged more than 8,000 steps per day. For example, Peggy and Michael go on bike rides together, and all four try to spend weekend afternoons strolling through a neighboring town or on the boardwalk. “Finding fun activities makes the lifestyle change more likely to stick,” says Loos.
How have you gotten moving? What are you doing to be more active in your daily live. Share your success in the comments below.
It’s a tie!
This month we peered into the Lehmans’ and Avaglianos’ cups, mugs and glasses. What we found was a health mistake your crew can probably relate to: Drinking sweetened beverages was expanding their waistlines. “So many drinks are loaded with sugar, which adds excess calories to your diet,” explains Elizabeth Fassberg, R.D., the Avaglianos’ nutritionist. Because liquid calories are much less satisfying than those from food, they can lead to overindulging. Avoid downing the wrong beverages—which may pack on pounds, trigger energy slumps and even increase your blood pressure—with these tips from the families.
The Lehmans’ Tips
At first glance, the Lehmans seem to sip right. Tiffany and Andy avoid soda and juice and whip up healthy smoothies at home rather than buying the pre-made kind, which can be high in calories and sugar. They’re also big water drinkers, gulping down one to two gallons a day as a family. But mom and dad were drinking major calories when it came to the beer, Merlot and Cabernet they paired with meals three or four times a weekend. Now they drink beer or wine just once a week. As a result, Tiffany’s blood pressure is back to normal and she’s lost 3 pounds. Here, their better beverage plan.
★ Portion control your cup. “Four big glasses of wine or three 20-ounce beers can add up to 800 calories,” explains Stephanie, the Lehmans’ nutritionist. Even one 8-ounce glass of wine can have the same calorie count as a 4-ounce rib-eye steak. Using Wine-Trax glasses helped the Lehmans pace themselves. “Once my mind was made up to do this, cutting back on the beer wasn’t difficult,” says Andy. “Plus, I had more energy, slept better and the weight came off easily.”
★ Know the impact. “We learned your liver stores fat cells from alcohol,” says Tiffany. “Since we want to slim down, that was a motivator.”
★ Mix your drinks. The Lehmans had a glass of water between each glass of wine or beer. “This gives your hand and mouth something to do and keeps you satisfied,” says Tiffany. Plus, it helps you cut back on the amount of alcohol consumed.
★ Make mocktails. The Lehmans treat their kids, Jack and Anna, to juice or soda once a week. But even that adds excess sugar and calories. Since Anna likes soda and lemonade, Tiffany prepared healthier versions with a SodaStream carbonated beverage maker. “Both our kids loved this,” says Tiffany. As for cocktails, check out the great nonalcoholic recipes here.
Before this month’s challenge, no one in the Avagliano clan was getting the recommended amount of water his or her body needed to function efficiently, feel satisfied and slim down. The New Jersey family was drinking a combined total of just four to six glasses a day. Peggy and Peter were dependent on rich coffee drinks, diet beverages and caffeinated tea. Amanda and Michael favored apple juice and sweet iced tea. But one month of thinking before drinking led Peter to drop 7 pounds, Peggy to lose 2 and Michael to shed 3. Here’s how they did it.
★ Know what’s in your cup. “Every workday morning for five years, I had a 16-ounce low-fat French vanilla cappuccino from a local convenience store,” says Peter. That was until he checked its nutritional information online and saw it had 250 calories, 56 grams of carbs, 37 grams of sugar and 2 grams of saturated fat—none of which is good for Peter’s type 2 diabetes. “I was shocked, especially because I thought it was healthy to order the low-fat option instead of the full-fat one. Now I realize that regular coffee is a better choice and haven’t had a French vanilla cappuccino since,” he says.
★ Make simple substitutions. Peggy was drinking 12 to 15 cups of black tea daily. Although she didn’t fill them with sugar and milk, they added up to a lot of caffeine. “Some caffeine is fine, but this was too much,” says Elizabeth, Peggy was also missing the greater cancer-fighting benefits offered by green teas and the potential weight-loss benefits from white tea. “I cut back by alternating tea with water and replacing at least one mug a day with green tea,” says Peggy, who pared down to six to eight cups. Peter, who spends a lot of time on the road for work, also started choosing water over diet soda, and that cut his cravings for snacks such as M&M’s and chips.
★ Sweeten up your water. Before the challenge, Michael drank one glass of water a day at most. But once the family followed Fassberg’s tips to liven up their H2O with things like lemon wedges, raspberries and strawberries, he (and the rest of the family) started toting water bottles everywhere. The result? He upped his water intake to a gallon a day.
What Both Families Won: Passes to Six Flags for the ultimate thrill rides, including a chance to splash around in water (instead of focusing on drinking it). The Avaglianos got a season pass to the Six Flags Great Adventure near them in Jackson, New Jersey. The Lehmans won a weekend hotel stay and day passes to Six Flags St. Louis.
How have you started drinking more water? Share your success in the comments below.