Do create a diet democracy. Discuss—don’t declare—your intentions with your family. “Share your wellness goals, but ask them for ways to get there,” says Stephanie, the dietitian who worked with the Lehmans.
Don’t go overboard. “Slow modifications over time usually last longer than radical ones,” explains Elizabeth, the dietitian who worked with the Avaglianos.
Do find a fitness goal. “Explore local events where your family can participate as a team,” suggests Larry Soler, president and CEO of the Partnership for a Healthier America. Try a bikeathon, 5K, adventure race or hike.
With the help of nutritionists, personal trainers, a motivational coach and a sleep expert, our Healthy Family Challenge participants revamped their lifestyles. Both groups had ups—they won Epic home cardio machines—and downs—one family lost their Fitbit activity tracker in the washing machine…twice. But today the Avaglianos and the Lehmans look and feel like different people and are eager to share their insights to help transform you and your crew. Read on!
What the Avaglianos Accomplished
Peggy: lost 16 pounds
Peter: lost 9 pounds
Michael: lost 12 pounds
Amanda: lost 9 pounds
“We’d been talking about eating better and exercising for years, but always came up with excuses not to,” says Peter. Thanks to the motivating challenges, the Avaglianos have shed 46 pounds and made lasting changes. The perfect example: “The program helped our son prepare for his freshman year of college, where he’s eating on his own for the first time,” says Peter. “Just the other day, Michael told me that he grabs yogurt or an apple at the student center before class rather than skipping breakfast. He never would have done that without this experience.” Their DIY advice:
1. Go for the (specific) goals.
The kids needed to learn how to make smart food choices before heading off to college (check!). Peggy wanted to whittle her middle (guess who dropped three pants sizes?). And Peter, a diabetic who hates injecting his insulin, was determined to slim down so he could reduce his medication. “After six months, my average blood sugar levels went from 320 to 180, which is huge,” says Peter. “My endocrinologist was really impressed and said that if I lose a few more pounds, I’ll be able to cut back on insulin.”
2. Plan to move as one.
The New Jerseyans needed help finding physical activities they could enjoy together and entertainment that didn’t revolve around food. Now, at least once a week, they go on an hour-long post-dinner walk—a suggestion from their trainer Ann Erik at Tilton Fitness. “We’d tell the kids on Friday that we want to bike ride at the boardwalk Sunday morning,” explains Peggy, who suggests giving children advance warning.
3. Eat right on the go.
When the family embarked on a seven-day, 2,800-mile car trip to drop three of their children off at college, they didn’t succumb to fattening road-side fare. “We went online every night and found a list of food options for the next day available at every exit,” says Peter. “And rather than bring potato chips or M&M’s for snacks, we packed grapes and apples.”
4. Don’t quit on vacation.
Despite driving 10 hours a day during their road trip, Peggy and Peter found time to work out as trainer Ann Erik suggested. “In the morning, we’d head to the hotel’s fitness center to do cardio and free weights—again something that we never would have done before,” says Peter. “It also really helped my legs loosen up after all that driving!”
What the Lehmans Accomplished
Tiffany: lost 19 pounds
Andy: lost 19 pounds
Anna: lost 6 pounds
“Yo-yo dieting was the story of our lives,” says Tiffany, who was determined that her children avoid the weight loss struggles she and Andy experienced. “I could see Anna adopting some of our bad eating patterns and wanted to change that.” Soon enough their daughter was eagerly following their new habits and loving it. “Eating healthy every day is hard when there’s a lot of tempting junk food at school and on field trips,” says Anna. “But I have more energy when I make good choices. And I don’t feel gross like you do after eating a hamburger.” Most important, the Lehmans (who dropped 44 pounds) permanently overhauled their diet. “This is a lifestyle change—not temporary,” adds Tiffany. Their top tools:
1. Strike up some friendly competition.
“The smartest tip was from trainer Wesley Keith at Gold’s Gym. He told us the best way to make fitness a family thing was keeping it fun so that it doesn’t seem like work,” says Andy. “We learned to turn it into a game.” For instance, each family member used his or her Fitbit activity tracker to see who could log the most steps each day.
2. Create fat-free incentives.
One bad habit the Lehmans previously had was rewarding their kids with unhealthy fare like fast food or ice cream. But their dietitian Stephanie suggested they come up with other ways to acknowledge accomplishments. “Instead, we treat them to a family activity, like going to Sky Zone trampoline park or the playground,” says Tiffany. “We lead very busy lives, so having quality time with each other is actually a great reward for all of us.”
3. Catch your 40 winks.
“The most shocking weight loss advice I got was to sleep more,” says Tiffany, who learned this from Robert Oexman, D.C., director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Missouri. “I didn’t realize how much sleep is required to lose weight and how the quality and quantity can help me make wiser food choices. It also gives me energy to get through the day and kill it in the gym!”
4. Sweat together.
Both Andy and Tiffany began to fill their weekends with activities everyone could enjoy: playing outside, going to the park, running while the kids ride their bikes. “Before, Tiffany and I wouldn’t participate in these things. We’d just watch the kids have fun,” says Andy. Anna and Tiffany also followed a workout program designed by trainer Lass Lassiter of Gold’s Gym. “It got us both sweating and having a blast together,” says Tiffany.
What the Avaglianos and Lehmans won: We asked Reebok to reward both our families for the hard work they’ve done slimming down with new—and smaller—workout gear. How’s that for motivation to keep moving?
Outside of marrying the love of my life and having my children this whole process has been one of my best accomplishments. The past six months have personally touched my soul and I am forever grateful to Family Circle in giving us this once in a lifetime opportunity. In my last post, I recapped the first three months of the challenge. Things got kicked up a notch for the last three:
Challenge 4: Sleep Tight.
A good night’s rest is so vital in weight loss and over all health. If you don’t get the proper amount of sleep it could lead to weight gain, lower your immune system so you get sick or even impair your judgment. We won that challenge and we won new beds for the four of us which we’re loving. They are so comfortable!
Challenge 5: Get Fit.
Exercise goals were set by our personal trainers at Gold’s Gym. Anna was challenged to do an at home routine and lose a few pounds. Andy and I were pushed further than we thought possible and met those challenges and we even broke a couple of personal records! This part of the challenge was also especially hard for us as we had the most difficult time in our parenting lives. It made us come together and the four of us grew. While the road was hard it was a journey worth traveling and made all four of us better for the struggles. Because of us doing so well and the A-team (the Avaglianos) doing the same, we both got to choose a piece of training equipment courtesy of Dicks Sporting Goods. Andy and I chose the elliptical.
Challenge 6: Slim Down.
This month’s goals were just for me and Andy. It was to lose as much weight in a healthy way as possible and get points by doing activities together as a family, staying true to portion sizes and not using food as a reward. Find out how we did when the challenge ends, next Tuesday.
What did you love most about the last three challenges? Post a comment and tell me!
Let’s face it: We all have days when we just don’t feel motivated to exercise. But if everyone in the family is committed to exercising, then you’ve got motivation to show up at the gym. One way you may not have thought of to work out: Signing your brood up for a small group class. Here, some suggestions from Tilton Fitness (where kids 13 and up are allowed to break a sweat) on their best classes to try:
What it is: In this class, you’ll use TRX straps (the popular suspension equipment designed by Navy Seals) followed by a 30-minute spin routine.
Why it’s great: You’ll get a double shot of cardio and strength training—and the bands will give you a truly great total-body workout. Plus, the exercises are easily modified. Although everyone can be doing the same movement, they can perform it at varying levels of difficulty.
What it is: Trainers will use the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) method—which is a short burst of physical activity followed by a rest period—to build muscle and boost strength.
Why it’s great: Since you go as hard as you can, you’ll rev your metabolism and burn calories long after you leave the gym. But like the TRK/SPIN class, you can easily dial down the intensity.
COMBAT BOOT CAMP
What it is: With its mixture of plyometrics, calisthenics and weight training, the popularity of boot camp classes shows no signs of slowing down. The activity is part cardio, part-strength training, and a lot of fun.
Why it’s great: You’ll build strength and hone your flexibility, but the best part of the class might come from performing the kicks, jabs, and punches themselves—how’s that for a confidence booster?
(Photo via Tilton Fitness’ Facebook)
We tapped the experts at Tilton Fitness for easy ways to keep your metabolism running at top speed.
- Park on the opposite side of the parking lot. The farther you are from your destination, the more steps you’ll have to take. Commuting via train or bus? Get off a stop early and walk.
- Do some sit-ups in the a.m. Turn on the shower and do the exercises as the water is warming up. You’ll wake up faster and be stronger.
- Knock out some push-ups on the sink. The bathroom workout continues.
- Go for a walk on your lunch break. You’ll log extra cardio, but the time spent outside can help you feel reenergized too.
- Take the stairs. The elevator is convenient, but there’s a reason the Stairmaster is so popular.
- Swap your office chair for a Fitness ball. Doing so engages your core muscles.
- Take a stretching break. It’ll keep you moving. Plus being sedentary all day increases your risk for heart disease and being hunched over a desk can hurt your posture.
- Stand on one leg while cooking. You’ll strengthen your quads and hamstrings—but just be careful!
- Do a few sets of squats while watching TV. Stand in front of the couch, lower your hips until your butt grazes the seat and then return to standing. Repeat during the commercials.
- Walk the kids to school. It’s an easy way to log extra exercise for the whole family—plus, you get to spend more time with them!
What’s your favorite way to sneak in exercise? Tell us in the comments below.