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Challenge #6: Mission Accomplished!

healthy family challenge

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?

Challenge #5: Get Fit: The Winners Are…

healthy family challenge

It’s a tie!

Training without a goal is like setting off on a family road trip without your GPS. There’s no guarantee you’ll reach your destination. So this month, we gave each member of the Avaglianos and Lehmans a personalized cardio, strength and weight-loss target. They worked with their fitness trainers and nutritionists to overcome obstacles and shape up. See who hit the mark, why some missed it and what their coaches did to make them move in the right direction.

What the Avaglianos Accomplished
At the start of this challenge, Peggy couldn’t complete a single sit-up and Peter was unable do more than three perfect-form push-ups. But 30 days later that all changed. The entire family reached or exceeded their strength goals. “Sit-ups were a perfect objective for Peggy because she complained about her weak core,” says personal training director Ann Erik of Tilton Fitness. “Plus, they are easy to measure.” And being able to gauge your progress is a great motivator: “Having a target to strive for inspired Peter to make a habit of going to the gym four times per week,” says Peggy. Amazingly, the family lost weight even though they took a 10-day trip to Italy mid-challenge! Here’s what they were aiming for with their workouts.

Peggy’s Goals
Go 2,000 meters on rowing machine in 9 minutes and 30 seconds Missed by only 4 seconds.
Do 5 sit-ups Exceeded by 7!
Lose 6 pounds Achieved! Down to 175 pounds (started at 191 in June).

Peter’s Goals
Walk 1 mile in 15 minutes Achieved! With 28 seconds to spare!
Do 10 push-ups with proper form Exceeded by 2!
Lose 6 pounds Achieved! Down to 272 pounds (started at 285 in June).

Michael’ s Goals
Run 1 mile in 7 minutes and 30 seconds Exceeded! With 32 seconds to spare!
Leg-press 800 pounds for 3 reps Achieved!
Lose 4 pounds Exceeded! Lost 6!

Amanda’s Goals
Go 2,000 meters on rowing machine in 9 minutes and 30 seconds Missed by only 4 seconds.
Do 3 pull-ups Achieved!
Lose 4 pounds Missed by just 1 pound!

How They Did It
★ Passed on a ride. The Avaglianos headed to Italy for some family R&R, but the country’s pasta and gelato didn’t weigh them down. “With all our walking around Venice–sometimes over 40 flights of stairs in one day–we stayed on track with our goals,” says Peggy. Vacations aren’t an excuse to gain weight. Instead, do your sightseeing on foot as much as possible.

★ Got write with themselves. Peggy suggests joining a free website, like or, and logging your food intake and exercise every day. “Being accountable to yourself really makes a difference,” says Peggy.

★ Used a training schedule. “Peter was a little worried about his walking goal,” says Erik, who also created a rowing routine for Peggy. “But following my set plan that includes interval and distance work helps improve speed and endurance.”


What the Lehmans Accomplished

This month the Lehmans’ sweat and tears paid off! Tiffany, Andy and 10-year-old Anna have a lot to be proud of after making huge fitness strides. “You need to be comfortable with basic body-weight movements–lunges, sit-ups, dips, push-ups, pull-ups and rows–before you can begin any formal strength program,” says Andy’s trainer, Wesley Keith of Gold’s Gym. “When Andy was able to complete 50 reps of each of these movements in half an hour, it meant his body was conditioned enough to move to the next level.” Tiffany also achieved what she set out to and feels invincible. “I am amazed at how just believing in myself a little bit and having someone else–my trainer–believe in me has showed me that I can be and do anything I want,” says Tiffany, who lost 2.5% of her body fat.

Best of all, this inspiration was passed from one generation to the next. “My parents motivated me to work out and were so encouraging,” says Anna, who exercised four to five days a week and realized how good she felt when forgoing junk food. “I am happier because I’m healthier and making better food choices. Overall, I’m very proud of myself,” she says. Here’s their tally when it came to taking things up a notch at the gym.

Tiffany’s Goals
5-minute continuous treadmill push Missed by only 6 seconds!
Squat, bench-press and deadlift 120 pounds each Missed each by 50 pounds or less!
Lose 4 pounds Achieved! Down to 233 (started at 250 in June).

Andy’s Goals
15-minute continuous treadmill push Achieved!
Squat, bench-press and deadlift a total of 500 pounds Exceeded by 215 pounds!
Lose 1”  from waist and 1.5% body fat Exceeded! Lost 4.5” and 2% (started at 257 pounds in June).

Anna’s Goals
Do 15 reps each of squats, jumping jacks, toe touches and overhead presses Achieved!
Lose 5 pounds Achieved!

How They Did It

★ Worked their way up. Lass Lassiter of Gold’s Gym helped Tiffany achieve her goals by using interval training and gradually increasing her workouts. For example, with the treadmill push, Tiffany started with 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off; the next session she did one minute on and one minute off, until she hit five minutes. “Every session, Lass pushed me harder and further than I ever thought possible,” Tiffany says.

★ Kept an eye on their plates. Their trainers and nutritionist suggested they cut unhealthy carbs, eat lean sources of protein and consume more fruits and veggies. “Lass has the same philosophy as Stephanie: If you can’t pronounce an ingredient in a product, then you shouldn’t eat it,” says Tiffany.

★ Avoided all excuses. This month the Lehmans were struggling with issues relating to their autistic 7-year-old son, Jack. Yet they were still able to stick with the Healthy Challenge plan. “Life is life, and if we wait for the timing to be perfect to set our goals, we’ll never be able to reach them,” says Tiffany.

What They Won: Both the Avagliano and Lehman families had their choice of one of two Epic home fitness cardio machines provided by Dick’s Sporting Goods: an A30T treadmill with iFit training programs and built-in speakers or an A30E whisper-quiet elliptical trainer (

How did your family get fit this month? Share in the comments below.

Andy, Week 18: The #1 Workout Lesson I Learned


You don’t need an hour-long cardio session to get fit.

That’s the biggest lesson Wes, my trainer at Gold’s Gym, has taught me. Twenty minutes of intense cardio bursts is just as good if not better since I’m shocking my body and forcing it to respond. On days I don’t do the cardio conditioning, I do weight training.

Wes has taught me four basic, strength-training exercises and twenty variations on them. Those basic movements are: the squat, bench press, overhead press and dead lift. If you can’t remember the last time you did any of those moves, it’s time to rethink your workout.

Worried that weight work will take longer than watching the counter tick down on the treadmill or elliptical trainer? Surprise: Weight training doesn’t require hours in the gym. An intense, half-hour is all that is needed. But you have to be fully present during your workout—no zoning out while watching TV on the stationary bike. The main focus is on correct form and intensity. It’s not how much you do, it’s what you do that matters.

Tiffany and I love our new, fit life and will not go back to our old ways. Sure, we’ll slip up now and then. We’re only human. But we are so aware of what our bodies need in order to thrive at peak performance and loving how good we feel, there’s not turning back.

Could you trade your straight cardio workout for conditioning? Post a comment and tell me!

Challenge #3: Get More Exercise


photo via

Stride Right: We outfitted the Lehmans and Avaglianos with Fitbit activity trackers to see how getting more exercise could make a difference in their shape-up goal. Their goal: Each family member is striving to take 10,000 steps a day.

Will both families emerge victorious again? Or will one fare better? Check in each day for Tiffany and Peggy‘s updates, as well as advice from their nutritionists Stephanie and Elizabeth.