healthy family challenge 2012

The Resolution That Changed Everything

peggy avagliano

Like millions of people throughout the world, I make a New Year’s Eve resolution to lose weight and eat healthier. When I tell my four kids, they roll their eyes believing that the resolution will only last a few days to weeks, as it has in the past. While I was still on the health kick this year, a friend emailed me Family Circle’s Healthy Family Challenge entry form. I entered, pausing only briefly to consider what it would mean if our family was chosen to be in the challenge; after all, it was Family Circle. So many people would enter. Why would they chose us?

A few weeks ago, I received an email saying that my family was a finalist! Wow! Before I spoke to anyone, I had to tell my family. Responses included:

“Why didn’t you tell us about this before you entered?”

“Do we have to?” and

“I am not giving up my cookies at lunch.”

I told them that we were finalists, and nothing was decided. We would not do this unless everyone was willing to try. Bottom line. They all agreed. Even my two daughters in college (Katie and Christina) said they would try and follow the challenges. We would do this as a family.

We were told that the challenges would not be “too hard” and we could win “fabulous prizes.” The first challenge would begin on Ash Wednesday! It was perfect. Lent has always been the Catholic excuse to diet. Throwing 2,000 years of guilt on top of any resolutions you want to make sure helps. As a good Catholic, post Vatican II, you need to give up something and do something. I gave up chocolate, and will try to do the challenges. Okay, maybe that is a little too self-serving. I’ll give up chocolate (not an easy thing for me), and try to get other people to join us in this challenge—and improve their health along with us.

I’m happy my family is to be a part of this challenge. The one thing I feel I have not given my children is a good role model for proper nutrition, and now Family Circle is going to help me fix that.

If my family, friends, co-workers—and anyone who happens to see this blog, loses weight and gets into better shape, we will have won—even if we never get one of the “fabulous prizes.”

Leave a comment and let me know if you’re on board!


“The Ultimate Prize Is Our Health”

tiffany lehman

It’s official. What I once thought was a pipe dream is a reality. I applied for us to be chosen for this challenge thinking never would we be picked. The only person I told was Andy, my husband, and even then I just kind of told him in passing. I applied late one January evening and I told him as we were getting ready to call it a night, thinking…we’ll never be chosen. When I got the call that we were finalists, I just had a feeling that we would be the lucky family to get the honor to participate in this challenge.

We ‘re very excited, happy and thrilled to start this challenge, but it also made us nervous. Nervous that we are going to be so out there. Nervous about failing. It’s one of my biggest weaknesses: fear of success and failure. But then I think about our strengths. We’re very determined and committed to this challenge and know that we will put our best foot forward.

We really hope to inspire and challenge others to make good choices for their families. The epidemic of being overweight is so vast in our communities. But by making small diet changes, we can have a huge impact on health.

We hope that in this journey with Family Circle we can learn that a fast-paced, busy family can still find time to eat healthy, get workouts in, have fun and watch our waistlines shrink in the process. The ultimate prize is our health and being able to pay the journey of health forward to our children. I want to teach my daughter Anna and my son Jack how to be the best nutritionally they can be and not struggle with weight gain like Andy and I have.

I’ve been a member of SparkPeople for a while and gotten great support there.

Post a comment and let me know about the healthy legacy you’d like to leave for your kids.


Meet the Avaglianos’ Nutritionist

elizabeth fassberg

New York City-based Elizabeth Fassberg, R.D., is president and founder of Eat Food, a company that designs custom nutrition programs for businesses, organizations and individuals.

She’ll be helping the Avaglianos transform their behaviors and build health awareness.

“I try to figure out how to motivate people to make changes within their comfort zone,” says Fassberg.

Her Family Plan: “I want them to make the decision to change certain things rather than me telling them,” explains Fassberg. “I’ll have them discover what’s in the prepared foods they eat by looking it up online or checking the food label. When they see the high calories, carbs, sodium, saturated fat and sugar, they’ll make the decision to cut down. I won’t have to tell them.”

Her Healthy Eating Tip: Drink seltzer flavored with a splash of citrus juice in place of soda or juice alone. “It’s a waste of calories to sip sweetened drinks,” says Fassberg.

Got a healthy eating tip? Share in the comments below.


Meet the Lehmans’ Nutritionist

Stephanie Karpinske, R.D.

Stephanie Karpinske, R.D., is author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success. Through her Urbandale, Iowa–based company, SK Health Communications, Karpinske develops recipes and writes for supermarkets and food companies.

Family Circle asked Karpinske to guide the Lehmans through their six-month makeover and give them some of the knowledge they need to accomplish their goals.

“Even the best advice isn’t helpful if it doesn’t fit into your life,” says Karpinske. “The Lehmans need tips tailored to their lives.”

Her Family Plan: “Helping the Lehmans make time for healthy eating will be my priority. They need a go-to meal plan, a kitchen stocked with basics for super-quick recipes and snacks, and a weekly menu that includes ‘emergency dishes’ for those too-tired-to-cook nights.”

Her Healthy Eating Tip: Replace brown or white rice with quinoa. “You’ll get five times the fiber versus white rice and nearly 50% more protein than brown rice,” says Karpinske.

Got a healthy eating tip? Share in the comments below.


Meet the Avaglianos

The Avagliano Family

The Parents: Peggy, radiologist, 45; Peter, set designer, 45
The Kids: Michael, 17; Amanda, 15 (Christina, 20, and Katie, 18, aren’t participating because they’re away at college.)
Home: Egg Harbor City, New Jersey
Current Stats: Peggy, 191 lbs and 5’4″; Peter, 285 lbs and 6′
Goal for Michael: Lose the weight he’s gained since quitting football due to an injury
Goal for Amanda: Drop those extra pounds and increase her flexibility

Why They’re Ready For The Challenge: “At work, three people in one day asked when I was due,” says Peggy. “I said, ‘Fifteen years ago, I’m just fat!’” She’s also concerned about Peter, an insulin-dependent diabetic who has hypertension and sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease. “He needs to change his lifestyle before complications set in,” she says. Peter is also focused on change. “When I finally accepted the fact that I had diabetes, it hit me that I needed to control my eating and exercise so I could decrease the medications I hate taking,” he says. The Avaglianos also want to help their kids. “They don’t have poor self-image, and I want to make sure they never do,” says Peggy. “Getting in better shape is the key.”

Better-Health Hurdles:
Excuses never end. “We always find a reason—an upcoming graduation party or birthday—why now isn’t the best time to get healthy,” says Peggy.
We’re in a recipe rut. “We’re busy, so I make the dishes that I know even if they’re not the healthiest,” she says. Think tortellini Alfredo or chicken Parmesan. “I’m Italian and I like my pasta along with heavy, creamy sauces,” says Peter.
On-the-run eating leads to poor choices. “If I’m working on a show, it means several weeks of 12- to 13-hour days,” says Peter. “I end up grabbing food at the convenience store, or coworkers and I order in.” When Peggy works late or the kids have band practice, dinner consists of take-out pizza or fast frozen meals.

Their Fit Future
Discover fat-free fun. “We need family entertainment that doesn’t revolve around food,” says Peggy, who hopes to
find physical activities that they can enjoy five days a week. “Before we had kids,” adds Peter, “Peggy and I did charity
events like the MS 150 bike ride. I’d like to start doing those things again.”
Pare down Peter’s prescriptions. “I hate taking my diabetes medication,” says Peter. “I’d love to drop 50 pounds in six months to a year and reduce my insulin intake as a result.”
Find satisfying food swaps. “I want us to have the knowledge to make healthier choices on the go,” says Peter. “This includes meals we can prepare in advance and bring with us and details on the best take-out choices.”

Do you face the same health hurdles? Share in the comments below.