Creating Healthy Families
A follow-up to our focus on children’s health with success stories from participants of the Kentucky Living Health Club four-month challenge, including tips and motivation for your family
When the Elam family, members of Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation, returns my call to talk about their participation in this year’s Kentucky Living Health Club—the magazine’s follow-up to November’s focus on children’s health—it’s not mother Ronda, but 11-year-old Jordan who’s on the line and ready to talk. (You can read that feature “Raising Healthy Children.”)
He tells me that he’s learned about reading food labels to get nutritional information and serving size. He vents his disgust at the caloric content of the “beef dippers” served by his school cafeteria. He explains how many calories his swim practice burns.
And he also tells me that the 14 pounds he’s lost have caused him to drop from a men’s size in pants back down to a kid’s size.
His mother tells me later that Jordan was eager to be interviewed, just as he’s been the family’s most eager and vigilant participant in the KL Health Club—and the one who’s been most affected by it.
Ronda says that as a “roly-poly little techno geek” who wasn’t particularly into sports, Jordan had trouble with being bullied and “people making fun of him.”
“He was this little chunky boy who didn’t fit in,” she says. “Now he’s slimmed up, grown up, and you can just see him walking a little taller.”
“I feel a lot more confident,” Jordan says.
That kind of change is what we were hoping to inspire in November with the children’s health article, and then in the first four months of this year, when the Health Club kicked off.
We asked our 135 members to set a health goal for them and/or their families, list three action steps they would take toward attaining it, and to post their progress on the private Facebook group.
We sent them a starter kit that included a 2013 Kentucky Living Photo Contest calendar and a pedometer from the magazine; a 2013 Food and Nutrition calendar with recipes and nutrition tips from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service; Power for Your Plate (a collection of recipes and health tips) and cooking thermometers from the Kentucky Beef Council; and a jump rope, flying disc, and drink cozy for the kids.
There was a lot of technical information exchanged in the group—recipes, workouts, strategies for coping with long, hungry car rides, and ways to reduce kids’ screen time. But it got a little deeper than that for many members.
Lisa Capehart, an exercise physiologist and certified wellness coach from Foster, participated this year and offered a 12-lesson e-course called “An Organic Approach: Cultivate the Authentic You.”
It focused on what Capehart calls “an inside-out approach.”
“It’s about changing their focus to it being about a healthy lifestyle,” she says. “When I see people post about changes in perspective and attitude, those are the ones who really have been successful. They really have changed their lifestyle.”
She mentioned a member whose comments, in her own posts and on others’, were persistently “weight-focused.” But in one of her final posts, Capehart says, the member wrote that “through being in this club she’d learned how much this was not just about weight loss—this was the first time she’d ever realized that. And I’m thinking ‘Hallelujah!’”
The KL Health Club, which debuted in 2010 as a four-month wellness challenge running December-March, serves as a general support group for the adults, with posters sharing triumphs and setbacks. Jennifer Tidwell, a two-year member, celebrated passing her boards to become an R.N. Teresa Igo, a member of Pennyrile Electric cooperative who also participated both years, posted about her travails with an injured foot that required surgery.
There were more everyday complaints, which also played a significant role for many people. Melissa Wiley Hollingsworth, an Owen Electric Cooperative member who lives in Campbell County, says she appreciated when people would share that they’d had a struggle: “To show that we all have bad days, people are not perfect—for me that was a big lifter,” she says.
“When I have a day where I think I should be working out and I don’t, to see that other people feel that same way was really nice—that everybody’s not gym rats and gung-ho that you’ve got to exercise every day.”
Hollingsworth says that Kentucky Living’s November 2012 health feature—and her and her husband Steve’s recent 40th birthdays—inspired a small-bore reckoning. “It was kinda like, ‘We need to do something’—we would notice that we were getting out of breath more easily.” While neither she nor her husband is overweight, they were “just feeling old, and not liking that at all.” Now they’re getting ready to start running again.
For Hollingsworth, the big change has been replacing the three or four fast food meals they might typically have in a week. “It’s helped us save money on top of it,” she laughs.
The family has bought fewer processed foods. This year they’re planning to put in a garden, and her four boys—Zack, 13; Jake, 12; Carter, 9; and Peyton, 6—are excited about that. Peyton has taken to helping her in the kitchen. Three of her sons (she didn’t name the dissenter) love spinach. “I can get a bag of spinach out and they’ll eat it raw,” she says. “It just cracks me up. I can’t stand it, it’s so bitter. But if you guys like it, you eat away.”
Many parents have made similar surprising discoveries about their children. Melissa Renner, a Jackson Energy Cooperative member from Mt. Vernon, says her 9-year-old twin daughters Lara and Lizabeth “like to try new things more than I thought they would.” Looking through recipes, they selected couscous, the fine-grained Moroccan pasta. Now it’s a family favorite, either served on the side as a starch or under such dishes as teriyaki chicken.
The Renner girls’ participation in menu planning underscores one of the big lessons from the KL Health Club: empowering and involving children makes a big difference.
As South Kentucky RECC member Allison Placke Gregg posted in March, “Learning to be healthy is so much more fun and meaningful when you involve the family. Kids are easy, they will do what we do, we just need to make the healthy choices.”
In a phone call, Gregg says she learned that lesson last year, when our first KL Health Club inspired her to start running with friends in the neighborhood and her 7-year-old son Will joined them. She says that for Will, running or exercising with Mom is as much of a treat as a candy bar.
“I want my kids to grow up with a healthy mindset,” she says. (In addition to Will, there’s 3-year-old Henry.) “Make them not have to struggle like I do now to make those healthy choices.” She wants good health “to be an unconscious effort on their part as they get older—not have to be a choice for them, it’s just how they live.”
“It was really nice to see how many parents out there got their kids to be active participants and really honored their children’s feelings,” Capehart says. “Sometimes you don’t see that, especially when there is the more traditional upbringing where kids are to be seen and not heard.”
Renner says that her daughters have served as enforcers. “They come and tell me, ‘Mom, it’s time to do this.’ So they try to keep me going too.”
Ronda Jordan-Elam posted in the Facebook group that her son Jordan is “the calorie cop in the house now.”
Not long ago, she was going to the grocery and Jordan called out these words—words that he may have been the first child ever to utter: “Make sure you get some wheat bread!”
Some of the best posting on the Kentucky Living Health Club Facebook page came in response to managing editor Anita Travis Richter’s weekly questions. (It could have been because everyone who posted was eligible for a drawing for prizes ranging from cookbooks to fitness DVDs and exercise dresses.)
In mid-February, Richter asked two questions:
What is the best single motivation you’ve found to get kids into wellness thinking/doing?
Do you limit screen time (TV/computer/video games) during the school week or on weekends, and if so, how? Do you think this helps them be more active?
Here’s a selection from the responses:
Brandi Miller Page (Pennyrile Electric cooperative) said that her children have limited access to television, computers, and mp3 players during the week. “On Friday, if chores are done and grades are great, they get what we call Friday Night Campout. They are allowed to watch movies, play their iPods, and stay up late. They would walk through fire to have their Campout Night. I’ve found that they even elect to go play together with their toys or take part in family games instead of the television. Memories are made and laughter is heard throughout the house. We love Friday Night Campout!”
Melanie Cornett-Gross of Laurel County: “Motivation is playing basketball together. That is what my son likes. We also picked him up a set of weights. (He is a teenager.)”
Michele Vinson Knab (Owen Electric Cooperative): “We play a game at the grocery; I will purchase two bonus items (not on our list) if you can tell me all the ingredients. I let them pick a few treats and this gets them involved in finding good food choices. Dance parties, playing soccer, having fun are the best motivators to get the kids moving.”
Melissa Wiley Hollingsworth (Owen Electric Cooperative): “This time of the year is hard when all I hear is ‘I’m bored.’ We do limit electronics time. Usually there is none during the week unless we play a Wii game as exercise. I do let them have their iPods for music but only for music without headphones. So we all have to like what’s playing, especially Mom!”
Allison Placke Gregg (South Kentucky RECC): “I always offer a healthy snack with the request of a cookie or chips. Also, I will have them washed and sitting on the counter to snack on for easy access…I let them help me put the groceries away so they can see what options of snacks they will have (fresh berries, yogurt, etc.).”
Gwynne Aidala (Farmers RECC): “My children do what they see...I’ve started riding a stationary bike or lifting hand weights while watching TV. Without prompting, I’ll see my children doing the same.”
Christene Makin (Blue Grass Energy Cooperative): “We lost my dad to a heart attack in 2006 and his lifestyle, eating, habits, etc., were the cause. We talk as a family about how your eating and exercise habits affect you. This is the biggest motivator for all of us.”
CULTIVATE THE AUTHENTIC YOU
This year, Lisa Capehart—an exercise physiologist and certified wellness coach from Foster—didn’t just serve the Kentucky Living Health Club as a valuable source of information and encouragement.
She also offered members a free, 12-week e-course in written and mp3 form titled “An Organic Approach: Cultivate the Authentic You.”
Her emphasis was not on the technical side of things—which foods burn fat, which exercises fit together in a weekly program—but on the psychological and spiritual changes that are necessary for a person to become healthier.
Indeed, they’re focused away from the usual obsession with pounds lost. In a formulation she’s fond of, Capehart says, “Making healthy choices is the goal. Losing weight is the outcome.”
The approach developed from Capehart’s 16 years of experience with female clients, as her practice evolved from personal training to more of a coaching approach. One question seemed crucial to her: “Why couldn’t my clients do what they said they wanted to do?”
She got a sense of clients feeling unworthy because of the physical shape they’re in. She says she’s seen great results begin from a simple reframing of the situation—from “I’ve got to lose weight so I’ll like myself” to “I already like myself, therefore I’m going to take better care of myself so I’ll lose weight.”
“It’s not about deprivation,” she says. “It’s about making daily good choices for yourself because you love yourself.”
The course began with a series of four lessons that Capehart calls “the four pillars” and are also available as a free, stand-alone e-course called “4 Quick & Simple Ways to Change Your Life NOW!” on Capehart’s Web site, www.lisacapehart.com.
The four pillars are:
• AWARENESS Being present and aware of moment-to-moment experience, rather than abstracted from what is going on.
• ACCEPTANCE Accepting yourself as you are; viewing life circumstances not as something inflicted on you, but as malleable circumstances you can change.
• GRATITUDE Being aware of what you’re thankful for “makes it easier to see what is RIGHT with our lives.”
• RECOGNIZING YOUR VALUES AND PRIORITIES The tools for recognizing (and then realizing) “the authentic you.”
Capehart is trying to develop a book from this material, and as she talks about it you can see it as the authentic her.
“You have to make the internal journey to get true, lasting external results,” she says. “I really love helping people down this path.”
CONGRATS TO KL HEALTH CLUB GRAND PRIZE WINNER!
Drawn at random from those who participated in the Kentucky Living Health Club four-month challenge, our grand prize winner is Melissa Wiley Hollingsworth. From Kentucky Living she won a 32MB Wii U Deluxe Console and a variety of fitness games valued at $500. We are sure the Hollingsworth family—Melissa and Steve with sons Zack, Jake, Carter, and Peyton—will fully enjoy their prizes.