Fit Families Reflect as Challenge Winds Down


Piedmont Parent’s Fit Family Challenge 2015 comes to a close this month. How did our spotlight families ride out the challenge? Let’s check in with the Brays and the Cooks to see what they’ve learned on their two-monthlong journey toward better health.


The Brays

Brittney, a teacher, and Kevin, a firefighter, are parents to Bayleigh, 12, and Kooper, 9, and are committed to spending as much family time as possible, despite busy schedules. Brittney and Kevin put in full days at their jobs, and then hit the ground running in the afternoons, shuttling the kids to and from sports practices and helping with homework. Wednesdays and Sundays are devoted to church, and then there’s Charli, the family’s beloved Boxer, who requires lots of outdoor exercise.

Brittney and Kevin have demanding jobs, and they are hands-on parents to two busy kids. Finding time to exercise is not easy. Kevin works an irregular schedule and though they are members at the Kernersville YMCA, Brittney admits her own fitness routine has fallen into the “couch 2 5K program.” Brittney and Kevin are determined to find a fitness routine that works.


What Were Their Biggest Challenges?

Hectic schedules and finicky palates: The Brays are picky eaters on a budget. “Eating healthier was the biggest challenge for us, for sure,” Brittney tells Piedmont Parent.

Registered Dietitian Cindy Silver gave the Brays a crash course on the importance of meal planning. She also gave the Brays a dry erase board to keep in the kitchen, where the whole family can see the weekly meal rundown. Learning how to plan meals is important, but the trick is to make them healthy. Silver implemented the Choose My Plate model for the family, a simple five-food-group design to ensure balanced meals.

“She gave me suggestions on things to try and simple recipes to use,” says Brittney. “Most importantly she got us to try new things!”

Where Did They Find Success?

The Brays are a close family who have always made spending time together a priority. “We like to hike, swim, fish, go to museums and parks. We try to do things as a family as much as possible,” says Brittney. The family also enjoys going out for neighborhood walks with Charli.

Since Bayleigh and Kooper are already involved in sports, and Brittney and Kevin enjoy staying active outdoors, it did not take much to put the family on the right path toward creating an exercise routine.

Bren Shropshire, our fitness expert, suggested they work toward small, manageable goals. The goal was to walk together, as a family, twice a week, for 30 minutes, and then spend 10 minutes doing strength-based exercises together in the living room, using dining room chairs and cans they keep in their pantry.

What Did They Learn?

No two families are alike; worrying about measuring up to impossible standards is a waste of time, says Brittney. “Taking small steps in all areas and finding what works for our family is what’s important. We just need to do what we can to be more healthy and most importantly do it together.” So far, so good. The Brays are sticking to the exercise plan, even when weather or work schedules make it difficult to do so.

Meal planning and getting active as a family have ushered in positive changes for the Brays, and so has Life Coach Lila Cruikshank’s advice for Brittney to take a few minutes a day to just breathe. “I am still working on some breathing techniques to help me during stressful times and to refocus and stay calm,” Brittney says. “I am using it quite a bit at home and at work.”

Will the Brays Keep the Challenge Going?

The challenge will continue in the Bray household. “We will definitely continue this process after the challenge is over,” says Brittney. “Being active has become part of our routine.”


The Cooks

For the Cooks, the challenge is not about being more active, but how to find balance and manage the hectic pace of three active kids and a single mom who does it all.

Heather Cook is a full-time speech language pathologist for Davidson County Schools. She and her children, 10-year-old twins Jackson and Lindsay, and Regan, who is 12, have jam-packed schedules. Heather wants her kids to be able to participate in all their favorite activities, which leaves little time for meal planning or trips to the grocery store.

What Were Their Biggest Challenges?

The nonstop weekday routine leaves little time for trips to the grocery store, and even less time for Heather to relax.

She devotes much of her time to making sure her children are at their various after-school activities. The pace is grueling, but she makes the sacrifice so that Jackson, Lindsay and Regan can do the things that interest them. “Sometimes I would love to come in after a crazy day at work and be able to divide and conquer, but I can’t,” she says. “I want my kids to be active.”

Where Did They Find Success?

Meal planning is key, the Cooks learned. Like the Brays, the Cooks received a wipe board from Cindy Silver, where weekly menus are displayed. Silver also used the same Choose My Plate model that she incorporated for the Brays. As a result, the Cooks are now including more fruits and vegetables in their diet, and are making fewer fast-food drive-through runs.

What Did They Learn?

Learning about healthy foods is a lesson the Cook children have embraced. “I see them with me in the grocery store looking at labels,” says Heather. “I see them asking me ‘Is this a healthy snack?’ Or saying, ‘If I drink a smoothie, it’s better than soda, right?’ ”

In addition to changing their eating habits, the Cooks are also following Bren Shropshire’s advice to schedule family exercise time. The children have been the most enthusiastic about this part of the challenge, says Heather. “Now they are suggesting things,” she says. “My daughter suggested roller skating and my son wants to try rock climbing.” 

As for Heather, she’s learning how to take a moment out of each day to breathe and focus on herself, as Lila Cruikshank recommended.

Can They Keep It Going?

The Cooks are in it for the long haul. Seeing improvements in nutrition and meal planning is a great motivator.

“We will continue this lifestyle,” says Heather. I hope, in 15 years, my kids will be active physically and choosing to make sound, balanced nutritional choices when they aren’t under my wing.”

Judy Caldwell-Midero is a Greensboro-based freelance writer and mother of two.

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