Healthier choices after Fit Family Challenge

Enjoying exercise, planning healthier meals and snacks, and learning how to focus on the positive all add up to healthier, happier families


Incorporating regular visits to parks is a great way to keep the whole family active.

Images by Micki Bare

Piedmont Parent’s Fit Family Challenge wrapped up in late June, and we spotlighted two Triad families — the Hamiltons and the Griffins — who were up for the challenge to work toward better health with help from a team of experts.

Our two spotlight families were assisted by a trio of professionals:

  • Cindy Silver of Winston-Salem is a registered dietitian who has practiced for more than 25 years. She owns a nutrition education, resource and counseling business called
  • Julie Luther of Greensboro is a fitness trainer and the founder and president of Julie Luther’s PurEnergy Health and Wellness Services Inc. She has worked with individuals and business organizations for more than 30 years promoting overall wellness.
  • Donna Burick is a certified life coach in Greensboro who specializes in energy therapy and the BodyTalk system. She guides her clients through the stress and chaos that comes with being a parent, creating solutions to help them find peace, clarity and happiness.

The Hamiltons

Darlene Hamilton, 41, of Greensboro, owns Loving Care Home Health Care Services. She is a single mother to 9-year-old twins, Cameron and Chase. Hamilton had gastric band surgery two years ago and has lost 70 pounds, but admits that she doesn’t like to exercise. Her goals include making lifelong changes to her family’s diet and making exercise fun.

An Update from Darlene:

“Things are going well with my exercise. I meet with Julie just about every Monday to do group exercise or spend one-on-one time refining my exercise plan. I do some sort of strength training at least twice a week. I have found that I have more energy, and I’m able to get more done. I also think that because I am more active during the day I sleep better at night. I have started sleeping through the night the past couple of nights. I’m sore most days of the week, but I guess that is a good thing because I’m moving more.

“Donna and I have talked extensively about ways to reduce my stress. I am doing daily breathing techniques. Something different that I am doing with Donna is practicing these techniques before a potentially stressful event. It has helped a lot. I have also reduced the amount of news I watch. We have concluded that it consumes a lot of my morning and I may be internalizing the stress I see on the news.

“Cindy has given great advice on how I can modify our meal plan for days when we are traveling. That was very helpful, because I don’t believe I took into account our travel schedule when doing our monthly meal planning. Checking in with Cindy has also helped keep me accountable. One day in particular was such a rushed day. I started to opt for the quick fast-food solution and Cindy called to see how I was doing, and I decided to make sure we stuck with the plan.

“The biggest change — the kids stopped taking chips as snacks to school, and we have fruit at night for a snack.”

From the Experts

Cindy Silver, Registered Dietitian: “Darlene and her twins are making progress with improving the nutrition in their household. According to Darlene, the boys’ snacks have improved a lot. Also, they are trying a new fruit or vegetable each week. Recently the boys adventurously tasted jicama and passion fruit. They are also helping to prep some of the dinner ingredients for their mom and this helps get dinner on the table quicker.

Donna Burick, Life Coach: “Things have been very busy for Darlene. Exercise is going well; however, it’s not her favorite thing to do, so we came up with some innovative ways to enjoy it. Some examples are going to yoga class, going to spin class, walking in the parks around Greensboro and even going to amusement parks when possible. Also, when she goes for a walk she feels that talking on the phone is a good multitasking distraction, so she is willing to walk farther.

“Just like mindful eating, we discussed mindful walking. Mindfulness is being in the present and enjoying it fully rather than thinking about what else you need to do. She is really enjoying the breathing exercises that help calm her down in the middle of her stressful day.”

Julie Luther, Fitness Coach: “Darlene has found a way to fit one strength-training class per week into her schedule! She loves the fact that someone else is thinking of what to do, telling her what and how to do it. Plus, there is a specific time to be there each week so she can make the time for it. … Darlene has also been consistent with her family event each week — going to the Greensboro Aquatic Center and swimming with her boys. They have not missed a week; it is scheduled into their life.”

The Griffins

Kelly Griffin, 39, and her husband, Rodney, 40, live in Summerfield with their three children — Rebecca, 12; Alexis, 10; and R.J., 9. Kelly is a stay-at-home mom while Rodney, a former police officer, works at a law firm in Winston-Salem.

Kelly said she has always struggled with her weight, but after the birth of her third child, her health challenges increased. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis, among other ailments. Medications she takes have made her gain weight, and chronic pain has kept her from exercising.

The Griffins want to support each other in making the right choices for a healthy lifestyle. 

An Update from Kelly:

“Since the start of the challenge, well, it has been a challenge itself,” Kelly said.

“We have been very active with baseball and softball. Between the two, we were at the ballfield about six days a week. I unfortunately didn’t make it to the gym, but did take the advice that Julie gave and did my strength training at home. She also provided some wonderful ideas for me to challenge the family now that my kids are out of school that will keep us active and having fun. Our first adventure is going to a trampoline park to jump and play, all while working on cardio. My husband, son RJ and daughter Alexis participated in a 1 1/2-mile parade with their softball and cub scout groups.

 “We are taking the advice of Cindy and have created breakfasts that go along with the food guide so that we may start our day off together as a family.

“I am still using the schedule that Donna helped me create that will keep me on schedule, fitting time for rest, time for fun, time for fitness and, most importantly, time for family. As a family we hope that we can make more progress with a lighter schedule, but we delight in the accomplishments we have made so far. The biggest thing we are learning now is that even though we have a plan, things come up. We have to be flexible and go with it and always have a good attitude. This has been great a challenge for my family.”

From the Experts

Cindy Silver, Registered Dietitian: “Kelly reports that she’s feeling good about the strides her family is making to improve their nutrition. They are working together as a team to plan meals according to the USDA Choose My Plate graphic ( As a result, they are doing better with nutritional balance of their meals. Milk is the only beverage served at dinner now. At other times of the day, family members may choose orange juice or water. … Kelly’s family is making a point of starting the day together at breakfast. The kids come up with their balanced meals according to their likes. For example, one daughter recently had a pancake wrapped around sausage and eggs, with strawberries and milk. That was a hearty breakfast on a school day.”

Donna Burick, Life Coach: “Kelly was incredibly busy with graduations, sports and school activities, so having this new program of getting together in the morning with her family has proved to be wonderful. Because they’re so busy, they cannot get together for dinner. The slow cooker meals have made it a lot easier for them to have dinner ready. When Kelly gets really stressed out, she goes back to the technique of taking 10 deep breaths in order to relax, to be able stay connected and positive. She tells her family to do this as well. They know summer is a lot more relaxing, so they will have time to create a ‘staycation’ to implement their new exercise program.”

Julie Luther, Fitness Coach: “During our strength-training session, Kelly learned how to do super-simple exercises like squats from a chair and rows with a tube. She and her kids have been able to incorporate these into almost every day. Simply taking five minutes to perform 20 squats from a chair whenever they think about it during the day, and getting together to perform the rows and chest presses with the tube wrapped around a banister in the house, is easy. Walking is harder to fit in, but by taking the time she spends at ball games with her younger kids, she and Rebecca are walking the track and climbing the monkey bars to fit in their cardio.”

Anne Wooten Green is a freelance writer from Winston-Salem.

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