The Family Challenge to Get in Shape

A few months ago, I started growing concerned because I noticed my family members were getting a little heavier each time I saw them.

We’re a large, tight-knit Colombian family, and many love their chicharones, deep-fried empanadas, and greasy chorizo. And we all know that once you get older, those fatty foods eventually end up catching up to you.

And while they didn’t need to lose that much weight – my family doesn’t have major weight problems – they could lose a few pounds.

My concern was not just for aesthetic purposes: Unhealthy weight results in higher incidences of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, joint issues and decreased metabolism because of unhealthy eating habits and a lack of exercise.

And as a professional nutritionist and weight-training enthusiast, I decided it was my duty to make sure my family didn’t follow the wrong fitness and nutritional path.

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So I decided to challenge my family – not just urge them to have a healthier lifestyle, but dare them to eat better and exercise more.

One morning last month, I woke up and decided to start what I called the “family challenge.” I emailed each of them and told them about my idea to have them eat healthier and lose weight.

This was my plan: I wanted them to eat “real clean” for one month. This meant no processed foods unless it was whole wheat/whole grain pasta, and no breads cereals or crackers. I told them to substitute those foods with sweet potatoes, brown rice, Greek yogurts, fruits, vegetables and lean meats. And I wanted them to drink a lot of water – about 64 ounces a day.

I also wanted to get their metabolism going by having them eat every three to four hours – and include some kind of exercise – anything, really. Walking, jogging, sports, weight training, dancing, whatever type of exercise they chose to do was fine with me. My job was to provide the nutrition aspect of the family challenge, and their job was to GET ACTIVE. No EXCUSES! We are all here to support each other because we are a very tight-knit family.

Once they agreed to participate, I requested their height, weight and photos of themselves to see the before and after pictures. I sent each of them daily food items (lean proteins like chicken,turkey or fish and fibrous starches, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy). The women are allowed four ounces of lean red meat a week – though the men could eat up to six.

I gave the men one menu and the women another one. I also gave them a shopping list that included foods to avoid, for now, and a daily multivitamin as well as flaxseed oil for the women. For the ladies, I also asked them to take BeautyFuel, a supplement that boosts their energy without the side effect of most fat burners, which causes jitters or heart palpitations.

I didn’t want it to be a quick weight-loss plan– I wanted them to start picking up healthier eating habits and start doing some type of physical activity.

My plan, ultimately, is to offer them a long-term healthier option that includes the physical activities of their choice, better food choices and better menu planning for eating during work hours, including snacks, and eating on a regular schedule (not every 6-8 hours) to avoid hunger and overeating.

I’ll be updating you on how well they are all doing. This is my big Latino family health challenge – and hopefully we can all work together get in better shape.

Norma Korpics is a nutritionist and competes in figure/fitness competitions. She lives in South Florida. 

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