We have kids ranging in age from 10 to 16 and it's sad to say that they are all overweight. Is there a fitness program that we can do at home together where we eat better, exercise and motivate the kids to want to become healthier individuals? Everything we find seems to be way over our budget or unable to hold the kids' interest.

It doesn't cost any money to get outside and walk. A nature hike or playing on the playground or at the park would work well too. Take them to the grocery store and start teaching the importance of reading labels in choosing healthier foods. Put up a chart with the kids' names on it and whenever they choose to eat a healthy snack, award them with a gold star or give them some other small reward. Once a certain amount of stickers has been reached, you could reward them with something special (not food). They could take turns using a jump rope or hula hoop as one of their daily activities. If the family has bikes, take advantage of nice days to go for a bike ride as it is a great way to get exercise. Doing crunches or sit-ups are also good exercise. Anything you can think of that gets the body moving is worth it; all it really takes is a bit of imagination to come up with ideas to start getting more fit. -- A mom who has done it!

From Jodie: To become a healthier, slimmer family, caloric intake and activity level goes hand in hand. Make gradual changes in eating healthier. Unless your doctor says otherwise, do not throw everything out at once or try to change every little bad habit in one sweep. It only creates frustration and the kids will end up stuffing themselves after only a short time. Breakfast is very important; it jump-starts the metabolism and is essential to being fit. However, it shouldn't be something dessert-like. A granola bar, a good cereal,or some fruit would do well. Explain that making healthier choices does not mean having to give up favorite foods. It is easy to grow accustomed to diet versions of favorite sodas or baked versions of favorite chips. My kids easily made the switch. Though weight training is still quite popular among preteens and teens, this has been a controversial topic for years. In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a warning about youth weight training, as there is a right and wrong way to do it, as well as, waiting until they reach physical and skeletal maturity. See their website,, along with doing your own research and speaking to your family doctor, before beginning any program. Familiarize yourself with the necessary terms; find out exactly what each nutritional fact means so that it is easy to explain to your family. And for even more insight into individual meal choices and focused exercise plans, see

Model good eating and fitness habits. This will be a great time to follow through on personal plans. In the end, a huge factor in the success of anything you implement with this kind of "family program" attitude is going to be how dedicated you are. If the kids see you slip, even once, they will know that it's all right for them to not take it seriously.

Can You Help?

As a young mom of a toddler, I find it incredibly difficult to teach my son simple things, like something being too hot or cold, not running into the street, biting, slapping, etc. Is there a nationwide program for toddlers that offer classes on these topics? I think he would welcome someone else explaining everyday safety rules besides me.

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