Staying fit: It's a family affair

The "Fit Kids" program at the local YMCA has helped dozens of children battle obesity over the last two years. But the Y also realized parents needed to be part of the solution. So, now, the program is called "Fit Kids - Fit Families."

Thirty percent of kids are overweight in this country; 15 percent are obese. For many, the unhealthy behavior starts early on and is repeated throughout their lives. Sadly, they often learn it from their parents. The YMCA is trying to break that cycle.

Ten-year-old Stephanie Brownell's weaknesses landed her here. "Candy, fudge, brownies, that stuff."

She says it's no fun being heavier than many of her peers, especially when it comes to fashion. "I want new clothes, but I can't get them because of my weight."

Her mom, Becky Brownell, knows all too well how it feels. "It is heartbreaking, especially knowing how cruel kids can be these days. I lived through that when I was in school, and, of course, we all want something better for our children."

Until now, parents were left out of the equation. The YMCA used to teach nutrition and exercise solely to kids in its "Fit Kids" program hoping some of it might rub off on mom and dad.

Sally Krouse, wellness education coordinator, explains, "When we first started the program, we didn't require that parents come, and we realized that the child can't make the change all on their own. It's got to be the whole family."

So, now, the program is called "Fit Kids - Fit Families," and one of the requirements is for a parent to be present during the 90-minute biweekly sessions.

The Brownells have been doing it for a week. "We've already identified and conquered a few bad habits," says Becky.

As soon as Stephanie reaches her goal of losing 20 pounds, she already knows how she's going to celebrate. "Go shopping!"

Thanks to a grant from Welborn Clinic and the Welborn Baptist Foundation, the YMCA is offering scholarships for kids who want to join the program. Children at risk for obesity ages 9 through 16 can apply for the program by calling 812.426.6210.