5 Tips to Cut Family Fat

By Laura Nathan-Garner

Between work and family, who has time to exercise and eat healthy? Much less get their family to do the same?Gonzalez family

That’s what Elit Gonzalez thought. But everything changed when the Type 2 diabetic learned she needed insulin shots.

“I begged my doctor to give me three months to turn things around,” Gonzalez says.

Nine months later, she has lost 50 pounds and takes only a low-dose pill for her diabetes. Her husband has lost 30 pounds, and his once-high cholesterol has reached a healthy level. Their six- and seven-year-old sons read food labels.

And, they’ve all reduced their cancer risks. Maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and eating healthy foods are among the best ways to prevent cancer, says the American Cancer Society.

Give your family a healthy boost by following the Gonzalez family’s lead:

1. Get professional guidance.

Gonazlez, who works at MD Anderson, started by taking advantage of an employee wellness program. Vicki Piper, an MD Anderson dietician, taught her about good and bad fats as well as portion control. Piper also pointed Gonzalez to a Web site, where she tracks the 1,400 calories she eats each day. Their meetings helped Gonzalez figure out where to make healthy changes in her diet.

2. Model healthy choices for your family.couple

Gonzalez didn’t have to justify these changes to her husband. “He was upset that I wasn’t taking care of myself,” Gonzalez says. “He was really supportive and promised to exercise and eat whatever I ate.”

Some family members may mistake a new diet and health regimen as a criticism of their unhealthy habits.

Gonzalez thought this might happen with her mother, who cooked heavy comfort food. “I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but I had to put my foot down when I went to her house,” Gonzalez says. “I said I couldn’t eat it because of my health.”

Gonzalez’s mom started cooking healthier food for her daughter — and herself. As a result, her mom has lost 30 pounds.

3. Learn from your kids.

When Gonzalez told her kids that she was going to exercise and eat healthy, her seven-year-old son became an instant supporter. “He teaches us all these stretches he’s learned at school — some I didn’t know!” she says.

Find out what your kids know about diet and nutrition. Asking and learning from them may boost your kids’ self-confidence, reinforce the healthy habits they’re learning and encourage them to learn more! 

4. Clean out the pantry.

“If something’s not in your pantry, you’re less likely to miss it,” Gonzalez says. So get rid of high-fat and high-calorie foodsRefrigerator and replace them with healthier alternatives.

Gonzalez, who used to drink two or three sodas a day, has stopped drinking them altogether. With almost 150 calories per 12-ounce can, these sugary drinks cause weight gain and increase cancer risk, says the American Institute for Cancer Research.

The Gonzalez family also cuts calories — and spending — by ditching fast-food for home-cooked burgers made with lean ground beef and light bread. They pack on cancer-fighting nutrients by topping them with tomatoes and avocado slices.

5. Focus on fun exercises.

It’s hard to motivate yourself to climb the Stairmaster® every day if that’s not your idea of fun. Gonzalez suggests mixingBackbends things up and doing a bunch of different exercise activities. “This keeps us from getting bored.”

On Saturday mornings, the Gonzalez family visits the track at her son’s school. Her seven-year-old teaches the family stretches. Then they run a mile together, kick around a soccer ball and toss a baseball.

Other days, the family swims or gets exercise from an unlikely source — a video game. “The game awards you points for walking, so the boys put on their pedometers and make us walk around the neighborhood to get more points,” says Gonzalez, who also visits the gym alone a few times a week.

“My sons have learned to embrace this healthy lifestyle by listening to me talk about the changes I’m making, seeing me make better food choices and watching me look at food labels.”

Related Links:

Get the Facts: Healthy Kids Make Healthy Adults (MD Anderson)
Get Your Spud Moving (MD Anderson) 
Redo Your Family Barbeque (MD Anderson)