Lessons learned from reality TV

South suburban spotlight

Jackie Evans lost 100 pounds from her experience on NBC’s hit TV reality show,"The Biggest Loser,” but it isn’t what she lost that is so amazing, it is what she gained. Freedom from food and a new mission in life to bring what she has learned to the next generation. She is starting with the 50 to 60 kindergarten through eighth-graders who attend her nonprofit afterschool care and recreation facility, Reach Out for Life, in Mokena.

Kids will participate in a six-week progressive program that will take them through the basics of exercises. Instructors from LifeStage Fitness, a local gym, run the fitness classes.

Evans says she feels drawn to helping today’s youth adopt a healthier lifestyle because of her son, Dan. Dan, 21 and weighing in at 310 pounds, participated as Evans’ partner on"The Biggest Loser.”

“I felt so guilty for his weight,” says Evans."I broke down about it on the show.”

She received a lot of criticism from the viewers for taking responsibility for it."People wrote in‘oh, come on, stop with the guilt trip. He is 21 years old, if he is overweight he has no one to blame but himself.’" But Evans says it was her fault.

“I knew Dan was overweight as a teen,” she says."The food he was eating was the food I put into the cabinets. If he was eating junk food, it was because I was buying it. I should have been more careful with the choices I gave him.”

Dan has lost 137 pounds since he participated on the show. As a parent, Evans says there are a lot of things she would have done differently if she knew then what she knows now.

“The key is prevention,” says Evans."And it all starts with the parents.”

Here are some of Evan’s tips based on what she learned from being on"The Biggest Loser.”

1 Give them choices. What is your family eating? Open the refrigerator, the freezer, the cabinets, what do you see? Is it healthy? Stock up on healthy snacks and treats.

2 Stay away from pre-packaged processed food. They are full of things you don’t want in your diet, including preservatives. If you make it from scratch, you are in control of what goes into it.

3 Don’t cut out snacks, add them. Snacks should be as much a part of the day as meals. Evans says that food is fuel for your body. It is better to eat smaller portions but more often—every three to four hours while awake. Just remember to watch portion sizes. More snacks means you need to cut down on meal sizes to balance the calorie intake.

4 Keep your kids hydrated with healthy drinks like water. A lot of times people think they are hungry when really they are thirsty.

5 Distinguish between healthy food and junk food and teach your kids to recognize the difference. It’s OK to eat junk food sometimes and you don’t want to cut it completely out because your kids will rebel. Just make sure they know they are eating it for fun, not for fuel.

6 Acknowledge the pitfalls and be prepared. Everyone is busy today. It is easy to fall into just grabbing fast food for dinner. But you don’t have to, even on the tightest of schedules. Parents should always be prepared. Bring a cooler of healthy drinks and snacks when you go somewhere, just in case your kids get hungry. Then you won’t have to hit the drive-through.

7 Live as an example. If you come in from a day’s work and plop down on the couch for the next four hours, don’t be surprised if your child does the same thing after school. Instead go on a family walk or bike ride. If you make being active fun, your kids will want to be active.

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