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Brenda and Rylee (front right) participating in the Shamrock Run.

Brenda Jones and her son were one of dozens of families recruited by Tuality Health Alliance and Hillsboro Pediatrics to take part in a program conducted by The FIT (Families in Training) Project, a Portland non-profit which offers fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle education to families. Brenda recently spoke with us about her experience.

How did you find out about The FIT Project?

I took my son to the doctor for a normal checkup and they suggested it.  I was willing to try anything to get him a bit more active.  Our family has a history of diabetics and I don’t want him to be one.

What was your lifestyle like prior to participating in The FIT Project? 

Very much inactive.  I would take my son to the park and let him play, but while he did that, I just sat there.  I was in a severe car accident several years ago and really injured my back, so exercise hurt.  I was dependent on narcotics for pain management.  When I started the program, I couldn’t do two laps around a track.  By the end of the project, I did a 5k with my son and the other families.  And since I’ve been exercising, I’m no longer on any narcotics at all.

When you were approached to participate, how did you feel? 

I thought, OK, I’ll go do this.  The first couple of times we went, it was more of a group thing—there wasn’t a whole lot of interaction with the people [from The FIT Project].  Then, when I got the membership to the gym, I went a couple times during the week on my own.  Then I started working out with one of the other girls in the program so that our kids could work out together.  I went every day during the week.  The community events keep you motivated.  By checking in with other participants, it encourages you to keep going.

What was the biggest challenge for you and your family during the project?

Finding time.  With school and extracurricular activities, taking my sister to her dialysis appointments three times a week, it was difficult to find time.  And I couldn’t get my son involved until I started.  I would try to cook something healthy.  McDonalds is so much easier, especially when it’s 7 p.m. and you haven’t been home to do homework yet.  So I started to cook all of our meals at once and freeze them and just heat them every night.  That extra hour not spent cooking every night gave me an hour to exercise.  Everyone can find an hour—they just need to prioritize.  And while the food was cooking, I could help my son with his homework. 

We sit at a table now to eat instead of in front of the TV.  We drink way less pop and way more water.  When I take my son to the store, he chooses water or sugar free over pop every time.  He looks at the sugar content and chooses the option with less sugar.  I’m still learning portion control.  It’s easier for my son—he’s small and knows not to eat anything bigger than his fist.  When I first started, I actually measured my food with measuring cups.  Being diligent on what a serving size is and how much helps a lot.  Nobody actually taught me to use the serving size properly before.  We’re also using smaller plates now too.

What was the biggest surprise for you and your family during the project?  What is something you learned that was unexpected?

I didn’t realize that you could make things that are healthy that actually taste good.  Learning to find alternatives to what you make.  Leaning how to shop. …  Don’t shop for a whole month at once — shop several times a month so you have fresh veggies.  I only did canned veggies before and now I keep fresh veggies in the house.  I’m also learning to cook veggies differently—I now bake zucchini instead of fry.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned during the project?

Everybody has to find what they like to do to work out.  If you can’t find something, listen to music, watch something on a tablet—whatever you have to do.  Also, set goals – even the littlest goal.  If your goal is to go to the gym four times a week and you hit it, then you get to reward yourself.  If you miss the gym, go on a walk or do something to be active.

Have you been able to keep up with the skills you learned during the project or have you noticed a back slide?

I work at a camp during the summer so I wasn’t able to go to the gym, but I was still active at camp.  But not having that weekly community thing, I was not doing as much.  I need that to keep me going.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the program?

Thank you for doing this—it was an amazing opportunity that I wish more people knew about.

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