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Weight Control

Organizations Mount Campaigns to Combat Obesity

Two programs underway around the country illustrate the ways that organizations are working to reverse the epidemic of obesity sweeping the U.S. Programs begun by the YMCA and the Junior Leagues help to show the different ways to approach the problem.

The Ann Arbor YMCA is one of 30 national YMCAs participating in The Gulick Project, part of the YMCA Activate America™ campaign. Named after Luther Gulick, an early YMCA health and wellness pioneer, the goal of the Gulick Project is to re-engineer the way national YMCAs work with prospective and current members to promote healthy living.

The YMCA is particularly focused on attracting and retaining health-seekers. These are people who want to get fit but have been frustrated by diets or fitness programs that do not meet their needs.

"With most states reporting obesity rates over 20%, we believe we can change the direction of the health of our community, and ultimately the nation, by helping health seekers feel more comfortable in a fitness environment," states Diane Carr, Ann Arbor YMCA Senior Program Director.

"The more comfortable these health seekers are, the more time they will spend at the YMCA. And with 16% of American adolescents ages 6 to 19 being overweight, it is also a priority for us to connect with these young people and help them develop healthy lifestyle habits."*

The Ann Arbor YMCA Gulick Project hopes to create a relationship-based YMCA through the following:

    1. Engagement . Prospective members are given an individual consultation to learn about programs and services pertinent to their specific needs and background.

    2. Connectedness. When enrolling their children in YMCA programs, parents receive a personal, staff-member welcome and are introduced to other members so that each new participant has a friend at the YMCA.

    3. Small Communities. The YMCA helps build small support communities by creating "member appreciation" events and informal clubs for groups sharing various activities or classes. These communities increase member engagement and support long-term, healthy lifestyles.

As part of the Gulick Project, the Ann Arbor YMCA also:

  • Works directly with participants to encourage healthy living and acknowledge small steps of progress by each member, whether in a class setting or during personal-training sessions.

  • Offers health-education courses and one-on-one wellness coaching to help members focus on physical activity, improved nutrition and mental health.

  • Provides healthy food choices in the facility, offering fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains and avoids sugar-sweetened drinks and trans fats.

  • Emphasizes a specific, minimum amount of physical activity for all adult and children’s programs.

  • Limits computer time and eliminates exposure to commercial broadcast television for children while they’re in the facility.

"The Gulick Project focuses on making a person feel healthier and successful rather than on weight loss," said Larry Thomas, Ann Arbor YMCA Personal Coach. "Weight loss is a by-product of this individualized program that is based on a long-term relationship between the member and the YMCA community."

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Meanwhile, the Junior Leagues developed a website called Junior LeaguesKids in the Kitchen."

The site,, features recipes, nutrition and fitness tips contributed by some of today’s popular stars, chefs and athletes and serves as a fun resource for parents and children seeking to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Fran Drescher, best known for her title role in TV’s hit series The Nanny and now starring in Living with Fran, included her recipe for Healthy Tomato Soup, and The Phantom of the Opera’s Emmy Rossum has crafted a bright, savory salad.

Food Network veteran chef George Stella contributed recipes and tips from his motivational cookbook, Eating Stella Style, which helped his family of four transform their lives with a dramatic weight loss of a combined 560 pounds. Teen cookbook authors of Teens Cook: How to Cook What You Want to Eat, Jill and Megan Carle, whipped up three of their favorite recipes – perfect for even the pickiest eaters.

Fullback Heath Evans, of three-time Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots, shares his personal fitness and nutrition tips as well as solid recipes for foods that keep him energized. Other contributing chefs include New York City chef Daniel Boulud, Food Network veteran and editor-in-chief of The Rosengarten Report, David Rosengarten, and cookbook author and Food Network newcomer Ellie Krieger.

"Encouraging kids to get creative in the kitchen is a fun way to teach them the nutritional value of the foods they are eating and can cultivate healthy eating habits," Kate Coler, Deputy Under Secretary for United States Department of Agriculture's Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services and sustaining member of the Junior League of Washington, said. "Giving kids the power to help create their own nutritionally balanced foods is a step towards reversing the trend of childhood obesity, and that’s exactly what the Junior Leagues are doing, one kitchen at a time."

Recipes in the collection are grouped into five categories: breakfast, lunchbox, dinner, snacks and party treats. The colorful, interactive Kids in the Kitchen website features tips and recipes of the month, as well as quizzes and polls to test kids on their nutrition knowledge. To encourage their peers to join in on the fun, recipes and tips can be emailed to friends or printed out and pasted on index cards. Children can also access the USDA’s MyPyramid Blast-Off game, an entertaining way for kids to learn modern guidelines for daily food consumption and physical activity, tailored to their nutrition and fitness needs.

More than 225 Junior Leagues across four countries are participating in the childhood obesity and nutrition initiative, Junior LeaguesKids in the Kitchen, with the goal of raising awareness and attempting to reverse the growth of childhood obesity and its associated health issues.

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