Eric, 11, used to finish off one pizza slice, then reach for another. Now he loads up his dinner plate with vegetables.
He used to groan when his father would try to get him to the gym. Now he pushes his dad out the door and dives into the pool at the South Omaha YMCA with no coaxing.
Eric's six-pound weight loss and healthy behavior changes came after his provider at One World Community Health Center referred his family to Healthy Families. Live Well Omaha Kids offers the 12-week program and is staffed and funded by Alegent Creighton Health.
In the Omaha metro area, one in three children is overweight or obese, with racial and ethnic minority children twice as likely to tip the scales. The Healthy Families curriculum, taught in English and Spanish, involves the whole family. Each class includes physical activity through family play or hands-on learning and time for a healthy snack.
Eric intends to lose seven more pounds. His father, Ricardo, has lost weight too. Because his wife sometimes works 14-hour days, Ricardo does much of the cooking. He buys vegetables instead of chips and is proud of his healthy shrimp ceviche and vegetable stew.
His youngest son, Ricardo, Jr., age 6, didn't have weight to lose but is hooked on basketball at the YMCA. Eric swims and also uses the treadmill, bicycle and stair climber. He has two slices of pizza once a week instead of the five or six he used to have.
Ricardo says the changes in the family's physical activity and eating habits will be permanent: "Before we ate what we had — chips, popcorn and pizza. We didn't have a vision for a healthy diet. Now we do."
Healthy Families is in its fourth year and has reached more than 378 parents and children. Alegent Creighton Health has invested over $345,000 to support Healthy Families. Its partners include One World, the Charles Drew Health Center, the YMCA, Hy-Vee Food Stores and UNL Extension Services.
Eric admits he misses chocolate cake and pizza, but likes being able to move faster. His dad says they all like looking and feeling better. Plus, he smiles—the girls are noticing Eric's new physique.
If your family is struggling with weight issues and ready to make a change, call Healthy Families Program Coordinator Kay Grant at 402-517-8767 to see if your family qualifies for the program.