03/08/2013 12:39 EST | Updated 05/08/2013 05:12 EDT

How My Family Got Fit in Two Months

active family biking

On January 1 I decided to make some major changes to my family's nutrition and physical activity. Although there was no single event that triggered this life change, I definitely took notice the very first time I experienced pain in the knees when climbing the stairs.

This pain got me thinking that I was quickly becoming heavy due to poor eating habits and inactivity. The practical part of me calculated that I would soon not fit into standard sized clothing if I continued on my current path.

I began to think of our five young children, all the proper body weights--but with a frequent propensity to eating desserts and exercising too rarely. They also learned by example, and noticed when I would snack. Naturally, they also wanted to partake in the goodies being consumed by their mother. I was setting a very poor example for them, and I was ashamed.

I started by taking radical action and emptied our cupboards of candies, chips and sweets. With five kids you easily collect junk food at all special occasions, including Easter, Hallowe'en and birthday parties! My kids were not pleased that I was clearing out their stash, but I made it clear that I would not be eating sweets either. Somehow, this made it better for them.

Next, I did a healthy shopping that consisted of lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes and unprocessed poultry and meats. I decided that we would make all of our meals at home and read every food label that was to come into our home. It is uncanny how much salt most processed foods contain--and preservatives. In a past article, I mentioned how I would add a fruit and add a veggie to every single meal that I would serve my family.

Then I set out to get one hour of exercise with my family each and every day, regardless of our harsh Canadian weather. On days where it was clear of snow, we would walk. On snow days, we would toboggan. I wrote previously how I lost 15 lbs just by tobogganing. It helped tremendously that my husband was onboard with my plan, and was also an active participant in getting active and eating nutritiously.

In mid-February, I decided that I needed a more intense workout--and more structured activities for the kids. My friend suggested that I purchase a family membership to the YMCA. There was one nearby which I hadn't visited in many years.

I went to check it out and was really impressed with all the scheduled activities for both adults and kids, up-to-date amenities, and the cleanliness of the facilities. The monthly membership fee for my family of seven was only $110 per month. For my husband and I, the price included access to the extensive gym, pool, scheduled activities, and fitness classes. Swimming lessons, martial arts and dance lessons were included for all five of my kids with this membership!

The "Y" offered a 2-week free trial so we could see if it suited our lifestyle. I really enjoyed it from the very beginning and found the staff and patrons friendly and welcoming. On Family Day, the YMCA ran a promotion that waived the sign up fee--and my family decided to become members at that time.

I like that I have been able to try new things at the "Y" such as yoga, spinning class, step and arriba classes. Although I am new to these types of fitness, I have tried to keep an open mind and just do my very best each and every time. I have challenged myself by doing 30 minutes of elliptical and treadmill during my workouts, as well as stomach crunches and weight-assisted chin ups. It has made me feel empowered. My kids have enjoyed swimming at the "Y", the sports classes, and the bouncy castle that gives them a trampoline-style workout. I like that we are together as a family and active.

And now nine weeks have passed since I first embarked upon healthier eating and more robust physical activity for my family. So far in this short time I have lost one clothing size just by eating more nutritiously and becoming more active. My husband is looking well-toned and lean, and is almost at his target weight. I can see great improvement in my kids too: not only have they all toned up, but they are not asking for junk food very often. I am pleased of the decision we made to get our family on track, and look forward to continuing on this journey together!

Are you at your target fitness level? What do you do to try to stay active? Do you need to make any changes to your eating habits or physical activity level?

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