Bridlewood Primary School and One Direction fan Lucy Barker has taken a step in a lighter direction thanks to a healthy lifestyle programme called Alive ‘n’ Kicking.
Her proud parents Claire and Kevin, from Redhouse, have also followed in her footsteps and lost three and a half stone between them by improving their diet and becoming more active as a family.
Claire, aged 47, who works as an NHS training and development manager, said: “We’ve done it together as a family and all feel fantastic. The scheme has made us slimmer and stronger in so many ways – it really has worked wonders.”
Food had always been a big focus of seven-year-old Lucy’s day and her body build was larger than most of her friends. The scheme helped her learn more about nutrition and also become more enthusiastic about exercise. It proved a real eye opener for Claire too.
“It makes you stop and think and also learn new things. I didn’t realise before how much sugar so-called healthy products like dried fruit bars or yoghurts contained, so it was really helpful to find out about these hidden sugars. Portion size was another focus, which has totally changed since taking part,” she said.
“But it has never been about going on a diet – we’re just making different lifestyle choices and Lucy has really enjoyed the experience. She understands it all and has got really into it. She’s so proud and has lost 7.5lbs, which makes a visible difference. I can see it and so can her friends, who have been so supportive.”
The free scheme, run by Swindon Borough Council, introduces participants to a wide range of activities and provides a wealth of dietary information. Meal planning, making smarter snack choices and getting plenty of exercise all form part of the Barker family’s new routine.
“I cook meals from scratch and freeze them for the week ahead, so if time is tight we don’t fall into the takeaway or ready meal trap. Snacks are now a piece of fruit and we try to do at least an hour of physical activity every day. Her dad is also joining in, so we spend more quality time together,” Claire said.
“That could include walking to the supermarket, when previously we drove, going swimming or power hooping. Lucy does that every Saturday and absolutely loves it – especially if the music is by One Direction or Taylor Swift, who she absolutely adores. We all feel so much more energised and have really embraced the new way of eating and exercising together as a family.”
Besides shedding pounds, Lucy has gained lots more self-confidence and is experimenting with different clothes.
“Lucy has had some unkind remarks about her size in the past, which made her cry, and she was becoming increasingly self-conscious about it. That’s why we all decided to stop getting upset and do something positive about it,” Claire said. “She is thrilled with the way she looks – she’s not embarrassed to show her tummy when we get changed for swimming and jeggings now feature in her wardrobe, which she shied away from before.”
Even the temptation of chocolate at Easter hasn’t thrown the family off track. Claire added: “Instead of an Easter egg from us, Lucy chose a pair of roller skates. She received some eggs from other people, but has been really good about only having a little at a time, whereas previously it would have all gone at once. Our whole mindset has changed – we’re all a lot more aware and responsible, without feeling like we’re missing out. Diabetes, heart disease – all those things have been a bit of a worry for me, but now it’s like a weight has been lifted off my mind because we’re actually taking the initiative and control.”
In addition to gaining access to expert information and advice, participants share their own experiences, learning and taking inspiration from each other.
“Having other families there who are in similar situations instantly put you at ease and everyone is so friendly and encouraging. Lucy made new friends and parents could talk and feel reassured that you’re not alone or being judged. Having regular access to a team of professionals who can help you is just amazing,” Claire said.
“Obesity is a hot topic these days and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. If you’re willing to commit the time and effort, you’ll achieve great things. Alive ‘n’ Kicking has put us back in charge of a situation that could have got worse and led to bigger problems. We’re all feeling so much healthier and also happier for it, which is the real icing on the cake.”
The Alive ‘n’ Kicking scheme is free and available for two to 16-year-olds. For more information and to register for the programme’s next intake, which starts in May, please call: (01793) 465412 or email: email@example.com
Free advice and information about how to improve children’s diet and introduce more physical activity to their routine in fun ways is also available at www.change4life.co.uk