Tangela Blanks and her husband, Al, had approached health like most people—inconsistently. Their oldest son, Keion, was by far the healthiest in the family because he played football. But when their youngest son, Kyron, experienced a rapid weight gain after being diagnosed with asthma, Tangela became concerned.
“Through bouts of getting sick, asthma and taking steroids, I saw his weight start picking up. He’d gone from a boy’s size seven to a size 10 Huskies. He was packing on the pounds.”
So she began researching weight loss tips and programs. Through the Shelby County School System, Tangela learned about Get Fit First, a first-grade friendly curriculum designed to teach children how to make healthy lifestyle choices. The State of Tennessee’s Department of Health—Project Diabetes and Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation fund the program, which is taught at Alcy and Riverdale elementary schools. Baptist Rehabilitation-Germantown pediatric physical therapist Jan Bell is one of the program’s instructors.
Kyron participated in the program at Riverdale Elementary. Tangela began to notice changes immediately.
“Mrs. Bell would teach kids how to eat healthy, read labels and demonstrate how to exercise,” said Tangela. “My child hung onto everything she taught. He came home reading labels and said he wouldn’t eat this or this had too much sugar so I had to change our entire grocery list. I didn’t want to but I had to set a good example.”
The 12-week Get Fit First program focuses on diet and exercise. A dietitian teaches the class how to make good nutrition choices, including how to choose portions and read labels. A pediatric physical therapist shows the kids how to achieve 60 minutes of exercise a day.
Tangela and Kyron began partnering on exercise in January. They’d go to the park together—even in cold weather—or just hop, skip or play at home.
At the end of the last session, all students receive a gift bag to encourage them to continue to use the skills learned. The bag includes a divided plate with pictures showing portions for each food group, a jump rope and a water bottle. Students also receive a ribbon for participating.
“He loved all the material,” said Tangela. “He was excited somebody thought of him and he could use [the gifts]. After attending the Get Fit First program, it’s like we have a new kid. He plays from sun up to sun down. He calls the whole neighborhood over to play with him.”
Kyron has lost 19 to 22 pounds, and Tangela has lost 72 pounds. Kyron continues to make healthy food choices and even participated in CampGet Fit this summer, hosted by Baptist Rehab-Germantown’s Diabetes Center at the Kroc Center.
Tangela recommends the following key factors to help others stay motivated and keep moving.
- Pray about everything first.
- Just start.
- Come up with a healthy eating regimen that works for you. Make sure you hydrate and exercise.