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At 12 years old, Brittany Ringer was outgrowing her jeans faster than her mom could buy new ones. The "too little" box of clothes was getting bigger by the week. Now, thanks to the HealthWorks! program at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Brittany regularly digs through the too-little box to see what will fit her.
Brittany's parents, Thelma Ringer and Herbert Crutchfield, became concerned when they saw that Brittany's weight soared 25 pounds from one summer to the next. Thelma asked about it at Brittany's annual check-up. The doctor suggested the HealthWorks! program at Cincinnati Children's. With Thelma being diabetic, the family thought it was a good idea to tackle the problem early.
"At first Brittany was a little reluctant because she didn't think she had a weight problem," says Thelma. "Now, you can't keep her away. She enjoys the program."
Through HealthWorks!, Brittany is learning to make healthy choices both in what she eats and in her activity level. "She used to be a terrible junk eater," her mom says. "She wouldn't try to control what she eats. She was sneaking candy. I would find wrappers all over her room. We were really battling." Now Brittany eats more sensible portions and has taken an active role in planning her meals.
HealthWorks! has taught Brittany that she occasionally can indulge in treats such as pizza and potato chips, but to eat them in moderation. Instead of eating three slices of pizza, she'll have just one and will combine it with other healthy foods to fill her stomach.
"She's much more aware now," Thelma says, emphasizing that the family works together to help Brittany. "We cook together and plan our menus together." Brittany used to get snack money. She doesn't even ask for it anymore.
The family also has learned that physical activity is essential. "Before, we wouldn't make time for her to get out. Now we do," Thelma says.
Brittany exercises at least three times a week through HealthWorks!, and she plays basketball and soccer. She also enjoys riding her bike, scooter and in-line skates in her neighborhood. She and her parents make a conscious effort to carve out time for exercise.
Brittany is learning lessons at age 12 that she will be able to carry throughout her life. "I'm glad she was able to find something she could learn from," Thelma says, noting that she's seen an improvement in Brittany's attitude. "It's so important for kids to be healthy. And I think Brittany really likes what she's seeing in herself."
Described by her mom as outgoing and motivated, this straight A-B student certainly has no trouble keeping busy. When she's not sifting through her too-little box of clothes that are no longer too little, Brittany enjoys studying math and science. She also plays the tuba in the school band.
Now that there are fewer battles over food and clothes, life at home is becoming easier for everyone. "Brittany doesn't have to try on clothes every night to see what fits," Thelma says. "I was very frustrated; we were having a hard time."
So why has this program been such a success for Brittany? Her mom explains, "She likes to win at everything, and I think she wants to win at this." With less arguing and a healthier lifestyle for everyone, it seems as though the whole family is winning.
Brittany hops off of her bike for a quick photo with her dad. They and Brittany's mom all work together toward a healthy lifestyle.
If you have an experience with Cincinnati Children's, we invite you to share your story.
Through HealthWorks!, Brittany has come to recognize the importance of regular exercise.
HealthWorks! is a family-based program at the Heart Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for young people ages 5 to 19 who are overweight, and is one of the first of its kind in the nation.
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