By Ryan Schlehuber "Scoop" • Last Updated 2:05 pm on Thursday, January 19, 2012

Many people in this country are literally eating themselves to death. Today’s obesity epidemic puts adults and children at risk to develop many life-threatening conditions, which can place financial burden on the state’s medical care system.
“Michigan is one of the fattest states in the nation,” said Angela Minicuci, Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) public information officer. “With two-thirds of adults and 12.4 percent of youth at an unhealthy weight, Michigan needs to start to tackle this issue statewide. Building a healthier Michigan ultimately means building a stronger Michigan.”


Children spend a considerable amount of time — including breakfast and lunch — in school or child care. With busy schedules, families often have less time to prepare a nutritious evening dinners and rely on easy, pre-packaged meals.

Many local schools follow a national compaign initiative called Balanced Choices, which teaches students how to make nutritious food choices. Jacob Chaney, in front, enjoys his lunch at Montabella Elementary School with, fro

Michelle Obama’s 2010 Let’s Move campaign to fight child obesity solicits the help of everyone — parents, schools and caregivers.
Chartwells School Dining Services, which oversees the food service department at Belding, Lakeview and Montabella schools, adopted Obama’s campaign initiative.
Balanced Choices, a state-approved wellness policy used by Chartwells, teaches students how to make nutritious food choices. This nutrition education begins in the elementary.
Posters and literature from Pete the Pyramid, Theodore Eat, Sydney C. Learn and Ava Live offer a different food topic each month.
Daily menu options at Montabella Community Schools (MCS) include low-fat dairy, whole grains and a daily fruit and vegetable bar, according to MCS Assistant Food Service Director Josie Durham.
Grattan Academy, on the other hand, doesn’t use Chartwells. Grattan Food Service Director Shari Potter goes by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) food pyramid guidelines when she plans her menu.
There currently isn’t a complete food service set-up at the school so Potter serves students from a heat-warm-serve site in the elementary.
“We are in the beginning stages of implementing a salad bar at the school,” she said. “Right now, I simply go by the FDA requirements, including their serving size specifications according to age.”


Texting, watching television, playing video games and being on the Internet are popular pastimes for many kids today.  The consequences of this sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy food choices can lead to childhood obesity and low self-esteem.

Keith Swanson, owner of Integrity Martial Arts in Greenville, advocates childhood obesity awareness and physical fitness at his facility.

Keith Swanson, owner of Integrity Martial Arts in Greenville, advocates childhood obesity awareness and physical fitness at his facility. He believes leadership, guidance, support and a little fun and a positive attitude allow kids to succeed.
“In addition to the physical fitness and weight-loss aspects, the martial arts philosophy teaches kids discipline, goal setting and self-esteem,” Swanson said. “Self esteem is the joy of being yourself, whether you succeed or fail. It’s your responsibility.”
Swanson links his business to the United States Presidential Fitness Challenge and allows kids to establish and work on that goal as part of their workout program.
“I recently had a mother sign her daughter up for Karate for Kids to help her lose weight,” he said.
Integrity Martial Arts offers the Karate for Kids program for ages 6-11 and Tigers for kids ages 4-6.
For additional information about Integrity Martial Art programs, go online to


“Both Governor Snyder and MDCH Director Olga Dazzo have made it clear that the obesity epidemic is one of the key issues we need to address,” Minicuci said.
The MDCH held an obesity summit last September in Lansing to develop a state-wide marketing strategy to implement Governor Snyder’s health and wellness plan.
Dr. Cathy Jen, the chair of nutrition and food science at Wayne State University, attended the summit, sharing her expertise, as well.
Dr. Jen suggests people eat less and move more. She believes it’s possible to eat healthy in any economic background.
For instance, buying inexpensive canned goods over fresh fruits and vegetables is still better than chips and fries. Pop and high calorie snacks should be replaced with fresh fruit in school vending machines. Dr. Jen said making little changes, such as walking while talking on your cell phone can make a big difference.
The 2012 obesity prevention plan, based on the recommendations of the 500 people in attendance at the summit, is currently being compiled, according to Minicuci.


Deb Bennett, working out at The Club Fitness in Greenville, is now 117 pounds lighter.

Deb Bennett with her husband, Tim, and daughter Chauntel, for Chauntel’s graduation from Greenville High School in 2009.

“The first 40 pounds felt good and it keeps getting better,” Deb Bennett said of her recent weight loss.

Last year, Bennett was 117 pounds heavier when she walked into The Club Fitness center in Greenville for the first time. Her exercise regimen began one month after having LAP-BAND surgery to lose weight and reduce stress on her knees. The LAP-BAND procedure decreases the amount of food a person’s stomach can hold by constricting the upper part of the stomach, much like a belt.
Bennett began working out in the pool, which she said was easier on her joints. But when the pool closed for remodeling, she was forced to try something new.
“I was a little out of my comfort zone,” she said. “It’s hard to be in a place where you don’t know what you’re doing.”
The employees at The Club Fitness introduced Bennett to the elliptical machine and recumbent bike. She eventually tried spinning and turbo kick classes.
“I feel more ambitious, sleep better and handle stress better,” she said. “I would like to try more exercise classes, but they don’t always fit into my work schedule.”
Bennett is very aware of everything she eats since she had surgery. Her food must be completely chewed to prevent

“If it won’t fit through a straw, I probably shouldn’t eat it,” Bennett said.
She eats in moderation to stay between 800 and 1,000 calories daily. Bread and pasta are no longer a part of Bennett’s diet. She eats foods such as yogurt with grape nuts, cottage cheese and fruit during the day and salad and a meat dish for her evening meal.
Bennett has about 60 more pounds to lose to reach her 140-pound target weight and is up for the challenge.
“It’s definitely doable,” she said. “I take one day at a time, believe in myself and exercise.”

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