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Shaq’s Big Challenge

I saw a promo for this the other day, and while I doubt I’ll tune in, I hope it does well.

Here’s one way to get your earphone-wearing, video-game-playing, junk-food-eating kids off the couch and into a healthier lifestyle: Give ’em a Shaq Attack.

That’s what Shaquille O’Neal, the 7-foot, 325-pound center from pro basketball’s Miami Heat, delivers on his new ABC reality show, Shaq’s Big Challenge (8 p.m. Tuesdays, Channel 13).

O’Neal’s mission: to transform the lives of six obese children — none of whom can run a mile — into fit, active kids with a healthful outlook on life.

It won’t be easy with this bunch. One of the boys is addicted to “pizza burritos,” and another enjoys bowls of popcorn doused with two sticks of melted butter.

O’Neal, who said he’s been physically active his whole life, began to question why “big, husky, chubby kids” were becoming more common. And along the way, the answers became obvious.

“We live in a technological society,” O’Neal said. “It’s easy for a child to come home and listen to his iPod or play Sega. It’s easy just to e-mail friends and eat a whole bag of chips.”

But the threat to children’s health goes beyond the home, as O’Neal sees it: The abundance of junk food and lack of focus on physical education in the nation’s schools also are problems.

“I had mandatory PE,” he said. “Now only 6 percent of schools have mandatory PE. That’s terrible.”

Yeah, I had PE all the way through high school. Can’t say it was my favorite thing – at Stuyvesant, it always seemed like gym class in the basement was followed by a class on the fifth floor – but it’s a good thing, one that kids should be exposed to. Maybe for Shaq’s next project, he can use his experience with this show to lobby Congress for a renewed emphasis on PE in the public schools.

His isn’t the only such show on TV. Tiffany decided to TiVo an episode of Honey, We’re Killing The Kids last week. It’s quite an eye-opener.

In the series, our nutrition expert Felicia Stoler, MS, RD shows how everyday choices can have long-term impacts on children, and offers both the motivation and the know-how to help turn these families’ lives around. Using state-of-the-art computer imaging and certified assessments based on measurements and statistics, Felicia first gives Mom and Dad a wake-up call to the possible future of their children. Then, introducing her new guidelines and techniques, Felicia will work with parents to reverse course and give their kids a healthy diet and active lifestyle.

The family then has three weeks to overhaul its bad habits under the direction of Felicia, who delivers a set of life-altering rules with the aim of completely transforming the children’s future health and lifestyle.

How are the families responding to the challenges set by Felicia? Are the children trying new healthy foods? Can Mom quit smoking? Will Dad agree to become more involved in family life? Will the children try rock-climbing? While not always initially easy for the families, the rules often become fun, as new experiences are brought into their routines.

I thought the show relied a bit too much on the “state-of-the-art computer imaging” and didn’t spend enough time talking about the nuts and bolts of good nutrition; Tiffany and I both thought there wasn’t enough emphasis on how to really learn and follow the rules that families get in a big, thick binder. But at least in the show we watched, it appeared to be effective. One of the parents, who had to weigh over 300 pounds, was said to have lost a total of 50 pounds after seven weeks. That’s pretty impressive.

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  1. Tim says:

    My biggest beef with the “obesity epidemic” is that it seems like 80% of the emphasis is on diet. There’s a war on sugar, there’s a war on fatty foods, there’s a “war on” damn near everything now.

    The problem is, I think 80% of the problem lies elsewhere; namely, with physical activity. My brothers and I ate a fair amount of “junk” food growing up, in terms of sugar and fat. (We ate our share of relatively healthy stuff, too.) The difference is that we were outside playing all the time. During the summer we’d be playing baseball at the park 10 hours a day, usually 5-6 times a week, usually starting around 10 AM and playing until sunset, stopping only for meal breaks.

    When we weren’t playing baseball, we were shooting hoops at the playground. Or riding our bikes. We weren’t constantly chauffeured like so many kids are today.

    None of us were overweight. No matter how much crap we put in our bodies, we burned it all off.

  2. Kent from Waco says:

    I never had the pleasure of PE in High School. I was exempted out because I played varsity football and track, and at my school playing sports got you out of the PE requirement.

    That said, I’m happy that my kid’s elementry school in suburban Waco still has a PE requirement. Actually what they do is rotate PE and art. They do 6 PEs and then one art, or something like that. So about once a week on a different day they have a period of art with the art teacher instead of PE. They do have a gorgeous art studeo. Big room with epoxy concrete floors and floor drains so they can just hose it down when the kids get too messy.

    I guess lots of schools no longer have either PE or art these days, too busy fussing with the TAKS.

  3. Greg Wythe says:

    Tiffany decided to TiVo an episode of Honey, We’re Killing The Kids

    Dear God, that can’t be good for poor little Olivia to stumble onto as she explores the TiVo!

  4. kh says:

    I have to admit I hardly ever watch the NBA anymore, so I haven’t seen Shaq in a year or two. Last time I did see him though, he was quite overweight and it affected his play negatively. Has he lost weight recently or will the show address that in some way? Why would kids listen to a fat guy telling them to lose weight?

  5. good to see a fellow Stuy grad. hey, don’t forget those nutritious meals at Stuyvesant… back in the day when ketchup was considered part of the “vegetable group”… I’m sure times have not changed.

    go peglegs!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I think we’ve all missed a few crucial points in all of this. It doesn’t matter WHAT Shaq or any other celebrity tries to do unless parents step up and do their jobs. The biggest problem we have with kids today is that too many of them come from single-parent homes of some sort and the kids are not getting what they need from BOTH parents. Fathers are crucial in this. The girl that is dropping out seems to lack any father-based approval. Only the mother showed up for the episode with the parents. The mother started crying and falling apart because her daughter was what ~ EXERTING HERSELF???? What are these people thinking???? They can’t see the kid is so out of shape she can’t run 20 feet without losing her breath??? That would scare me to death!!! It’s not just a food issue, it’s an activity issue and it’s an emotional issue. These kids need to be outside playing and running around, riding bikes and walking, etc. Also, their parents, at least at this point in the game, need to join in on the exercise and “diet.” Not only does it appear that the parents could use a good workout, but I think it would give some of these kids the emotional validation they apparently are in need of. You just don’t see too many overweight kids come from families where the kid is the only one who is overweight.

  7. Mayra says:

    I had over weight problems my whole life.My weight right now is close to 200 lb. so i was just wodering if someone can help me in some way because i really want to lose weight!