In 2010, I lost 90 pounds. Part of my strategy was cutting way back on sweets. It wasn't easy. In our home, each holiday brought a new onslaught of delectable treats: piles of Halloween candy, Valentine's Day goodies from Grandma, and on and on. With increasing willpower, I was able to enjoy the stuff in moderation. It was a different story for my four kids. They seemed to have an inexhaustible appetite for sugar in all forms.
It would have been nice if my husband, Bob, and I had gotten our dietary act together when the children's eating habits were being established, but it was too late for that. Our eldest, Rowan, was in high school, and our youngest, Colleen, then 8, was already struggling with a weight problem.
One obvious solution -- declaring our house a sugar-free zone -- wasn't an option any of us wanted to consider. As a former fat person, I know how hard it is to stick to a diet that doesn't allow the occasional treat.
The eureka moment came during a family gym workout shortly before Easter. What if we stashed the holiday goodies in the locker we shared at the gym? We could each retrieve one treat after every exercise session.
The kids agreed to give the idea a try. Even Rowan, who had the greatest self-control when it came to eating sweets, got into the spirit as a way of supporting her siblings, Cassie, Colleen, and Ben. They enjoyed going to the gym anyway, and they didn't mind their precious candy stash not being close at hand, as long as it was waiting for them when they'd earned a sweet reward.
And so we embarked on our plan. Each holiday's haul was stowed away to be savored a bit at a time as the year progressed. During one gym visit in December, we all had a good laugh when we realized that for the first time in our family's history, a chocolate Easter bunny would live to see Christmas, secure in his locker lodging.
That January, when the kids and I entered a YMCA team weight-loss contest, the candy locker gave us confidence that we wouldn't get tripped up by valentine chocolates or Easter jelly beans.
As we worked together toward our goal, I realized that getting fit and managing their candy habit had given the kids a new sense of teamwork. They even agreed to eat more fresh produce and pitched in to plan dishes with healthy ingredients, such as cauliflower.
With our team's first weigh-in scheduled for mid-February, Colleen insisted we hit the gym on February 15 so that she could deposit her valentine treats in the locker. There was much less chocolate than there'd been in previous years. Grandma had picked up on the kids' new habits and surprised them with a healthier mix of goodies. Still, Colleen didn't want to take any chances. "I know my limitations," she said.
Out of 101 teams, our team finished fifth, with a combined weight loss of 8.96 percent. We didn't win a prize, but we felt proud of our hard work.
For our family, weight control may always be a challenge. But thanks to the candy locker, we keep going to the gym -- and sugary treats have been put firmly in their place!
Originally published in the October 2013 issue of FamilyFun