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Reese family takes national fitness challenge

Sunday, April 21st, 2013 | Posted by

Jackie, Ken and Landon Reese, 10, walk in their Windsor neighborhood. (Scott Manchester/The Press Democrat)

By JAMES LANARAS / Windsor Correspondent

Ken and Jackie Reese say even if their family doesn’t win a national fitness challenge, they’re still winners because of the lifestyle changes they are making.

The Windsor family is among six in the nation participating since January in a Family Fitness Challenge created by USA Today, USA Weekend and the television show “The Doctors.”

Four hundred families applied to participate in the challenge to lose weight, get in better shape and eat more nutritious food. One of Jackie’s co-workers suggested her family apply for the 12-week challenge.

Only one of the six families will be flown later this month to Los Angeles to tape an appearance on “The Doctors.” Two families are from Minnesota and one each from Colorado, Alabama and San Jose.

Ken Reese, 48, a communications manager with REDCOM, the Sonoma County fire and emergency dispatch center, weighed 310 pounds when the family was selected to participate in the challenge. His personal challenge was avoiding snacking during stressful times at work and motivating himself to stay physically active.

“I’m a boredom eater, but over the last couple months, when I see a snack there, it’s just another box,” he said.

Ken was down to 285 pounds on Monday and his goal is eventually to weigh 200 pounds. He brings pre-packaged salads and leftovers to work and makes sure that when he eats lunch at a restaurant, it is one that lists the calories in the menu items.

Jackie Reese, 40, a Santa Rosa Fire Department applications specialist, weighed 263 in January and was down to 225 on Monday. Her personal challenge was her sweet tooth and “food addiction” that she compares to a bad personal relationship.

“If you’re in a bad relationship, you get out. I’ve been in one with wine and food, and I’m getting out of it,” she said. Her goal is to weigh 160 pounds. She planned to participate in the Double-Dare Duel-A-Thon in Asti yesterday. That entailed running four miles and bicycling 15 miles.

Landon Reese, 10, has lost 16 pounds and now weighs 128. His father said Landon’s transformation has been amazing and his enthusiasm for the challenge is high.

“We had to buy him pants two sizes smaller. My son is making his own smart choices,” he said.

His mother said her son will gain weight naturally as he continues growing, so his focus is on eating better and exercising.

Jackie Reese’s mother, Ina McElroy, 69, a former competitive swimmer and tennis player, weighed 235 pounds early this year and has shed about 15 pounds. More importantly, she has quit smoking after 50 years. Her contribution to the family’s challenge is having a nutritious meal ready when her daughter, son-in-law and grandson get home at the end of the day, but she also joins the family at the Airport Health Club in Santa Rosa where she exercises in the pool.

Like many American families, the Reeses often were too tired to cook after work and instead ate out at fast food and other restaurants.

“I was eating out three times a day,” Jackie said about a typical work day.

Family members now eat together at home. That, and their evening walks, have brought them closer together, Ken and Jackie say. They have slashed their food budget from $500 to $200 a week.

They walk a one-mile loop in their Wellington Circle neighborhood, sometimes three times a day. They chart their exercise with the help of a Fitbit, a wireless device that measures distances and steps and calories burned. It also allows users to chart what they’ve eaten and how many calories they’ve consumed.

All six families have access to a nutritionist and fitness trainer courtesy of USA Today and “The Doctors.” The family is allowed one sweet a day, and recently each had a piece of cheesecake Jackie made for a teen’s birthday party.

“Our fitness trainer, Kate Titus, said to keep it fun, and you don’t have to kill yourself to make a difference,” Jackie Reese said.

They have been doing just that. Landon selected an Autobot from the Transformers movies as their logo and the family had T-shirts printed with an Autobot figure on them.

“Our motto is, ‘Transform and Slim Out,’­” Ken Reese said.

“When this ends, what we will do is improve and continue this healthy lifestyle,” he said.

His wife agreed. “No matter what, we’re all winners,” she said.


  • Jennifer Hainstock

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing your story.

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James Lanaras is our Windsor correspondent.
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