To the envy of parents everywhere, Mike Parandian, 52, and his 15-year-old daughter, Sophia, have a lot in common. They both love softball and enjoy biking together near their Covington, La., home. But they also share a serious sweet tooth. A few years ago, Mike started offering then 11-year-old Sophia ice cream as an incentive for getting good grades. It worked: “She made a lot of As,” Mike says, “so we ate a lot of ice cream.” Before they knew it, the numbers on the scale crept up, and Mike developed high blood pressure.
So when a YMCA opened nearby, the two knew it was their cue to make some big changes. At first, Mike could barely walk on the treadmill and Sophia wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about working out. But gradually, they caught the fitness bug. These days, Mike runs three times a week and lifts weights. Sophia prefers the elliptical machine and step classes. “Exercising makes me happy,” she says. “I can run faster and I get less winded, too.” The Parandians also swapped ice cream for fruit and cut back on other unhealthy foods.
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Two years after their exercise epiphany, the results are impressive. Mike dropped from 241 pounds—”40 of that was ice cream,” he jokes—to 191. And Sophia is 15 pounds lighter, despite growing several inches. “Even my blood pressure is normal,” Mike reports. The Parandians admit they sometimes miss their Ben & Jerry’s, but agree that getting healthy together is a lot sweeter.
How they did it:
Be your family’s fitness leader. Mike sets a great example for Sophia by hitting the gym weekly.
Just go. “The most difficult part of exercising is getting to the gym,” Mike says.
No excuses. If the treadmills are occupied, Mike runs outdoors. If Sophia’s worried about missing a TV program, she records it for later.
Bring friends. Convincing six pals to join her gym made it more fun for Sophia.
Eat sensibly. The Parandians don’t count calories but they do avoid fried, sugary and high-fat choices. Fish and rice are staples, and they snack on fruit and pretzels.
Focus on feeling good. “My goal is living healthy, not six-pack abs,” Mike says.