Last spring on TLT’s Facebook page many of us expressed interest in a new book called Portion Size Me: A Kid-Driven Plan to a Healthier Family. Written by then-12-year-old Marshall Reid and his mother, Alexandra (Alex), Portion Size Me chronicles one family’s attempt to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The catalyst for the project was Marshall who, at age 10, was dissatisfied being overweight and asked his mother if they could “do the opposite”of Morgan Spurlock’s film, “Super Size Me.” (You can read more about the Reid family in this New York Times story from April.)
Portion Size Me is organized as a diary, with Marshall, his sister Jordan and Alex each chiming in with their musings about the day. (Marshall’s father was stationed in Iraq at the time.) Scattered on each day’s entry are cooking tips, notes on exercise, recipes and more. The graphic layout is fun and eye-catching – very unlike a standard nonfiction book — and likely to appeal to readers from late grade school through adulthood.
I was particularly touched by the family’s candor, from Alex’s frank acknowledgment of past mistakes in feeding her family to Marshall’s feelings about being overweight and his simple desire to be able to run at the same pace as other, fitter kids at school. You quickly come to know each family member and root for them as the work toward their six reasonable goals, ranging from “Eat as many real foods as possible,” to “Watch Portion Sizes.”
My only quibble with the book is that it only covers the first thirty days of the family’s journey, leaving me wondering how they were doing. Fortunately, there’s also a Portion Size Me website and Facebook page which continue to update interested readers on the family’s progress. And you can also read my recent interview with Marshall himself! Here it is:
TLT: What was the most surprising aspect of your family’s evolution to a healthier lifestyle? Have there been any unexpected benefits or challenges along the way?
MR: I was surprised at the difference I felt just changing from processed food to real food. Like my energy, concentration. School became easier and I did better on tests. No, not really any unexpected benefits except for what I just said. Challenges are still around but they are not too difficult anymore.
TLT: I know you toured the country this summer to promote your book. [Marshall was also an official judge at the White House Kids' State Dinner this summer.] Was it hard to maintain your family’s healthier lifestyle away from home?
MR: I would say that it was absolutely much harder to have exercise incorporated on our trip. Lots of driving and sedentary time. But my family has found days that were free from travel and filled them with activity. Eating was hard as well but we did manage to stay away from fast food.
TLT: You mention in your book that kids at school would sometimes tease you about your healthier lunches. Has that improved? What do your peers think of your book and all the great feedback and attention you’ve received since it came out?
MR: My classmates don’t really know about the feedback and attention. With kids you know they have short attention so when the book came out and they saw it in the school library they said “hey that’s cool” but now they have forgotten about it. I’ll have to see when I get back to school if they still make fun of my lunches, but I think they are over it now and will be nicer.
TLT: What would you say to a kid who has an unhealthy diet and lifestyle and wants to follow in your footsteps? What key advice would you give him/her before starting out?
MR: Try to follow our videos and find anything that inspires you. Sometimes you need an outside source to help out if you don’t feel strong enough to do it. But the bottom line is just go do it.
TLT: Do you feel school food contributes to the problem of kids’ unhealthy lifestyles? What changes would you like to see in the food at your own school?
MR: Absolutely. I think it contributes because it makes kids crave all the fake things in the food they use to keep the food cheap. I would love to see a salad bar.
TLT: Is there anything else you’d like to share with Lunch Tray readers?
MR: One of our goals is to help get kids in the kitchen so I would say to invite your kids in there and have them help make a school lunch.
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Thanks to Marshall for letting me interview him on today’s Lunch Tray! You can find Portion Size Me! on Amazon here.
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