Photo: Courtesy of Priscilla Marquard
Run like a summer camp for kids and their parents, the Pritikin Family Program includes tennis, swimming, and other activities, along with nutrition and culinary classes that emphasize the health benefits of a nutrient-rich, high-fiber, low-sodium, very-low-fat approach. (The diet consists of fewer than 20 percent calories from fat; the typical American diet is about 35 percent.) The first meal the Marquards ate in the Pritikin dining room was a shock to their palates—vegetarian meatloaf, "French fries" that were actually baked sliced sweet potatoes, and no salt shakers on the tables. "We were like, 'Mom, what are you doing to us?'" recalls Alexandra. The girls were initially resistant to the new foods, but they adjusted quickly. This was a revelation to Priscilla: Despite her attempts to feed the family healthy fare, she slipped at times—meeting the triplets after school bearing bags of potato chips or Happy Meals, for example. "They'd get into the car and have huge smiles on their faces," she says. With the help of the camp counselors, Priscilla realized there were better ways to keep her girls happy. And the triplets had frank discussions about what they needed to lose and the habits they would have to change. "The staff helped us get on the same page nutritionally and mentally," says Priscilla.
Improving communication should be a top priority for spouses as well, says Zucker. Dieters assume that others know what sort of support to give—and often end up disappointed and frustrated when they don't get it. "Be specific in terms of what you really need," says Zucker. For some women, that may mean asking a spouse to do the grocery shopping—and making sure he buys plenty of fruit and vegetables, not corn dogs and cupcakes. Other women may be more in need of emotional support. Simply hearing the words "Honey, I know how hard this is—and I'm proud of you" can make all the difference.
The Marquards' time at Pritikin was a success. Priscilla managed to lose 16 pounds; three years later, she has kept the weight off. Audrey arrived at camp weighing 106 pounds; despite a six-inch growth spurt, she is now a trim 102 pounds. As a result of the program, Caroline lost 15 pounds. Philipp also benefited from the lessons Priscilla and the girls learned: He has shed 60 pounds through diet and exercise.
The Marquards' experience demonstrates the best way to lose weight is together. Today the Happy Meals and potato chips after school are a distant memory. "Now it's fruit and more fruit," says Priscilla. "And nobody turns their nose up and says, 'Oh, gosh, what's that?'"
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