Making Health Choices, aimed at children ages 7 to 14, follows the journey of a fictional child who is surrounded by unhealthy food choices and bombarded by negative messages from the media, and even from their parents—much like your average kid today, Merilee says. Two versions of the book are available with either a girl or a boy as the main character, Merilee explains, so that the reader can identify with a character of their own gender.
The first chapter shows the struggles that the child faces when they're making poor choices. For example, they can't fit into cool clothes or keep up with other kids on the playground. Merilee says she also exposes the teasing, bullying and depression that often go along with being overweight.
In the second chapter, Merilee says she tries to show the negative health implications of an unhealthy lifestyle, as well as what's physically going on with the body. A trip to the pediatrician in chapter three luckily turns the tide for the child, who begins to see how they can start to make better, health-conscious decisions.
By chapter four, Merilee says the child starts to see the rewards of having gotten their weight under control. It provides clear examples of how kids can make healthy choices given their day-to-day options, from taking the stairs instead of the elevator, to identifying and eating nutritious snacks.
In the book, Merilee says the main character's whole family gets on board and gets fit. She says that while it's of utmost importance that parents set a good example when it comes to health and fitness, her book is also designed to help kids who may not have good role models.
"It actually empowers children to realize that no matter what the pressure is, whether it's in the home or outside the home, commercialism, etc., that ultimately at the end of the day, that they themselves are responsible for their health and that it is about choices," Merilee says.