Liliana Mitchell: Fitness Class and Smaller Portion Size Leads to Healthier Weight

Some people dread exercise, but not Liliana Mitchell.

At least not when it comes to fitness class at the Healthy You for Life program at CHKD.

She gets excited just describing the class she takes on Monday and Wednesday evenings.

Scooter races. Rock climbing. Relay races.

Even running laps is fun when exercise specialist Roe Delutis is leading the way, boosting everyone’s enthusiasm.

Liliana is 10 years old and lives in Virginia Beach.

Late in 2018, her pediatrician told her parents, Robert and Susan Mitchell, about a CHKD program called “Healthy You for Life.”

They talked with Liliana about it, and she was eager to sign up. She started in December of 2018, under the instruction of Elizabeth Kerr, nurse practitioner; Lynn Kistler, registered dietitian; Carrie Barnish, behavioral counselor; and Kerri Somers, exercise physiologist.

She learned about exercising, portion sizes, reading food labels, and what types of foods to increase or decrease.

“I started eating more vegetables, and less rice and potatoes,” Liliana said.

She stopped eating foods with a lot of sugar. She switched from drinking soda to water.

She also learned a handy reference for how to measure food portions for a meal using her hands: Visualize your two hands together as the portion of food appropriate for a person your age. One palm is a protein portion, the other palm split between carbs and fruit. The fingers represent vegetables. If you’re still hungry after eating those portions, you can spread your fingers wider and have more vegetables but you can't expand your palms, so don’t increase portions of those foods.

Liliana looks forward to the fitness classes at CHKD, and she also participates in sports and exercise at school. She has physical education class twice a week. She also plays softball, and she’s a cheerleader.

If she misses one of the CHKD fitness classes, she makes up for it by exercising for 30 minutes doing something else. But she tries not to miss the class because she enjoys being with the other kids.

“I love the exercise classes. All ages come. The others encourage you to try harder and have fun.”

In four months, Liliana has lost 24 pounds. Her body mass index, a measurement of body fat based on height and weight, went down by 11 percent. Her clothing size dropped several levels. Susan said Liliana embraced the program right from the beginning, and has even helped educate her family, specifically on reading food labels. Once, when she noticed her mother eating some potato chips, she asked, “How many of those are you going to eat?”

She was ready with a calorie count. She also knows how to read the label to see if extra sugar has been added.

Liliana feels more energetic, and she doesn’t get winded during P.E. class or cheerleading.

Another benefit: “I’m more flexible.”