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Rush University Medical Center and the Salvation Army have launched a six-month program called Keep It Fit, designed to help Chicago residents fight obesity and live healthier lives.

Some 50 families from an underserved neighborhood on Chicago's southwest side are participating in the program, teaming up with medical, nursing and allied health students at Rush who have volunteered to be personal health, fitness and nutrition coaches.

The students will each be assigned to one of the participating families to help them develop a personalized plan that can get the whole family on track for a healthy lifestyle.

The students will then follow up with weekly meetings with their families. In addition, monthly group meetings will bring all the families together for educational activities in fitness and nutrition, with speakers from Rush.

"This isn't the usual short-term weight loss program," says Cynthia Waickus, MD, PhD, family medicine specialist at Rush and the faculty advisor for the student volunteers. "The aim of Keep It Fit is to teach families healthy habits that can last a lifetime."

Here are some tips to help you and your family to take off the pounds:

Eating the Right Way

  • Adapt your recipes to be healthier and lighter. For example, replace the amount of pasta you cook with extra vegetables.
  • Set attainable goals. Commit to just 5 pounds at first and strive to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.
  • Don't skip meals or you might overeat at your next meal or eat extra snacks. Over time, this can affect your metabolism.
  • Learn which triggers cause you to overeat, such as being bored or stressed.
  • Learn how to shop for healthier foods. Carefully read nutrition labels and portion sizes.

Increasing Your Activity


  • If you prefer, walk don't run. Brisk walking and other moderate physical activities can help you lose weight and keep it off just as well as more intense exercises, such as running.
  • Find reasons to move around such as cleaning your house or washing your car. Every bit of activity counts.
  • Add some exercise to your workday. Take a stroll during lunch or walk to coworker's office instead of sending an e-mail.
  • Take an exercise class. Studies show that group exercise can offer positive mental health benefits.
  • Don't let bad weather become an excuse. Invest in exercise DVDs or home equipment so you can work out from the comfort of your own home.

Anyone beginning an exercise program should talk with his or her doctor first. This is especially important for people with health problems.

More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (888 352-7874).
  • Looking for a dietitian? Call (312) 942-DIET (3438).

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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