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May. 18 2010 - 9:04 pm | 401 views | 0 recommendations | 7 comments

Energy Up! A celebrity trainer gets kids to eat right

Volage and Katie Couric (Photo: Patrick McMullan)

When High Voltage materialized in my living room one day–she of the silver exercise tops, clubbing yoga pants, and boundless enthusiasm for elevating people’s lives–I was startled, then dubious. Not suspicious about her ability to whip celebrities into filming shape–it’s their job, after all–but wary that she could carry her healthy living message beyond that rarefied world.

What a surprise, then, to talk to the charming, self-confident girls enrolled in her Energy Up! diet and fitness programs at New York City’s Young Women’s Leadership School and Mother Cabrini High .

“Sugar is bad, but it’s hard to cut back,” said Kiani. “It’s in a lot of things you don’t know.” As proof, she walked me through an exhibit of such items as frozen entrees, yogurt and whole wheat bread, all shot full of sugar. Voltage’s program, Kiani continued, “lets us know what we’re eating. That helps us to eat healthier.”

What was the hardest thing for her to give up? “Kool-Aid,” Kiani says. “Cherry candy,” adds her friend, Jovan. But they’ve acquired a taste for bananas and apples.

What else does Voltage tell them to eat? “She doesn’t tell us,” Jovan says. “She says it’s our choice–she’s just giving us information.” Information like the fact that vitamin water can contain as much sugar as a soft drink.

Even more outrageous, Nadita points out, “You know how in school they give us chocolate milk? This is how much sugar they put in milk.” Cringing, she holds up a baggie filled with the stuff.

Hoping to change her younger sister’s diet, too, Nadita took the information home. “My mom started making  less greasy stuff,” she says. “She now bakes her chicken instead of frying it.”

“Learning about the sugar was a shock,” admitted Adriana, an Energy Up! graduate now enrolled in Dowling College. “You look at something like an oatmeal raisin cookie, and you don’t think of sugar first. You think it’s not bad. But when you start reading labels and knowing what’s in things, you cut out those cookies. I’ve lost 20 pounds!”

By becoming conscious, the kids’ choices can even become unconsciously correct. “My family went to an all you can eat place last weekend,” Nadia told me. “I didn’t notice, but my parents said, ‘You only put healthy stuff on your plate.’”

Nadia also came up with what, to me, might be the perfect diet/maintenance regimen: “Six days a week, I eat healthy. On Saturday, I eat what I want!”

Except, in these girls’ cases, what they want is rapidly becoming what they should want.

So congratulations to Voltage, also known as Kathie Dolin, on her remarkable program, designed to combat Type 2 Diabetes and Childhood Obesity. With the help of Katie Couric and Kelsey and Camille Grammar, among others, she’s hoping to expand her efforts to other schools, eventually enrolling boys as well.

This is a program that even I, a lover of hamburgers and fried chicken, can get behind. Because, as the kids will tell you, Voltage  does not dictate. Her program provides the facts, then allows for free will. How wonderful that, once given those facts, so many in the program start making the healthy choice.

If you’ve got kids–or care about kids–maybe you’d like to help introduce this program to other schools. To learn more, check out the Energy Up! website.


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    Waitress money in pocket, typewriter in hand, I came to New York from Ohio to make my living as a writer. No high aspirations: English was simply the only subject I'd never failed. In a matter of weeks, I went from writing a college thesis on Clarissa Harlowe to a romantic dissection of Dean Martin's divorce. It's been a bumpy ride ever since, with long pauses at the New York Daily News (where I edited Rex Reed, Pete Hamill, Jimmy Breslin and my now-husband Lorenzo Carcaterra) and People magazine (Diana! Oscars! Sexy Men! ), and shorter stops with a select crew of bipolar employers. My most delightful three years were spent as the founding editor of a women's weekly, Quick & Simple, where I picked up such tips as: To get more juice from a lemon, nuke it for 15 to 30 seconds before squeezing. All the better for making lemonade.

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