The Jacksons, Week 9: Thanksgiving Day Test Passed, Cheeseburger Embargo Declared

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

What do you get when you combine a weeklong holiday celebration with a balmy out-of-town travel destination?

For we Jacksons, possible disaster for our health and fitness goals. But we averted tragedy -- for the most part.

On a 4.0 grading scale, I'd give myself a B- for staying on the Healthy Families Challenge track during Thanksgiving. I exercised, but didn't see the gym as much as planned. I ate well -- heartily, that is -- but didn't pig out. No guilt trip here!

Pretty good, since along the way I was confronted with ample opportunities to consume adventure-theme-park food and restaurant travel eats, not to mention our Thanksgiving Day meal (we chowed down at a busy chain buffet restaurant and had a little bit of everything, including the carbs, the sugar and the starches).

We were the Jackson 4 -- me, Jack, and my mom and dad -- as we headed out of town on a 784-mile jaunt to Orlando, Fla. It was a surprise Thanksgiving week vacation to Disney World for Jackson, who turns 12 this month.


Jackson enjoys a frozen non-alcoholic butterbeer at the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. Credit: Deidra Jackson

And it was a wonderful excursion, filled with tantalizing sights. The Florida landscape's lush tropical trees stood out against a stunning backdrop filled with the yellows, oranges, blues and purples in the skies early in the day and at twilight.

Outside our rental condo's back door, a stone's throw from a pond, I watched a white crane devour a fish it had caught. I filmed it and posted it online, joking that watching the bird gradually swallow that live fish reminded me of my junk-food-binge days.

There was, of course, many an appealing lure at Disney World. Turkey legs. Funnel cakes. French fries. Bacon cheeseburgers. Hot dogs. Pizza. Nachos. Ice cream. Pretzels.


But my advisors back at home in Oxford had prepared me for these days. Before I left on the trip, Emmy Parkes, the registered dietitian on my health and fitness team and a University of Mississippi instructor in family and consumer sciences, gave me two good resources to aid my family's efforts: The CalorieKing Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter, a helpful paperback, and the online and mobile nutrition resource ShopWell, billed as a tool to help us make better decisions about the food we buy and eat.

In addition to nutritional information for foods at some 200 fast-food chains and restaurants, the CalorieKing book provides info on diabetes and tips on losing weight. The ShopWell site assists food selections by personalizing shopping based on your age, gender, body mass index and exercise level.

After seeing how many fat grams were in my favorite salad at Applebee's (Oriental chicken salad, 93!), I haven't picked up that reference book -- but I didn't order the salad, either.

And, thanks to my new-found fear of packing in too many calories, I managed to make it out of Disney's Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios at the end of those six days having splurged responsibly.

Every morning I ate a light but satisfying breakfast. Like clockwork, I had low-cal yogurt, a banana and juice or water.

At other meals, I sneaked in a couple pizza slices, some fries and a frozen strawberry drink, but at the height of my self-control, I chose a chicken Caesar wrap over a deep-fried chicken patty in a fluffy bun. Through willpower, and with my dignity intact, I controlled my appetite and avoided eating more sugary and fatty foods that I could have devoured as artfully as did that white crane.

Each day, except for one, we walked throughout the parks, often on our feet for prolonged periods, standing in long lines for rides and shows. For that exercise I was grateful. I wish I had worn one of those step-counter gizmos. I think we easily walked several miles each day, which helped burn the extra calories.

Jackson's heart must have appreciated the exercise as well. While he's not on a strict eating regimen, he's aware that he should be wary of sugars and fats. For him I've declared an embargo on bacon-double-cheeseburgers, Angus or not, for a while. During our vacation, he ate more than several, with fries. I'm sure that's not so good. However, if you asked him, he'd say they went down very well. He burned the calories, in the resort's exercise facilities and playing golf with my father.

Jackson said he appreciates the temporary burger ban. He believes he's already "getting slimmer." Ah, to be almost-12 again!

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.