Nutritional values: Anniston program teaches kids to make healthy choices
by Benjamin Nunnally
Special to The Star
Feb 04, 2014 | 2770 views |  0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tycoma Miller, director of the West Anniston Foundation’s ‘We Can! Make Healthy Choices’ program, works on a project in her office Monday morning. Trent Penny/The Anniston Star
Tycoma Miller, director of the West Anniston Foundation’s ‘We Can! Make Healthy Choices’ program, works on a project in her office Monday morning. Trent Penny/The Anniston Star
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Zumba isn’t just dancing. To call it dancing would be a disservice to the shakes, grinds, gyrations and the exercise wedged in between. Salsa and meringue music keep the tempo high, the rhythm thumping and the bodies moving.

The children’s version, Zumbatomic, is a little less Shakira and a bit more “Yo Gabba Gabba” — dancing, running, wobbling and game playing silly enough to keep kids’ attention.

Zumba instructor Jenniffer Whyte has seen it all — led most of it, in fact — and her willingness to be silly for the kids sometimes gets them to make a little fun of their earnest instructor.

“I deal with them making fun by bringing them up on stage,” said Whyte with a laugh. “I tell them, ‘You show me where it’s at!’”

Whyte will be teaching Zumba classes at each session of We Can! Make Healthy Choices, a program presented by the West Anniston Foundation. The We Can! program is a joint project by several government health organizations, including the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, that focuses on getting kids back in shape.

“In Alabama we have a very high rate of obesity amongst children and adults,” said Tycoma Miller, outreach coordinator of the West Anniston Foundation.

One in every three kids between the ages of 10 and 17 in Alabama is overweight or obese, according to statistics from the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality. That staggering number stems from a lack of exercise and nutrition education, and a surplus of screen time with various electronics, according to Whyte.

“The addiction of being on their devices is just sickening,” she said.

The We Can! program will offer six weeks worth of alternatives, each week focusing on a different theme.

The first week is an introduction to the program that outlines and defines its goals. Week two focuses on ways to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. Week three is about managing incoming energy, while looking at the foods to eat to be energized without overeating. Week four is about outgoing energy — exercising on a daily basis. And weeks five and six cover lifestyle changes to keep kids focused on good health after the program ends. Each session includes a Zumba class taught by Whyte.

“It’s fun, it’s interactive, lots of moves and dancing,” said Miller. “The kids really like it.”

The first We Can! session is tonight from 5-7 p.m. at the Carver Community Center, with sessions continuing each Wednesday at 5 through March 12. Admission is free. Call West Anniston Foundation at 256-238-9900 for more information.
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