Fat Chance

Health expert Toni Branner is on a mission to end childhood obesity
When Branner demonstrates the amount of sugar that is contained in soda, she gets people's attention every time.

When Branner demonstrates the amount of sugar that is contained in soda, she gets people’s attention every time.

A double cheeseburger, large fries, and large soda constitute a common meal for many people. Chances are they haven't seen one of the eye-opening health presentations from exercise and wellness expert Toni Branner. 

Branner takes a twenty-ounce plastic soda bottle and tapes several white sugar packets to it to show how unhealthful a soft drink really is. She also demonstrates how much fat is in the burger and fries by dumping mounds of white lard onto hamburger buns. Doesn't look so tasty now, does it?

Branner heads the Charlotte consulting firm Fitness Concepts, which advises people of all ages, but her personal mission is to halt the skyrocketing obesity and diabetes rates among kids. "I've always worked with different age groups," she says, "but I gravitated toward children because I see their future as very scary, especially with the growing diabetes rates."

The twenty-year wellness veteran hopes her demonstrations will change the diets of her young clients from what she calls "party foods," which consist mostly of chicken nuggets, pizza with heavy cheese, and soda. She wants to turn them on to disease-fighting fare like fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and beans. "We eat so little of these foods compared to fifty years ago that we're seeing all of these diseases increase and develop in people at a younger age," she says.

Taylor Hoverman, a junior at Fort Mill High School, benefited from Branner's counsel. Hoverman's on-the-go lifestyle as a dancer and pageant contestant led her to a diet of high sugar and fast foods. In 2004, she heard Branner speak about the dangers of an unhealthy diet. 

"I used to eat a lot of fast foods, no fruits and vegetables," she says. "Now, I eat a lot healthier. And pain that I used to have in my knees and joints is gone because I've replaced my sodas with milk." The reformed soda junkie also made health her platform and placed in the top five at the Miss South Carolina Teen Pageant in 2006 and 2007. Hoverman still raves about Branner. "She's a great influence."

Branner took her junk-food-fighting knowledge to the shelves with the December releases of The Care & Feeding of a Dancer and The Care & Feeding of an Athlete. The next book in the series, The Care & Feeding of a Soccer Player, will be released this month. The books explain hard-to-understand nutritional concepts to student athletes and offer advice about self-esteem, stress, and time management.

Ultimately, Branner says that parents hold the most influence over their kids' health. "I get the most results when parents and kids hear my message together," she says. "They have to intervene, educate, and change their children's health. I love kids and want them to live their lives to the fullest."

For more information, visit www.tonibranner.com .



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