Shape Up the Shaq Way

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How would you describe Shaq's Family Challenge?
The show was two things. First, it was a learning experience for me, as I took on a task that I thought was going to be pretty simple - get six kids in better shape - and discovered the complexities that make the state of our children's health so disturbing. Second, it was an effort to get the message out to the masses of parents, educators and kids in a direct, in-your-face way in hopes of stirring some change.

Have you had your own weight struggles, and what steps did you take to correct them?
I obviously was always considered "big" for my age. I am the extreme when it comes to all of the charts and guidelines put out there, like BMI. That being said, I also always played sports and maintained an active lifestyle. Without that, I probably would have been at risk for being obese.

Why is childhood obesity such a problem?
Because so many people either don't think about what's happening to our kids, or they simply don't have the information. Eating habits and lifestyles are different today than in past generations. Technology has made both home-cooked meals less natural and made young people less active (video games, computers, cell phones, etc.).

What is the first step in fighting this epidemic?
The very first step is to get the information out there. People can't do better until they know better. And because we're talking about new life patterns, it helps if the path is made easy at first. That was our thought behind getting a Web site out there with recipes and workout tips.

Do you think that enough people realize how much of a problem childhood obesity is?
No, I don't -- especially when you talk about the adults who guide our children and their habits. Politicians, parents and school boards can make a lot of decisions to turn this epidemic around if they gave more attention to it.