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12-year-old takes healthful food message across the U.S.

June 29, 2012|By Mary MacVean
  • Marshall Reid, his mother and their family are traveling the country in an Airstream.
Marshall Reid, his mother and their family are traveling the country in… (Jordan Reid )

Marshall Reid was bullied at school because he was overweight. He found a way to fight back that has kept the bullies at bay and changed his life: He’s a healthy eater and a successful author. He and his mother, Alexandra, wrote the book “Portion Size Me” about how their family changed habits and how other people can too.

For almost three weeks now, Marshall and his family have been traveling the country in their vintage Airstream. They’ll spend 7 1/2 weeks on the road, talking about their book.

Marshall, 12, said he really likes seeing new parts of the country, but he had one complaint: “There’s so little room, and my parents seem to fail to reason that the bigger person needs the bigger bunk. So my sister gets the bigger bunk. Hint, hint: Mom, give me the bigger bunk.”

When Marshall’s father retired after 27 years in the military, and the family bought the trailer “on a whim,” his mother said: “We thought, ‘The kids still love us, why not go?' "

Along the way, they’ve stopped at YMCAs and other places to talk with children and play a game they’ve invented, modeled after the Food Network show “Chopped.”  Their game is aimed at getting children into the kitchen, and it challenges them to come up with a healthy after-school snack in 10 to 12 minutes, using ordinary kitchen ingredients.

Marshall, an unusually articulate boy who will begin seventh grade in the fall, told us about the effort he began two years ago and how it’s changed his life.

Why did you start the "Portion Size Me" project? Was your family on board?

I was getting bullied at school. And a new kid started bullying me, and I said, “I’m done. I’m done.” The night before we had seen “Supersize Me.” It was more a heat-of-the-moment decision I made. You know, just I’m going to do this.

My dad was in Iraq. My sister has never been overweight but has eating problems and eats junk food all day. But she wouldn’t do it until "Portion Size Me" became big, and then she wanted to be part of it.

Do you miss any of your old foods? And what’s replaced them?

I miss corned beef hash a lot. I used to have it every Saturday. I made something I called glop. It had corned beef hash and cheese and all kinds of gross eggs and stuff. And I mixed it all up and made a sort of a glop that tasted really good. It’s really omelets now. They definitely sort of replaced corned beef hash in a healthier way.

What’s life like these days with the bullies?

I don’t really talk to them, but I have had them come up me and ask where they could buy the book. Occasionally, I’ll get one who just wants to be nasty.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned on this project?

The most important thing I’ve learned is how to make the right decisions when they’re needed. I would always want to have junky foods all the time, and I would go to restaurants and have French fries, onion rings, deep-fried things. The little changes you make have big successes. Like having a salad instead of French fries. My mom and I were at a restaurant. She got onion rings and I got a salad. I would want the onion rings too, but the salad was actually pretty good. The thing that struck me was it was side salad and it was small. But The onion rings were huge, enough to feed three people. So little healthy stuff, so much unhealthy stuff.

How hard was it to make changes? And why doesn’t everyone make changes to their diets to make them more healthful?

It’s so easy. The goals [in the book] are quick, easy things that are there to help us with being happy with who we are. Get in the kitchen, easy things like that. The first few days it was hard. But after that it was easy.

I think everybody wants a quick fix. I think they want to do it and then go back [to their old habits]. And you can’t. People are scared. They’re scared of failing. They don’t want to try this and then fail. They want something that they know will work, like a pill or a diet that will happen in 30 seconds.

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