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Gimme Five: Linda Frankenbach


This week we got to know the person behind Life180, an online community that helps kids and parents tackle childhood obesity with expert advice, online group coaching, live webchats and more. Read on to learn why the founder and CEO of Life180, Linda Frankenbach, finds this issue more than a public service. Instead, it is a topic close to her heart. To connect with Linda, you can message her through her profile.

Name: Linda Frankenbach
Title: Founder and CEO
Organization: Life180, Inc. (Owner of the fitsmi family of websites and online coaching services.)

What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?

When I hit my teens I was a yo-yo eater/dieter and I struggled with my weight. I remember how much that affected my life. My mother wanted so much to help me but lacked the tools. I was saved by a neighbor who gave me an eating plan to follow and supported me as I changed my eating habits. (She was one of the first Weight Watchers’ employees, but as a teenager I could not join that program.) So this has always been an issue close to my heart. In recent years I’ve been alarmed by the growing number of kids suffering from obesity and I recognized that even today there are few places that kids and teens can go for help. Moreover, there are few resources to help parents learn how to parent an overweight child. Before launching Life180, we did research and focus groups with kids and parents, which confirmed our observations, and from all this came fitsmi websites and online coaching services.

How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?

We use the power of web-based social networking to tackle the obesity crisis through our free online communities and our online group coaching for both kids and parents. Our websites offer expert advice, peer support and loads of useful information to help kids and teens to manage their weight and help their parents to support them. For girls who need more help, we offer weekly live web chats with a registered dietitian coach who teaches them how to eat and how to integrate exercise into their lives, as well as helping them to feel great about themselves. The premise is making small, sustainable changes that add up to big changes and a healthier life and weight.

We also educate parents to support, inspire and motivate their overweight kids of all ages. We offer a first-of-its-kind in-depth program for parents, led by a registered dietitian and a psychologist, that addresses the challenges facing parents from every angle including becoming better role models, restructuring the home environment in a way that promotes family health, improving communication and identifying and tackling the underlying contributors to a child’s weight management issues.

What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?

From the feedback of both the kids and parents who go through our fitsmi coaching programs, we can see that we are helping people make significant and lasting changes in their lives. One 15-year-old girl who took the program and then convinced her dad to take the parent coaching said “Fitsmi coaching is totally unique. School health classes just don’t teach this stuff. I have made a lot of changes. I have more energy now and my pants fit better.” One mom in Boston who took the parent coaching program said “I love this program and I have learned so much.  My son has slimmed down as a result. One thing that has been very helpful is making it about the whole family rather than focusing on just my son.” This feedback makes it all worthwhile.

Who is your role model in your work?

I would name two: Charles Dolan, a great inventor and entrepreneur in the television business taught me so much about taking an idea, sticking to it, and turning it into a business. And Stan Thomas, a wonderful boss and mentor at HBO, showed me what real leadership, compassion and integrity mean in business.

What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up? And what game or sport did you play growing up?

I was a big apple eater. And I played basketball and field hockey.

Each week, our own Prarthana Gurung speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Prarthana’s profile and contact her.