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Gimme Five: Elizabeth Youngstein

Each week, our own Zach Brooks 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 Zach's profile and contact him.
As director of healthy living at the Metro YMCAs of the Oranges in Livingston, N.J., Elizabeth Youngstein is working to incorporate nutrition education and physical activity into early childhood programs and afterschool programs.
She shares more about those efforts in the interview below.
Title: Director of Healthy Living
Organization: Metro YMCAs of the Oranges
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?  
I’ve been interested in healthy eating and physical activity as long as I can remember. It’s how I live my life and I try to model that for my own kids. Having young kids myself, I see firsthand how hard it can be for some families and the poor choices that are made due to the hectic lifestyles of today’s families. I’ve been inspired by what I see around me to help make a difference for today’s youth.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?  
At Metro YMCAs of the Oranges we’ve implemented Healthy U using the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) curriculum into our early childhood programs, our after-school programs and now into many school-based programs. CATCH is a program which infuses nutrition education and physical activity into the child’s school day. CATCH makes sure that when children have physical activity time, they are practicing moderator to vigorous physical activity for 50 percent of the time. Metro YMCAs of the Oranges has also implemented Healthy Eating Physical Activity (HEPA) standards into all of our programs. School is where children spend most of their time, so it only makes sense that we should concentrate on that time. 
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?  
Through surveys and other assessment tools that we use at the Y, we have seen an increase in children’s physical activity and nutrition knowledge and a decrease in both sedentary activities and the sugary snacks and beverages that children are consuming. We don’t focus on weight as much as we focus on a more active and more knowledgeable youth. 
Who is your role model in your work?
I love the work that Michelle Obama is doing with Let’s Move. I was inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, and here in New Jersey, Shaping NJ is doing amazing things to help combat childhood obesity.
What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up? What game or sport did you play growing up?
I was a tomboy growing up so I played every backyard sport there was. At school I would make sure that I always got the most number of push-up and sit-ups in my class. Junk food in my house was pretzels and frozen yogurt. We grew up eating very healthy and enjoying it, and to this day we all enjoy a very healthy and balanced lifestyle.