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Youthful Ambition



Tired of being picked on for his weight, a 10-year-old vowed to change his lifestyle. He did just that, and even landed a book deal.

Marshall Reid had a tough time in the fourth grade, his mom Alexandra Reid recalls.

Bullied by students and even teachers for being overweight, Marshall changed schools at the end of the school year for a fresh start.

But he also decided to take action, drawing inspiration from the documentary “Super Size Me,” in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but fast food for a month.

“He said, ‘Mom, we need to do the opposite of ‘Super Size Me.’ We need to start being healthy,’” Alexandra Reid says. “It was like a slap in the face. I instantly knew I was the responsible one. It was just too easy to stop by Little Caesar’s Pizza.”

So the Reids ditched the pizza and got healthy together. Mom and son came up with a list of healthy goals and looked at ways to incorporate them into their daily life. At the time, Marshall’s dad was stationed in Iraq, so the pair decided to post a video to YouTube so he could also take part.

That changed everything.

The video went viral. Marshall and his mom ended up booking appearances on CNN, met celebrity chef and obesity advocate Jamie Oliver and even landed a book deal.

Released on April 1, Portion Size Me: A Kid-Driven Plan to a Healthier Family tells the Reid family story while incorporating healthy tips and recipes for families looking to make similar changes into their own lives.

The goal of the book is to inspire families who might be struggling with figuring out how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. When brainstorming the book, the Reids realized that they felt they didn’t have time to cook and follow healthy recipes, and it took real commitment and focus to enact meaningful changes into their routines.

The Reids don’t claim to be health experts, but merely hope their story resonates with people, Alexandria Reid says. “I don’t have a bunch of letters behind my name, I’m really not an authority on anything. I’m just a mom,” she says.

The book is part of Marshall’s larger effort to become the “Martin Luther King, Jr. of childhood obesity,” his mom says. The youngster and his mom created the Portion Size Me campaign to promote healthy living, which they have promoted online and in their North Carolina community.

The hallmark of their effort is a kid-focused cooking competition that’s inspired by the television show “Chopped.” Called “Snack Wars,” the event sees young people face off to create healthy snacks with a limited number of ingredients, in front of a live audience of their peers.

“We want those kids on stage to encourage kids in the audience,“ Alexandra Reid says. “We try to make it fun.”

The Reids also hope to spread their message nationwide this summer when they spend seven weeks traveling cross-country in a vintage airstream camper.

Marshall’s dad is retiring from the military on May 1, so this summer is the first time in a long time that the entire family will be together for an extended period of time. Although the Portion Size Me campaign isn’t the primary reason for the trip, the Reids hope to use their travels to study food issues that are impacting communities across the country, including food deserts and sustainability issues. Depending on what they discover, the trip might become the basis of a second book.

The Reids also will have to adjust their own habits while on the road, mom admits.

“It’s not just about portion sizing your plate, it’s about portion sizing your life,” Alexandra Reid says. “We’re going to have to work really hard… we’re certainly going to have conversations and see how we can motivate each other and motivate ourselves. We’re going to have to get creative.”