Cindy Santa Ana is living proof that one woman can improve her life and make a difference in her community. Just two years ago, then41-year-old Santa Ana couldn’t go a day without taking a nap, was overweight and had depressingly low energy levels. But when a health coach recommended she try to shape up, Santa Ana, a resident of Bristow, Va., jumped at the opportunity.
For the next three months, she worked to transform her nutritional habits—from fast food for dinner to homemade, well-balanced meals. Santa Ana started losing weight and feeling better. She went to school to become a health coach and, through her transition, looked at the eating habits of her two daughters, ages 5 and 7, and those oftheir schoolmates.
Santa Ana taught her daughters about good nutrition—but that wasn’t enough. She wanted to educate more children. She printed up healthy snack lists for teachers and became “room mom” for both of her girls, creating menus for each class.
In Fall 2011, Santa Ana approached the PTO in her daughters’ school district with an idea: to start an eight-week Wellness After School program for interested children. The PTO loved the concept and Santa Ana launched her first class of 12 students (ages Kindergarten through third grade) right away. This spring will mark her fourth consecutive semester teaching the course.
“We talk about nutrition and what it means to have a healthy lifestyle,” she says. “We also move more and do yoga, stretching, fun workouts, cooking and sample different foods.”
Looking ahead, Santa Ana would like to package her class and sell it to other moms looking to teach after school programs, and incorporate healthy eating tips and ideas to be more physically active.
“I would also love to sell it to YMCAs and community centers,” she says. “I think the younger you start to talk with your children about food the better.”
In the meantime, Santa Ana is enjoying a new career as a health coach with her company, Unlock Better Health, where she sees adult and youth clients. Even her kids are catching on to her healthy habits.
“My 7-year-old will look at food labels before she eats anything,” says Santa Ana. “If the food doesn’t contain healthy ingredients, she will set it aside. It makes me so proud.”
Photos courtesy of Cindy Santa Ana