66: Fit2beKids Founder Shae Gawlak on Welfare and Obesity

2013-04-12 06.00.16

Thanks for stopping by! Today’s interview is with Shae Gawlak, founder of Fit2beKids. Normally my interviews aren’t quite as long as this one, but I felt compelled to get the full story behind Fit2BeKids and all the advice Shae has for families who are in a similar situation as the one she was in years ago.

A Bit About Shae

I’m a wife and mom to 3 teenage boys. The oldest son, Jaxon, just graduated from Navy boot camp last week. My middle son, Michael, graduates high school in June and too will go off to the Navy and then my youngest son, Lucas, will be a senior next year and aspires to be either a History Professor or a NASCAR mechanic. Along with following my passion and purpose of founding and operating Fit2beKids, I’m also an Exercise Sports Science Professor at Concordia University in Irvine, CA.



To empower at-risk youth to lead mentally-, physically- and emotionally-balanced lives, thereby enhancing their well-being as well as that of the community.


To fully educate at-risk youth and their families on physical fitness, nutrition and character development through guided-discovery learning.


To create a guided-discovery learning experience that is built on trust, courage and respect; where children can develop necessary social, emotional, cognitive and dexterous skills to empower themselves in leading a wholesome life.


After ten plus years of domestic abuse, financial, mental, and emotional hardship, Shae Gawlak swallowed her pride and applied for Welfare…a word and a program that had never entered her vocabulary growing up in an upper-middle class family.

But this “opportunity” allowed Shae to see the flaws in the system when it came to childhood obesity, healthy habits, nutrition and exercise for the underprivileged. So, in 2009, Shae enrolled at Kaplan University in their Health & Wellness program to major in Nutrition. Her plan was to make a REAL difference.

Shae knew that engaging + educating these kids (and their parents) was essential to the well-being of an entire population. Luckily, her schooling taught her how to develop a community outreach program. But Shae’s project didn’t end when the class was over, it was just the beginning of a hard-fought goal to change the lives of low-income + at-risk families, permanently.

Fit2beKids is now a thriving non-profit that encourages long-term health and educates about the dangers of sedentary lifestyles, using the great outdoors as a catalyst for change.

A Couple of Shae’s Favorite Success Stories




Shae’s Relationship with Food

During most of my twenties and thirties, I was a bodybuilder and lived an extremely clean and strict lifestyle, from a fitness regimen of 5-6 days a week of training up to 3+ hour sessions…to eating a very clean and balanced diet.  For more than 20 years, my fitness life was very controlled. My now husband is a serious foodie and an incredible chef! So, when we first got together it was difficult for me to enjoy the delicious meals he would prepare and most often I felt guilty about consuming more calories than usual and even indulging in yummy decadent treats.  It has taken me several years to finally recognize that it IS ok to treat myself to some of these foods, occasionally…just in moderation! Everything in moderation!  You can’t fully enjoy life if you restrict yourself from some of the most wonderful experiences…and sometimes that does include food.

What Are Some Important Things People Don’t Understand or Realize When It Comes to the Health of Children? 


More than 12.5 million children in the United States, alone, are obese, with 70% of these children having at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, as well as metabolic disorders.  In 2008, a nationwide survey identified obesity as being ranked the #1 health problem for children.

The economic consequences of childhood obesity are categorized as direct (medical costs) and indirect (job absenteeism). The direct costs of childhood obesity include annual prescription drugs, emergency room visits, and outpatient costs of $14.1 billion, plus inpatient costs of $237.6 million.

An even larger cost is incurred when obese children become obese adults. About a third of obese preschool children, and about half of obese school-age children become obese adults. The estimated annual cost of treating obesity-related illness in adults is $147 billion.


As an active member of the South Orange County Childhood Obesity Prevention Task Force (St. Joseph’s Health), F2BK is dedicated to providing relevant content and education about fighting childhood obesity, as well as bringing stellar youth programming and easily-accessible resources for the entire family, to our communities.

Childhood obesity is merely a symptom of systemic designs, typically due to poverty, which deters youth from the outdoors (physical activity) and access to nutrition (fresh fruits and vegetables). We have acknowledged that guided-discovery learning is much more effective in long-term behavior change.

F2BK launched its first free community outreach program, Family Fit ‘n Fun Club, in September 2010, working with under-served/at-risk youth; providing awareness and field programs that address, such mentioned, modern societal symptoms; and this is what we’re doing about it:

We have created guided-discovery learning experiences where children can develop necessary social, emotional, cognitive and dexterous skills through specific physical activities and nutrition education that empower them to lead a balanced and wholesome life, affording them the opportunity to make healthier choices as they become adults.

Consistent participation from the child and their parent(s); along with the commitment and dedication to becoming healthy; our health education classes and fitness instruction has proved that,



Fit2beKids is dedicated to getting our kids healthy and getting our society away from these giant health costs. This is a gift that’s available to everyone. It’s free to the participants. So if you or anyone you know could benefit, reach out. This is about doing things that kids love to do, being active and having fun. Fit2beKids is a nonprofit. Even though this is free to the families in the program, there is a cost to run the program. If you’d like to get involved, whether it be sponsoring kids or making donations, definitely head over to the site and see what’s available.

Reach out to Shae at shae@fit2bekids.orgFit2beKids.org, on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thank you all so much for stopping by. Please help Shae get the word out and share this with your friends and family.

I’ll be back soon. Until then, get out there. Have some fun and Explore Your Fitness!


Music Credit: The Passion HiFi – Remanded – Dirty South Beat / Instrumental


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