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Child Obesity
Nutrition Lessons

The Pilot Program Results

Evaluation of an Intensive Physical Fitness and Nutrition Program for
Overweight At‐Risk Students: ‘Dump the JunkTM
Jill Novacek, Ph.D.
Research and Evaluation Department / Stockton Unified School District
Presented To: Carl Toliver, Deputy Superintendent, Educational Services, Stockton Unified School District - March 2005

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I. Goals of Study

Examine effectiveness of the Dump the Junk Program for helping overweight students lose body mass/fat and improve their body composition, and develop healthier lifestyles and more academic success.

II. Background

National Scene

Fifteen‐percent, or 9 million youth in America are overweight. Fifteen‐percent more are atrisk of becoming overweight. The rate of overweight children and adolescents has more than doubled since 1980 and quadrupled since 1970. 2, 3

The U.S. Surgeon General has declared obesity to be a national health epidemic.4 Overweight youth suffer
disproportionately from chronic health conditions, experience intense social stigmatization, and have an estimated 70‐80% chance of becoming obese adults. 5, 6 Strong links have been established between obesity and serious diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, high blood pressure, and depression. Obesity is so prevalent among young people, that this is the first generation of Americans that is not expected to live as long as the previous generation.

Evidence shows that obesity is linked to poor academic performance.7, 8 Over 200 published studies show links between fitness, health and learning. The foods people eat and the blood they pump into their brains and organs affect consciousness, alertness, and their ability to learn. There are also studies that link fitness and health to school attendance.9

Local Scene

One‐third (37%) of Stockton Unified School District’s 5th, 7th and 9th grade students were
overweight and did not have a normal body mass.

Their fitness performance on California’s standardized fitness test was less than half the state’s average. In a study of one SUSD elementary school, 32% of the students were overweight – more than twice the national average. 11

Analyses of SUSD standardized academic test and fitness data showed that students who did better on fitness testing also did better on California Standards Tests in English Language Arts and Mathematics, and had better school attendance. 10, 11


Teach youth and their parents about the benefits of healthy nutrition, exercise and maintaining a
positive attitude; while providing youth with structured physical activities to improve their fitness, self discipline, mental capacities, and respect for others.

Research & Evaluation Department / Stockton Unified

III. Intervention Program

Dump the Junk is a healthy‐lifestyles curriculum developed by Dr. Joseph Christiano. By focusing on
nutrition, exercise, positive attitudes, teacher support and parental involvement, the program helps youth achieve and maintain normal weight and fitness, improve academic performance, gain self‐confidence, and become better “citizens”.12 The curriculum provides structured research‐based lessons and educational materials on nutrition (e.g., healthier food choices), exercise and fitness, and developing self‐discipline and positive attitudes.

Dump the Junk lessons:

  • Help teens identify the ‘junk’ in their lives and how to get rid of it.
  • Provide health nutritional guidelines that help teens overcome poor eating habits, maintain normal weight, and avoid illness.
  • Provide progressive fitness programs to help teens build healthier bodies and minds.
  • Provide insight to help teens turn negative attitudes into empowering confidence.

The curriculum also provides mechanisms for monitoring youths’ progress that include student selfreports, parent and teacher reports, and objective physical measurements (e.g., Body Mass Index).

IV. Pilot Study

A pilot test of the effectiveness of the Dump the Junk program as an intervention for adolescent obesity was conducted at SUSD’s Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in Stockton California. The intervention was a 10‐week health and fitness program conducted by Dr. Christiano during the high school’s After‐School Club. Program participants were at‐risk high school students who were obese and doing poorly in school.


The sample consisted of 23 high school students who were at‐risk for dropping out of school: 52% were females; 56% were in 11th grade, 26% were in 12th grade, and 17% were in 9th or 10th grade; 48% were Hispanic and 43% were White; 22% were English Language Learners; and 44% had low socio‐economic status and participated in the national free & reduced school lunch program. Study participants were recruited from students who visited the school’s Healthy Start Clinic. Twelve students volunteered to be in the Intervention Group: they had an average BMI of 29.1 and an average BMI percentile ranking of 90th. Forty‐two percent were above the 95% BMI percentile ranking. Eleven students volunteered to be in the Control Group.


The Dump the Junk program was administered 5 days a week for 10 weeks to 12 youth in the intervention group. Each day the intervention group received 45 minutes of unilateral exercise and circuit training, and 25 minutes of classwork. Exercise included lunges, crunches, pushups, lifting dumbbells, working on a step box, and a variety of other toning, stretching and other muscle building exercises. Participants monitored their heart rates throughout their exercise routines and were encouraged to keep their heart rates within their aerobic zones.

Classwork addressed three components: benefits of exercise, healthy nutrition, and positive attitudes. Positive attitudes included believing in oneself, setting boundaries, self control, goal setting, and making good decisions. Youth were also taught specific strategies and skills to help them get motivated, stay focused, stay committed, and achieve their goals. In addition to classwork, youth recorded their physical activity and nutrition on weekends using a logging format called the “Weekend Cool Tool”. Logs were returned to the fitness coach the following Monday.

The intervention program also included parents who attended initial, 30‐day, 60‐day, and end‐of‐program meetings. At the initial meeting, parents signed a contract allowing their children to participate in the intervention, and were given healthy menus for meal preparations. Parents also had to agree to sign their child’s “Weekend Cool Tool” log before it was submitted to the fitness coach.

Outcome Measures

The following indicators were monitored to measure the effectiveness of the program: Weight, Body Mass Index, Percent Body Fat, Percent Body Muscle, Waist/Hip/Thigh Measurements, Grade Point Average, and School Attendance. Body measurement indicator scores were collected at the start of the program (Baseline) and at the end of the program (Follow‐up). GPA and school attendance scores were calculated for the 2003‐2004 school year prior to the program and for the end of the first semester of the 2004‐ 2005 school year during which the program was implemented. Differences in these measures over time indicate whether the pilot program produced desired effects (e.g., weight and body mass loss, better academic achievement, etc.). Randomly selected teachers from each student’s class schedule provided ratings on a 4‐ point scale about the Student’s Classroom Attitudes and Behaviors at the beginning and end of the program.

V. Results

Did students in Dump the Junk lose more weight & gain more muscle than students not in the program?


Analysis shows that students who completed the program lost more body weight on average (8.2 pounds) than students who dropped out of the program (3 students dropped out of program: lost an average of 2.1 pounds) or were in the control group (gained an average of 8.0 pounds) [See Figure 1].

Weight Loss

On average, students in the program lost 7.6 percentage points of body fat and gained 7.6 percentage points of muscle [Within‐subject t‐test: t=2.18; p<.05].

Did students in Dump the Junk show more improvement in their school work compared to
students not in the program?


Analysis shows that students who completed the program also had bigger gains in their Grade Point Averages than students who dropped out of the program or were in the control group
[See Figure 2].

Academic Performance

Did students in Dump the Junk improve their school attendance more than students not in the program?


Statistical analysis shows that students who completed the program had significantly more improvement in their school attendance rate while in the program compared to their attendance rate in the prior year than students who dropped out of the program or were in the control group [See Figure 3].

School Attendance

Did students in Dump the Junk show improvement in their classroom attitude and behavior?


Teachers’ ratings showed that most of the students in Dump the Junk improved their classroom attitude and behavior while in the program. For example, 4 of 9 students were rated as participating in class discussions before the program, whereas 8 of 9 students participated in class discussions by the end of the program. Similarly, turns in assignments on time went from 4 of 9 students to 7 or 9 students; and interested in learning class materials went from 5 of 9 students to 8 of 9 students.

Did students in Dump the Junk show improvement in their self‐esteem & body image?


Students in Dump the Junk showed significant improvement in their self‐esteem while in the program (average before program score = 13.55 vs. average after program score = 20.55) [t=4.98; df=8; p< .002]. Examples of before and after self‐ratings that showed improvement were “I’m satisfied with myself”, “I take a positive attitude toward myself”, “I have much to be proud of”, and “I don’t feel useless”.

Students in Dump the Junk also showed improvement in their Body Image. Agreement with: “My body looks good” went from 3 of 9 students to 5 of 9 students; “I feel physically fit” went from 2 of 9 students to 7 of 9 students; and “I feel comfortable with my weight” went from 1 of 9 students to 6 of 9 students.

VI. Conclusions

Results from this pilot study suggest that Dump the Junk is a promising program for helping students lose weight and improve their academic performance. Results also suggest that the Dump the Junk program may help schools improve student achievement, reduce absenteeism and thereby increase revenues.

There is a high prevalence of obesity among high school students. Since weight problems are associated with lower school attendance and poorer grades, this is serious news that makes fitness and nutrition important arenas that school districts will have to ultimately address.

VII. Recommendations

Results suggest that it might be beneficial to overweight students and SUSD to expand the implementation of the Dump the Junk Program to include more students and a one‐year curriculum with continued monitoring of program performance.

Dump the Junk might also prove to be effective as a fitness, obesity prevention, and character development curriculum for all students irrespective of their current weight and body mass status. Application of Dump the Junk as a health and positive life style program also could be pilot‐tested as an advanced physical education class for high school students.


1 Dr. Joseph Christiano, N.D., C.N.C., Author of Dump the Junk Program; Ed Burns, Principal, Stagg High School / SUSD study site; Judith Rauzi, Stagg High School Healthy Start Coordinator / Project Manager; Gayle Asuncion, R.N., Administrator, SUSD Department of Health Services. Kate Williams, Ed.D., Director, SUSD Research and Evaluation Department.

2 National Center for Health Statistics (2002). Prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents: United States, 1999‐ 2000.

3 National Center for Health Statistics (8 October 2002). Obesity still on the rise, new data show.

4 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2001). The Surgeon General’s call to action to prevent and decrease overweight and obesity. [Rockville, MD]: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Services, Office of the Surgeon General.

5 American Obesity Association (2002). Obesity in youth.

6 Torgan, C. (2002 June). Childhood obesity on the rise. The NIH Word on Health.

7 Falkner, N H, Neumark‐Sztainer, D, Story, M, et. al., (2001). Social, Educational, and Psychological Correlates of Weight Status in Adolescents, Obesity Research, 9(1), 32‐42.

8 Morrill, CM, Leach, JN, Shreeve, WC, et. al., (1991). Teenage Obesity: An Academic Issue. International Journal of Adolescence & Youth. 2(4), 245‐250.

9 Kirkcaldy, DB, and Shephard, RG, (2002). The Relationship between Physical Activity and Self‐image and Problem Behavior among Adolescents. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology. 37(11), 544‐550.

10 Novacek, J. (2005). Stockton Unified School District 2004 Physical Fitness Testing. Submitted to Stockton Unified School District: Superintendent/Principals Meeting, Jan. 27.

11 Novacek, J., and Williams, K. (2004). Body Mass Status of SUSD Elementary School Students, School Attendance & Academic Performance. Submitted to Stockton Unified School District Educational Services Division.

12 Dump the Junk USA, Inc., (2004). Exercise Manual: Dump the Laziness; Nutrition Manual: Dump the Junk Food; Attitude Manual: Dump the Negative Attitude. Lake Mary, FL 32795.




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