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Published July 27, 2013, 10:00 PM

Food + family: Barnesville woman helps parents model healthy, balanced eating

BARNESVILLE, Minn. – For years, food was Tanya Friesen’s enemy. She’d stop eating for days. She’d over-exercise after eating a candy bar. Now she’s using food to help families become healthier.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

BARNESVILLE, Minn. – For years, food was Tanya Friesen’s enemy.

She’d stop eating for days. She’d over-exercise after eating a candy bar.

Now she’s using food to help families become healthier.

The 41-year-old Barnesville woman grew up watching her mom eat “diet food” while the rest of the family had something else.

“I don’t blame my mother; that’s all she knew. She didn’t have the tools that Ette can provide,” she says.

The first letters of Tanya’s children’s names form her company’s name, Ette – E for Emma, T for Tyler, T for Tanner and E for Elyn, ages 9 to 3.

“It’s our mission to help people teach their children, because if we don’t, history is going to continue to repeat itself,” she says.

To the Friesen kids, eating well-balanced meals is just part of their normal family lifestyle.

Using the principles she’s been teaching others over the past 17 years, they incorporate the foods they love without the guilt.

“What I’ve taught them is portion control,” Tanya says of her kids. “It’s all about moderation.”

She says with a positive attitude, anyone can succeed using the tools she provides.

The new Ette Lifestyle website, which launches in August, provides a free tracking system that breaks down users’ nutrients based on their goals.

It’s an extension of what Tanya’s been working on for years and another way to help the thousands she’s reached.

“I like to see these people succeed,” she says. “To be able to give back and use my voice for recovery is huge.”

Tanya wants to help build more positive relationships with food and body image than she had as a child and young adult.

“I am very comfortable in my skin, but it took me a long time to get there,” she says.

Ette has been a work in progress since she worked with overweight patients in cardiac rehab in the mid-’90s.

She later worked in gyms and did nutrition counseling.

Tanya used her work experience along with her personal experience to develop the concept.

And her messages resonate. “They like what I have to say because I’ve been there,” she says.

At the height of Tanya’s eating disorder, food controlled her life. “I started to believe every negative thought I said to myself,” she says.

That’s not the kind of example she wanted to set for her kids. She worked through it, turning the negative into positive.

Now if she has a candy bar, she records it and moves on.

“I do believe that my eating disorder was given to me for a reason,” she says. “I think it was so my voice could be used to help others, and I see that I’m doing that.”

The community response since word got out about her program has been overwhelming.

“I just answered 400 emails in the last week from people going, ‘What is this?’ It’s what people want,” she says.

Barnesville moms Amber Blilie and Angie Bredman decided to find out what she could teach them.

“If you’re motivated to do it, it’s that first class that gives you the tools to do it,” says Amber, 33.

Tanya’s next class, scheduled Tuesday, already has about 60 participants signed up.

In the past four months, Amber and Angie have lost weight, gained energy, and changed how they think about food.

“You’re retraining your brain. You’re telling yourself, ‘I’m doing this’ and ‘I can do this,’ ” 40-year-old Angie says.

And they’ve done it without pills, supplements or prepackaged meals.

Ette followers still eat their favorite foods, but they learn to budget their daily intake and make swaps like Greek yogurt for sour cream.

“It’s kind of like your money. If you have money, you’re going to go look for the better deal, and that’s what they do with their food,” Tanya says.

They use her basic nutrition advice to plan, prep and eat family meals.

No cupboard cleanout required. “There’s still Doritos in my house,” Amber says.

Instead of thinking of food in terms of “good” or “bad,” they think of it in terms of the nutrients it provides – protein, fat or carbs.

“I teach you to break down your Tater Tot hotdish and incorporate it into your day,” Tanya says.

The women form part of a group that meets weekly for support and to swap ideas and recipes.

“We’re there to lift each other up,” Angie says.

The Blilie and Bredman kids like being involved. They check nutrition labels and make suggestions at the grocery store.

“Their kids are proud of them. They see that they’re succeeding without depriving themselves,” Tanya says.

They’ve started being more active, too, but the focus remains on well-balanced eating.

“Exercise is one hour of your day,” she says. “If you’re not dedicated within those other 23 hours, what is that one hour of exercise going to do?”

If you go

What: Ette Lifestyle presentation

When: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Hope Lutheran Brethren Church, Barnesville

Info: The event is free, but registration is requested via private Facebook message.


• www.ettelifestyle.com

• www.facebook.com/ettelifestyle

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590