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Living Well: Building a Healthy Family

Warner Music // Unrated // April 3, 2007
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted May 21, 2007 | E-mail the Author
The movie

Building a Healthy Family is part of the "Living Well with Montel Williams" series of life coaching programs. This DVD program presents three separate programs, each focusing on one particular aspect of living a healthy life and raising healthy, happy children.

"Who Owns the Definition of You?" features talk show host Montel Williams; it runs 35 minutes.

The program starts off with a testimonial about Williams' show; it goes on considerably too long and starts to feel cheesy. Fortunately, as soon as it shifts over to Williams himself, it feels much more grounded. He draws on his experience as a talk show host to identify recurring problems in peoples' lives, as well as on his own experiences as suffering from multiple sclerosis.

This program focuses on the obstacles to living the life you want to live, with Williams explaining the points and illustrating them with examples from his own life. He's an excellent speaker: he's passionate about what he's telling the viewer, and he's able to speak directly to the camera with conviction and energy, so that it feels entirely natural to be listening. The points that Williams makes here are very important: he discusses obstacles like fear, self-doubt, lack of knowledge, and emotional difficulties. The material is fairly general, but it works well as a general motivational piece, especially for viewers who are fans of Williams' show.

The main fault that I find with this program is that it's repeated on all the Living Well DVD sets, so that viewers are stuck with paying for the same disc several times if they decide to buy more than one of the Living Well programs.

"10 Steps to More Confident Parenting" runs 52 minutes, and features Lynne Kenney, a parenting psychologist.

Kenney discusses parenting issues in a studio format, with a small audience in the room. The program follows a question-and-answer format, but she doesn't work very well with a response/discussion format with the audience. She asks the audience questions, but clearly has certain answers in mind, in order to launch into the next point she wants to make. It would have worked a lot better if she had stuck with a straightforward lecture format, because she doesn't seem comfortable with handling audience content. Another irritant in this format is that the audience responses are inaudible; this gives us "dead spots" in the dialogue that are rather odd. Sometimes Kenney restates the audience members' comment in her response, but sometimes she doesn't, which leaves the viewer a little off-kilter in the discussion, since we haven't heard everything.

The content isn't bad, but it's a bit thin; Kenney bounces around parenting issues in a fairly random way. The "10 Steps" are more like "10 Tips," since they're not sequential or particularly connected to each other. Some tips are discussed in depth, but others are tossed out and left behind, like "Fan their flame," which is a super-brief statement about how to praise children effectively. Even within the discussion of a particular tip, Kenney bounces around like a ping-pong ball, with examples and tips tossed around with very little connection to the topic at hand.

Now, I'm not a parent, but some of the specific suggestions seemed a little dicey. Johnny wants to watch TV instead of doing his homework? She suggests telling him "as soon as this program is over, you need to do your homework. If I have to turn off the TV for you, no more TV tonight. If you turn off the TV yourself, then you can watch TV again after you finish your homework." Uh... is that a recipe for sloppily done homework, or what? Still, other of her concepts seem pretty solid; for instance, Kenney highlights the importance of parents keeping their word so that their kids can trust them.

"Clean Eating for You and Your Family" runs 48 minutes, featuring Chris Freytag, a fitness expert.

This program is by far the best of the three. It's aimed at people who are having trouble getting started in a healthy lifestyle, and parents who are a bit overwhelmed with the pressures of having a healthy diet for themselves and their kids. She offers a sensible message: do what you like, any movement is good movement, start small, think about your choices in food! Freytag is down-to-earth and funny, and very articulate. She starts by skewering the American obsession with labeling certain foods as "bad" (the current villain being carbohydrates) and the tendency to go with the fad of the day rather than facts about diet and exercise.

Freytag offers the philosophy of "clean eating": eating a variety of fresh, minimally processed, nutrient-dense food. She is very clear about the points she makes, and doesn't try to sell any special diet or program, instead focusing on using fundamental information about nutrition to make good choices. Her program also offers specific and sensible advice on food-related parenting issues: treats, picky eaters, dinnertime, making good food choices. One of the things that I like about Freytag's program is that she points out the effects of media and marketing on our perceptions of what's healthy. She highlights the way that portion sizes have ballooned and how media fads have distracted us from the basics of good nutrition.

The nutritional advice she delivers is excellent, with specific tips on choosing healthy fats and carbohydrates (not avoiding them entirely), antioxidants, nutrient-dense foods, and so on. She explains what trans fats are and what their effects are on our health. She does oversimplify weight loss a bit, boiling it down to calories in vs. calories out, which doesn't take into account the influence of metabolism on body weight. It's not quite as easy to lose weight as just lowering calorie intake, because the body can (and does) adjust its burn rate for calories. It's not a big deal, though, because calorie reduction is important as part of the overall package of healthy eating and exercise, which is what she promotes. Plus, the specific advice that she gives about how to lower calorie intake is spot-on: simple and practical, like not getting whipped cream and syrup in your coffee, or avoiding the empty calories in soda or unnecessary sports drinks.



The image is clean but very pixellated. Especially in the Kenney and Freytag programs, there are a lot of distracting digital artifacts as well as heavy edge enhancement. It's watchable, but the image quality is low enough to get in the way. All three programs are presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio.


The audio is a bit muted and flat-sounding; the volume is too low in some segments, while uneven in others. It's OK once you've adjusted the volume for the particular program you're watching, but it never sounds very lively.


The "10 Steps to More Confident Parenting" disc has five minutes of an interview with Lynne Kenney, and thirteen minutes of additional Q&A. The "Clean Eating" disc includes a 10-minute cardio workout and a 10-minute yoga workout. There are also trailers for "Living Well" and "The Montel Show" on each disc.

Final thoughts

Living Well: Building a Healthy Family offers a grab bag of parenting advice, from general motivation to parenting tips to nutrition. The premise is sound, but the uneven quality and focus of the programs makes the three-DVD set less appealing as a package. If you're only interested in one of the topics presented, it's probably not worth it, but if all three happen to strike a chord with you, it's worth checking out. Viewers who are interested in the Montel Williams program should also note that it's repeated on the other Living Well DVD sets. I'll give it a "rent it" overall.

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