Written by Theresa Katalinas
Jude Polard loves playing penguin volleyball, dancing to Fall Out Boy and the strength of the Incredible Hulk.
Jude, 7, a soon-to-be-second-grader at Upper Moreland Primary School, attempts to lift a chair in the children’s room at the Upper Moreland Free Public Library to demonstrate how much “stronger” he’s become.
“He’s strong like me,” Jude said of his favorite green superhero.
Besides his physical strength that came from his newly toned arms and muscular calves, the jovial but shy 49-pound kid was the inspiration behind his mom Becca, 33 and dad Greg, 32, stepping up their activity, eating healthier and losing a combined 160 pounds.
During a checkup in 2010 with Jude’s pediatrician, the Polards were told that their son, because of his obesity, was at risk for a variety of health problems.
“No parent ever wants to hear that,” Becca Polard said, adding that she thought, ‘ “Oh my God, I’m doing this to my kid.”
The Polards have been “large all our lives,” according to Mrs. Polard. But, Greg said that his experience being overweight did not mean his kids needed to follow in his footsteps.
“I don’t want him to have to go through the struggle,” he said, adding that eating too many savory foods was his downfall. “I didn’t know what a serving size was until I was 22 years old.”
After the tears, Mrs. Polard said she and her family immediately adopted a new lifestyle. At the time, their 3-year-old son Alex was just a baby.
Instead of steady diets overindulging in pizza, French fries, cupcakes and other baked goods, Polard, a primarily stay-at-home mom, made a point to incorporate healthy food choices like crustless quiche, salads and daily activity into their day.
“They love to dance,” Greg said of his sons, adding that it’s “exercise in disguise.”
Jude and the rest of the family will get plenty of exercise on Sunday as they take part in the Philadelphia Color Run, a 5K paint race.
“I’m happy to do it,” Jude said. “I usually run one mile.”
While his parents’ brows furrowed at the mention of running a mile, his mom adds, “He can run a pretty good distance for a 7-year-old.”
Because the race isn’t timed, Becca said it’s a great starter 5K run – particularly for Jude, who may not be able to finish.
Like the family’s three-year weight loss journey, Becca said Jude has been the driving force behind the Polards’ participation in the run. He wanted to run and money was tight for registration fees, so his mom created a donation page to fundraise for not only the race, but for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital too.
“The kid is doing so much and he's totally unaware of it,” the proud mom said. “Life is so much better healthy and that’s what I want to do for him.”
For Jude, a typical kid who likes to have fun, the Color Run is the place to celebrate his newfound health and boundless energy.
“If I can, I’m going to pick green,” Jude said, referencing The Incredible Hulk. “I think my favorite part would be throwing the color. I want to run.”