Family that stays together loses together

The Birr family is a familiar family for the Pine River Community, but over the last year the face of that family has changed drastically, all due to a personal health journey.

Charity, Trevor, Jarod, and Shawn Birr took a health challenge together, and grew as a family. Photo by Travis Grimler
Charity, Trevor, Jarod, and Shawn Birr took a health challenge together, and grew as a family. Photo by Travis Grimler

The Birr family is a familiar family for the Pine River Community, but over the last year the face of that family has changed drastically, all due to a personal health journey.

Shawn and Charity Birr, along with their children Trevor and Jarod, are very active in the lakes area. Shawn is a Pine River police officer, a Pine River-Backus bus driver and a former school liaison officer. Charity works at a Pine River group home and is an ambassador for a supplement company. Their children are also familiar to the local community. They are in many extracurricular activities. For Jarod, those activities include speech team, track, cross-country, martial arts classes, volunteering to work with a local special olympiad and 4-H. Trevor is also in 4-H, martial arts and speech, but his sport of choice is football, and this spring he hopes to try his hand at baseball.

With all of these activities under their belts, it isn't uncommon to see one or all of the family members at community events, but anyone paying attention over the last year may have noticed some significant changes in the entire family. Most notably, they are all becoming more fit.

"I was able to lose 49 pounds," Charity said.

"I lost about 20," Shawn said.


"I think I lost at least 10-20 pounds," Trevor said. "I was so proud of myself. I've always wanted to get a little skinnier. Back at Pequot people called me fat and chubby."

Jarod, on the other hand, hasn't lost weight, but said he has gained muscle mass instead.

These, and many less visible changes, came as a result of a huge change in eating habits.

"The first thing we changed was we added in exercise," Charity said. "We started that right on January 2 of 2014. That was our first step. We then, a week later, decided to add in a diet change. Working out at the gym for five days actually made me gain three pounds. That wasn't what I was going for. We decided to drastically change our diets. Shawn and I started first, and we removed highly processed foods from our diet. We ate no bad carbs. Any carbs we had came from the vegetables we ate."

Though their parents started first, Trevor and Jarod quickly followed suit. The family went from a diet of easy to prepare boxed and canned foods to one of homemade, home grown dishes.

"We make things homemade now," Charity said. "We don't buy things from a jar or box, so we make our own spaghetti sauce from produce from Trevor's straw bale garden last year. We freeze and can as many fresh things as we can to make sure what we are eating is the healthiest we can get at that time."

"We were busy people," Shawn said. "With me working in the jail and driving school bus, and I also work with a young man from the group home. We have a busy schedule work-wise. Throw in two kids who are in sports and speech and everything else they have going on, it was just easy. The heat and eat foods, the pizzas, and the pasta. She's italian, so spaghetti was a staple at our household. Twice a week probably, we had spaghetti or maybe a hot dish of some sort. When we decided to really make that change, it was a big change."

Before the change, the entire family had poor eating habits. Jarod's version of spaghetti was a pile of pasta with parmesan and seasoned salt with no sauce and Trevor was fond of eating an entire pizza by himself. Ultimately the impetus for change came for health reasons.


"What prompted our shift in diet and changing our lifestyle was the fact that we had both went to the doctor and our blood work was not what we wanted it to be," Charity said. "With the diet changes and adding in the supplements that we have, our blood work is now good. Outside changes are great, they look nice, but inside changes are important."

The inside changes have been countless. With health changes, Charity was able to avoid back surgery and the energy levels and attitudes of the entire family changed drastically.

"I think all of us have noticed our moods have greatly approved," Charity said.

"Dad smiles more," Trevor said.

"I think we've all noticed is a change in anxiety," Charity said. "We don't have anxiety issues."

Jarod and Shawn both suffered regular migraines before the diet change and addition of supplements, today, Jarod has went from 17 missed days of school in 2013-2014 to two days in 2014-2015.

"We feel so much better," Charity said. "We are so much happier and we don't feel as stressed as we did before. We are able to have fun as a family now."

Though he was once not fond of running, Trevor can run on a treadmill 20 minutes without stopping. Jarod's performance at cross country has improved since he stopped indulging in foods that make him feel sluggish. Trevor has even advanced to higher level classes at school. Charity and Shawn's description suggests that the benefits of their new eating habits are endless, and while the solution was simple, it hasn't always been easy for them.


"I do miss the potatoes. I miss the spaghetti," Jarod said.

"(I miss) some of the processed food like the pizzas, because I love pizza. That was one of the toughest foods that really got me angry." Trevor said.

Charity says the key was to find vegetables that everyone liked.

"I found a vegetable that didn't have any taste, and it was healthier than lettuce. That was spinach," Trevor said.

" Trevor eats a lot of spinach. That's one of his favorite things," Charity said.

The family has many goals still. Charity and Shawn both want to focus more on weight training in the future, while Trevor and Jarod have their sights set on new sports teams. They are all looking forward to having more fun as a family.

"We are looking forward to this summer and doing a lot of camping," Charity said.

For families looking to make a comparable change, Charity recommends focusing on your goals on a daily basis, not on a yearly basis. She also says people need to recognize that they are not perfect, and allow themselves to occasionally slip up.

Related Topics: HEALTHPOLICE
Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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