This summer was filled with fun mini vacations with my family that sent us around many different states visiting family and friends. Because of my career, I am extra observant on these trips of the health and fitness of those around me. This often means that I am continually taking in the activities people are doing and what types of foods are most prevalent in certain parts of the country.
One of the observations most striking to me on our travels was the number of obese children. Yes, we all know it’s a hot issue and one that has been in the news for quite some time, but what I saw this summer was alarming to me.
I watched a boy that was about 8 years old sit in his dinner chair and play on his iPad, completely disengaged from his surroundings the entire time. He was at least 80 lbs overweight and had trouble walking and getting in and out of his chair. I watched his dinner come, a plate full of fried chicken and french fries. It saddened me deeply. Here was a child that should be out playing, but could barely walk never mind run.
As parents we really have to start questioning what it is we are putting into our children’s bodies and take more responsibility to set some limits and guidelines for them. It’s our job to teach our child that 1 or 2 cookies as a treat should suffice, not 6 or 10. Kids don’t understand limits yet and we need to teach them.
Older children might already be used to having these treats at home and it might feel tough to turn things around, but it is worth every effort. There might be some initial backlash, but children by nature want to feel good and when you start witnessing the powerful results of eating nutritiously, you won’t want to go back to your old ways.
I don’t completely restrict my children from sugar or sweets, but I do minimize the amount that we keep it in the house readily available to them. Because there are so many places were they are exposed to junk foods at events like birthday parties and special occasions, I have also taught them about an acceptable amounts of sweets at these types of events.
My children are learning that foods, like cake and lollipops, are processed and full of sugar. Sugar drains us of energy. Education is key so that when our children get older they can make their own decisions about what they want to put in their body. There is no way of knowing what they will choose to do in the future, but at least they will have the knowledge when making their decisions.
Don’t get me wrong, my parenting is not perfect and my kids love sugar just like any other kid, but as a parent, I know that it’s my job to protect them and do what’s best for their growing bodies. In my mind that means limiting foods of poor nutrition in the house and teaching them the basics about what constitutes health and wellness. After all, we only get one body and we should to treat it as our temple.
Of course I guess it would be difficult to set limits for our children if we ourselves are over indulging or eating lots of junk food. So, for the sake of our child’s health and wellness I beg of parents to please watch what they bring into the home and to make their own health and wellness top priority.
Having kids means having to watch what we say and do on a constant basis. They are little sponges, soaking up everything. When it comes to their health and well-being, your own habits will shape your children’s ideas about food, exercise and body image. We can preach about the importance of exercise and eating right, but unless we are leading by example, chances are that our kids will choose not to listen.
So here are just a few tips I thought I would share for being a healthy role model for your child.
1. Don’t self criticize yourself: This will set a good body image example.
2. Limit screen time: I don’t need to say much about this one. There are hundreds of studies that link screen time to increased obesity.
3. Make healthy eating fun: Get your kids involved. Eliminate 1 or 2 junk foods from the house each week and start to notice how much better you feel without it around. Try introducing one new fruit or vegetable a week that you have never tried and experiment with some fun recipes with it. Make healthy eating something you do as a family and have the kid’s help you cook a new meal and explain what makes it so good for you. Explain all the vitamins and minerals that make up a particular vegetable or fruit. We call spinach “super spinach” and I tell my kids how healthy and strong it will make them.
4. Build in time to exercise: Consistency is everything. Don’t worry so much about intensity right now just get out there and do something you enjoy, but PLEASE do it on a regular basis.
5. Practice what you preach: This is the main way that kids will learn and take you seriously.
6. Do it as a family!: Research has shown that when it comes to a child’s overall health and fitness, the entire family environment is what matters most. They concluded that families living a holistic healthy lifestyle together produced fitter kids. Active parents may be more likely to have active children because they encourage that behavior through the use of support systems and opportunities for physical activity.
Be the change that you want to see. Remember that children are always watching and taking in what we do…even when we don’t think they are.
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