Creating Healthy Habits for the Whole Family :: It’s Never Too Late

Did you know that the health choices you’re making right now are shaping your child’s idea of what it means to be healthy? I know, here is something else to add to all the other ways we’re trying not to screw up our kids! Think back to your mom and dad and how they viewed food and exercise. Don’t you feel like that shaped your view even a little?

Growing up with a true Southern cook, I believed you were either on a diet to lose weight or eating whatever you wanted because you were about to start a diet! Exercise for anything other than sports or to lose weight was unheard of. It wasn’t until my college years that I learned about nutrition and exercise while in nursing school.

I started taking group fitness classes and made friends with a group of girls who didn’t talk about their weight constantly. I started racing and decided to try running a marathon. That was the best decision I have ever made for my health and probably why I could write a book about how wonderful running is for your mind, body, and soul.

Food Is Fuel

Suddenly, I was eating healthy so I could run farther. I fell in love with running and forgot it was exercise. Food became fuel, and I took the word diet out of my vocabulary completely. Gosh, my teenage years would’ve been so much easier if I had just known how to eat healthy, exercise, and understand that food is fuel.

I Never Use the Word “Diet”

When my daughter was born, I decided to change the way I talk about food and exercise around her. My husband and I wanted to create a healthy lifestyle for our entire family to grow into. We are careful about our word choices when it comes to food.

For example, I never tell her to just eat whatever she wants now because one day she won’t have this great metabolism! I never use the word “diet” in my house. I never talk about my body size or weight, and I never talk about food as being good or bad. Food is fuel. Your body needs it to move, think, and play.

One thing that has made a big difference in my children’s view of food is to never refer to food as “good” or “bad.” Your wording will be different I am sure, but we call foods “growing foods.” For example, when my kids ask for a snack, I might say something like, “Sure, you can have a snack, but make sure it has some big growing food so you can go jump on the trampoline really high!” We keeps lots of easy, healthy food choices on hand. Their bodies need fuel to run, jump, and play. Nutritionally dense foods provide just that. Period.

Exercise Isn’t Punishment

Exercise is the same way. We don’t use it as punishment, and we always speak about it in a positive way. Make it a point to move with your kids every single day. I know you’re busy, but go on a ten minute walk before school or after dinner. Those walks have turned into excellent times to talk with my kids about their days and learn what is going on at school.

As a family we take walks, we go on hikes, they watch me run races, and they are encouraged to play outside every day. I make it a point to exercise not only with them, but around them. It is fun to run laps around the soccer fields while they practice. If my younger ones are with me, I will do a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout while they play in the grass. I’ve been known to lead HIIT workouts in the grass next to the fields with moms and their kids who have asked to join me. Being healthy is fun and contagious! 

Keeping Screen Time to a Minimum

One other thing we do is reserve the t.v. for family movie night and special occasions. Also, we do not own any video games. I know that is a touchy subject. But when people tell me they don’t have enough time in their day to exercise by themselves or with their family, oftentimes their extra time is just sitting there watching t.v. and playing video games. It is crazy! Why not spend that time experiencing real life and living every moment to the fullest?

All of these healthy ideas aren’t just for the kids either. Move as a family. I am so thankful for the conversations on runs, belly laughs during games, and long hikes in the beautiful woods we have here in Birmingham.

As I age, I also see how necessary good health is so that I can be involved in the fun and dirty parts of my kids’ lives: from running by my youngest while teaching him how to ride his bike, to coaching cross country and soccer, to hiking to the top of King’s Chair at Oak Mountain. I want those memories. I want my kids to remember me being there jumping off that rope swing.

It’s not too late! I want to encourage you to start today: NOT on a diet and exercise regimen that will stop and start depending on your weight or how your pants fit. I want you to have a healthy lifestyle journey with your kids! My goal is to be that grandma who never turns on the t.v., always sits in the dirt, catches frogs, eats blackberries off of the bush, and takes my grandkids on long walks. So, grab your kids and go outside today!

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