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Leading The Way To Wellness

I grew up eating vegetables that exclusively came from cans. Don’t get me wrong, my mom was a great parent. She followed the one meat, one starch, one vegetable mindset of her time. But like most families we knew, our spinach, peas, and corn were all canned. I was 40 before I tasted a fresh beet, radish, or turnip. And fresh collards? Fuhgeddaboudit! My mom and her friends also didn’t “work out” as much as get into fad diets and squeeze into girdles.

With all love and respect due to those who love us and do the best they can, when reached the age where I could start making health choices for my own family, I decided that I wanted to do better. I was keenly aware that as parents we are our kids’ first and most effective teacher. Here’s some of what I’ve learned, and what I’m still learning, about being a health leader in my home.

When it comes to living a healthy and fitness-oriented lifestyle, our kids are like sponges soaking up every attitude, approach, and response they see in us. Making healthy living a priority starts with parents setting good fitness and nutrition examples for our kids. If we take a family walk most nights instead of flopping down in front of the TV right away, that’s what our kids will see as“normal.” If our kids see us getting in a morning run or ending the day with yoga, they’ll naturally imagine themselves doing the same.

Eating more appropriately can be a natural part of family life too. Start by minimizing the junk food coming into your house and maximizing delicious, healthy food choices. Allow kids to be part of the process by involving them in menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking, so they experience what healthy choices look like. Be cautious about banning all junk food, which can make it seem more appealing and cause them to overindulge when there’s an opportunity. Instead, find healthy things they like and make sure they’re readily available. Sit down together and come upwith a weekly snack menu. This helps plant the idea of meal planning, rather than mindless grazing, and ensures they’ll like the snacks you buy.

Take a similar approach to letting them discover what fitness activities they enjoy. Look for activities that align with their personality, desires, and interests, and keep in mind they may need to try and discard a few options before they find the ones they love. Letting them take the lead on discovering what they enjoy doing and eating can make incorporating fitness into their lives easier and more rewarding. Remember to keep things fun and relaxed, so you and your family can enjoy a better, stronger,more fulfilling life—without it feeling like you’ve got to force it.

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