Teaching kids healthy without compromising their self esteem
I have 6 girls and one boy. Most of them are teenagers. I know. Prayers accepted 😉
Because we are a family centered around our health and fitness, we have had some questions about how we walk that line between teaching our kids to eat right and exercise without them getting a complex. I hate this conversation. I don’t do political correctness well, as it is my personality to just call things as I see them. I do, however, respect the position of parents who want to protect the very fragile self esteem of their children (particularly girls). So, what’s the right answer? I guess that depends on who you ask, but since you’re here, I can only assume you would like my two cents.
To approach this subject, let’s start with society’s views of the subject. They really are kind of backward. Media shows stick-thin models and actresses and glorifies this female body as the one for which to strive. The problem is, it is an unattainable goal and the only way teens feel they can get there is by starving. Not good. Here’s the caveat: parents trying to keep their children from that nonsense swing so far the opposite direction by not discussing the subject of health/fitness at all, ignoring the overall health and eating habits of their kids, and accepting the fate of their “genetics”. This, in my humble opinion, is just as bad. (More about that HERE) I actually heard a mom tell another mom, with her child in earshot: “I am a bigger woman, so my kids are going to be bigger, but I’m healthy.” Ummmm no. Here is a fact: an overweight person CAN have good blood pressure, cholesterol numbers, and glucose levels. For a while. These are the most dangerous because one day, when the body has fought the good fight as long as it possibly can, there is no warning. It just gives up. No bad blood work or symptoms to give this person a chance to fix it. Just BOOM! A trip to the ER with heart attack, stroke, hypoglycemic diabetic event, or worse, cardiac arrest. Fatty liver disease, gallbladder attacks, heart problems, asthma, arthritis..can all be avoided with proper nutrition.
Why did I go on that rabbit trail? Weren’t we talking about teenagers and their self esteem? Yes. This is why it is VITALLY IMPORTANT to talk with your children NOW about nutrition and movement. You are teaching them and forming habits that they will embrace or fight for a lifetime. Just like finances, spiritual matters, relationships, and sex, education begins at home, with your example. If you are the mom (or dad) who is constantly bashing your own image (“I am SO FAT”) and are always “on a diet” while your kids eat whatever they want, you’re setting them up to fail. Yep, I said it. Calm down. Now is the time to right the ship! Learn as much as you can about real food, functional movement (exercise), play, and sleep. I recommend starting with Marksdailyapple.com, Everydaypaleo.com, and the books “It Starts with Food” and “Eat like a Dinosaur”. Then, sit your family down around a Paleo/Real food dinner table, and talk to them. BE HONEST. Explain that until now, you didn’t fully understand how food affected every part of your well being, but now that you do, the WHOLE family is going to do a better job of nourishing their bodies. Yes, I know it’s going to be hard. Parenting is gonna be like that sometimes. But you are literally saving their lives.
Get them involved. Show them what processed food can do to them: acne, horrible periods, mood swings, lack of energy…Then show them what real, whole food looks like and how it can benefit them. Clear skin, lack of bloating, increased sports and academic performance. I’m sure you can find something to perk their ears. Get them involved in their own health by allowing them to pick out food that looks awesome from different websites or books. If they find something less than optimal, ask them (especially the older ones) how they could make that recipe more healthy. Kids are creative and they like it when it’s their idea.
STOP dieting. Don’t talk about being on the Paleo “diet”. Don’t weight bash. Talk about how much better you’re feeling, how well you’re sleeping, how much you love the food you’re eating now. Provide an array of only healthy choices and allow them to pack their own lunches – and allow them to make mistakes. If they’re out with friends, let them eat what they want. Eventually, they’re going to realize eating like crap makes them feel like crap. Just like anything, they will probably have to learn by experience.
When it comes to exercise, learn to play. Do the “just dance” games with them. Play hide and go seek. Have wall squat or plank holding contests. Go outside and PLAY!
Just the other day, I overheard one of my daughters on the phone with her friend. She said “no, I’m not on a diet. Are you kidding? I love food. You don’t need a diet. You need to learn to eat bacon and be happy like my mom”….Yeah, I’m doing it right.