Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pause For Gratitude: Leading By Example

Lot's of these . . .
 As I think I've mentioned previously, one of my biggest New Years Resolutions was to get this family eating much more healthfully and for us to be a lot more physically active.  To do this, I knew that Nolan and I were going to have to cut back on some bad habits and start eating and exercising in a way that showed our kids what a healthy lifestyle should look like.  I want my children growing up with healthy, positive attitudes about their bodies.  I don't want to let them fall into the 'skinny' or 'fat' self esteem traps.

This takes work.  Kids have to see their parents be willing to LIVE a HEALTHFUL lifestyle.  We are very careful, we don't ever use the words 'fat', 'skinny', 'ugly', or 'pretty' in association with each other around them.  We tell them things like "We can eat treats occasionally because we eat things that make us strong and healthy most of the time' and strive to show moderation and indulgences can both be had.  We also talk a lot about how being physically active keeps you 'strong', and 'energetic', things that any energy-laden kiddo can appreciate.

Nolan and I had some bad habits to break.  Keeping stashes of cola, potato chips, candy, cookies, and the like got slashed.  We also had to break little habits like eating a handful of chips while arguing with our kiddos, "No you HAVE TO eat the yogurt!"  We made a pact.  If we cut up fruit for the kids' snack time, then we ate fruit too.  If we handed them a glass of water to quench their thirst, then we drank one too.  We eat the same veggies, lean meats, fruits, and whole grains that we serve our kids.
Means we can all enjoy a slice of mama's hot fudge cake!
We take walks after dinner, play tag or have dance parties, kick the soccer ball around, and both workout even when the kids are around.  Eva was so into my yoga dvd's that I got her a kids yoga set so she could do it too.  This pays off. All around, my entire household is healthier, more energetic, and enjoying indulgences occasionally.

I am grateful that Nolan and I took it upon ourselves to lead by example.  I love that our friends also are physically active, talk about 'everything in moderation', and have healthy body images.  Surrounding your children with positive examples is one of the best ways I can think of to set them up with their own positive self esteem.  I noticed the other day that Eva got up to get herself a drink of water when we were painting at the table.  She then curiously asked me "Mom, what do fat and skinny mean?"

I kept my explanations as neutral as possible by saying "Sometimes a person might be too big or very small instead of seeming healthy and normal.  There's no set size we all have to be, so long as we eat healthy, exercise, and feel good about ourselves.  That's why mommy and daddy try to do those things.  Why?"  She responded "Someone at school called another girl fat. I was thinking about myself and thought that was something mean to say, especially because that girl is always happy and nice." I agreed with her and hesitantly asked "Well, how do you feel about yourself?"  Eva responded the exact way I had hoped.  "I don't think I'm anything but healthy and happy that I am strong and fast."

Even though she's only 5 1/2 and Owen is almost 2, I hope that they both keep that attitude their entire lives.  I'm grateful that I got over the urge to say negative things about myself in front of my children and instead changed mine and my husband's behavior to something they can not only admire but attain.  I'm also grateful because I know we are living and eating in a way that is good for the earth and for our future.
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1 comment:

Heidi said...

Great post! I think its so important to instill good eating and exercise habits early on, and to present positive body imagery. I absolutely love using the description "strong, healthy, and happy." This is truly the essence of longevity.

I remember once when I was working at Head Start I was obliviously eating lunch when I noticed a small child across from me savoring an apple piece. Eating little bites, examining the fruit, just taking in the deliciousness of the meal. I hadn't even noticed the apple slices! Now I try to eat more mindfully, savoring the goodness of whole, real foods. We are the role models and kids will take on our attitudes.

Thanks again for this important post!