Teaching Children Healthy Living
You don't truly realize how your actions can affect someone else until you become a parent. Suddenly, everything you do has cause and effect on a miniature, scaled down version of yourself. It's both amazing and terrifying to realize that it's up to you to set them up with a solid foundation on which to grow and thrive.
Which is why it's no great surprise that I try to instill the importance of a living healthy life in my two little girls. I want them to grow up knowing healthy living is a choice you make consciously every day, and make my choices easy for them to see and imitate.
Body image and empowerment starts at home, and with little girls it is especially important to instill in them a sense of wonder and accomplishment and pride in their bodies and what they are capable of doing. We try to avoid negative body-image words such as the word "fat" in our house, and try to replace them with body-positive phrases such as "strong", "powerful", and "beautiful."
I want my girls to know that being "healthy" it isn't defined by a number on a scale, and it doesn't mean guilting yourself after eating malasadas (can you tell malasadas are on my mind? I blame living in Hawaii.) So they'll routinely see me working out and measuring myself with tape measures instead of a scale – which is more accurate for weight loss and muscle gain tracking – and they'll also see and join me while we indulge in desserts or cheat meals now and then because after all, we're human, and enjoying something delicious and carb-loaded every once in a while is 100% okay.
We make a habit of having family meals at the table, where we all eat the same thing. It's okay if Kiki or Kale‘a doesn't like a specific food every now and then (we all have things we can't stand) but I'm also not going to tell them to eat something that isn't on my plate or that I myself wouldn't eat.
One of my favorite ways to give my girls a passion for healthy food is to involve them in the cooking process. Their sense of pride at the end is adorable, and it usually helps ward off any nervousness about a new food since they've been involved in the preparations of the dish.
If you have a picky eater, don't suddenly force them to eat healthy. Start small: encourage them to choose things themselves that they'd like to try. Let them make their own snack plates out of easy to reach healthy snacks, such as cut up bell peppers, olives, carrots, peas, nuts, etc.
Now, before I go into this next segment I want to say this: a doctor should clear your child for physical activity and exercise, and any exercise your child does should be at their own pace and choosing. You don't want to run the risk of them getting hurt, or stunting growth. Kids should NOT be lifting heavy weights or pushed to do any exercise they are not comfortable with.
That said, Lynn and I both work out at home and have multiple times where our girls want to work out with us. Since a lot of our workouts are body-weight training using gravity to our advantage, it's easy and natural for our girls to mimic our movements. In fact, our kids tend to have "burpee" competitions with their cousins which always amounts to a ton of giggles and burned off energy!
A few months back, I purchased my children a kids weight bar so they can feel like they're lifting weights too (it's only 2.5 pounds, so it won't hurt their development) and it's fun to see them do squats and bench presses right along with me. We definitely make exercise a family event – whether it's in our home gym, running on the beach, or going for a family hike!