By Marye Audet
Nearly everyone one makes New Year’s resolutions and one of the most common resolutions has to be this year I will seek a healthier lifestyle. The gyms are overflowing with clients in workout gear ready to take on the world – or at least the treadmill. Healthy recipes fill food blogs, magazines, and television shows and yet by March the gym is nearly empty and junk food is flying off the shelves.
How can parents encourage their children to follow a healthy lifestyle when they have trouble motivating themselves?
Hints from a Personal Trainer
Dietrk Green has some ideas. As a personal trainer for over ten years, he has seen firsthand what it takes to motivate people, especially kids, to follow a healthier lifestyle.
“Parents are in control of what kids eat,” he says with a smile. “If you don’t bring junk food in the house how are they going to get it? The whole family has to change the way they eat. It’s important to add more fruit, fresh vegetables, and meats to the menu. Cut out the processed sugars and snack foods and let kids snack on fruit instead.”
It isn’t just eating habits, however. According to Green, people need to get moving. While he cautions against children under 12 doing any weight training, he does have some suggestions for family fitness – and it doesn’t require a lot of effort either. “Have a family day once a week and go skating, go to the zoo, or go to an amusement park. Anything that gets you walking and moving helps. Once a week is not enough, though. You need to get your body moving every day.”
Some things he suggests are:
- Bike riding
- Miniature golf
- Take a walk
- Join a gym with a family plan
- Yard work
Some kids are less apt to be active than others. For these, Green suggests scheduling TV and video time. “Allow them to earn it by finishing up their chores around the house or tell them they have to play outside for a while before they can head for the electronics. If they are into video games let them pay the ones where they have to be active, to get their whole bodies involved.”
It Begins with You
Even before you start trying to change your family’s habits you need to work on yours. Take a look at your lifestyle and begin to implement changes before you approach your family about the changes you want them to make. Begin serving more complex whole grains rather than highly processed carbs. Stop buying junk food and begin buying more fruit and vegetables for snacking on.
Get Everyone Involved in the Planning
Certainly your kids are not going to suddenly decide to give up Twinkies one their own. Call a family meeting and talk about what fitness is and why it’s important. Get your kids’ ideas about things that you can do together to be more active. By letting them be a part of the planning process they’ll feel more like they’re a part of what you’re doing rather than being coerced into doing it.
Use a Rewards System
It can be anything really, but probably shouldn’t be a food reward. Let your children earn their TV and video game time by completing chores, outside activities, or exercise. Friendly competition is good, too. A family football game, miniature golf, or throwing a Frisbee around will bring up your heart rate as much as the elliptical machine will – and it’s a lot more fun.
The Family that Cooks Together…
Kids that are involved with the cooking of their meals are more likely to try new foods than those children who sit down to a fully cooked meal. Let kids do what they can do safely. Your younger children can toss salads while older kids can peel vegetables. Let them help plan meals and explore new foods together. As you are more adventurous with what you eat your children will learn to be more adventurous, too.
Cut Back on Fast Food Meals
Fast food is part of the culture. Families rely on fast food for meals on the go several times a week. If you’re running late for school then grab a breakfast taquito. Are you headed to a soccer game? Grab burgers for everyone.
Fast food is most often high in calories, sodium, and saturated fat. Sure, it’s convenient but so is a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread! Rather than making fast food your go to try making it a once a week, or better yet once a month, treat.
Get Enough Sleep
Create routines that encourage regular sleep times. After dinner have everyone get in pajamas and cuddle while you watch a light movie or television show. Maybe you can use that after dinnertime to read aloud. Whatever it is that you do make sure that it signals to everyone that the day is winding down and it’s almost time to sleep.
Finally, set goals both individually and as a family and reward yourselves when those goals are met. For example, you might want to set a goal of losing 15 pounds total as a family. When your family has reached that goal have a reward that everyone can look forward to doing. – maybe you could go to an amusement park or enjoy an afternoon at a movie that everyone would enjoy.
Be sure to set individual goals, too. Celebrate in some way every time a goal is reached. It’s motivation for continuing to attempt to meet those goals.
It’s a Lifestyle
The bottom line is that changing your diet for a week or working out in the gym for a month will not really make a difference. The key to weight loss, increased endurance, and a healthy life is consistency. Too many times people create harsh regimes that they can’t follow for more than a few weeks. Kids will rebel if you tell them they can never eat a candy bar or drink a soda again.
When you are living a healthy lifestyle having some potato chips or a fast food meal once in a while won’t hurt you. Make your plan something the whole family can live with by making it a natural part of your life.