“I don’t want my kids to struggle with their weight the way that I have.”
“I want physical activity to be a regular part of my kid’s lives.”
“I want my kids to see me taking care of myself.”
When asked why they have decided to start focusing on their nutrition, many parents will lead with statements like these. Even though I don’t yet have children, I can understand these sentiments. While I have made a career out of health and wellness, it feels like chance that this is where I ended up. Nothing about my childhood would have clued you in on why I joined this field. Unless you consider the fact that almost every adult in my family has at some point struggled with their weight, or that you would have been hard-pressed to find a vegetable in my house growing up.
There were times as an adult that I resented my parents for not teaching me more, or setting a better example when it came to food and exercise. I had to beg to join the soccer team and I didn’t even know that broccoli could be served without cheese. Why were they setting me up for failure? Didn’t they know that our physical health has a direct correlation with our happiness and longevity? And that in order to be healthy we needed to eat real foods and move our bodies more? Actually, no, they didn’t.
My parents only knew what they were taught by their parents, and they didn’t have the luxury of the internet to learn otherwise. When their parents were growing up, times in the U.S. were tough. People relied on shelf-stable, processed foods for survival. They weren’t privy to the unhealthy realities that we are hyper-aware of now. (Y’know, that foods in boxes and cans provide almost no nutritional value, and that lack of exercise leads to frailty.)
Thinking more on this, I’ve moved from a mental state of resentment, to gratitude. How lucky I am now to have the luxury of AWARENESS. The luxury of understanding what it takes to live a long and happy life. It’s no mystery today that exercising regularly and eating whole, nutritious foods are the key. So why then do we still pretend to live in the dark and ignore what we know to be true? Well, it’s easier.
Only when we realize that our children are watching and learning from us can we really understand the importance of our roles as their caretakers. Only when we see that their habits will mimic our own, can we recognize the responsibility we have to them. Setting them up for success by teaching them to nurture their bodies with real food and exercise is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. We only need to start with ourselves.