Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle Versus Criticism

The subject of weight is quite obviously taboo. You don't ask what someone weighs.  You don't ask their size in clothing. You don't approach someone and say "wow, you could probably lose some weight."You just don't do these things our society.

It seems to be acceptable to talk about these things behind another person's back. It's okay to to be critical and judgemental. Every now and then it's even okay to make hurtful comments just loudly enough that the person you're talking about can hear what you've said. It's easy to do those things. It's not so easy to say such things to someone you don't know.

It is, however, sometimes easier to share these things with the people you love.  Generally these are family members. I don't see it happen as often in friendships as in family relationships. There is a way to go about this though. If you are genuinely concerned about the health of someone you love, mention it.

If someone you love has an illness, it's easy to suggest that they see a doctor. Why can't this be the case with weight? It's a health concern. If someone you love is gaining weight, find a way to discuss it. Yes, they will be hurt. They may get angry. You don't want to deal with that, do you?

It's hard for many people to address the issue of weight with their loved ones. For some it is far too easy. I find this especially true in parent-child relationships.

I'm going to guess that the majority of parents love their children and want to protect them from pain. How do you go about telling someone something that's potentially hurtful when all you want to do is protect them from that hurt? It's a very fine, delicate line when it comes to dealing with children. I would never condone a child being put on a "diet."  I don't believe in diets. I believe in healthy eating. I would also never be in agreement with a parent telling their child "you're fat" or "you need to lose weight."  Don't be critical of things like weight or size. That's hurtful and can be very damaging.

In all honesty, I'd have a hard time not sticking my nose into thier business if I heard such remarks. Damaging your child's self-esteem is something that just might make me feel like I would like to slap you. Hard.

Here is what I do believe in when it comes to children....

Being healthy. There is absolutely no reason that you should not encourage your children to be healthy. However, if you do this, you should be ready to initiate a family-wide plan for healthy living. Don't pick and choose which child should be the one to eat healthy. Don't tell your kids how important it is to be healthy and then finish your day by eating chips and dip with a side of ice cream.

I'm also not saying to be an extremist and never allow your child a treat. I think that this is a bad thing too. Children may then be tempted to eat more unhealthy foods when they're not around their parents. They may also begin to hoard unhealthy foods and secretly eat them. You should never make someone feel so shamed that they begin secret behaviors. I can't begin to tell you the toll this could take on a child's mental health, and they will likely carry it throughout their life. In the end, the result might be more unhealthy than healthy.

Don't use food as a bargaining (or bribery!) tool. Food is food. It's not a reward and it's not a punishment. Use other things as rewards and take away time on the phone, or in front of the TV or computer.

Moderation is the key. Come up with a plan for eating things that are unhealthy.  Encourage them to choose healthy things. Help them understand things like nutrition and meal times. Teach them how the body works. Make it a time to learn, and have fun. Do this in a way that you're encouraging a healthy lifestyle. I really cannot stress that enough....Lifestyle.

Make sure they get their exercise.  I don't often watch TV but do use it for background noise sometimes. I don't pay much attention to it, but it seems that more times than not, there's an ad for a video game, TV show, or some other indoor activity that comes on.  You also cannot forget those ads for fast food places.

Medical professionals have said that a minimum of 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity three times a week is beneficial for adults.  This is just to be healthy! What about kids? Shouldn't they be encouraged to get some physically activity? YES!

Encourage children to play games outside (seriously, whatever happened to games like freeze tag and red rover?).  If it's cold, bundle them up and encourage them to go have a snowball fight. Take them skating or skiing. Obviously you should use your judgement regarding appropriate temperatures (both high and low). Don't send them out if they weren't able to go outside for recess at school. 

While you're at it, why don't you take a few minutes to play with them? You'll all get some physical activity and some quality family time.  If you cannot find a half hour or even just fifteen minutes to spend playing with your children, I feel sad for you. You can teach them about the things you did when you were a kid; games and sports that you played.

Encourage them to participate in physical activity. Express an interest. If they want to join the basketball team or take dance classes, let them! I realize that money and time can be a factor, but do your research and make arrangements that will work for your family.  The cost might be easier to manage if you cut-down on the drive-through dinners.

If you live a healthy lifestyle and teach your children how important it is to be healthy, it will only benefit them. I really do believe in leading by example. Make it a family effort.


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