On a Diet vs Being Healthy and Strong: The Messages We Send to Our Kids
I recently decided to start an at home workout program (T25 is amazing, just sayin’), because getting myself to the gym consistently just wasn’t happening. I can be really hard on myself about body image things, and I don’t want to pass that on to my son. So I try to be really careful in my house about how I talk about things like dieting, eating bad food, etc. Most of the time I get up early and try to get my workout and shower in before he even wakes up. This is the best scenario, but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes he wakes up early, or more often, I simply cannot force myself to roll out of bed early enough. On those days I set him up with something in my room and try to do the workout while he’s running around. It’s difficult! But I’ve noticed that I approach my workout differently when he’s there. Instead of cursing at Shaun T and rolling my eyes, I smile and say “Yay! This is so much fun! I’m getting healthy and strong!” My son will sometimes try to do some of the exercises with me, and now adds “Up, Down” and “2, 2, 2” (two is his preferred counting number – he doesn't have much use for the others).
He’s not even two yet, but I’m very aware of how much he picks up from my husband and me. I don’t want him to hear me complaining about my weight, because I don’t want to get him thinking that it’s something he needs to be concerned about himself as well. I’ve had 5 year olds in my office that pat their bellies and say things like “I’ve got to work on this.” Really, I have - perfectly healthy 5 year olds. It can be so hard to frame for young children the value of eating healthy foods and being fit without placing so much importance on it that it becomes a source of stress or shame. Living in Colorado is amazing, we’re pretty healthy, but the messages are everywhere! I’ve started talking a lot about being healthy and strong instead. I don’t want him to see me working out and later think I’m just obsessed with my weight. I want him to think it’s normal to do active things and to make your body work! We make smoothies together in the morning, and I try to talk about what I’m putting in his smoothie. He really likes smoothies with spinach in them – I’m lucky, I know. When he wants an unlimited amount of cookies, I say things like “one or two cookies are ok, but lots of cookies won’t make our bodies feel very good.” Does he understand any of this yet? Probably not. Does he eat mac ‘n’ cheese more than 5 times a week? Yes. We’re not striving for perfection here. It’s more about training me to start talking and thinking that way before he does understand. Hopefully he grows to see Shaun T as an ally, and the fridge as our friend as well.