Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Native American wisdom offers us the concept of the Wellness Circle. It describes the four most important aspects of life: the physical (what we do) the mental (what we think) the emotional (what we feel) and the spiritual (what we believe).
It is believed that when these four elements work together in proper balance, a person is well.
Wellness is more than just the absence of disease or enjoyment of good health. Kidmandment #8 is designed to create awareness that good health should consider our minds, bodies, and spirits working together. Surely, nothing is more important than our health. Mahatma Gandhi said, “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” Most people would agree with that statement—but how many of us make health a priority in our lives?
As we know by now, if we’re not good role models by living healthy lives, and having healthy bodies, we have little right to expect our kids to become healthy adults. These are concepts that we need to teach. If they see us consistently making efforts to be healthy, that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. This is not to say that parents who are not specimens of health cannot have healthy children; obviously, that is not the case. However, if we are out of whack and making poor health choices, it is highly likely our children will, too. After all, we can hardly expect to indulge in bags of potato chips and beer and think they won’t do the same once they are making nutritional decisions for themselves.
How do we instill good eating habits in our kids? The answer seems simple since we have total control over their diet while they are very young. During these years, make sure to serve them healthful, age-appropriate foods, limiting sweets and sodas. Make sure they get adequate amounts of protein and low-fat carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables). Please, for the sake of your children, don’t be weak! Don’t cave in and give them what they want. A couple of missed meals as a toddler are far better than a lifetime of bad eating habits.
Sure, it sounds good, if we can do it. But the problem is, not all of us want to do it—or even feel we could live a life without chicken nuggets and fast-food burgers. What then?
All of us can make some gradual changes, for our own sake as well as our children’s. If we are aware of the potential harm we are doing to our children, are passionate about their success, and make it a priority, we will do better.
Even those of us who don’t want to embrace a full-out healthy-eating lifestyle can make some minor positive changes in our lives. And believe me, even small changes add up!
If you’re carrying extra weight and having trouble eating healthfully, admit this to your kids—especially if you use it as a learning experience and explain to them that you will do your best to keep them from making the same mistakes you have made. Good parents tell the kids what they should do. Great parents admit their problems to their children and demonstrate that parents are just as much subject to human frailty as anyone else. This isn’t as effective as setting a good example, but it’s far better than denying what we are doing. Good Parents support children who are struggling with their weight. Great parents do everything in their power to keep bad habits from forming.
Making strict family laws (e.g., “This family is never allowed to eat fast food.”) is usually a mistake. Whenever we outright prohibit something, we make it far more interesting and attractive to our kids. It’s better to teach them that a steady diet of McDonalds is unhealthful, but there’s nothing wrong with an occasional burger and fries. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, your child gets the message: Everything is better in moderation. The point is, we are in control over our diet. I love Zig Ziglar’s quote, “I never accidentally ate anything! “
Some of us are born wanting to play sports and exercise, while others have no interest whatsoever in sports. Much of this, as well as our eating habits and body shape, comes from our genetics.
Knowing this, we can do something about it. For some of us, working out is just that: work. Once again, the answer is moderation. We don’t have to be great athletes to make exercise a priority and stress how important it is to our kids
Living a healthful lifestyle is not a complicated concept. We need to burn more calories than we eat—period. We choose what we eat and, based upon our caloric intake, we choose how much we will need to burn. Every 3,500 extra calories not burned turns into a pound of extra weight. The key is awareness and education. Once you understand how many calories and grams of fat are in the things we eat every day, you can find a form of exercise you will tolerate, if not enjoy. If you don’t, you will add weight every year.
As long as we get ourselves out there and move, we’re on the right path; and if our kids are on the path with us, so much the better. The two biggest health problems we face as parents today are obesity and eating disorders. Both are at epidemic levels in our country—and both are within our control.
One caution; We must be very careful that in trying to teach our children to “eat right,” we don’t push or even intimidate them so much that we end up with children who are afraid to eat even a green bean without being looked at funny, or who throw up their lunch for fear of gaining extra weight. These are the real dangers if we push our children too hard to be “fit and healthy,” instead of teaching them healthful eating habits.
It’s far better to stick with a long-term healthy lifestyle than to ever use the term “diet” in our homes. Though there is an obsession with dieting in our country, diets fail. Having children “diet” is degrading and sets them up for failure when they put the weight back on again—which, unfortunately, is the ultimate result for nearly all diet programs.
If we want our children to grow up happy, healthy, and wise, then teaching them to eat right and exercise must be a priority. The emotional and physical benefits are gifts that will last them well into adulthood—and into parenthood, so they may pass them on to the next generation.