Now That All the Candy is Gone!
Exercise must be a part of your teen’s life.
After a month of preparing costumes for Halloween and buying different candies and snacks for the various Halloween parties, the great day arrives and everyone feels like they have permission to eat all the candy in the world. Children feel like this is the greatest day on earth. We get to go from door to door asking for candy and we get to eat it all week. Forget giving healthy snacks. There was one year that I thought “Special K Bar”, that would be a healthier substitute for a Halloween treat. My kids were scandalized. They said, “What? Mom –It’s better not to give candy at all, than to give healthy treats.” That was just too embarrassing for them.
But there is always that niggling of regret and sadness about diets blown, and the effect the candy has on our precious children’s teeth. In an era, where the percentage of obese adolescents (12 to 19 years old) has increased from 5 % in 1980 to nearly 21 % in 2012, we can no longer pretend that Halloween is a one day celebration of eating candy. More people than ever are now celebrating “Halloween” year round, in how they eat. Obesity has become a real problem for a significant number of us and for our teens.
My first impression when I first came to America was that there was too much food in America. We are so blessed. I could hardly eat in restaurants because I was being given portion sizes that I felt could feed a whole family in some countries. I have slowly adopted the culture and find myself eating more than I need to as well. It is a real issue that we have to face. How does one deal with the looming problem of obesity, with all it’s attendant health issues like Diabetes, heart disease, strokes and poor self-esteem especially for our youth. .
As Megan Lyons of “thelyonsshare.org” says,
1. First focus on the “Why”
Why do you want to lose weight or rather why do you want to be healthy? Is it so you can play with your children? Is it to break the cycle of early death in the family from diabetes mellitus? I read about how Sherri Shepherd the famous comedian and actress ignored warnings about being prediabetic. Since everyone in her family had Diabetes she thought having diabetes and losing a limb was just part of growing up. She was inspired to change after she got the diagnosis of Diabetes, the same illness that killed her mother. Her son, was the inspiration for her to make changes in her life. So really find out the why? That is what will keep you going during Thanksgiving, when you look at the golden apple pie staring you in the face. Write down your motivation for change. Read it often until you believe it and it really becomes a part of you. Your why will also help you through your stresses, when all you want to do is eat. You will discover other ways of dealing with the challenges that invariably come our way.
2. Don’t focus on Weight.
Especially for teens, don’t focus on weight loss. Focus on overall health. Don’t encourage crash dieting which cannot be sustained. Make lifestyle changes that you can live with through the changing seasons of life. Enjoy vegetables along the way. This is a challenge for most families and sometimes one must learn how to cook or “hide” vegetables to make it palatable for teens. Focusing on weight leads to teens having issues with self-esteem, and some teens have gone to the opposite extreme and developed eating disorders. It’s important for teens to learn that they are not their weight. Teach them to love themselves no matter what weight they are. Unfortunately the self-loathing that sometimes comes with obesity sets up a vicious cycle where people eat to comfort themselves and then purge because they want to loose weight. It is extremely important to focus on overall health, rather than weight.
3. The family must participate as a team.
One of the saddest times for me is when I’m counselling a family with an obese child and the parents who are sometimes obese keep pointing fingers at the child stating “he won’t exercise” or “he just sits on the couch eating.” My answer is always, “Of course he does that. That’s all he knows.” You really can’t expect your child to watch you eating burgers and fries whilst he eats vegetables and lean meat. That is really unrealistic. This must be a family effort. Clean out the pantry. Get rid of foods that you know are unhealthy and addictive for the family. Encourage each other to stay with the program and make the healthy lifestyle changes. Some people subscribe to the 80:20 Rule, where you eat healthy all week and you have a day that you eat what you want. This is actually very controversial. Author of The Shift, Tory Johnson, a Good Morning America weekly contributor likens this to an alcoholic rewarding themselves with a drink because they have been good all week. Others say that not giving yourself a break, causes you to crave “the forbidden foods” and tempts you to binge when you see these foods. I really think it depends on each individual. Ultimately healthy living is about doing what works best for you. If you can eat desserts in limitation and still maintain a healthy lifestyle, then do so. But if you are like me, and the first bite leads to you eating and eating and eating, then it is best to avoid these foods. Discuss this as a family so that one person’s actions does not lead to the downfall of others.
4. Increase Activity.
The reality of life is that there is no lasting lifestyle change without increasing activity. We all saw the change in Oprah Winfrey’s life, after she met Bob Greene, and adopted exercise as a way of life. There is no way around it. Exercise must be a part of life. Having said that, do what you enjoy. There are so many ways you can keep active, that there are no more excuses. You can walk, run, bicycle, swim, to name but a few. Then of course there is Zumba and jazzercise and Pilates and Yoga. There is something for everyone. Besides studies have shown that regular exercise increases the flow of endorphins which leads to happiness and lower rates of depression. So, let’s take the first lady’s advise, and “Get moving.”
5. Be Realistic.
It is so important to teach our teens, especially the girls, that the models and stars they see on TV, do not represent the norm. So many teens have such an unrealistic view of what they should look like that they literally starve themselves to death. Parents should be positive role models and teach teens about self-esteem. Loving oneself is so important because if you don’t love and accept yourself, how will you find the strength and energy to make the necessary changes to be healthy? Don’t waste time and energy on what you can’t control. Sometimes the best you can do is limit exposure to mass media. What you can control is your attitude and parenting your teen to have self-worth. Take this seriously. Talk to your teen. Show them love no matter what size they are and teach them to love and respect themselves. That is the beginning of change.
Now that all the candy is gone, decide to make the necessary changes towards a healthy and lasting lifestyle. Eat right as a family. Encourage activity. Learn to love yourselves and demonstrate self esteem to your teens.