Parents and teens need lifestyle changes to stay healthy in the holiday season.
I hate to do this so soon after Halloween but with the holidays right around the corner, I believe this is the perfect time to decide on making a healthy lifestyle change. Last week, the TV channels were all talking about a study from Researchers in California confirming that sugar can lead to Diabetes and heart disease in children. http://www.ibtimes.com/sugar-intake-linked-heart-disease-high-blood-pressure-new-study-2158099#.Vjg3hOXuaKg.email.
Whilst all of this sounds very alarming there are steps you can take to protect your children and teens. Now is a good a time as any to start especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up. Studies claim that the average person gains as much as 3 to 7 pounds during the holiday season but some experts claim one only gains about a pound. The problem is that most of us never lose that extra pound and the excess weight tends to accumulate over the years.
The steps below serve as a guide towards making healthy lifestyle changes.
1. Don’t Emphasize the words “Weight Loss”
In these days when extreme thinness is over emphasized, children in general and teens in particular are very sensitive about their weight and talking to them about weight loss all the time sometimes sends the wrong message. One should instead talk about being healthy and making healthy choices. Pay attention and comment on some of the positive choices they make. You, the parent should also start making more healthy choices and teach them to do the same. The family together can come up with different ways to cook vegetables to make them more appealing and different ways to serve fruit. Rather than focusing on weight loss and its negative impact, talk more about healthy choices for life.
2. Start with Good Choices Early in Life.
It is interesting to observe how parents are quick to criticize their obese children whenever the discussion of nutrition and exercise comes up during health maintenance visits. The parents who are sometimes obese themselves jump in and say, “Tell them. I’ve been talking to them about eating right and they don’t listen. They drink juice and soda all the time.” I always turn to the parent and ask them “Who buys thee food in the house? “ The fact is the young children are not grocery shopping. If the parent does not bring the food into the house, it can’t get eaten.
I’ll be the first to admit to making some of these mistakes. I remember when my children were younger, it was sometimes much easier for me to buy some pre- packaged foods that were loaded with sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. I paid more attention to convenience than to health and wish I’d made better choices then. I also realize and tell parents that you can’t correct things backwards, you can only move forward and you educate yourself and embark on a healthier lifestyle.
The best time to impart knowledge is when your children are younger. Starting in the teen years is that much harder, since they already have some habits formed. If they have not already learned how to eat right, it becomes an uphill and often losing battle for them.
3. Make it a Family Affair
Many well-meaning parents, in an attempt to help their obese children, serve them fruits and vegetables whilst the rest of the family feasts on fries and burgers. Eating out becomes a battle because these children also want to indulge, but they are not allowed to. Obviously, this is not going to work. The child almost perceives this as punishment. Being healthy has to be a family affair. Families are going to be more successful if they support each other and are accountable to each other. Be supportive of your teens if they decide to make more healthy life choices.
4. Involve the family in physical activities
Being healthy also involves physical activity. I’m not suggesting that you jump up and obtain gym memberships but you should definitely encourage your teens to exercise more than their thumbs on their cell phones or tablets. Enjoy nature by going on walks or taking your young children out to the parks to play. Enroll your teens in sports if it is feasible as a family. Other children can use the Wii or other interactive videos or just play basketball and volleyball or go bowling or skating with their friends for fun. The important thing is to teach them the value of physical activity. It’s not only good for the waistline, but good for the heart, lungs and for your mood as well.
5. Make a plan
If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up nowhere. Help your teens make the decision to embrace a healthier lifestyle. It has to be their decision. This is not a diet. This is a change they have decided to make for life. It is a good idea for them to write down their goals and decide on a plan. Help them come up with ideas on what to do when they find themselves in a difficult situation, where they are tempted to overeat. They can decide to focus on portion sizes, or swapping foods for healthier choices so they can enjoy a little bit of their favorite dessert. The good thing is even when they deviate from their plan, they have the road map to turn right back to. Following your plan even 80 % of the time will reap great rewards.
The holiday season does not have to be a season of overindulgence and weight gain. Decide as a family to embrace a healthier lifestyle. Come up with a plan and learn to encourage each other. Get off the couch and participate in physical activities. And no finger pointing or chastising each other. Embracing a healthier lifestyle is not a sprint. It is a marathon filled with challenges and great rewards if you stay the course.