Raise your hand if someone in your family has type 2 diabetes. How about high blood pressure or heart disease? Anyone obese? Ever notice that you’re asked similar questions by your physician when you’re filling out forms at the doctor’s office? It’s not just because you have those same genes making you predisposed to them. The answers to these questions give your physician an idea of some of the habits you may have acquired from being in the same cohort as those family members. Quick lesson, those illnesses are preventable and aren’t totally genetic. There are also other factors that contribute to these preventable diseases. So, you are technically predisposed, just not completely due to genetics. Let’s say we are predisposed due to genetics, external factors, and the interplay between the two. If you’re susceptible to obesity through genetics and live in an environment that promotes high energy intake (eating a high calorie diet) with low energy expenditure (little to no activity) the likelihood is that you will be obese. Makes sense?
Your genes, gender, and age play a role in fat storage; where it’s stored and how quickly it is burned. These are personal factors against you that you cannot change. Excessive fat causes weight gain, which can lead to obesity. Obese people are often treated for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis.
Note: There are personal factors that can be changed. An example would be laziness. Another, lack of confidence in your physical abilities.
Alright, got the science part out of the way. Cultural, social, religious, economic, and environmental factors all influence your eating habits. Eating habits refer to why and how people eat, as well as which foods they eat. These habits are formed around the ages of one and two. A parents’ own eating habits and the environment they create within their house can promote healthy or unhealthy habits. This means the habits that you have, you picked them up from your parents, family members, and caretakers who got it from their parents, who got it from theirs, and so on.
Knowing this, it is important to lay the foundation for your children. Teaching them good eating habits while they are young will help them to carry it into adulthood. Remember, children usually don’t do their grocery shopping or food preparation. Parents are the gate keepers for this. They control access to foods in the home, what meals are served, the snacks provided, and the introduction of new foods. When children grow up they’ll either eat the foods they were denied as children or shop for the same foods they were given as children, until they learn different. If you’re working to correct the habits you formed as a child why not introduce it to your family now?
An unhealthy family-eating environment includes characteristics such as easy access to various processed and low-nutrient or foods high in fat. If you’ve removed the foods like this that you enjoy but left them in the pantry for your children they are only hearing that when they get older they should become healthy. They aren’t learning HOW to do it or WHY it’s important.
Instead of working to lose weight on your own, include your family. Family makes for great accountability partners! With children, focus on improving health or learning to live healthy and not weight loss. You don’t want to create the stigma that the child has to be a certain weight. Focus on full engagement and being healthy. It’s more about eating right and being active in order to be healthy. This also avoids alienating a child that may be a little over weight if they have siblings that aren’t.
A good family-based program should address both diet and physical activity. It should teach nutrit ion skills and encourage activity. Begin by talking with them and setting a goal that the entire family can share. Maybe this could be to start eating healthier and a daily family walk. r each category. The menu is also a great idea for preparing lunch for children.
Getting them involved with planning their meals teaches them healthy foods, as well as how to plan a balanced meal. Reward them when they make great choices on their own.
When introducing new foods make them look creative. Pinterest has great ideas. Here's a link for recipe for the yogurt bark below. Don’t worry about portion control with children. Sometimes they may eat more than normal at one meal and nibble the next. People are like that. Unless they eat more than normal at every meal just focus on mindful eating practices and teach them how to pay attention to their hunger cues. Nix the idea that a clean plate is a happy plate. This teaches over eating. Teach them that their tummy shouldn’t be stuffed and uncomfortable after a meal. If you have an over-eater, talk with a physician on how to best tackle this.
Set an example with your own food choices. If you’re learning to eat right and have to stop for dinner on the way home one day use this time to teach them how to choose healthier options on the menu. Opt for a side salad instead of fries. Order the kids meal for them but switch out the fries for fruit or apple sauce.
Keep plenty of fruit and other healthy snacks accessible. Don’t get rid of all of the processed snacks. Make slow changes. Minimize the options, remove them from reach, and offer them infrequently. In the beginning, don’t use them as rewards, just for special occasions. Restriction works short-term. Always go for balance.
Remember juices and sodas have empty calories. Introduce water early and limit juices and soda in the home. Get them their own water bottle. Juices are often big in calories but low in nutritional value so read the label before purchasing. Avoid juice concentrates and opt for those made mostly from real fruit.
Be active as a family.
Walk the neighborhood. Play at the backyard. Go to a park. Swim. Be active and do it together. When my sister and I workout the 1 year old niece is used as additional weight (she enjoys it when you’re doing squats and running stairs with her lol) and the 4 year old niece, AJ, grabs one of the dog’s toys that looks similar to a kettlebell and joins us. This was her choice. She saw us workout one day and joined in. Most times they don’t know about things because they aren’t introduced to it or they aren’t invested in it because it’s not done in the home.
Limit video games, internet, and TV time. In fact, if your child likes watching other kids play with toys on YouTube or just like watching YouTube videos there are a few channels that incorporate exercise and learning for children.Cosmic Kids Yoga is one of those channels.
Use non food based rewards for continued progress. Little people like stickers, toys, and dollar bills lol. This works for adults too. The reward may have to be a bit greater than a sticker.
Get caretakers on board. This includes, grandparents, babysitters, as well as aunts and uncles. Often times, inadvertently caretakers introduce bad eating habits to children. They may use food as a reward or a pacifier or to create a bond with the child. I know with my nieces, before I began thinking about my own eating habits, I would always let them have candy (before they even had teeth). I was introducing them to sugar. Imagine how I feel about it now. If you’re that TeeTee or uncle that always has candy for your nieces or nephews when you see them, you too are introducing them to bad habits. If you’ve begun to make changes that include your family make sure those that care for your children outside of the home are made aware of this so that they are not a barrier to the progress.
W.E.B. DuBois stated that children learn more from what you are than what you teach. Think of the habits that you are currently correcting. Those are habits you picked up as a child. Stop the buck with you and get them involved now. It’s just as important as teaching them to pick out their clothes and dressing themselves or anything else they’ll need to know as adults. Children are little humans, they’ll pick it up.