3 #NoBull Tips for Keeping Fit with Family Life
Howdy, Heifers.! I’m greeting you from environmentally-friendly Phoenix, Arizona – where you don’t need an oven or stovetop to survive. All you need is a sidewalk or the dash of your car. Seriously. See my Twitter feed.
Speaking of feeds, I’m talking today about feeding ourselves well, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and sticking to our weight loss goals while living with a household of people who could not care less about whether or not we meet a five-fruits-and-veggies a day goal or get in an early morning run.
Yes, I’m talking about kids. I have four of them. They’re all teenagers. Do you know what this means? This means they care more about that status of their hair or their latest social media post than they do if I eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food or flop down after ten sit-ups and binge watch Bonanaza because I cancelled the cable subscription.
Seriously. I don’t think they’d even notice. They’d just blow past me, prostrate on the floor, not even bothering to offer me a handful of Cheezits as they head back upstairs and into their dens of teenage angst.
Heifers, I cannot let my health depend on the people in my house any more than I can let it depend on friends who tell me to live a little and order the nachos, co-workers who suggest I skip an evening run and hit happy hour or neighbors who give me a raised brow when I run past them at 3:30 am. As much as I have to tune out the opinions and behavior of the people outside of my home, I have to do the same thing, sometimes, with the people inside my home.
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve read the articles about healthy family living where nutritionists suggest making meal times fun by whipping up artistic creations with bananas, strawberries, raisins and a whole-grain toaster waffle. These nutritionists suggest that if we just get our kids to help with meal preps, these kids will suddenly dive into a bowl of zucchini with gusto, the pride and sense of accomplishment from chopping said vegetables overriding their desire for pizza. These articles show pictures of families on bike rides along scenic trails with a beach landscape in the background, everyone properly outfitted with helmets and knee-pads.
Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not what happens in the RHR Household. My kids don’t care if I make them cut up squash and roast it by hand in the Arizona heat. They still don’t want it. They don’t care if I air up the tires in our bikes, shine the helmets and suggest (in a Disney princess voice) that we all spend some quality time together cycling to Whole Foods to stock up on quinoa and chia seeds.
They still want to eat entire Costco boxes of Fiber One bars and leave the wrappers stuffed between the bed and wall (true story) or play video games all afternoon before screaming a suggestion that we all have In and Out Burger and then hit Dairy Queen for dessert.
Heifers, the struggle is real. I mean that, too. It’s hard to eat healthfully and mindfully when we live with people who have different priorities and metabolisms. So, instead of giving you princess tips to transform your household into a healthy living pamphlet complete with unicorns pooping rainbow skittles, I’m going to give you my TOP 3 NO BULL TIPS for sticking with healthy eating and exercise even if your family isn’t on board.
Do You - Like I’ve said before, if we want to be healthy and fit, we have to do it for ourselves and by ourselves. Period. I know we want everyone else to get on board and do it with us. It would be easier if our friends, family and co-workers also decided to give up hot wings and ranch dressing for a salad and fruit. But Heifers, this isn’t going to happen, and nothing can derail good intentions more than depending on other people to make them a reality. In the end, you have to do it for you, hold yourself accountable, make your own choices and stop listening to all of the noise that comes from other people and their choices. This is true for family members as much, if not more, as people outside our homes. Our kids and spouses don’t magically change their eating habits just because we change ours. If we start a running program, it’s not up to anyone else to get on board and lace up to join us. And if we wait, hope or wish that the people we live with will make the same changes we’re making, we’ll fail. We. Will. Fail. The only way to stick to a healthy lifestyle is to focus on our own health and stop being distracted by other people’s habits. So figure out what a healthy you means. If it means a keto diet, fine. If it means gluten-free, go for it. If it means 3:00 AM workouts so that you can fit in the rest of your work, then kill it at 3:00 AM. Figure out what works for you and then make peace with that. When you know yourself and you know what your body and mind need to be healthy, you gain confidence and clarity in what exactly you need to do. You stop looking to other people for help or guidance or even companionship. Yeah, all of that is great. But it isn’t always reality. My teenage daughter isn’t going to get up and run with me. My son isn’t whipping up baked tortilla chips and fresh guacamole for us. That’s the reality. So when my kids are ordering dessert or still sleeping when I get home from a run, I don’t let that affect me. I know what I’m doing, how to do it and where I’m going. I do me. End of story.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy….and Killer of Fitness Plans - You’ve heard it before, the Teddy Roosevelt quote: comparison is the thief of joy. It’s also a real killer of healthy living and any other goals that take time, effort and serious suck. When we compare ourselves to someone else, anyone else, we forget our own unique situation and start thinking the answer to all of our questions lies in what everyone else is doing. It goes like this: you see a fit woman at Starbucks. Maybe she’s rocking skin-tight yoga pants. And maybe she’s eating a slice of lemon pound cake. It’s easy to go down the mental comparison path, maybe thinking that if a woman that fit and healthy can eat a slice of pound cake, I can, too. Or maybe I’m at the gym and I see a woman walking casually on the treadmill for half-an-hour and then chatting with friends for the rest of her workout. I start to wonder why I’m gutting out a 20-minute leg workout that is killing me. Same thing happens at home, with kids. Have you ever noticed that kids can eat a few slices of pizza and wake up the next morning and not say a word about bloating or weight gain or basically anything else except plans for the day that include you carting them all over town in the Swagger Wagon? It’s easy to see your kids or husband eating yummy food that would kill your healthy eating plans and think: maybe I should do that too? They’re not overweight and struggling. Maybe I’ve got this whole healthy diet down wrong and need to just splurge a little. Yeah, slippery slope, Heifers. Don’t even start down that road. Teenagers have crazy metabolisms that, for women, peak in our late teens and early twenties. You heard me: according to Women’s Health magazine, the fastest our metabolism is going to get is in our twenties. So, comparing myself with my teenage daughter is not only crazy, it’s scientifically wrong. Eating like a teenager will result in some serious weight gain for a (coughcough) forty-something mother. Even eating like a man, a man of my same age, does me no favors. Men have more muscle mass, heavier bones and less fat. Thank you, Mother Nature. What all of this means is that comparing myself and my habits to anyone else will only kill my diet, exercise and wellness plans. I can’t eat like a teenager. I can’t eat like my husband. In fact, I’m a whole little unique ball of just me, which is pretty great when I honor that and make choices that reflect my own body’s needs. Comparison is a thief and a mirage.
Set the Example…and the Menu - Finally, as much as this smacks of one of those CDC articles on healthy family life, I do believe the example I set for my kids is important….but, I take a long-term look at just how important it is. Just because I eat a salad today doesn’t mean my kid will stop hoarding Fiber One bars or forgo dessert. But, what she will see (even in the very back of her teenage mind) is that her mother cares enough about herself to eat well and exercise. Maybe that lesson won’t impact her today or this week or even in the next year or two, but one day, when she might face her own struggles or begin to think about her health, she’ll have a solid example to fall back on. This means that when I make healthier choices for myself, I know that I am teaching my kids how to do that when they decide to make that choice for themselves. I don’t think every lesson we teach our kids sinks in that exact moment. Sometimes, even for adults, lessons take years to learn. Still, we have to have the experiences to see the lesson at all. When I make healthy choices, my kids see that, and it reminds everyone in our house that food is not the enemy and that healthy living isn’t a fad diet or a week-long boot camp that ends on Friday, forgotten by Sunday. So, I set the example. Then, I set the menu. Somewhere in American culture we got the message that happiness is directly linked to pre-packed snack foods and sweets. I don’t have to subscribe to that bull, and I don’t have to set that example for my kids. I can choose what I buy at the store, what I stock on the shelves and what I offer for meals. I don’t HAVE to offer pizza and cookies and bags of chips. I can, and do, stock the fridge with fresh fruits, veggies, lean meats, healthy snacks and occasional treats. I don’t make a big deal of it, either. There are no lectures or nagging. I just don’t buy a ton of junk. If the kids get hungry, they have options. There are apples, bananas and string cheese. I set the example, and I set the menu. I don’t have to tempt myself with stockpiles of junk to be a good mom. I don’t have to stockpile seaweed crackers, either. I provide healthy food and a moderate amount of treats. Because love isn’t actually wrapped up in foil and loaded with a week’s worth of sugar.
I know it’s not easy to stick to healthy lifestyle changes when the people around us don’t struggle with the same issues or feel compelled to change their own habits. It took a while for me to understand that I didn’t have to base my own choices on anyone else. In the end, that makes my own health dependent on someone else. That means I give away some of the power I have over my own health, and that’s never a good idea.
So, Heifers, think about the people in your life who have a direct impact on your healthy choices. It might be the family you cook for, the kids you pack lunches for, or the toddlers who ask for food every 22.7 seconds throughout the day. It might be the husband who keeps fit without thinking about it or the wife who has never struggled with her weight. Whoever it is, think about how they impact your habits and if you need to make some changes in how you interact with each other so that your own health and wellbeing don’t end up veering off track.
Post your thoughts, experiences and ideas in the comments and let us know how you keep fit and healthy with a family in tow, and keep an eye on my Twitter account. Who knows what the AZ heat will cook up next.