I had a real wakeup call waiting for me in my email in-box the other day. Recent statistics from a study by Healthy Women and Harris Interactive suggest that, while we women are very concerned about childhood obesity, we’re not taking responsibility for the impact of our weight and attitudes about food on our own kids.
In the survey of more than 1,000 women across the U.S. released Monday, 87% of women said they believe a parent’s obesity affects a child’s risk of becoming obese. But only 28 percent assign the responsibility to themselves. Are we passing the buck?
A few weeks ago, I blogged about an ad campaign by the health club chain Anytime Fitness called the Coalition of Angry Kids — an advertising spot illuminating the often-ignored fact that in our zeal to do something about the expanding waistlines of our kids, we adults may be ignoring our own. These statistics just add to that suspicion.
Now, you know me: I’ve been there, done that. I know what a struggle it is to embrace healthy living in a world full of temptations, full of stress, full of competing priorities. The last thing I want to do is to pile shame upon shame, as I know that too often, shame is bonus burden for overweight women (and men) to carry.
I am not here to assign blame; blame is different from responsibility. Blame is a judgment; responsibility is fact. And it is a fact that our kids’ health, our kids’ weight, is OUR responsibility. It’s also a fact that our inattention to our own health directly affects our children’s. We can’t just parrot the advice of the fitness experts and health gurus. WE HAVE TO SHOW, NOT JUST TELL.
I know—I’m a parent too—that it’s hard to admit to your kids that you don’t have it all together. You want to guide them, be the expert, be the one they turn to for advice. So when you struggle to get out and do that morning walk, or to make better choices at the dinner table, you can’t exactly portray yourself as a know-it-all in the healthy weight department, can you? How can you raise healthy kids as you cope with the ups and downs and troubles and triumphs of your own journey? Well, I’m not a know-it-all either, but here’s a bit of advice.
- Share your struggle. Open up. Talk about your weight goals and your plan for reaching them. Even the youngest kids know what’s up. Ignore the issue, and you lose all credibility when you try to set boundaries (no dessert, for instance) or give advice. Sharing what you’re going through will give them the sense that you’re all in this together.
- Ask them for help. Older kids often like turning the tables, teaching YOU something rather than always being on the receiving end. Ask them to show you their soccer moves or pass a football; that’ll get you outside, moving together. Get them to help in the kitchen or remind you when it’s time for your walk. Solicit their ideas for how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your meals. They’ll end up with more ownership over the whole healthy family project.
- Say “yes” to you. It’s easy for us moms to put everyone else first in our lives. One of the toughest things about getting healthy is setting boundaries; carving out the time for exercise, for instance, or feeding the family healthy foods instead of their favorite unhealthy dishes. It’s time for some tough love. You may think you have no time for a workout, but you do: You just have to make it a priority. You have to be willing to say “yes” to yourself and “no” to others more often. It’s a cliché, but this research makes it all too clear: A healthier you means a healthier family. Shortchanging yourself in the health department means shortchanging your family. Taking care of your own health is not a selfish act; it’s the ultimate way of giving your children and loved ones the best things life has to offer.
Know that I face these same struggles, day in and day out, as do millions of other moms. We are all in this together—and together, we can be the solution.