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How to teach your kids to live a healthy lifestyle

Five years ago, our family lifestyle was not healthy. We ate dessert every night and spent so much time in front of the TV that weekend movie nights increasingly became an extensive search for something we hadn’t already seen.

Sure, I fed my kids token greens with dinner — sometimes. I took them to the park — sometimes. But those were supplementary additions to our unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle. A lifestyle that was making all of us unhealthy, lazy, and miserable.

Those might seem like harsh words, but I chose them because they’re true. They were true then, however much I tried to ignore it or excuse it away as “survival mode.”

After my youngest child Isaac was born, I reached the end of my rope. I was tired of my kids fighting over the remote, tired of my clothes not fitting, and tired of feeling so dang tired. Perhaps most importantly, I was desperate for some sort of meaningful connection with my family. So I signed us all up for taekwondo.

Yes, all of us — me included. In case you’re wondering, the local taekwondo school didn’t offer adult classes at that point, so I took the kids’ class. The little kids’ class, with the 6- to 10-year-olds, who were all more coordinated and far more conditioned than I was. That first class was humiliating, but afterwards my kids were bubbling with excitement. They talked about taekwondo until they went to sleep and picked it right back up in the morning. They loved that I was doing it with them, and embarrassment aside, I loved it too. So we kept going.

Within six months, our family life had completely transformed. We spent evenings at taekwondo, Monday through Friday. On Saturday nights we would often go up to the empty gym to practice, or take turns using the new punching bag in our garage. When we did watch TV, it was often old seasons of American Ninja Warrior — after which, inspired, we would go to the playground and lache across the monkey bars or pretend the big slide was the warped wall. We quickly learned that eating granola bars and ice cream would make us feel horrible at taekwondo, so we started eating more nutritiously. The kids embraced smoothies and scrambled eggs, and I picked up the habit of eating the proverbial apple a day. In short, we fell into the habit of healthy living almost as a side effect of our newfound hobby.

Since then, we’ve moved across the country and taken a hiatus from taekwondo. My kids are in various sports and I work as a personal trainer, so you’d think we’d have this healthy lifestyle thing down. Not so, my friends. Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t a one-and-done deal — there’s no magic switch that, once flipped, stays that way. Like all things, a healthy lifestyle is a balancing act.

As I’ve learned over my 14 years of motherhood, if you want to teach your kids anything, you have to start by showing them. So feeding your kids kale chips while you binge on Doritos in the pantry isn’t going to get you very far. If you want to teach your kids to live a healthy lifestyle, you have to figure out how to live one yourself. Luckily, while it might not be effortless, living a healthy lifestyle is actually pretty simple. You just have to make sure you get enough of what you need, and keep everything else for special occasions.

It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, y’all — you don’t need to go into Whole 30 mode and throw out half your pantry. Instead of focusing on what not to do (or eat), have an abundance mentality. If you want to increase your health, you need more of these 3 main things:

 

#1 More sleep

Sleep is magical. If you don’t get enough sleep — even for one night! — your body starts to crash. You can’t think clearly because your neurons aren’t firing efficiently. Your immune system takes a nose dive. Your metabolism slows down. Your muscles react less quickly, and you lose strength and cardiovascular function. Now compound those effects over a week, or a month … is it any wonder you’re cranky, tired, and it’s hard to get up from the couch? Making sleep a priority is the easiest, most effective way to reset your family’s lifestyle.

 

#2 More sunshine 

We spend way too much time indoors, full stop. Not only does this negatively impact our bodies (think Vitamin D deficiency, crashing immune system), but it also takes a toll on our psychological state. We’ve evolved to respond to external stimuli — the wind, the sun, the cold, the grass under our feet. Depriving ourselves of those stimuli literally starves our brains of what they need to develop and function properly. And if you decide to take a walk or go for a run once you’re there? Bonus points for more exercise!

 

#3 More water & nutrients

Making healthy food choices doesn’t have to be complicated, especially at the beginning. Keep it simple — drink water, more water, and only water. Eat food from the earth — anything that grew in or out of the ground, that walked on the grass or swam in the ocean. If you want baked goods, make them yourself, or buy them from the person who did. Just eliminate the whole factory-processed factor, and you will drastically increase the nutrient density in your family’s food.

Another way to present this to your kids is to tie it back to faith. Explain that your family is going to show gratitude to God by using the gifts he’s given us as human beings. Sleeping enough, enjoying the sunshine, and eating the fruits of the earth are ways we can glorify God by appreciating and enjoying his creation — just as we were created to do.

Calah Alexander  | aleteia.org

 

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