A study in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that for the first time in 200 years, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents. This study says that the rising prevalence and severity of obesity in children could cause associated diseases and complications like diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, and cancer to afflict people at a younger age.
Already we are seeing adults with higher obesity rates than the generation before them, meaning that they will be exposed to obesity and its related complications much-around 15 years-earlier than their older counterparts.
The key to helping your children maintain good health throughout their lives is to start creating healthy habits while they are young. It only takes 21 days, that’s three weeks, to create a new habit. Your kids know when it is time for bed every day and when to brush their teeth; why not teach them to stay physically active and make good food choices?
The easiest way to make these healthy choices second nature to your child is to lead by example. Your children will learn most of their habits from watching you, so when you’re sitting on the couch having a bowl of ice cream at night, your kids will see that as standard acceptable behavior.
For your kids and for your own health, it’s important to take control of your own habits. The first step to getting rid of bad habits and creating good ones is to identify them. A great way to do this is to keep a food journal for a few days or weeks. You might start to notice that the afternoon hunger seems to strike around 3:00 everyday when you reach for that bag of chips in your desk, or that you eat takeout two or three times every weekend when you don’t feel like cooking.
Now that you have identified the habits you want to change, it’s easier to create new ones. Replace the chips with some almonds or fruit. Limit yourself to the number of times you order out and make meals ahead of time that can be easily reheated or eaten cold.
Go through the same process with your exercise habits. Sure, you have a gym membership, but how many times a week do you actually use it? What time do you go? You might notice that you are more likely to workout if you do it first thing in the morning versus waiting to do it after work when you find it harder to motivate yourself. Make a habit of going the same time each day on the same days of every week.
Stay away from fad diets and quick fixes. You might see results faster with these methods, but they won’t last long. Whatever changes you make you should be prepared to stick to for life. You aren’t “going on a diet” or “getting in shape;” you’re making a lifestyle change. You are choosing to make healthier choices that will benefit you and your family.
The focus shouldn’t be on losing weight-that’s not the message you want to send to your kids-but rather, on being healthy and strong. When your children see you going out for a jog, skipping dessert and avoiding processed junk food they will identify these habits as desirable behavior and follow your lead. So if you can’t seem to find the motivation to make a healthy lifestyle change for yourself, you can think of your kids’ health and do it for them.