Friday Fitness: Change What You Think You Know About Kids’ Health

Bear in mind as you read that I go back and forth between our health behaviors as parents, and kids’ health practices because I feel they are synonymous.  Our children mirror our behaviors and attitudes, and how we treat our children is often a reflection of how to feel about ourselves.

1.  Fitness is a conscious choice.

Not really a new idea for adults, but I recently read an article that said we need to stop telling children to exercise because “exercise” is a buzz word that makes it sound like a chore.  We need to soften our approach and call it “activity” because it should be a part of our daily…activity.  I get the importance of the small steps, and trading out bad habits for good ones.  But, does candy-coating exercise really lead to a life of fitness and vitality?  And, are “activities” really getting our kids off the couch and away from their screens?  Even if they are, are they enough to sustain a lifelong commitment to fitness?  We all understand that to be truly fit and to maintain our health takes work – even hard work.  It IS a chore, and a choice we have to make with great effort sometimes.  So, let’s teach our kids the value of a good workout, which include stress-relief and self-confidence, that they might put down their remotes/phones/keyboards, and start doing something every day that makes them sweat.  That is how to be fit, and that is what we should expect from ourselves and our kids. Our bodies are a gift, and it is our stewardship to care for them.
I recently had this conversation with an accomplished pianist – how success in life takes work.  He told me that people hear him play and lament how they wish they could just sit down and play beautifully like that.  He said, “me too!”  This accomplishment didn’t just happen overnight.  It took work, practice, time, patience, and consistency.  There is value in hard work, and accomplishing difficult tasks.  Self-efficacy, physiological balance, and self-confidence are big rewards for finishing a job well done (Annesi, 2010).  Check out this link for ideas on how to set goals to achieve fitness.

2.  Food is not what makes us fat.

Where do our kids hear that eating will make them fat?  Oh, right…EVERYWHERE!  Just watch any TV show directed at attracting a teen/tween audience (Lawrie, 2006).  The fat kid is always the one eating or thinking about food!  This food-to-fat association is what leads to too-restrictive eating even in very young children (Evans, 2013).  While is it true that more calories consumed than expended causes weight gain, it is not the only culprit.  All of us know someone who can eat whatever they want and never seem to gain weight.

a) The quality of the calorie makes a difference.  For example, simple carbohydrates turn into sugar which can turn in to fat if we don’t expend it.  Meanwhile, complex carbohydrates are digested slowly, bind with cholesterol, and lend to the health of our digestive tract.  One gram of either equals four calories.

b) Imbalances in the body cause weight gain.  For example, hyperthyroidism, and other hormone imbalances, sleep deprivation, candida (supposedly), water retention, etc.  There are many reasons why our bodies gain weight and retain fat, including stress (especially when we tend to eat more when stressed).

c) Dieting (believe it or not).  This is another form of imbalance.  When you diet/deprive yourself, your body thinks there is a famine and you are starving yourself.  SO when you give up, or try to get back to normal eating habits, you gain all the weight back – plus some more.  Your body is shoring up for the next drought.  This is where the term “yo-yo dieting” comes from.

d) Heredity.  Our genes can sure make our lives more difficult if we are aiming to lose weight.  We all know someone who has to work very hard, and watch everything they eat or they will gain weight no matter what.  It is our lot in life.

e) Inactivity.  Eat perfectly but it will catch up to you if you don’t exercise.

Young children that excessively restrict their diets are likely to have an eating disorder as they grow up (Goodrick, 1999).  Kids do not need to hear that eating will make them fat.  Their bodies are ever changing and growing.  They need plenty of nourishment and a balanced diet to grow well.  When we try to dictate everything our kids eat, they stress about pleasing us, or rebel against us.  They lose their eating self-efficacy.  Junk food (what I like to call “fun food”) is not the enemy when eaten in moderation.  Some occasional emotional eating is normal.  The problem is that we indulge ourselves without thought, without limit, and usually when we are distracted.  Do allow some indulgence within reason, while being cognitively aware of what you are eating.  Not only so you can enjoy it, but so you also know when it is time to stop.  Change one bad habit and you’ll be better off.  Teach children about healthier options, balancing their portions, and moderating their own consumption of fun foods.  We need to teach our kids how to make smarter choices without implying they will get fat, and empower them to know the difference between healthful choices, and foods that need to be eaten in moderation.  There are other issues that come from eating poorly than just weight gain: fatigue, illness due to malnourishment, dental cavities, indigestion, constipation, hormone imbalance, insatiability and more eating because we are unsatisfied, and crave more, to name a few.  Give them these reasons, not, “stop eating that, you’ll get fat!”  This will only make children feel self-conscious, feeling preoccupied by their appearance, rather than the healthfulness of their food (more on this later).  We should be empowering kids, and ourselves with self-efficacy – meaning the power within ourselves to determine our own behavior (AbuSabha, 1997).

“The core determinants of [effective health practices] include knowledge of health risks and benefits of different health practices, perceived self-efficacy that one can exercise control over one’s health habits, outcome expectations about the expected costs and benefits for different health habits, the health goals people set for themselves and the concrete plans and strategies for realizing them, and the perceived facilitators and social and structural impediments to the changes they seek…Unless people believe they can produce desired effects by their actions, they have little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of difficulties” (Bandura, A., 2004).

Note: the goal is internal health and vitality (fitness), not necessarily weight loss.  Sometimes, when weight loss is the primary goal, those “desired effects” do not manifest for a long time, so we give up.  Kids might not understand why they need to eat well or exercise, but it needs to be their choice.  Lovingly instructing them, and then being patient with them, will empower them to make their own choices which will facilitate “effective health practices.”

But remember…

3.  Getting fat is not the worst-case scenario.

In our culture, there is a prevailing lie that fatness equals laziness, no self-discipline, low intelligence, ugliness (Urquhart, 2011).  Thinness is just the opposite.  Imagine what we put ourselves through when we gain weight, even as a natural process of aging.  We subconsciously tell ourselves we are not worthy of love, not even from ourselves.  So, we put ourselves through torture to fit into some ideal that, in reality, doesn’t exist.  The average BMI is 24 while the ideal is 18 (Urquhart, 2011).  This is virtually unattainable without going to unhealthy extremes.  Yes, obesity is linked to chronic illness, and leads to lower life satisfaction for many.  But is it the worst thing our children could endure?  The National Institute of Mental Health has an extensive list of symptoms of eating disorders that sound a lot more severe and immediate than getting a little fat.
I’m not saying we should just let our kids (or ourselves) get fat.  But, they do not need the pressure of worrying themselves about whether they will gain or lose anyone’s approval by how they look.  “Dietary restraint mediates the relationship between thin-ideal internalization and disordered eating attitudes, even in the absence of body dissatisfaction , due to the wish to attain a socially desirable figure” (Evans, 2013).  This pressure may backfire and lead to weight gain in itself.  Too-restrictive dieting leads to eating disorders, also in part because we stop being able to listen to our bodies (Johnson, 2005).  We stop knowing when we are hungry AND when we are full, which leads to binge eating.  “Although disordered eating is usually associated with underweight in popular media, it is more common in overweight individuals.  Overweight females report a greater fear of binging, preoccupation with weight, and use of unhealthy weight control behaviors than do non-overweight females (Urquhart, 2011).  Diets are destructive.  We need to relearn how to listen to our bodies and stop stressing too much about appearance.  Health works its way from the inside out.

The food relationship from Ellyn Satter‘s book “Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family” is, we choose what and when to eat, and children choose if, and how much.  The idea is to avoid a power struggle, and possibly to provide options – two kinds of vegetables at dinner so they can choose.  Allow kids at least three exposures to food before they can officially rule it out.  I love that there is no longer a food guide pyramid.  It was harder to understand what portions are realistic.  The plate is a better guide.  We can easily divide our plates in half, fill one side with fruits and/or vegetables, and the other half with whole grains and lean meats.  Wegmans calls it “half-plate healthy“.

I realize that there is a lot (A LOT) about our kids that is out of our control.  We cannot make our kids’ choices and we can’t control their environment or how they think.  There are some factors that need to be considered and balanced, like our parenting styles, and our kids’ dispositions.

However, we can set a good example for our kids.   We start by having a healthy attitude about our own bodies, and about food.  We show our kids how to eat a balanced diet and having an active lifestyle by doing it ourselves.  We support good behaviors with positive reinforcement.  We also teach them by our own words and actions how to value their bodies by not engaging in fat talk (about ourselves or anyone else), but loving our bodies no matter how they look.  Our children will echo our words and attitudes for better or for worse. (P.S. that fat talk article is awesome!)

“The marvel of our physical bodies is often overlooked. Who has not encountered feelings of low self-esteem because of physique or appearance? Many people wish their bodies could be more to their liking. Some with naturally straight hair want it curly. Others with curly hair want it straight. Occasionally some ladies, believing that ‘gentlemen prefer blonds,’ become ‘decided blonds.’
“Your body, whatever its natural gifts, is a magnificent creation of God.  It is a tabernacle of flesh—a temple for your spirit.  A study of your body attests to its divine design…How should these truths influence our personal behavior? We should gratefully acknowledge God as our Creator” (Elder Russel M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, We are Children of God, Conference Address, October 1998).

Here’s a great illustration of healthy habits. I love the Berenstain Bears. My only critique of this story is the inherent assumption that junk food = lazy.  Otherwise, I love it.

(Images courtesy of kidshealth.org)

Sources:
-AbuSabha R., & Achterberg, C. (1997). Review of self-efficacy and locus of control for nutrition- and health-related behavior. Journal Of The American Dietetic Association, 97(10), 1122-1132.
-Annesi, J., & Gorjala, S. (2010). Relations of self-regulation and self-efficacy for exercise and eating and BMI change: A field investigation. Biopsychosocial Medicine, 410. doi:10.1186/1751-0759-4-10
-Bandura, A. (2004). Health promotion by social cognitive means. Health Education & Behavior: The Official Publication Of The Society For Public Health Education, 31(2), 143-164.
-Evans, E., Tovée, M., Boothroyd, L., & Drewett, R. (2013). Body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes in 7- to 11-year-old girls: Testing a sociocultural model. Body Image, 10(1), 8-15. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2012.10.001
-Goodrick, G., Pendleton, V., Kimball, K., Carlos Poston, W., Reeves, R., & Foreyt, J. (1999). Binge eating severity, self-concept, dieting self-efficacy and social support during treatment of binge eating disorder. The International Journal Of Eating Disorders, 26(3), 295-300.
-Johnson, F., & Wardle, J. (2005). Dietary restraint, body dissatisfaction, and psychological distress: a prospective analysis. Journal Of Abnormal Psychology, 114(1), 119-125.
-Lawrie, Z., Sullivan, E., Davies, P., & Hill, R. (2006). Media influence on the body image of children and adolescents. Eating Disorders, 14(5), 355-364.
-Urquhart, C., & Mihalynuk, T. (2011). Disordered eating in women: implications for the obesity pandemic. Canadian Journal Of Dietetic Practice And Research: A Publication Of Dietitians Of Canada = Revue Canadienne De La Pratique Et De La Recherche En Diététique: Une Publication Des Diététistes Du Canada, 72(1), e115-e125.
And so many more…Due to copyrights, I cannot share these articles over mass media, but I do believe I may be able to share them with individuals if you are interested in seeing them in print.

Monday Mysteries: The “Whole Foods” Illusion

I take a routine trip to my local health foods market when I need to refill my water jugs and I’m always amazed by the amount of pure junk food that covers the shelves. Yet somehow, because it’s sold at a health food store, it is more acceptable or justifiable? What is it about being in a health food store that triggers something in our mind that says, “oh, it’s organic or local, so it’s obviously better for me than processed inorganic foods”? I am ripped apart inside by the temptation whenever I go, not only knowing I cannot afford the monetary cost, but the caloric costs as well. Just because something is organic or whatever does not justify indulgence.  And, just because something is inorganic doesn’t mean it’s terrible for you, especially in moderation (more on this later).
I learned a secret to optimal health while celebrating my daughter’s birthday yesterday. In the amount of time it took my daughter to savor a single Oreo cookie, I had barely taken a breath after diving into an entire piece of cake and several of those same cookies, only to pause afterwords and realize they really weren’t worth the calories. Yet, as I was scraping the last bits of frosting off my plate, my sweet daughter put down her unfinished cookie #2 and left the table to play.
More cherished is the subtle moderation of sweets, than the frequent indulgence of a craving.
The best scene of savoring food – love it: “What About Bob?”

Wednesday Wellness: Self-Reliance

I’m not sure I ever considered health an aspect of self-reliance, but the more I learn about it and the healthier I become, the more I am convinced it has everything to do with self-reliance!
I was thinking about self-reliance this morning and the phrase “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” So I did a search to discover where it came from. It emerged during the post World War era and Great Depression and has since become a wise adage. In my search I discovered this wonderful talk by former General Relief Society counselor Silvia H. Allred that she gave during a BYU Women’s Conference entitled “Principles of Self-Reliance”. She discusses emergency preparation, money management, food storage, and then she talks about physical fitness and good nutrition!
There are many reasons why I believe we have been commanded to be healthy, and self-reliance is as good a reason as any. Being capable of providing for ourselves and our families in good health and physical agility whether in times of safety or emergency is crucial. I believe preparing for an emergency should include daily exercise just as much as it should include having a 72-kit or a year supply of food or a financial reserve or a solid education. It requires just as much discipline and patience as we add upon it daily, weekly, monthly, and annually to be capable and prepared. Being self-sufficient takes hard work! It is exhausting to prepare meals, fix things, care for children, or do the work to maintain a home! Having the physical capacity to keep up makes it that much easier.
I hope you can check out Sister Allred’s article. It is a good guide to self-reliance. And as for that wise adage, the principle applies to our bodies and minds: “use it, or lose it.”
Check out this video. For fun.

Friday Foods: Breakfast and Lunch

So I’ve been asked what I eat since I generally have the same foods for breakfast and for lunch. Eating this way makes planning meals and having discipline that much easier.
For breakfast I have a smoothie everyday. In my last post I explained that I got the recipe from Alton Brown’s “Buff Smoothie“, but I portion it down to fit inside my Bullet. My husband or I prepare them the night before so they’re ready to blend in the morning. Next morning, we add wheat germ and ground flax before blending them up. That’s usually my breakfast, with some Greek yogurt or a hard-boiled egg for protein.  When I know I’m going to have a busy day, I will also have a piece of toast or half a bagel too.

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For lunch, I usually have a salad.  I get the big packages of romaine and Spring mix at my wholesale store and cut up the romaine at the beginning of the week with a lettuce knife and portion the salad into baggies.  I also prefer whole carrots so I peel and cut those to portion for daily meals.

When I’m ready to eat my lunch, I pull out a baggie of salad, a baggie of carrots, and whatever toppings I like to have.  I pre-portion a serving size of walnuts into cups so I can just grab a cup to add to my salad.  A lot of times I’ll add to my salad things that I want to check off of my daily list of good foods to eat.  I always include a carrot and an apple, and nuts – or, if I don’t have walnuts, I might have avocado or tuna fish instead – something that has essential fatty acids.  I also include a hard-boiled egg or yogurt on the side depending on which I had for breakfast.  Any other toppings are just for variety and to help make the salad more palatable.  One of my favorite toppings is Goldfish crackers.  So yummy!  I also spring for the pricier dressings because that makes the whole difference to me.  If I don’t love the dressing, I won’t love my food and, “if I don’t love it, I don’t swallow” (Ratatouille).  I try to stick to the portion sizes for salad dressing though because by now, the calories are really piling on.  At this point, with the nuts, egg, apple, dressing, crackers, etc. this salad is around 500 calories, which is a decent-sized lunch.  Sometimes I have half a pb & j or a small portion of leftovers from dinner if I’m still hungry.

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That’s it.  I will go into more of what I like to have for dinner in another post, but as a glimpse, my dinner schedule includes Crock pot Sundays, one vegetarian meal, one pizza meal, and one regular dish that can be anything.  The other nights, we have leftovers.  I think I fell into this habit because other diet programs I have observed are usually pretty strict for breakfast and lunch but relaxed for dinner.  It makes sense to me.  I prefer preparing meals in the evening when my whole family will enjoy them.  Plus, it’s easy to prepare breakfast and lunch ahead of time so I’m not wondering about it when I’m running around and stressed out.  This is how I avoid emotional eating I guess. (My emotional eating comes when I just don’t have an appetite and I look at the salad and feel nauseous.  That’s when I grab the bag of chocolates and skip lunch altogether.  I don’t recommend this.  However, when it happens, I have to get back into it the next day and try again.)

What do you do to keep your discipline during the day?  How do you avoid emotional eating?

Wednesday Weight Loss: The Beginning

Before: From This...

When my son was born nearly eighteen months ago, I needed to get back into shape.  I was very overweight.  I had been doing OK  through my son’s first year, but as his first birthday approached I felt like I was ready for more.  I read on this lady’s blog that she had “organized” her weight loss.  Being an organized person myself, I was interested and checked it out.  She talked about this program online that is just like Weight Watchers, only it’s free, and that’s when my paradigm shifted.  This post is what I learned.  In the last eighteen months, I have lost 50 pounds, but nearly 20 of that was in the first three months of starting this program.  I haven’t reached my goal yet, but just knowing that I am on the right track is empowering!  I know I will eventually get there.

This is not a quick fix, fad dieting, drop weight quick solution for anything.  What I did was a lifestyle change!  This was a makeover of my life and my habits and I became healthier over all.  I learned that if you want to truly be healthy, if you are serious about losing weight, then you have to be willing to take this seriously, be honest with yourself, and you’re going to have to be willing to get your butt down on the floor and do some sit ups, and push ups.

(Disclaimer:  I am not a professional and I don’t claim any medical credentials.  You should consult a doctor before starting any weight loss program).

  • Step 1: I joined Lose It! .com and started tracking EVERYTHING!  I had to be completely honest with myself.  It was tedious and time consuming at first, but totally worth it!  This program has given me a profound sense of self-efficacy.  I feel empowered by knowing my boundaries and goals.  And it has been a lot of fun!  Lose It! is a FREE program that will allow you to easily keep track of your diet and exercise.  There is a huge database of foods and exercises you can search, but you can also add any food and exercise if you have the nutrition/caloric information.  You can add recipes easily and it will calculate the nutrition information of each serving.  You can share your progress with friends via Facebook, Twitter, or email, or adding friends within the program.  There is even an iPhone and Android app to make it that much easier!  This was my first step and the one that opened my eyes to how quickly calories add up!  Check it out!
  • Step 2: “Listen to this dude, [Alton].  He knows what he’s talking about” (name that quote)!  Seriously, though.  Check out Alton Brown’s “Live and Let Diet” program.  I LOVE IT.  It is the ultimate NON-DIET program.  It’s all about moderation, and getting all the right kinds of foods when you eat.  To help me track the quality of my diet, I created a spreadsheet to make sure I am getting all the right stuff.
    • Follow Alton’s advice about what to/not to eat

      Source: Uploaded by user via Jodi on Pinterest

    • Drink LOTS of water
    • Moderation and balance are good things to remember.  The cool thing about the Lose It! program is that your goals are daily ones, but they also span the entire week.  That means if you are really good for several days, you may be able to go over one day and still be within your weekly goal.  Or, if you mess up one day and eat too much, you can make up for it the other days and still be within your weekly goal.  Don’t beat yourself up over a bad day.
    • I generally try to eat a protein and a carbohydrate in every meal.  I eat fruits in the early part of the day, and vegetables in the afternoon and evening.
    • Get plenty of fiber and probiotics via whole fruits & veggies, whole grains, yogurt, and if needed, supplements like ground flax seeds, psyllium husks, and acidophilus.  I know there are other ways to get probiotics, but this is good enough for me.
    • Drink LOTS of water.  I drink three 24 ounce bottles/cups of water a day.
    • In general, I eat the same things for breakfast and lunch.  That makes it easy to plan and discipline myself.  I get my variety from dinner and plan at least one vegetarian meal a week.
    • Alton’s video leaves off talking about breakfast, and in the show he goes on to talk about his smoothie.  I have this smoothie every morning (but about half the portion he prepares). (Here’s the recipe).
  • Step 3: Fitness is KEY.  I’m pretty busy, so fitness is kind of tough.  But without fitness, I would not have been successful!  I have had to organize my time in a way that will allow me to get exercise into my schedule every day!  I try to do about 45 minutes a day.  I started out walking twenty minutes a day on my treadmill at about 3 mph on a 10% incline.  I added a few resistance exercises including this routine that got me started (link).  A good baseline fitness test is one I found here. I took the 30-day challenge and I still try to do it everyday since.(Check out this online stop watch to help track the intervals of this workout).  It’s just 7 minutes of intense intervals, but it’s a good foundation for my daily workout.  (I have a spreadsheet to track the 30-days.  Just click here to get it).  Once I’ve done this, I feel energized to do the rest of my workout, be it jogging on the treadmill, strength training, or a video. Then, I go record everything into Lose It! and watch my calorie budget rise!

That’s it?  Yup!  That’s it!  You really have to personalize the program to yourself and how it will work best for you, but this is all I’ve done!  I keep track of (and improved) my diet and exercise, and that’s it.

I try to get the most out of my workouts by intensifying them (this blog explains how to do that).  I am not on a diet, but I work hard to stay within my caloric budget.  I eat salty and sweet treats, but in moderation.  I actually have a food scale to keep track of those little things.  1 ounce serving of potato chips means I eat 1 ounce!  One serving of those Cadbury Mini Eggs is just 12 eggs, but if I’m gonna eat ’em, I’m only gonna eat 12 of those darn mini eggs (as delicious as they are!).  I plan for splurges by cutting back elsewhere or exercising more, just like a financial budget.

Grace has played a major role in my transformation.  I used to feel like I was a failure if I messed up, or quit if I couldn’t hold it together.  Now, I just try not to be so hard on myself.  I put my trust in the Lord and do my very best.  He will make up the difference!  So if I have a rough day, I get over it so that tomorrow can be better.  If I constantly dwell on my faults or my unworthiness I would never change.  But, the Lord empowers me to change in spite of myself.

After: ...to THIS.