It’s probably the most common New Year’s resolution: “This year I’m going to get in shape.” If you’re a parent, your resolution may also include the entire family, as in “This year I’m going to make sure the entire family gets in shape…eats better…stays physically healthy.” If so, here are some tips to get you started:
1. Stay active through the holidays and the cold days of winter. Yes, this is an obvious “tip,” but it’s the most important! Whether it be playing out in the snow or going for a long walk after a big meal, get out of the house and get that body moving! It doesn’t have to be a trip to the gym (though that’s always good!); staying active can be as simple as going for a walk every morning, going sledding, or scheduling a physical activity with the family every weekend.
2. Every little bit helps when you’re trying to eat healthy. It’s not easy over the holidays and during the doldrums of winter, but every little bit counts. Substituting carrot sticks a few times a week for chips, or serving fruit for dessert once or twice a week may not seem like much—or like it’s worth doing—but over the course of the year, a few small changes can make a big difference.
3. Get the kids involved in food preparation. Kids are more likely to try new foods, particularly healthy ones, if they have been involved in the preparation. If they like to help, let them. Involving them in grocery shopping is another way of getting them to think about—and become invested in trying—new things.
What you order at a restaurant or make at home will set the tone for what your child will eventually eat.
4. Even though healthy eating is important, don’t make your child feel bad for his or her eating choices. Whether it be picky eating, occasional overeating, or a preference for certain foods, your child shouldn’t feel anxiety or negativity about food. This is especially true during the holidays when food is a way of bringing together family and friends, and sharing in happiness. Everyone is going to splurge to some degree — children as well as adults. Enjoy the times spent eating—judgment free — while keeping an eye on portions and balance.
5. Be a good role model. Recent studies have shown that young children’s food tastes are significantly related to their parents’ food preferences. What you order at a restaurant or make at home will set the tone for what your child will eventually eat.
6. Plan an active vacation as a gift for the entire family. This might include a ski trip or a warm-weather destination with lots of sports and activities. Let the kids be active participants in choosing activities on the trip. Again, being a good role model will encourage them to participate, and learning a new sport can be fun for the entire family.
7. Don’t push it on days that are brutally cold, but get right back outside when things warm up. If it’s too cold to go for a run, go for a walk in the mall. One of the most common excuses people use for not coming to the gym is, “The weather was too bad and I couldn’t get to the gym.” Over the years, I’ve seen people who were regular gym-goers stop going—sometimes permanently — because there was a snowstorm that threw them off their normal routine.
8. Listen to your body signals. If something hurts, stop. If you’re working out at a gym, ask for assistance if you’re not sure you’re using the equipment properly. If you have old injuries, check with your physician to make sure what you’re doing is safe. Similarly, don’t push your child to do something he or she is not ready to do. If your 4-year-old is scared to ride the ski lift, don’t force the issue. Make sure the physical activity is at a pace that is safe and enjoyable.
Staying on a regular schedule for sleeping, eating and exercising is critical.
9. Remember the importance of routines. This is especially true for younger children, but also important for all of us. Staying on a regular schedule for sleeping, eating and exercising is critical. Recent research has shown how important sleep is to weight loss, and how important exercising is to sleep. Staying physically healthy doesn’t just mean getting to the gym; it means getting enough sleep every night, eating at the same times every day and setting aside time every week for physical activity.
10. Slow it down. While you increase your physical activity, try to also decrease your mental activity. Relaxation, yoga and meditation are all great ways to supplement your exercise program. You’re more likely to take care of your physical health if you’re mentally relaxed, and conversely, your mental health can improve considerably when you exercise.
But above all, enjoy yourself!