With the New Year approaching, it’s the perfect time to assess where you are in terms of healthy habits, and where you want to go. If you are a parent it’s likely you are struggling in the time department — wanting to lead a healthy lifestyle with the reality of a packed life getting in the way.
I believe parents have a secret weapon to good health that is largely untapped. The same beautiful and wonderful little beings that make us time-starved are also the keys to developing healthy habits that stick for good.
Don’t believe me? Here are 5 ways to use your role as a parent (and your children) to live the healthy lifestyle of your dreams in 2013.
1. Notice the Sticking Points
Whatever was a health issue before kids gets magnified after having little ones around. I call them “sticking points” — and sometimes they pop up where parents least expect. This discontent is actually a good thing because it tells us something isn’t right.
For example, telling your child not to have sweets, only to sneak them at night or making sure your child has multiple opportunities for activity while living a sedentary life yourself, often causes the “guilt” radar to go off. Take notice when this happens.
2. Get to the Source
Rose’s sticking point was her poor body image, something she desperately did not want to pass onto her daughter. She worked hard to keep her weight down and eat healthy, but years of doing this never made her feel better about her body.
The key for Rose was to look back at herself when she was her daughter’s age looking for clues. She realized her mother was never happy with her appearance despite being at a normal weight. Because Rose saw a woman she adored hate her body, she never learned how to embrace her own. And it was hard to give her daughter something she didn’t have.
3. Give Yourself What You Didn’t Get
Once a connection is made, it’s time to give yourself what you didn’t get earlier in life. Rose decided to work on appreciating her body, inspired by the unconditional love she had for her daughter. Over time, she developed a healthier relationship with her body, took better care of herself and felt more genuine when giving advice to her daughter.
Whether it’s dieting or poor body image, a lack of cooking skills, low exposure to healthy foods, unpleasant memories of physical activity or having been forced to clean your plate (and ignoring hunger or satiety signals as a result), give yourself the very thing you didn’t get growing up which has helped shape your challenge.
4. Go for the Intrinsic Motivation
Children are great role models when it comes to intrinsic motivation to eat and be active. If they aren’t hungry, they don’t eat. They naturally move — and enjoy it. They don’t do this because they feel they should, it’s just part of who they are.
Psychologists call this Self Determination Theory and the idea is that we are more likely to do things we are internally motivated to do. So if losing those same 5 to 10 pounds hasn’t been doing it for you, choose reasons to engage in healthy behaviors that really matter to you.
This can be as simple as paying attention to the daily benefits you get from healthy habits like more energy, productivity, and better sleep or choosing activities that you really enjoy.
5. Utilize Self Compassion
The love a parent has for his or her child is an amazing force. Believe it or not, directing some of that love back to yourself can make a big difference. Research shows that self-compassion, being understanding of setbacks and challenges with self-change, makes success more likely.
So when things go wrong, let go of the judgment and negative self-thoughts that actually feed the undesirable behavior. Instead, simply make a mental note of what needs to change and do it better next time. It’s about progress, not perfection.
Have your children inspired you to take better care of yourself or is this still an area of struggle for you?
I’ll be reviewing and giving away a book that gets into the specifics on creating a healthy lifestyle, so stay tuned!