It’s a scary world out there.
1 in 3 American children are now overweight or obese. (And two nights ago I heard on NBC Nightly News that 1 in 3 American adults are now obese–not just overweight…not a good trend, obviously.)
Overweight children and teenagers are also showing a hardening of their arteries (a precursor to heart disease).
And I haven’t even mentioned anything about diabetes, or that so many of our kids are taking drugs to deal with the various diseases (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) that go along with being overweight.
My husband and I are on a mission to get healthy. Not only to get healthy, but to stay healthy. I’ve become a vegan (although I hesitate to label myself as such, because I know that the word probably makes you think of other words such as “animal-loving” and “hippie”; and although I like animals very much and wore a tie-dyed shirt when I was a kid (the only hippie-ish thing I might have ever done), the truth is that being a vegan–a plant-based vegan–is much more about my health). My husband eats some of my recipes but is, as of yet, not a vegan…or even a vegetarian.
Part of this mission of getting healthy is to lay a foundation of good nutrition for our kids growing up.
Both my husband and I have had issues with our weight our entire lives, and we–as well as many people in our families–are obese. It’s not a good thing, as we all know, and we’re trying our best to change. We want to look better, to feel better, but with children there’s also an additional impetus: we want our children to grow up healthy, not having to worry about the same issues we’ve had all of our lives, or struggling with the same food addictions we have.
As my husband and I talked about the issue of food addictions recently, we realized that most of our “trigger” foods (the foods that send out a siren call to fall off the wagon or binge) are foods we consider comfort foods from our childhoods.
Mexican food is my comfort food, as I always associate it with my family happily going out to eat Tex Mex. We didn’t go out to eat a lot, but when we did it was always a particular restaurant, and because of this somehow I think of Mexican food as comforting. Macaroni and cheese, too, one of my family’s favorite side dishes, and any recipes my mom made regularly (this has become an even stronger craving since her death).
Most of us have heard/seen the debate on who contributes to childhood obesity more: parents or schools. Well, from our recollections of our childhoods, Mr. Rome and I believe it all starts at home.
Part of my becoming vegan has meant getting rid of most of the non-whole foods in our house. Our kitchen is now stocked with 90% fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts/seeds, whole grains, and the accompanying cooking ingredients (and for those of you wondering what we eat from all of this, I’ve compiled an extensive recipe database, if you’re interested). Since my husband isn’t vegan, he’s eating through the rest of it, although we’ve both agreed that we won’t re-stock those other foods. We intend to eat very healthfully at home; indulgences are for occasional meals out.
In addition to this, we’ve developed the rule that food of any kind is never given as a treat or a reward; also, a certain food will never be taken away as punishment if behavior is bad. We want our children to learn to enjoy and eat food as fuel, because our bodies need it, not because it’s our best friend or our enemy. And if they do something good, we want them to take pride in that behavior by itself, to feel good about doing good; no food needed to celebrate.
And in terms of family nostalgia, we’re trying to go on more outings outside of meal times, so that going to the zoo or the museum is a happy family event by itself. I have so many memories of family outings and gatherings where food was always associated with happiness, laughter, and love; I’d like to help the girls learn that happiness, laughter, and love comes from the people we’re with, not the food we’re eating together.
Finally, we’re going to talk to our kids about what foods are good for our bodies and what foods are bad. As they grow up, they’ll make their own choices, and I’m okay with that. My hope is that by teaching them the good and the bad now, they’ll be more inclined to choose the good in the future.
From the time they were born, one of my greatest goals for my daughters has been that they would grow up to be confident and strong women, and I believe having good health is necessary for this to happen. For us, good health has to start at home, and it has to start with me and my husband as role models.
It’s already starting, in fact. The other day as I was cutting up a red bell pepper, SuperGirl asked for a bite (as all parents of toddlers know, they always want what we have!). She licked or ate part of it, I couldn’t tell which, and then put it down, saying she didn’t like it. Then I started to talk about how much I enjoyed bell peppers as I continued cutting it up, and she asked for another piece. She ate it. Then another, and another, then another, until I started to think that I might have to put the gate up to the kitchen so we’d have some left for dinner. She’s not so keen on leafy greens yet, but I figure since she’s only 3 years old, we have a while to get her there. =)
Has the “epidemic of obesity” affected your family? What challenges are you facing to get/stay healthy, or to get/keep your kids healthy? Do you have any other tips on how to help your children develop healthy eating habits?
I’ll be giving away one of the books that influenced me to become vegan, EAT TO LIVE (in ebook format), to two random commenters (to be announced Sunday).
I’m Elise Rome, AKA Midnight Mama because I’m usually burning the midnight oil. If SuperGirl (3, with a speech delay) and WonderGirl (1, my very own hip attachment) aren’t getting up in the middle of the night, then I’m busy working on writing and writing-related business until morning…usually 5 am or so. Both my husband and I stay home with the girls (he’s a writer, too! www.lukasholmes.com), but usually I’m focused on them throughout the day and only get started working until after 8pm when they’re both in bed. I’m a former Texan now living in Colorado who desperately misses no-snow winters, and my parenting goal is to raise my daughters to be strong, intelligent, and independent women…much like the heroines I write, as a matter of fact. I’m a recovering perfectionist, recovering procrastinator, and perpetually aspire to keep the house clean (because it never actually is). When I’m not chasing around my daughters or adoring my cooking/cleaning/diaper-changing husband of 8 years, I write historical romances about women who fascinate me and men who somehow always remind me of Rhett Butler, the first literary hero who captured my heart. www.eliserome.com