How to Start Healthy Habits as a Family
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“Mary and Tom Smith know they need to make healthy lifestyle changes not only for themselves but also for their three children.They have a 5-year-old, Emily who is a picky eater, a 10-year-old, Peter who loves video games, and a 14-year-old, Gabby who is starting to become body-image conscious and is not motivated to exercise. Between full-time jobs and getting the kids to their various extracurricular activities, they struggle to prepare quick, healthy meals and fit in exercise for themselves.”
Today's hectic lifestyle can often leave us struggling to maintain healthy habits while constantly on the go. Maybe you can relate to the Smith family and some of these scenarios: skipping breakfast, a lunch packed so quickly it lacks any fruits or veggies, a processed pack of cookies as an after school snack, a trip to the drive-thru after soccer practice for dinner, etc.
Families can be very busy but taking the time to slow down and do things such as eating meals together as a family can have a lot of long lasting benefits. According to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, kids and teens who share family dinners three or more times per week:
- are less likely to be overweight,
- are more likely to eat healthy food,
- perform better academically,
- are less likely to engage in risky behaviors,
- and have better relationships with their parents.
As the pace of our lives increases and the open space on our calendars decreases some corners have to be cut. Unfortunately, those corners often involve our health and wellbeing as a family.
But that doesn’t have to be so.
Not only will you be taking care of your physical health, but you will be strengthening your family as a whole whether it is in relationships, having more peace and happiness, less stress in the household, etc.
It is possible to achieve healthy habits as a family when we have the right mindset and start small. Make sure everyone is on board. This can’t just be another one of Mom’s great ideas. If your kids are struggling to be on board for this process, make it fun for them, don’t portray it as a drag for them. Reinforce them and give them praise for their progress. Everyone in the household needs to be on the same page for this to be successful. Support each other through this process. Remember to start small and build up.
“Happy healthy parents make happy healthy children”
-Dr. Miriam Stoppard
5 Simple Steps On How To Get Started
There are five small steps to get started with the process of creating a healthier family. As we go through these steps, see how the “Smith” family mentioned above. The Healthy Families Starter Guide is also a great tool to work through these steps.
1. Have the right mindset.
At 7Core Wellness we promote the right mindset before we embark on a healthy habit journey. This goes for starting it as a family. Part of that is making sure you understand that not all things have to happen at once. Small progress can lead to big changes over time. Stop making wishes about your health as a family, claim it and own it. Understand mess ups will happen and that they shouldn’t destroy you. They will help you grow and achieve during this process. A big part of having the right mindset is understanding the reasons why you are doing this. Ask yourself these questions:
- Why do you want to take more time for your health?
- How will this help your family as a whole?
Practical application: Mary and Tom knew what they needed to do but the idea of starting something seemed impossible with their busy schedules. They didn’t want to make this a drag for their kids. They had to take the time to understand and figure out the real reason why they wanted to do this. Being busy and stressed is not something they wanted to have to deal with as a family. They had to come to realize making the time for health and wellness in their family could help tremendously not only with their physical health, but it could also help their family grow closer. They also had to come to understand that mess ups will happen and that’s ok. It’s all about learning and growing from the experience for them.
2. Make a goal and break down into habits.
Set goals as a family that you would like to achieve. You could set a goal as a whole family and then break down individually the goals everyone wants to achieve personally. With the goals in mind, you then want to break them down into habits to help you achieve those goals. Breaking down goals into habits will help with making the process more successful.
Practical Application: Mary and Tom know they could have healthier meals as a family. A lot of their meals don’t have any vegetables. Sometimes they wouldn’t make vegetables because they knew their kids wouldn’t eat them. They set a goal as a family to include vegetables in their dinners. To break this down into habits and to fit everyone’s needs, they made a habit to start adding vegetables twice a week to their dinners, once they were able to do that, they added another day and so on. This helped with consistency and was more successful than trying to start big.
3. Identify challenges.
Be prepared to accept that challenges will arise. There will be slip ups, and that is OK. A setback can make you come back even stronger. Identify challenges you might face during this process and write down what you can do to overcome them.
Practical Application: I will be using Gabby as a specific example. Her challenge is that she struggles to be motivated to move and doesn’t feel good about herself. She tried different exercises to see what she really enjoyed. She learned that she likes taking walks and dancing. Because she found something she enjoyed doing, she was able to feel better about herself as a whole.
4. Plan and prep.
Planning and prepping out the week helps so much especially when you have a family that’s busy. Take one day out of the week and use that time to plan and prep your week. To better plan, write down all the activities/events your family has going on for that week, plan out times when you will exercise, plan out your meals for the week, etc. To help you better organize and plan your meals, check out our Meal Planner tool. Involve your kids with prepping for the week. Take them to the grocery store and have them pick out a fruit and vegetable they want to try. This gives them some control over what they put into their bodies. Explain to them according to their understanding that eating fruits and vegetables will help us feel better and when we feel better, we are happier and able to do more things.
Practical Application: Mary and Tom sat down with their kids and wrote down activities and events that were happening during the week: Emily’s swim lessons, Peter’s baseball practice, Gabby’s voice lessons and church youth group. Then they discussed meals they could make for the week. Emily and Peter went to the grocery store with Mom and each picked out some fruits and vegetables to try. Gabby helped her Mom in the kitchen on meal prepping for the week. Emily just learned how to ride a bike and she, Peter and their Dad set a time during the week to go on a bike ride. All of this was helpful because the whole family was involved.
5. Be together and have fun.
Have fun through this process. Doing this together as a family will help strengthen your family as a whole. Make an effort to eat dinner together as a family even if it’s just a few times a week to start out. It is important for deepening family connections, hearing about each other’s days, and enjoying some quiet time together. Go on outings together, prepare dinner together, etc.
Practical Application: Mary, Tom, and the kids grew a lot closer together. They took the time to eat more together as a family. This strengthened relationships and overall had more peace in the household. Emily and Peter grew to like more vegetables as they tried them. Gabby was able to have fun prepping food for the week and exercising because she found something she liked. This family also went on lots of bike rides, walks, and hikes together.
These small steps will help your family get started on a healthy path to success. It’s all about breaking it down and doing what is good for you and your family. To learn more and put this into action, check out our free downloadable.
If you would like help to get started on your healthy habits journey as a family, set up a call time with me!
Don’t let the excuse that your family is too busy stand in the way of your health. You can do this!