Moms know how it goes. You're driving along in traffic with your little ones safely tucked away in the backseat, and the next thing you know, some teenager trying to text and steer at the same time swerves into your lane, nearly hitting you. Without thinking about it, you let some four-letter word fly – something a little stronger than “Drat!” One week later, you find out from your child's pre-school teacher that they've been repeating that very same word. Monkey see, monkey do.
Parents know from their own experience that children learn what's “right” and what's “wrong” just by watching Mom and Dad. Given this inexorable truth of parenting, you might want to ask yourself the question, “What are my children learning about eating right and exercising by watching my example?”
The Link Between Overweight Moms and Overweight Kids
The next time you think about losing weight, think not only about how it will impact you, but also about how it will impact your children. The food that you eat is the food your children will also probably eat, so if you're eating snack foods, drinking multiple soft drinks each day, and frequently getting lunch from a fast food venue, you'd better believe your kids will pick up the same habits.
The findings from a 2010 British study shouldn't come as a surprise. According to the study, daughters with overweight moms are 10 times more likely to be obese by the age of eight, and sons with obese fathers are 6 times more likely to become overweight.
Furthermore, the study found that children whose parents need to lose weight get too much food and not enough exercise. In other words, they're not genetically different, they don't have hormonal disorders, and they aren't "big boned"; overweight kids of overweight parents tend simply pick up on their parents' bad habits of having portions that are too big and not exercising enough. Just like picking up a curse word after hearing it uttered in the car, children of overweight parents pick up their eating and exercise habits, as well.
Living in Denial
Unfortunately, another recent study, this one at the University of Michigan, showed that parents who have overweight kids tend to be in denial about it. Of parents with an obese – or extremely overweight -- child between the ages of 6 and 11, 43% stated that their child was “about the right weight”, while another 37% stated their child was “slightly overweight”, but only 13% admitted the truth, that the child was “very overweight”. A few even believed the obese child was actually underweight (Source: MSNBC.com). The same survey looked at older children, and by then, Mom and Dad realized there was a problem – by then they knew it wasn't the so-called “baby fat” that the child would grow out of. Even with the older obese children, though, 56% of parents still believed their child was just “slightly overweight”.
How to Lose Weight
Luckily, setting a good example for your kids when it comes to exercise and eating right isn't really a mystery. One of the easiest places to start is fast food and junk food. Cut these out of your family's repertoire of food, and everyone will be well on their way to a healthier lifestyle.
Another set of low-hanging fruits is the soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, and sugary juices. Why drink calories, when water is calorie-free and much better for you anyway? As for juices, most store-bought juice is packed with sugar, and kids' drinks are notorious for their sugar, artificial flavors, and food dyes – all of which can lead not just to weight problems, but also to behaviour problems. Though your kids may fight you at first, giving them water instead of soda, bottled tea, juice, and kids' drinks is a quick way to reduce how many calories they're taking in over the course of a day.
Truly, there's enough information available these days about how to lose weight in a healthy way, how to eat a balanced diet, and how to exercise that there's no need to go into these topics in great detail here. The point here is more about finding the motivation you need to really make a positive change for yourself and your children.
Most moms would do anything for their little ones, gladly charging into a burning building to save their child. The burning building, in this case, is made up of junk food, sodas, video games, and couches. If you would be willing to jump into a burning building to save your child, shouldn't you also be willing to jump into exercise and good nutrition? Statistically, after all, your child is unlikely to ever find herself trapped in a burning building. If you're overweight, though, then she is quite likely to develop diabetes or other weight-related ailments later in life. These ailments are something you can definitely protect her from, simply by teaching her to follow your own good example.
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