Hoping For A Healthy Head Start

This past weekend my daughters had a sleepover at their grandparents’. When they got home, they told us about all the fun they had, including having breakfast for dinner on Saturday night, which included three eggs each and an obscene amount of crispy bacon on the side. They giggled as they described how their food-fest continued with a Sunday morning breakfast of jelly donuts AND chocolate croissants! Clearly, what happens at their Grandparents’, doesn’t always stay there. We laughed along with them, while gently telling them that maybe those weren’t exactly the healthiest meal choices.

I’ve struggled with weight issues all my life and even though the scale might not currently reflect my ‘ ideal’ weight, I do feel that, at 41, I am at my healthiest. A few years ago, I finally started exercising on a regular basis. I was tired of paying for gym memberships that went unused and for feeling winded after climbing a flight of subway stairs. My biggest motivator has been my husband, whose own journey to fitness and health has been quite an inspiration for me for over a decade. With time, I found classes and activities that I truly enjoy and working out has become a part of my routine – allowing me a small chunk of time daily to release stress while doing something good for my body and mind.

With the demands of two young children and a part-time job, it’s not always easy to fit it in. Now, when I skip a run in the park or a class at the gym, it’s less about feeling guilty, and more that I genuinely miss it, physically and mentally. There are many weekend mornings when our girls ask me to skip my run or my husband to forget his bike ride. We explain to them that the hour we spend exercising wilI keep us healthy and around longer for them and for each other. We encourage them to join sports teams, and now spend our Saturday mornings on the Great Lawn cheering our daughter at bat. My husband, who is an avid cyclist, has passed down his passion and our girls love going for rides with him along the East River and Randall’s Island.

We happen to be a food-loving family. Luckily, we tend to prefer healthy foods to junk. Having said that, we like big portions, and more has always been better. Get-togethers have always revolved around what is being served or prepared as opposed to what’s being celebrated. While we try to buy organic and cook often, we also LOVE eating out, ordering out, you name it. There are weekends that are a complete wash, but we try our best to balance big meals with small ones and turn up the exercise regimen a notch after a big foodie weekend.

What I desperately wish is that, as my daughters grow up, their weight (that actual number on the scale) is never more than a thought at their annual check-up. I’m not naïve and I know only too well that in this image-obsessed society we live in, the chances of that actually happening are miniscule. I worry about their future body image issues as they inch too quickly towards adolescence.

I consciously try to figure ways to instill in them the importance of good health. We do simple things at home like avoid the terms ‘fat’ or ‘thin’. We don’t go on crazy diets or cleanses. My hope is that by consistently modeling healthy behavior and eating habits, it will make them more aware of what it takes to be healthy and also foster within them a genuine love and appreciation for an active lifestyle.

We are far from perfect in setting this example and clearly, we are not the only influences in their lives. The other night, I tried to explain to my 7-year-old that perhaps the reason why she had a stomach ache was because she had two huge scoops of ice cream instead of one. I know she’s still a kid, but I think she’s smart enough to start thinking about her choices. It might be unrealistic to think that next time she’ll ask for an apple instead of a second scoop, but I would like to think that maybe our discussions make her, at the very least, stop and give it a bit more thought before immediately asking for more.

One of my most favorite moments on Mother’s Day was when I was getting ready to go for a run in Central Park. My 5-year-old sweetly asked if ‘just this once,’ she could join me. We’ve never gone running together, and I quickly decided that while it might not be the most rigorous workout for me, it would be fun. My older daughter, not wanting to miss out, threw on her sneakers and the three of us were off. I was so proud of my little ladies jogging a remarkable distance around the Reservoir. They are excited to do it and were determined to make the full loop. We stopped often for water breaks and to take in the skyline. It was a beautiful sunny day and their proud and flushed faces at our ‘finish line’ were priceless. On the walk home (our cool down), my older daughter told me that she can’t wait to join the school track team. My little one asked if we could start running together every weekend. While, realistically, we might not get to do it weekly, I look forward to my future runs with them and their bike rides with their father. I was so happy to have shared such a positive and healthy part of the day with them.

There are so many responsibilities we have as parents, and it can be totally overwhelming at times to know which to focus on. For me, keeping my kids aware and excited about a healthy lifestyle is right up there with keeping them safe and happy. I’m hoping that by starting when they are little, we have a head start in doing everything in our power to help them develop into women who are more concerned about their overall health than that arbitrary number on a scale.

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Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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