Even before I became a Mother, as a personal trainer and life coach I was very passionate about helping women not be martyrs just because they had children (and spouses). Knowing from first hand experience (my childhood) that a women could be a mother and still achieve her career goals and have a personal life too, I always had the perspective that being a mother did not have to end my time as an individual who has interests, hobbies and needs.
Clearly I had (have) a remarkable mother who demonstrated through her actions that you can be a woman and a mother, so in 2005 I wrote and published my first book: Joan of Arc Is Dead. A Wake-Up Call For Women Who Sacrifice Too Much. Now 10 years later I find myself coaching a new crop of clients regarding this same issue. The chronic complaints I hear range from “I have no time to work out,” “my spouse and I haven’t been on a romantic date in months,” “I miss hanging out with my friends or shopping without the kids in tow,” or “there’s no time for me or my needs.”
In answer to all these complaints I say rubbish. YOU have set up your lives to place the needs of the children/spouse before your own. Many life coaches and self-help gurus utilize the analogy of airline safety instructions as an illustration of why this habit is detrimental. They say: place the oxygen mask over your nose and mouth FIRST, then assist your children. The reason for this is that if you pass out from lack of oxygen you’re no good to your children. Well it’s the same in life – if you are over-fat, over-stressed, unhealthy and/or (most-importantly) unhappy, what good are you to your family?
More significantly, what are you teaching your kids (especially daughters)? We tell our children they can be anything, do anything they set their minds to. But our actions as martyring mothers suggest that once you become a parent, those things you had passion for take a back seat to the needs of the child. If I were that child, I would wonder why bother pursuing my goals if once I had a child I had to stop participating in things I enjoy. Clearly there are times and situations that choices made by all parents put our needs last, but if you are consistently harried and/or angry that your needs and wishes are not being met, you must look at yourself for the responsibility.
Now if you’re yelling at your computer screen that there’s absolutely no room in your life for YOU, let me share my Mother’s journey (in brief). She was abandoned by my father and left with two children in a rented house in Los Angeles, her college degree unfinished, in the 1960’s when divorced women were not often welcome in most other women’s homes (for fear she would steal their man). She went on to complete her Master’s degree at UCLA, then obtain Ph.D. from USC (on a full scholarship) all the while working two jobs. On a shoe-string budget, she fed us (healthy choices I might add), clothed us (often sewing our clothes), kept a clean house, was always on time, and still managed to go out once or twice a month on dates. Although my brother and I were “latch-key kids” I always felt my mother was there if I needed her and she taught me how to cook, sew, clean, spent time making arts and crafts with us as well as reading books with me. So I think if she can do it under those circumstances, you can do it!
The easiest and best first step is to begin (or resume) exercising. Choose a time and whether it’s a gym or at home, let the entire family know (including yourself) that this is a non-negotiable appointment for YOU. No matter how tired, you must push yourself to keep this appointment with yourself and trust when I say that after a very short period it will become easier and the rewards are huge. From fat-loss to mood-elevation and stress reduction – you and your family will gain huge benefits from these results. I understand that many of you juggle school-age children with a full-time job, and that you honestly can’t imagine squeezing one minute nonetheless an hour out of your jam-packed schedule. But I promise if you stay open to the concept, and you can find ways to put your needs and wants into the family’s schedule.
So the next time you lament that you didn’t get to do something you really wanted or needed, stop and remind yourself that the quality of YOUR life matters too and it’s all in your capable hands.
All creatures on earth, whether human or animals, need food to live. But only humans have taken that need and turned it into an obsession. Of all the idiosyncrasies of food addictions, the one I find the most detrimental is that of “comfort food.” The idea that food is anything other than nourishment is again, exclusive only to humans.
The joy that some of us feel from food preparation and savoring of flavors (the artistic side of cuisine) is undeniably one of the most wonderful uses of some of our five senses (taste, smell and even vision). The flip side of this is that somehow society at large (pun intended) has equated certain foods to that of providing comfort.
There’s no question that all of us have childhood memories (and other situational sense memories) that are directly tied to food. A special recipe your mother created when you were sick, or on birthdays, as well as dishes we ate when we were “happy” or “in love” become go to foods when, as adults, life is not where we want it to be. While it’s true that certain foods create a chemical reaction that can elevate moods, the idea that food can fill up a painful hole within our hearts is a slippery slope. What makes this worse is that traditionally most “comfort foods” are high in fat, salt, and/or sugar.
I have many a client and friend that spends days or months being diligent about their nutritional intake, only to blow it all away because they had an emotional disturbance that they responded to by eating “comfort foods.” How many movies have shown women sitting in front of the TV crying while shoveling in an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s? Or how many nights are lonely bachelors depicted scarfing down fast food take out after a night of drinking? These movies reflect real life – raise your hand if you’ve ever done this.
As I always say, everything’s okay in moderation – including pints of ice cream and multiple Taco Bell indiscernible meat tacos, but the problem here is that a lot of people have a regular routine of eating these “bad for your body” foods every single time they’re upset, frustrated or sad.
If this behavior resonates with you, then I offer this advice: break up with food! Stop “dating” food to make you feel better, especially when in reality, it does just the opposite. Repeated indulgences in comfort food is no better for you than that guy or girl who belittles your self-esteem.
See nutrition as a tool that allows your body and brain to function and deal with life. I use the Car analogy – most people put medium to high-grade gasoline in their car, see to regular oil changes, and keep all fluids and tire pressure to their peak levels. If you do not, your car will not drive well, handle huge hills, stay safe on wet roads, and eventually stop running completely. Well guess what, your body is the same.
If you find it difficult to walk away from food when you’re emotionally upset, then at least make better choices – find a healthier “comfort” – or keep the quantities of the unhealthy choices to a much smaller amount. Better still, deal with the feelings that you’re hiding from, and once they’re faced, you’ll undoubtedly not even need the food for comfort. One last choice to consider is exercise. I’ve had some of the best cardio sessions when I’ve been angry. When the day before I was bored and tired after 10 minutes on the treadmill, suddenly when fueled by a situation / conversation that left me hot-headed, I ran for 30 minutes straight!
Whether your goal is fat loss or just improved health and fitness, breaking up with comfort foods is an essential step to reaching your goal and staying there.
I have been preparing my 9 year old daughter for several years now for one of the less favorable rites of passage that elementary girls encounter as they grow towards teen years … that of mean girls. Sadly the inherent competitiveness of females towards each other starts this early and I have recently realized that for some, the feelings of petty jealousy do not stop at any age.
I see signs of this girl vs. girl competitiveness from the playground to the workforce and at parties and social gatherings. It starts with the physical assessment – are they prettier than me, is their body in better shape, are they dressed too provocatively? Then it progresses into a fevered quest to find out some personal information that will prove their life is not better than yours, or that they are NOT as good as you – commonly known as gossip. Lastly communication breaks down into a series of anecdotal recounts of one’s life to one up the other – often using voice inflections heavy with condescension and superiority.
I watch this in action frequently at the gym and restaurants. A 20-something “hottie” will saunter past a group of over-weight “mom” types. First come the glares, then the whispers, and finally loud encouragement from the “pack” that they’re each doing great. Of course, this dynamic happens in the reverse too. Often it’s the heavier girl at a nightclub who is subjected to a gaggle of anorexic Barbies walking past with their noses in the air, and their I’m so pretty hair flips. (Yes I’m generalizing and stereotyping, but I’ve seen it happen repeatedly enough to use it here.)
This constant competition between women has saddened me for years. I get that it feels like we’re all in competition for the few good men, but we’re really not. Men have just as much at stake when searching for true love, and they receive just as much rejection as we do. But the difference is that men (and boys) don’t seek to tear each other down the same way women (and girls) do.
The feelings of jealousy and inadequacy that you feel when you see someone you think is better looking or happier than you is not their fault. You should all know by now that the grass is NOT always greener on the other side. That “beautiful” person may in fact be miserable on the inside, or maybe battled cancer, or was abused by someone. Your life is your life – your body is your body. It’s up to you to make your life and body be the most it can be and then be happy (and satisfied) with it all. When you’re not up to snuff – fix it – don’t make yourself feel better by enjoying the knowledge that someone else isn’t perfect too. Bringing someone down doesn’t lift you up. These are the lessons I’m sharing with my daughter.
I have more than once met women who were absolutely beautiful on the outside only to find that their insides were shallow or mean, and that their lives were not as envious as I had thought. But this knowledge never made me feel better – it made me sad that someone with such gifts wasn’t all that I had admired initially. It made me strive even harder to be happy with what and who I am and to appreciate all that I have, and go after all that I want.
Women we shouldn’t compete – we should complement each other. My many girlfriends and I do just that. If you are missing this kind of support in your life, perhaps it’s time you got better friends – or became a better friend yourself.
I overheard two nine year old girls talking the other day at a friend’s home. One tall, one short, neither thin, neither overweight – but clearly built very differently. The taller one was urging the shorter one to get on the scale to see what she weighed. Finally, reluctantly, she obliged and weighed in four pounds heavier than the taller girl. The taller girl then responded “ooh, maybe we should run around more at recess.”
What does this tell me? It tells me that the tall girl has probably been overhearing her mother lament about being over-weight. It tells me that at by third grade, she’s already assumed most adults’ belief that what the scale reads, defines how you are seen. It also shows me how much our kids are listening to everyone’s obsession with weight.
It’s not just the girls mind you, I’ve caught many a group of elementary school boys quickly (albeit amongst themselves) dismissing a girl based upon her weight, having learned early on that thinner is more attractive. All it takes is one tossed away comment by a Dad watching a model-eating-burger commercial like “now that’s hot” to take root his son’s head. (Don’t get me started on the irony of those silly commercials!)
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I do not own a scale, and berate my clients who use one to gauge their fitness. You should also know that I am trying to raise awareness with the world at large, as well as in my own home, that body fat vs. scale weight vs. internal health are three different things and should not be lumped together.
Clearly, being a personal trainer, there’s a lot of discussion in our home about nutrition, body fat, body acceptance, etc. My daughter is built on the short and stocky side, yet she is strong and healthy, and not fat. But put her next to her taller and leaner friends, sure she seems “thicker” – a perception that to the ignorant child/adult could be referred to as fat.
I work diligently to maintain her healthy self-esteem so that she will not suffer in middle-school, high- school and beyond. Young girls’ and boys’ feelings of inadequacy because society has deemed them inferior if they’re not built like models, starts in the home whether you’re aware of it or not.
My hope today for those of you who read this (and hopefully you’ll pass it on to reach more) is that everyone who worries about their “weight” should stop verbalizing their issues in front of their children. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, boyfriends, girlfriends – we all need to realize that one little innocuous sentence (“I can’t lose the last ten pounds, I hate the way I look”) can plant a very destructive seed in a little person’s brain.
So think about what you say around your kids, and what they might internalize about themselves from it. Engage in open discussions about health, nutrition, the differences in body types, and most importantly, that ultimately we must not judge books by their coverers – beauty is more than skin deep – and any other words of positive reaffirmation to remind them that life is about being a good person – not being perfect.
I am very frustrated of late with the perspective most of our society has about children’s nutrition. It’s as if we are clueless as to what we put in their bodies, yet so many Mom’s micro-manage their own calories and food quality.
Restaurants routinely offer soda or lemonade as a drink included with the cost of the child’s meal. I see kids being served a large glass of Sprite at dinnertime as the parents are under the misunderstanding that clear soda is better for their kids than Cola (dark soda). Sugar is sugar and both contain as much as 17 spoonfuls — and in the case of Mountain Dew, there’s still caffeine even in a clear soda.
The other day at my daughter’s school awards ceremony (in the morning mind you) they offered chocolate chip cookies and lemonade as treats. My response of “sugar and sugar?” was met with offensive glares. I said I would have gladly paid for the purchase of water, but that fell on deaf ears. These are probably the parents who bought the concept Nutella tried to sell us that the chocolate spread was healthy for breakfast because it had nuts and milk in it.
My best friend recently informed me that Los Angeles Unified School District (the most screwed up school district ever) has made it mandatory that children have breakfast in their cafeterias during first period, noting that many households haven’t the money for food. As great as that sounds, they’re only offering the likes of processed and shrink wrapped pastries (sugar, fats and unhealthy carbs) or pizza rolls (sugar, fats and unhealthy carbs). Network television routinely touts statistics of our increasing percentage of childhood obesity then they cut to a McDonalds’ or Coke commercial. It’s all so frustrating!
Then there are the thousands of parents who claim there’s no time or money to make food at home and eat healthy. Well to those nay-sayers, I say: being short on time is no excuse for feeding your child (or yourself) a crappy processed-foods breakfast, or no breakfast at all! It’s, as always, a matter of priorities. 15 minutes the night before or in the morning to make and eat a healthy breakfast is doable for everyone! With proper planning and routines set into place time and money does not have to increase (see last week’s blog “Healthy Nutrition Made Easy).
Calculate what you spend on gasoline driving to and sitting in the car-line at McDonalds’ or Starbucks, along with the cost of the food. Then take that money, and buy a dozen eggs, a package of whole wheat tortillas, some deli turkey and a bag of pre-washed organic spinach. The cost will actually be less, the food can be cooked ahead of time, and in the morning heat up a healthy egg burrito for all of you. Soda and fruit juices should be saved for “treats.” Water is essential to everyone’s health and it’s cheaper (if not free).
A school mate said to my daughter one day “hey how come your Mom doesn’t give you Lunchables (as he ate his Oscar Mayer Lunchables)?” She looked at what he was eating and said “I have the same thing only better.” She had low-sodium organic turkey meat, all-natural sliced white cheddar (no orange dye), sea-salt rice crackers, grapes, carrots, cucumbers, a dollop of humus, and one Hershey’s kiss. Compare that to salami, dyed cheese (known to cause headaches and allergies), Ritz crackers (made with HFCS & sugar), no veggies, no fruit, and two Oreos — a usual Lunchables. Compare the cost too! I can feed her my homemade lunchables all week the cost of 1-2 pre-packaged Lunchables filled with stuff I wouldn’t eat, and I suspect neither would you.
Clearly I’m on a soap box today, but this really gets under my skin. No matter the age or school level, all kids need to eat six (6) small meals all day long, and get off their bums at regular intervals to move, stretch and expel energy. Only if parents commit to making this a lifestyle for their entire family, will we end the rampant obesity besieging our Nation.
Children’s fitness is under serious scrutiny these days with 20% of all U.S. children aged 6-19 being clinically obese. (Obesity is defined as having a body fat percentage of over 25-30% depending upon gender.) Despite the fact that Physical Education (P.E.) classes are, at best, offered only day a week in most public schools, our awareness that children need to move more is on the rise. But understanding and taking action are two different things. We’re not taking enough action – pun intended!
For the focus of this article, I’m not going to focus on the nutrition side of obesity. The facts are out there, and more parent than ever are starting to change how they feed their children (less fast food, smaller portions, healthier choices, etc.). What I want to focus on today is simple: movement.
The bottom line always comes down to this: calories in vs. calories out. Regardless of what nutritional choices your children make or receive, they need to burn more than they ingest. With heavier homework demands, longer school days or commutes too and from, and all things technology focused (from internet communication to gaming systems) it’s very hard for the average youngster to fit exercise into their day. Unless they are involved with a specific sport, they’re not likely to get more than a half hour of physical activity per day. This is not enough.
So how do you carve more time out of a jam-packed schedule to help your child move more? First of all, make the commitment – decide that it’s a priority. Second, keep the activity ACTIVE but varied. Third, schedule a specific time and stick to it. If it can’t be daily, then make it a few times weekly, but for twice as long.
Here are some random examples of activities that will help children burn calories, build strength and endurance, while exciting them and offering a needed break from brain-busting homework or mind-numbing video games and social networking:
2. Create mini challenges for them such as hula-hoop through an entire song, then jumping jacks through the next; or dance-offs with friends or siblings
3. If you have a pool create a fun water-aerobics routine for them with songs they like
5. Design an in-home or yard obstacle course of running, jumping, crawling, squatting, etc. Use your imagination, or better yet, use theirs. Have them design it, then challenge them to cycle through the course, each time bettering their last speed
6. Install a basketball hoop above the garage (or indoor nurf basketball) and challenge them to a game
The idea here is to make it fun, but make it mandatory. Every day, 30 minutes minimum. And if you hadn’t noticed, I included YOU the parent in some of these activities – because you need to MOVE too.
For more facts about childhood/adolescent obesity: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm