Yes! You Are a Role Model
If you’re like me, you might sometimes wonder if your family is paying attention to all the little things you do every day that make their lives healthier and happier.
Let’s face it, most of us don’t receive applause or accolades on a regular basis for the healthy routines that we’ve established in our own families. Just stop, and consider for a moment how much of what you do every day impacts your family. And, though most of us are too humble to acknowledge this, most moms are doing a great job! So go ahead, pat yourself on the back.
When you eat salad and vegetables at dinner, your family is more likely to make the same choices. When you make time to exercise regularly, your family is more likely to also. Even walking the dog. Any routine that your family witnesses regularly gets ingrained as habits. Yes! You are a role model for your children and for the rest of your family.
Research has shown repeatedly that children are more likely to follow your example than follow your advice if it’s contradictory to what you do. That means that sitting at your computer for hours on end and then expecting your children to stop watching TV or playing video games and walk the dog is probably not as effective as prying yourself away from the emails, getting up and getting active yourself.
Recent research from Duke University also confirms that moms who exercise and eat healthier diets are modeling the same healthy behaviors in their kids. We may think that our kids are only listening, but they’re watching, absorbing and learning from us how to live.
When it comes to body image, the same holds true. Many moms I talk to are surprised to learn that for girls, how their moms talk about their own weight and body image has more impact than what’s happening in the media or from friends.
According to Dr. Leslie Sim, the clinical director of Mayo Clinic’s eating disorders program and a child psychologist, “Moms are probably the most important influence on a daughter’s body image. Even if a mom says to the daughter, ‘You look so beautiful, but I’m so fat,’ it can be detrimental.”
When it comes to boys and body image, the same holds true for Dads. The parent of the same sex has more influence on body image than anything else.
Dealing with our own body image issues is a challenge for most of us and a potential minefield with our kids.
Family meal time
You’re right to insist upon family meal times where everyone gets together. Just ignore the eye-rolls, hesitation and the avoidance. Family meal times are also critical for checking in with everyone, talking about important issues, not to mention modeling good table manners that will come in handy when they leave the nest. No, they don’t thank you for it, until they’ve left and only then do they see the value.
Here are some tips:
• Do announce to your family when you’re going out to exercise, and invite them along
• Try setting up a regular routine for family exercise:
– Walking the dog together
– A hike on weekends
– Biking together
– Hitting the gym together
• Do serve and eat more vegetables and salads at family meals
• Do limit fruit juice and other sweetened drinks to 1-2 times/week or less
• Do commit to at least 1 family meal per week even with crazy schedules
• Do choose the healthier, more nutritious options when you’re out at a restaurant
• Avoid commenting on anyone’s weight, including your own
• Do substitute “delicious treat” instead of “bad for you” or “fattening” for deserts and other sometimes treats
• Do use words such as healthy, active, nutritious, delicious when describing food
About Nurse Barb: When I’m not seeing patients, you might just find me at the gym or walking my dog Cookie.