One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

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5 Ways to Raise Healthy Kids

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I have a fierce passion to turn my kids into diverse, healthy eaters who have so much interest and curiosity in the world and their abilities that they naturally live active lives…

Without even realizing it.

I want healthy to be their “default.”

I’m not a parenting expert, that’s for sure. Like every other parent alive, I’m figuring things out as I go along. There’s not doubt I’ve made my fair share of mistakes — anyone else a yeller? Man, I’m bad at keeping my cool but I’m working on it. I’m a big softy when it comes to candy and treats. I can’t help it. Normally, I’m the one asking if they want ice cream! Oh, and their rooms! Constant pigsties. Constant.

But when it comes to raising “healthy” kids — we can argue what that means but I’m focusing on diverse eating and an active lifestyle —  I have 5 things I strive to do and I think, I HOPE, it’s making all the difference.

1. Involve them in EVERYTHING!

This is my strategy for parenting and life as a whole. but when I apply it to healthy living I specifically involve them in food choices, food prep, and all my fitness endeavors.

Here’s the kids getting in on my #yogaADay action


Post race (this one happens to be the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler when The 9-Year-Old was 4)

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I don’t do as many running events as I used to but when I started he was always there. Here’s the half-way point of my marathon run where I got a much needed hug from him.

The more they are involved in my fitness activities the better chance they will grow up doing similar things. I feel the same way about cooking.

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Sure, we make a bigger mess and it would be a lot easier if I just cooked myself but the experience of them helping is invaluable.  The 3-Year-Old now asks to make “blueberry water” regularly.

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And the 9-Year-Old is (kind of — more on that in a minute) embracing his responsibility to cook 1 meal a week.

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(I’m trying to start a video series on GreenLiteBites where I document our cooking together. Click here to check out the first one.)

When you involve your kids not only in the doing but the decision process as well, it makes a huge impact on them. I routinely ask what they want for dinner and we, together, decide what vegetable to serve or how to cook the chicken I defrosted. The 9-Year-Old now buys his lunch at school but when he was younger we planned lots of his lunches together and now I do the same with the 3-Year-Old. It gives me a chance to reinforce how important it is to include vegetables and fruit and teach them what a balanced meal looks like.

2. Don’t be afraid to be the “Bad Guy.”

So going back to the 9-Year-Old embracing his new cooking duties, of course it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. He stomps his feet and complains that his friends are online playing Minecraft while he is “stuck in the kitchen” cooking. I’ve also overheard a conversation he had on Skype where his friends were making fun of him for cooking. They didn’t believe he actually had to leave to help me.

It’s not easy to be the bad guy but it’s a necessity when you are a parent, and I have to constantly remind myself (and him) it’s worth it. We have a saying in my house and it’s now become an adolescent-induced eye roll moment. Ever since The 9-Year-Old was a toddler I would ask him what my job was. He would, of course, look at me like I was crazy. Moms don’t have a job, they are just Mom!

My response, however, was/is always the same:

My job is to keep you safe and prepare you for the world. So anytime I’m asking you to do something (or in my case yelling) it more than likely falls into one of those two categories.

To this day when he doesn’t want to do what I’m asking him to do I’ll ask him what my job is and he’ll roll his eyes and say, “To keep me safe and prepare me for the world” in that awesome 9-year-old tone we love SO much.

But whatever — I have successfully brainwashed him!

I’m willing to take on the bad guy role because I know it gives my kids the best chance at growing up healthy.  So when he doesn’t want to take that half-mile run with me after school or if cooking dinner results in foot-stomping disappointment that he has to leave his computer I make him do it anyway.

And you know what normally happens?  After 5 minutes we’re having a blast! It’s almost like you only have to be the bad guy for a moment and then you are immediately rewarded. Our runs after school give us 5 minutes to connect and after his initial complaining he starts talking my ear off. And dinner? Well, with all his complaining you can tell he actually enjoys it. Just check out our video.

3. Incentivize

Incentives are my secret weapon when it comes to getting my kids to try a variety of foods and I’m convinced the power of raising good eaters is in the trying. Kids are fickle, one day they like something the next day they ate, and then all of sudden it’s their favorite food in the whole wide world!

The 3-Year-Old was like this with avocado. He LOVED it at a young age and I always gave it to him as simple baby food. Then, for whatever reason, we stopped buying avocados. When I tried to reintroduce them he didn’t care for it but I stood fast on my 1-bite rule and, guess what, now he loves them again. Last night he ate a whole half simply cut in chunks. I don’t even like avocado like that!

The 9-Year-Old is the opposite. He never liked avocado but now he’ll tolerate it in dishes (last night he had it smeared on a quesadilla) because he learned that resistance is futile.

I kid! But it’s the truth. I make my kids try everything on their plates every day and if they don’t want to do it, I incentivize. That’s right, I promise them a piece of Halloween candy or a cookie or whatever if they simply take the bite. Why? Healthy and diverse eaters are created when you constantly expose them to different flavors and textures. So that one bite may not mean anything in the moment but over time my kids have tried everything from avocado to zucchini.

They have likes and dislikes, of course, and I honor them, but there is no reason they can’t try a bite of something they don’t like at dinner.

I should add, incentivizing isn’t foolproof! There have been many tears, screams and sitting at the table until the one bite happens but after a few weeks (months) when I’ve proven to them that yes, you really will get that cookie if you try this mushroom, it gets easier. The 9-Year-Old doesn’t even put up a fight anymore! The 3-Year-Old, well, let’s just say we’re in the throes of it now and he has a longer list of things he doesn’t like than his brother ever did!

Ugh.

This is my approach and it’s working for us. I know it may not work for everyone and I’m not trying to say it’s easy by any means. Getting kids to eat is a battle most parents know and know well. I have an older post on GreenLiteBites where I talk more about my approaches — if you are interested click here. 

Oh! And incentivizing isn’t reserved only for food. I’m not ashamed to say I tell The 9-Year-Old he could have extra time on the computer in exchange for taking a short run with me. As I said, he always ends up enjoying the run but you know how it goes. The hardest part is getting out the door!

4. Take them on Adventures!

I wrote a post on the travel blog about why I make travel a priority for my kids — click here — but I didn’t really focus on what I think the healthy byproduct is. Regardless if you have the means to travel the world or only take short, day excursions to local parks, I think the more adventures you take kids on the more they will naturally see the benefits of being fit and active.

For example, a few months ago I took the boys to a local park. We hiked to a small water fall and picnicked — click here to see the whole post. 

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We had a blast! And from their young perspectives it wasn’t hard or tiring or physically exhausting — it was nothing but super fun! I actually had to pull them out of the creek when it was time to go. They would have walked and explored all day! It’s just what kids want to do, but for some reason, when we age, we lose this type of excitement over something as simple as a hike in the woods. I see it all the time with my friends and even The Husband.

Sure we grow up and mature (most of us), but I want to do my best to raise my kids with a sense of adventure and awareness that being fit and healthy allows them to experience all the world has to offer.

That’s why taking the white water trip a couple of years ago was so emotional for me. There was a time when doing something like that would have seemed physically impossible to me or at the very least VERY uncomfortable but I’ve recaptured that child-like desire to just experience things and I’m going to do my best to raise my kids never to lose it by taking them on as many adventures as I can.

Click here to see photos from our white water rafting trip. Next year I’m planning to take both boys to Wyoming!

5. Be the example

So many people have asked me how I stay motivated. How did I make the lifestyle changes to not only lose weight but keep it off for so long? For me, one of the biggest drivers comes down to this last point:

I want to be the example.

I thrive off being the example.

My kids have never known the old, lazy me. The me who hid in the baggy clothes, who didn’t do things she loved because she was ashamed of her body, the me who drove instead of walked, ate fast food instead of home-cooked, waited for things to change instead of doing what I could when I could to reach the goals I’ve set out for myself.

My kids will never know that person because she doesn’t exist any longer. And she doesn’t exist any longer because of them.

I don’t think we even realize how much power there is in simply being the example.

Last week I shared how I was, again, working on my pull-up goals. 

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Yesterday, unsolicited, The 9-Year-Old asked if I would make him a sign so he can work on them too.

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If he didn’t see me actively working on my goals would he know to set his own at his age? I really don’t know! In the grand scheme I’m new to this whole parenting thing.

All I do know is I will continue to lead by example and continue to influence him and his brother as much as I possibly can.  It keeps me going and I can only hope it gives them the best shot at a healthy, long life.



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However, to prevent the massive amounts of spam I was receiving I have turned off comments on any post older than 5 days old. If you'd like to leave me a note regarding this post or anything really try me on twitter (@RoniNoone,) my Facebook page, or even IG (@RoniNoone) I'm so sorry for the inconvenience. I never thought I'd have to do this but it's gotten way out of hand and comment management has become simply too time consuming to manage.

Discussion

There are 14 comments so far.

    Kelly

    November 12, 2014

    Two things… 1. That last part about the sign for you son seriously made me emotional. How awesome and inspirational is that?!?!
    2. Do you make your kids try things more than once? My parents would force us to eat “one bite” of everything at every meal but my entire life I have always HATED onions (hate doesn’t even do it justice!). I can barely stand even the smell of them. So being forced to eat “one bite” of anything with onions repeatedly for years has scarred me for life. Just wondering how you handle it?

      RoniNoone

      November 12, 2014

      I know, right? He melts me. :)

      As for the trying, that’s kind of what meant when I said I do honor their likes and dislikes. All I can say is, as a parent, you can tell the difference between a genuine like and a I-don’t-want-to-eat-that-it-looks-wierd reaction. ;)

    Sarah Deman

    November 13, 2014

    This post made me so emotional – it is a great thing you are doing for your kids! Not that my parents were bad parents, but I definitely wish they lived a healthy lifestyle when I was young and lead by example of what to do, instead of what not to do! :)

    Amy G.

    November 13, 2014

    I don’t have kids, Roni, but I really enjoyed this post. I feel like elements of it are great for everyone to read and think about. Brava!

    LG

    November 13, 2014

    Love it.
    Also…I thank you on behalf of your son’s future wife/girlfriend… :0) The cooking skill is SUCH a practical one to have!!!

    Anar

    November 13, 2014

    Excellent post. Thank you for sharing.

      RoniNoone

      November 13, 2014

      Thanks.

    alexis

    November 13, 2014

    Roni, always somethin great to read! but also,just an FYI you have a alcohol ad at the bottom of this page.

      RoniNoone

      November 13, 2014

      I’m seeing an adoption ad. They are contextual. Why anyone would advertise alcohol is beyond me.

    Mindy Lee

    November 19, 2014

    Such a wonderful post. I really like the bad guy piece, it’s good to remember how quickly it passes and the resulting good time and connection that is gained. That one’s a keeper, I can see it helping me get through some tough times. :) Your adventures with your boys is particularly inspiring and I really look forward to doing things with my kids, too, showing them (and myself!) all the world has to offer. Thanks again for sharing :)

    Cindy Kate

    November 24, 2014

    Great post! I love your mom motto. That is something they will never forget!

    T

    December 4, 2014

    love it. i think you’d really enjoy 2 books. the first is “French Kids Eat Everything.” and they do. Second is “bringing up bebe” about French parenting w a chapter on food. They show the difference in the French attitude. for example, they assume kids will like veggies and work on teaching them young. and cutting back on snacks– i did this again recently and it’s amazing! my kids are actually eating dinner ! shocking. love the cooking w kids idea. plan to have my 10 & 8 yr olds cook ryan’s meal. oh, and if he complains about not enough computer time, we don’t have ANY video games/compute

    T

    December 4, 2014

    … got cut off… We don’t have Any comp /vid games. we r also taking a year break from tv/ movies. so awesome. so you can tell him some kids get WAY less tv/comp. but more time to cook right? and my 10, 8 & 5 year olds are still actually alive. look forward to more cooking lessons!

      RoniNoone

      December 5, 2014

      HA! He’d die. lol Thanks for the book recommendations!