Getting the whole family involved
Research tells us the best way to help maintain successful changes are for the whole family to be involved. Family involvement means that all members of the family need to be supportive and involved. This means encouraging more activity, reducing time spent doing sedentary activities, decreasing the amount of problem foods in the house and supporting healthier choices. It is important to also let grandparents know how you as a family are approaching your food & lifestyle choices and ask for their support. Remember it takes time to make changes and to find out what works for your family, but try different ideas and keep working at it.
This approach to weight loss and weight maintenance not only benefits the person that is trying to lose weight but the whole family. Creating the right environment, will allow positive habits to be formed and maintained rather than constantly having to fight against that little voice in your head which may be trying to sabotage your weight loss efforts. We all want the best for our children, so if we are making healthier choices in regards to food and exercise for ourselves, doesn't it make sense that we would want this for our kids as well! As parents a lot of the time our weight loss efforts are sabotaged by the fact that we believe we need to have treat foods in the house for our kids. And we also know that the biggest driver of consumption is availability, so no matter how strong you are, over time, if the food is there you will eat it!
Don’t get worried that you are depriving your child of treats by removing them from the house. A treat is exactly that; ‘a treat’, not an ‘everyday food’. Therefore it may be a matter of explaining to the children that they can have treats on special occasions but since they are not an everyday food you don’t keep them in the house on a regular basis.
Today’s world is vastly different from 20 years ago. Today we live in a world where there is an abundance of food available, portion sizes have increased dramatically, the majority of food choices are less than desirable, and we live a much more sedentary lifestyle. It is important to be aware of the challenges our children will face in regards to obesity and chronic diseases if we don’t get it right now and teach them some important life lessons about food. You are not depriving them if you don’t give them treats all the time, in fact you are depriving them of more in terms of health, vitality and the ability to function at their best if you continue to do so.
Taking the family approach to healthy eating will not only give your family the best start in life you will also be setting yourself up for a lifetime of success in regards to losing and maintaining your weight loss.
Here are some tips to creating healthy habits in the household;
- Set family goals. This can be as simple as walking to and from school, making sure each family member eats breakfast every day or limiting treat foods & snacks in the weekly shop
- Focus on changing habits not diets. Aim for changing some habits around the household such as eating fruit or yogurt for snacks rather than biscuits and chips. Reducing time spent on computers, being more physically active.
- Be a role model. Kids learn what they live! If you enjoy a range of foods, including fresh fruit and vegetables, chances are your children will too. Similarly if they see you participating in regular exercise they will too.
- Involve extended family. Let grandparents, aunts, uncles, carers know how you are approaching eating and exercise. Ask for their support and that treats be kept to a minimum or for special occasions only.
- Limit screen time. Ask all family members to choose a few favourite shows to watch, try to limit large amounts of time spent watching TV.
- Have set meal and snack times. Allow children to experience and recognise hunger. Often children will ask for food out of boredom, resist the temptation to make your kitchen a 24 hour restaurant. Have set meal and snack times and if they are genuinely hungry in between let them know that the fruit bowl is open all hours.
- Be balanced and consistent in parenting. Easier said than done, but so extremely important. Parents, who are consistent with their approach to foods, will generally have fewer long term problems. If parents give in occasionally, children will learn that if they push hard enough and long enough they will eventually win. Consistency is about being strong.
- Use family rosters to encourage co-operation. Most parents like the idea of kids helping out with chores around the house and know that TV/computer time needs to be monitored, but have trouble putting these ideas into practice. It can be hard work changing entrenched habits and to feel like you are always nagging. That’s why rosters work so well, it takes the responsibility out of your hands and the roster becomes the culprit not you.
- Put time aside to plan family meals ahead. Planning meals ahead is really important. Half the battle of dinner is working out what to cook. If this is pre-planned and you have the ingredients ready to go, then you are less likely to rely on energy dense convenience foods or take-away
- Parent from the same script even when you’re not together. Whether you live with your partner or you live apart, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is the consistency of both parents working together. Both of you want the best for your children so showing them healthy habits and agreeing on when treats are allowed should be a priority for each of you.