Health and wellness are such a buzz word these days! As a parent, it can be such a struggle to even know what it really looks like to live a “healthy lifestyle”. The problem behind every definitive article on healthy living is that they bypass the truth: healthy living looks a little different for everyone.
Just because determining what is healthy for you is hard, doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands, open that salty bag of chips, and call it a day! What it does mean, is finding out what healthy looks like for you and your family is going to take some trial and error, time, research, and may not follow all the rules of the newest hit diet that has taken over the internet.
You may wonder if caring for your health really matters or is just vanity. The bible actually teaches in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that your body matters! It is a precious temple, bought by Jesus at a price, and He charges us to take good care of it. The Bible instructs us to take time for rest, be good stewards of the lives we’ve been given; which is the exact opposite of the frenzy of endless activity that our culture pushes us into. As a person for faith, finding a rhythm for our habits that feels like health should be one of our top priorities.
Here are some ideas to get you started on a journey towards finding a more healthy lifestyle for you and your family.
- Take ONE step at a time
This is probably the most important piece of advice out there when it comes to becoming a healthier you! Resist the urge to change everything at once (unless you have a medical need or other situation that requires immediate and total dietary change). Too much change all at one time is sure set yourself up to feeling lost, overwhelmed, and ultimately you will fall back into your old habits.
Incremental change is best. Think about what your end goal is and pick one thing you feel that you can successfully do and give it a try for a few weeks and then go from there. With this approach, your success in one area will inspire further change.
- Be willing to “test” different dietary approaches until you find what works best for your lifestyle
There are like a million diets out there that make a lot of claims about how amazing they are for you. However, the reality is that each person has a unique set of financial needs, nutritional needs, ethical convictions, and each person has different food sensitivities. There really is no “one size fits all diet”.
There are some principles that guide all healthy diets: processed foods are not as good for you, plants are full of good stuff and you should eat a lot of them, and sugar should be used as sparingly as possible. Otherwise, you will likely have to explore before landing on the “right” diet for you! If you are unsure how to figure out what you may be sensitive to or need a good starting point; programs like the Whole 30 or other “clean eating” plans can help give you a template to follow and offer some insight into what may need to be removed from your current diet.
- Celebrate progress rather than aim for perfection
Life is all about cultivating a positive trajectory for our day to day rhythms and is never about being perfect. Perfection is a myth that for some reason we all can’t stop aiming for and that is most definitely true when it comes to health and wellness! The truth is we live in a culture that celebrates with food and passes out sweets at nearly every occasion. We cannot put our families into food bubbles and have to accept that “cheats” will be apart of the program.
What we can do is dream up what an ideal diet would look like for our families and take steps to make that the norm in our homes. Then when you look back in six months and see that more of the meals in your home were plant based than processed, you can count it has a huge win! Or maybe your family has learned about and now enjoys vegetables they never even knew existed. Whatever the achievement, make sure to celebrate progress and remember you will never be perfect! No one else is perfect at this “healthy living” thing and doing your best with the means your family has is enough.
- When thinking about health consider more than what you eat
Food is OBVIOUSLY essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle but it is not the only factor. So much goes into feeling our best and sometimes we can get so preoccupied with getting organic everything that we forget food is just one piece in a larger puzzle. Exercise, screen time, connecting with those you love, SLEEP, stress, anxiety, toxins in our homes, faith, genetics, and so much more go into health.
God created us with a mind, body, and spirit. That means to find health in our daily lives, each of these parts of us have to be cared for! We have to consider what our minds are preoccupied with. Are we filled with anxiety or stress? Have we cast our cares to the Lord or are we carrying the weight of the world on our own shoulders?
How does your body feel? Have you taken the time to work your muscles, made sufficient rest a priority, or surveyed the effects certain habits may have on your body? You are fearfully and wonderfully made and are loved by God! He loves when you feel good in the body He’s gifted you.
We can’t neglect our Spirit, even though the temptation is to push all spiritual nourishment to the fringes of our schedules. Time spent reading the Bible, praying, and growing in community with other believers is an integral part of what it means to have a healthy lifestyle. Recent research even proves that those of us who spend time praying and apart of a faith community tend to live longer!
Don’t let this list overwhelm you! The best approach is to take a moment to consider your lifestyle and take note if one area of your life sticks out that could obviously use improvement? If something comes to mind then that is the place to start! Go back to the first piece of advice and take one step at a time to modify that area of your life so you can feel better. If you have young kids, sleep is probably the first place to start.
- Be honest about what your eating as a family
As a Mom, when my kids ask me what they are eating, I honestly feel tempted to lie about what is in their meals. I am afraid they will protest what I’ve put on their plates (which absolutely happens). I’m ashamed to admit that as truth! As a grown up with a lot of information about what is nutritious to eat I should feel excited to share that we get to eat kale in our eggs for breakfast because it’s so good for our bodies and is truly a privilege in a world where so many lack access to such nutrient dense food.
I think it’s easy to think our kids will balk at all things green on their plate but if we are honest about the what and the why’s of our food choices we are not only educating our kids about nutrition, we are also giving them the tools to make better choices for themselves as they grow older.
Sometimes I make my kids try things they don’t love (like spinach) and that’s okay because I want them to know that food is meant to be tried and it’s okay if they don’t love everything. Overall, though we try to keep food a conversation. We talk about what things help our bodies, which things taste so good but are best to be had in moderation, and mostly we try to introduce our kids to healthy food in ways that they enjoy.
Our hope is that they will grow to love the stuff that’s good for them, enjoy moments of indulgence guilt-free, and understand that what we put in our bodies matters so we need to think a little before we eat.
Food is a great place to teach and practice the lesson of self-control and doing things in moderation (things we all struggle with). Just be sure to approach the subject with love. The goal is to love the good food, enjoy the less good stuff in moderation, and not to make food a stressful or unhealthy obsession for anyone in our homes.
Healthy living is a trajectory not a destination. Start small and you will be amazed the compounding progress you will see over time. Don’t let the hype that tells you that you have to change it all at once stop you from starting. Just take one step towards finding a healthy new normal and keep going from there!
Originally published here.