kids

Note From Carolyn:  As you start the New Year, do you need a detox?  CLICK HERE for 20 ways to tell

To see Part I of this series, click here.

In keeping with last week’s article of making our families’ needs (both long and short-term) the foundation for healthy choices, here’s a new thought:  let those children be not only the reason we choose to be strong and fit, but the teachers on how to do it!

I was 39 when my last child was born and already turning gray.  Although I was at a very healthy weight and had achieved my Weight Watchers lifetime status when I got pregnant, after she was born I just could NOT shake those baby pounds as I’d done previously.  It was very discouraging.  My other children were 11, 7, 5 and 2 when she was born and as a very busy Mom, I frequently had baby Kelly in the backpack and 2-year-old Cooper in the stroller.  I was often, (and I mean several times a month) stopped with “Wow!  What a cute grandma!  Not many grandmothers do the backpack bit!”

It took several years to come up with personal acceptance that being a bit heavier was going to be OK, that exercise for toning and shaping was essential, and that snug clothing told a more accurate story about my weight than the scale.  I also grew to understand that for me, feeling as attractive and healthy as possible made a significant difference in my peace and happiness.  I was (and am) a better (and nicer!) mother  (and person in general) when I felt good about myself.

With that thought, when I was struggling with knowing I looked older than my age, I intensely watched people who managed theirs as a lifestyle.  I came to realize that I had excellent teachers, even personal coaches, 24-7 at my own house!  My kids were the best living example around of natural, healthy living without a lot of angst. I followed their example, and finally lost those 10 pounds when Kelly was about 4.  I felt (and looked) younger.  The “what-a-cute-grandma” comments from strangers eventually stopped and now, over fifteen years later I am one!   I’m more than happy to hear those comments now, especially since I haven’t changed more than five pounds in all those years.

Chances are that you have those dandy little teachers too, and if they’re not living at home anymore, it’s not hard to remember, or to watch the other children in your circle.

1) Eat small meals regularly, but stop when you are full!  We provided regular meals and snacks on a pretty good schedule for our children.  Most of them are not quiet about letting you know when they’re running on empty.  Their behavior indicated when they were hungry, and it was far oftener than three meals a day.  Rarely did they eat as much as I thought they should, yet they seemed just fine, grew and were healthy as could be.  We ate lots of fruit, veggies, prepared snacks in a very limited way for special treats, and were never big on soda.  If we think of keeping our body fueled like keeping a fire burning (a little bit of wood at a time so it doesn’t go out), we’re going to be more satisfied and less apt to overeat.  This is exactly how most children eat by nature.

2) Moving the body and being active is fun and play!  If you haven’t had a chance recently, go check out the playground or ball field and be reminded of this glorious truth:  The fun is in the movement and the participation!  Is there a kid around who doesn’t want to ride a bike?  Climb up and go down the slide a million times? Or go to the pool, shoot baskets or make up their own games that involve running?  On top of it all, they’re usually having fun trying to outdo each other!  Face it:  It’s usually the overweight kids and the adults that aren’t running around or doing something.   

If your exercise plan is not fun and satisfying at some point, that’s a red flag.  Most of us have an inner dialogue that says, “If it ain’t fun – I’m done!”  There are SO many ways to get your physical exercise in.  I’ve added listening to the classical radio station to my strength-training workout, and finding that more inspiring and fun than a pop station.  Others find that saving a favorite show to watch while they exercise is the trick, or of course, to walk or work out with friends makes it enjoyable.  Whatever it is, remember that kids LOVE to move, just for the joy of it, and what a difference that activity makes in our health!

3. Appreciate and Experience Food for More than Just How It Tastes!  The Lord gave us five senses, and we can use ALL of them when we eat, not just the sense of taste.  Think of how we often put things on cute dishes for children to make it more visually appetizing. That’s an easy thing we can do for ourselves, by simply pending a bit of time on the presentation.  Then think  of how children literally play with food before they eat it.  I’m not suggesting we do that, but to understand that what they are doing is getting an entire sensory experience! They feel the texture, the smell and the aroma.   They hear the crunch as they eat, or the sizzle as it cooks.  We can do the same to extend our pleasure and, as children do, often eat less in the process without even thinking about it.  What a lesson!

I truly think that when we eat without as much enjoyment with all our senses as Heavenly Father intended, we’re missing out!  Why else would there by such a satisfying, loud CRUNCH to a good apple other than his desire to delight us?  From another perspective, when food is used as a medication for all kinds of issues (other than hunger)  we consume it with no more enjoyment than a pill swallowed with water.  Children consider food from every angle, and in the process often eat less, but enough to satisfy all their senses in a very personal way.  What a good lesson for eating healthfully!

4.  Sitting Still Is A Punishment.  This one speaks for itself – it’s all in your perspective!  It’s a bit different than being “active” as in number 2, with the understanding that there are times we MUST sit, which is a constant challenge for many children.  Let it remain so for yourself, and make sure you’ve got a fun project in your hands (be it needlework or letter writing) that you don’t want food to get on when you are eating at work or at home.  Establishing appropriate eating places are vital for smart health choices, but don’t spend too long in those eating places. 

Most kids are anxious to get up from the dinner table and on with life, which is also a very good lesson.

5.  Fun First, Food Later!  How often when we take kids to the playground or out, do they want to stop and EAT as soon as they arrive? No, they want to get out and have fun, to participate fully, and THEN stop to eat.  For them the recreation comes first, and eating after. For adults, food is a priority from moment one for most social activities.

Truthfully, healthy, happy kids usually don’t think about their weight, and we don’t want them to!   They play (and burn calories and build muscles) for the sheer joy of living.  The run because it makes them happy and because they are listening to the inner voices that tell them that to move is GOOD.  They eat because they have too, but not as the best (or only) highlight of the day.


  When they do, it doesn’t take much to fill them up, and then they’re on the go again.  They’ll be hungry and need to eat again soon, but are usually pretty happy with healthy snacks if that’s what’s provided, especially when there aren’t unhealthy.  Which is another lesson in and of itself:   by limiting options, we control what we consume.

Letting them teach us how to live more healthfully is truly “the circle of life.”  Though we may have provided life for them and their bodies as their mortal parents, they make our own lives all the better – and healthier too — when we are smart enough to learn from the healthy practices that come naturally to them.

Here are two healthy Mexican recipes for all the family to enjoy:

Fast and Easy Mexican Pizza

6 7″ pitas, un-split
1 16 oz. can refried beans
1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chilies, drained
cup chopped tomato
cup sliced olives
cup pre-shredded Mexican 4-cheese blend
cups shredded lettuce (or baby spinach!  It tastes better and is prettier too!)
6 Tbsp. fat-free sour cream.

1.  Preheat oven to 400
2. Place pitas on a large foil-lined baking sheet.  
3.  Combine beans and chilies; stir well.  Spread about 1/3 cup of the bean mixture on  each pit.
4.  Divide tomatoes and olives between pitas, and sprinkle evenly with cheese.
5.  Bake at 400 for 8 minutes, or until cheese melts and pita is crisp.
6. Remove from oven and top with lettuce and sour cream.

Overnight Mexican Slaw

head of cabbage
1 carrot
Small handful of fresh cilantro
Grate (or process in the food processor) the cabbage and carrot,  chop the cilantro and add.

Dressing
Juice from 3 limes (about cup)
cup white wine vinegar 
1 tsp. sugar 

Pour the dressing over the cabbage, carrots and cilantro.  Stir well to blend and allow to marinate over night.  Enjoy!

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success – One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available at her website

She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups.

She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of eight. They live in the Washington D.C. area where they are delighted to teach Missionary Preparation for the Annandale Stake CES Institute program. 

Learn more about them and the herbal detox product they share at Meridian! CLICK HERE