Thursday, October 3, 2013

Team S.J.G.R. Thursday Huddle #14: The Messages We Speak.

Hey Team. (And hey anyone else reading this who hasn't fully committed to being a part of the team.) I hope this Thursday has been treating you well. Welcome to the Thursday Huddle!

The BHE on his way to the Atlanta Publix Half Marathon (with best friend Shannon)

Yeah, so today I have been thinking a lot about the messages we send our children through our health-related actions. I thought a lot about how much they see the world through the lens of what we model and how hard it is to undo the things that you did or did not see growing up. You know?


Okay, I'll be more clear. So when Harry and I first married, we lived in a lovely home just outside of the perimeter of Atlanta. Our subdivision was really great and was filled with amazing people. It was quiet and friendly and a nice place to live. But. From a health standpoint the surroundings weren't very inspiring. There weren't many healthy places to eat, you couldn't walk to any store and rarely, if ever, did I see anyone outdoors doing much more than mowing their lawn. We moved closer into town because of our jobs a few years later. And, outside of this "new" home being far more vintage than our first one and our commute being much shorter, there was one thing that IMMEDIATELY stood out when I moved:

Everyone around this new neighborhood was moving their bodies. Everywhere you looked, there were people outside EXERCISING.

Man. It was crazy. I quickly learned to look out for runners. And bicyclers. And folks with their doggies. Whole families. Teen agers. Little kids in jog strollers. Just out and about. And exercising for no apparent reason.


When I say "no apparent reason" I mean that these people appeared to be fit and healthy already. They didn't appear to be on a diet or any such thing. These were folks who just got up and exercised for the sake of exercising. That made me wonder. Who did they see doing that? What wired them just to get up and move?

Some saw it growing up. Others worked in gardens or did chores requiring that kind of physical effort and learned to value activity. My dad is that way, I think. He has always exercised. Just like those people in my neighborhood. Exercising for the sake of exercising.


And honestly, even though I've known that I should exercise, I've just always had some kind of goal in the back of my head. Like to lose a pound or two or to fit into some kind  of outfit. But just getting outside and running just because? Hmmm. I wasn't there yet.

But over time I kept watching. I watched these people jogging with little kids and walking golf courses together. Then I would see them in restaurants. Kids eating salads and sushi. Drinking water and saying no thank you to fried foods. And that's when it really started clicking for me.

Oh dang. These kids are going to follow my lead.

So that's when Harry and I started making sure our kids knew we were exercising. When they were very small, we'd pack them up and taking them to the gym with us, popping them right inside of the child care center while we broke a sweat. Then we'd hit Subway as a family and make healthy choices or come home and eat something good for our bodies. And we'd do it like it was no big deal and like this just was what it was.

And as for "cleaning their plates?" Nope. Not a mandate.


The BHE's best friend Shannon riding bikes with his daughter

And this was intentional. Kind of like JoLai's close friend Claudine who works out every single day with her kids right next to her. Yes. She's a stay at home mama of three with a body that's a total ten. And you know? Those kids get a mighty lesson from her discipline. They do.

Harry and I realized that a lot of parents do really well at taking their kids to participate in organized sports. They cheer them on and don't miss a game. We know that first hand. And those kids run like crazy and chasten their bodies to do amazing things. And it makes them healthier and that's great.


What about when those sports end? Will those kids still have a point of reference for moving outside of team sports or recess? I say no. Unless, of course, their caregivers set a standard for moving and eating right. How many people either played or know someone who played a bunch of really tough sports coming up? And how many know of those same people struggling with weight later on?

(Not these lovely runner girls, of course.)

Hmmm. See this is, I think, what Mrs. Obama is up against more than anything else when it comes to her "Let's move" campaign for kids. She's fighting generational curses and shaky examples. She's trying to convince an entire generation of kids who watched "The Biggest Loser" on TV to run and jump--just because. When a lot of them see that only as an activity one does when they want to win some prize or fit into a slinky dress.

So here's the questions I'm asking you today, Team. What kind of messages are you sending the children in your life about health and wellness? Are you teaching them that food management is punitive for being overweight? Are they overhearing you refer to yourself as "fat" or "lazy?" Are you insisting that they clean their plates? And if you are, does that rule stand even when the meal is something that isn't necessarily of great nutritional value? 

Do your kids know that you exercise? Do you make it an everyday thing like emptying the dishwasher or taking out the garbage? Or is it made out to be some really big to do?

Zachary stretching before a run with mommy -- at age 4

And the big question is this: What do your food choices tell our kids? Does your example suggest that eating healthy means being on a diet? Are they seeing you eat supersized portions at dinner and then a mindless bowl of cereal or ice cream after? If so, what do you think that's saying?

Because THAT is what gets the message to them. It has to be MORE than sports. They have to see YOU doing the right things HABITUALLY. You making healthy decisions that don't feel like anything but living. THAT'S what makes a difference.

Not picking on them. Not worrying about them.


Are your kids on the stout side? Are they unusually sedentary? Or unmotivated? Ask yourself -- what are they seeing from me? And if you're married or in a committed relationship, what are they seeing from both of you? Are either of you perched on the couch all evening watching a screen? Are you? If so, you have no right to poke at them for anything like that.


Look, y'all. Here's the point. The realness starts when you are a little kid. As parents and role models, WE have the power to create a legacy of health and wellness for our future generations. They will grow up running just to run and knowing how to stop eating when they're full. And that? That is quite possibly one of the best legacies one can provide.

How exciting is it that we can shift the gears on the future cardiac health of our family members just by our own examples!? How cool is that?!

My good friend's hubby running in the ATL marathon--his kids watch him run all the time.

Don't you see? This--ALL OF THIS--is so much bigger than us. It's bigger than losing a pants size or being told that you look good at homecoming. It's our chance to give ourselves a gift of health and wellness--and our loved ones, too.

Yes. Shit just got real. AGAIN.

There's a lot at stake. But we can do this. We can, man. That's what's up.

Happy Thursday.


  1. I experienced this when we moved closer to town.
    And I witnessed this to a more extreme when we went to Europe.
    You will hardly see people in Europe "exercising" as we do in America. BUT- they are constantly moving, walking to market, biking, carrying food home from market- GOOD food.
    Made me want to start a gym called "euro fit" - wait! No:-)

  2. Thank you for making me think about this. I think I did alright as far as exercise. My kids walked the dog with me, and we did 2 miles. We laughed at our efforts to do the Richard Simmons workouts. Those were ridiculous, but so funny. If we were at the pool or the lake, I was in the water with them. But food choices were really lacking. I wasn't trying to be unhealthy, I just didn't have a clue as to what that was. I thought a dinner of lasagna with salad and garlic bread was a healthy meal. We didn't drink sodas, we drank sweet tea instead. Southerners don't have a real good idea of what healthy food looks like. But thanks to the internet my kids have been able to overcome my bad example. They all exercise and eat very well. My grandson is a 5 year old severe hemophiliac who has only had 8 or 9 spontaneous bleeds in his life. Last spring Hemophilia of Georgia asked my son if he would let the CDC do a study of Jack to determine why he has so few bleeds. The only thing they could come up with is that his regular diet that includes meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy and nuts and berries with little processed foods has made his veins strong enough to tear less easily. Shit got real for us when we got those results. This is the way the whole family needs to eat.


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