As a husband and a father of four, the responsibility of maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle for the benefit of my family is large one. Whilst my initial motivation behind my choice to become a natural bodybuilder was self-serving, I have since come to realize that my family stands to benefit far more greatly than I ever could. There is no debating that a healthy and active lifestyle wards off illness and promotes longevity. Much like how I go to work every day to support my family, I maintain a specific lifestyle that can help ensure I will be around for many years to come – a job that is equally important as making money.
During my last contest prep I was asked by my four-year old daughter if we could go to Steak n’ Shake for lunch. I told her that we couldn’t go since I was trying to get my muscles out and I have to eat special food. My youngest children refer to my competing as getting my muscles out. Without skipping a beat she asked, “can you stay at home and eat healthy food while we go to Steak n’ Shake??
This made me laugh, and strangely enough, it made me a little happy. Being only four years old, there is no point in getting upset over her desire for fast food. What made me happy is that she knows the difference between healthy food and junk food. She is not capable of understanding the benefits and rewards of a healthy lifestyle, but knowing the difference in food choices at this young age is a great start.
My six-year old son has developed an interest in knowing what is healthy and what is not. As I serve dinner every night he asks me if the meal is healthy. Much like my four-year old daughter, he still is not capable of fully understanding the true benefits of a healthy lifestyle, and just like with many children his tastes for the healthiest of foods have not yet fully developed.
My ten-year old daughter is at the point where she is able to understand the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. This especially hits home with her since her grandfather suffered a major, but not fatal, heart attack several years ago. Many life changes were made after the heart attack, and they were changes that affected the entire family. An awareness of the fragility of life and the necessary steps to prolonging it became of utmost importance. Diets (to say the very least) changed throughout the entire family, as meals were now prepared with heart healthy considerations and appropriate portion sizes in mind. My daughter may be old enough to understand the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, but she is just a child still, and encouraging and enforcing these ideals is still a bit of work. She does well when supervised, but if left to her own devices the healthy alternative is rarely chosen.
My wife was considerably overweight several years ago. She maintained a weight that put her at severe risk for many health problems. After the sobering experience of almost losing her father, her fear of not being around for her own children sparked a resolution (a New Year’s Resolution, nonetheless) to get fit, a commitment she has fulfilled to this very day. Having lost approximately 60 pounds, she continues to exercise daily and make responsible diet choices.
For a small investment of 250 dollars, we were able to purchase a used treadmill and elliptical trainer. These two small pieces of equipment are in our basement and are my wife’s equipment of choice. Every day she heads into the basement for about an hour and she performs cardio. Between my wife exercising in the basement and me going to the gym every day, exercise has become commonplace in my household and my children actually think this is something everybody does every day.
My six year old son often asks me when he can accompany me to the gym. Like any little boy, he wants to be big and strong and get his muscles out. He takes pride in the fact that I am muscular and my show trophies are frequently the topic of his kindergarten show and tell. I do not care if he decides to take fitness to the level I have. Not everybody has to be a bodybuilder to be healthy. The fact that he sees it as normal however, is a seed I have planted to at least ensure that he will view fitness as a normal part of everyday life.
My ten year old is at that stage in life where she is starting to experience changes. You know the changes I am referring to, the kind that no parent is ready for and every parent dreads. As these changes progress, develop and evolve, so does my daughter’s moods, appearance and personality. It hasn’t fully developed yet, but soon there will be a greater emphasis placed on her physical appearance, and sadly, this will be at the hands of the media and her peers. There is very little room for error at this point in her life.
There is a fine line between instilling healthy ideals and damaging the self-esteem of a developing a female child. What we say, and how we say it, is of incredible importance. We try to avoid the word fat in any negative form. We don’t talk about being fat or getting fat. We don’t say that food will make you fat. We use the word overweight and are sure to clarify what overweight means and how it can be harmful to your overall health. If a poor food choice is made or requested, we try to guide the decision by asking if a healthier choice is available.
For a ten year old female or a teen, it is important to make sure she develops a healthy relationship with food in addition to being comfortable in her own skin. If both of these factors aren’t in check, the repercussions in the following years could be horrendous.