By Emily Sabbah
Before kids, my health and fitness was all about me. Sure, I had responsibilities, but for the most part I did what I wanted, when I wanted.
An early morning swim? Sure!
Racquetball after work? Definitely.
Trying new recipes on a whim? You bet.
When we decided to add a kid to the mix, I expected I’d have less time and flexibility.
But what I didn’t expect? How much I’d wonder what my fitness meant for my kiddo.
I suddenly realized it wasn’t just about me - it was also about her. From then on, everything I modeled in my health and fitness journey taught her something. I became her blueprint for what a healthy lifestyle looks like - and sometimes what it doesn’t!
Exercise is Enjoyable
One of the first things I realized when I started working out around my daughter is how much I complained about it!
When she started asking me why it was so hard, it clicked that I needed to show her that moving my body actually feels GOOD. Which meant I had to believe that too.
For me, this meant an overhaul to my fitness. I started replacing scale goals with performance goals- starting with one pushup.
No kidding, I started with ONE PUSHUP. Then five. Then ten. As I increased my weight, distance, and endurance goals, I found that seeing what my body could achieve felt AMAZING. Through our example, kids will learn to challenge themselves and feel pride in what their bodies can do.
Another way to keep things fun is to change it up. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to mean the same type of workout every day. Yoga, walking, backyard sports, freeze tag, spikeball, hiking, swimming- there are so many ways to move. For kids and adults, variety keeps things fun!
Food is Fuel
Another thing having a child made me realize was how I talk about the relationship between food and exercise.
Do you talk about exercise as a way to “work off” your food, or do you talk about food as fuel for your workouts?
I was shocked to observe how often my language portrayed food as a problem that needed to be fixed with exercise. No wonder I was having a hard time enjoying exercise- I was using it as a punishment for eating!
This epiphany led to major changes in the way we talk about food in our house. Instead of talking about “good” and “bad” food, we talk about what nutrients food has, and how those help our bodies.
Now it’s a regular occurrence for my daughter to ask what nutrients are in her food. Mealtimes are full of enjoyable discussions about how carbs fuel our bodies with energy, how protein helps build muscle, and how vitamins help optimize our performance. And, of course, how flavorful our favorite treats are!
Self-Care isn’t Selfish
When I was a new mom, it was so easy to fall into the mother martyrdom complex. Any sacrifices I made for my child were good, right? Well, not always.
It’s tempting to think that putting our needs on the back-burner helps our children feel they are important. But in reality, taking time to prioritize our health actually teaches them how to take care of themselves so they can show up well for others.
For me, having a kid has overhauled my approach to fitness. I hope these changes are teaching my daughter to love to move, challenge herself, fuel her body, and prioritize her health.
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