Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This whole business about kids making parents less healthy

I very rarely have the news on during the day, except for yesterday when they were talking tornado warnings and I'm just a little gun shy after the last one...

Why yes, that was our house with a huge tree limb on it.  We remained blessed beyond measure, considering it didn't cause roof, gutter or children damage and our property management company sent out a little man to cut it down the next day...cuing Elizabeth's "Mama!  Da Man tut down da twee!!" every time she stood at the window.

So as I was watching for the radar, I heard the following story:  Study:  Kids Make Parents Less Fit.

I doubt this is much of a surprise for anyone with children or has ever been associated with children because your life is definitely not your own once they are involved.  However, the following was troublesome:

Mothers ate more fatty foods and drank about seven sugary drinks weekly, versus about four among childless women. Moms also had an average of 2,360 calories daily, 368 calories more than women without children. With that many calories, women that age would need to be active to avoid gaining weight, walking more than 3 miles daily at a moderate pace.  But mothers got on average a little more than two hours of at least moderate activity weekly, versus three hours weekly among childless women.  

Fathers ate about the same amount of daily calories as childless men and both had an average BMI of about 25, but fathers got less physical activity - about five hours weekly, compared to almost seven hours among childless men.

Two hours a week of moderate activity combined with almost 400 extra calories!!  Yikes!  Basically, that's an extra meal on top of cleaning the house and grocery shopping.  

What's the answer to this?  I'm not sure...  I think that putting the burden on the pediatrician to address the parents could be just a shade uncomfortable.  Parenting is definitely not an easy job (I type, as my youngest is screaming her head off in protest of her afternoon nap) and I don't think it's quite fair to blame that on not exercising and not eating well, although there may be a direct correlation.  Especially when the childless women exercised a whopping three hours a week.

However, there are many of us who figure out a way to get all three cylinders rolling - although I admittedly put other things on the back burner (the dishes in my sink, the dust on my sewing machine, the stack of books I haven't read, the blog I haven't updated...).  I think the solution all comes down to education, recognition, planning and then support.

Education is simply KNOWING what to eat, how to workout, places to get healthy food, places around you to workout, options when the weather is good or bad, etc.  A lot of times, education comes out of a need - meaning that I tend not to pay attention to knowledge until I need it.  And then I go searching for it as if on a mission.  

I'll use my mom for an example here.  She has had countless doctor reports warning her that her bone density levels are low and warning her to get on medication.  My mom is not hip on the idea of being on bone drugs for the rest of her life, so she is scouring anything on natural bone building techniques.  A lot of the information she's finding, she may have read about before, but she wasn't interested in it so she didn't take it in.  So in this case, the education would come due to the parent recognizing that they needed to live a healthier lifestyle.
Recognition can come from several areas...perhaps you're more tired than you used to be and just can't sleep enough.  You might notice your skin or hair looks dull.  You might get sick easier.  You might continually need the next size up in clothes or you might quickly glance in the mirror as you walk by and think, "Whoa...is that me?!"

I have a good friend who answered her phone on the way to the gym one day.  It was the middle of the afternoon, which wasn't a common time for her, so I asked why she was going then.  She (laughing) explained to me that her three-year-old saw her bent over at the dryer pulling out clothes and said, "Whoa Mom!  Your butt is big!"  Therefore, she scheduled a few extra workouts.

That's a recognition moment if I've ever heard one!

I think planning is crucial for anyone looking to live an active lifestyle but is especially important when dealing with kids.  I stay at home with my kids and plan our errands and workouts around nap times and meals.  I set an alarm in the morning and live my life by the clock, but that's also how I'm made up.  I know moms who work and sacrifice a leisurely lunch time to hit the gym or go for a run so they can go straight home at quitting time.  Anytime you're going to make a lifestyle change, it is extra important to have a pretty detailed plan in place - or else it will be easy to go back to what you already know.
Finally, because we are only human, we need human support.  If you watch the clip attached to the article, I really liked the little mommy exercise group shown at the end, involving the kids and a support group.  Working out with your significant other or close friend can help keep you accountable and on track.

Ok, what do you think?  Talk amongst yourselves...


  1. I have definitely noticed a steep decline in my activity level since the birth of my kids, especially the twins. I'm not a morning person, and not much of a planner, and therein lies my problem. With kids, you have to plan anything you want to get done, or else it won't get done... like today. I just realized I had a list of phone calls I wanted to make today, but I didn't get any of them done and only remembered them now (4:59). Which means that goes on the list for tomorrow too. And that's what happens to my workouts as well. (Excuses? Probably.)

  2. You know, Kathryn, that's another avenue of this study...parents with multiple kids! I think if you have twins, you get a mulligan for at least 5 years!! Hang in there!