Do we keep them healthy, or is it the other way around? My daughter wants ice cream. It’s 3:30 p.m. on a Saturday. Usually we have a scoop after dinner; especially on a Saturday night! So “no.” I should say no. But darn, ice cream sounds good right now! I can’t have any if I tell her no. The angel and devil start arguing on my shoulders and echo through my head.
Devil: “It’s the summer, c’mon. What is it gonna hurt?”
Angel: “If she allows it, she will want some too and she made a commitment to herself to eat less sugar!”
Devil: “She could exercise more — burn those extra calories!”
Angel: “She is already tired, and we all know she is not getting out today for a run.”
Devil: “But it’s so hot and some cold, tasty, ice cream is perfect!”
Oh the torture! I decide on a compromise. “If we have ice cream now, none after dinner. “Understood?” A broad smile comes across my daughter’s face. “Understood!”
Being the weekend, I know we are going to end up having popcorn during a movie tonight anyway, (mine without butter, of course). Even if I want more after dinner, we made an agreement together and I will stick with it. Hence, together we stay healthy and committed! At least from my perspective, it works out that way.
We want to be good role models and we all know evidence shows our children will mimic our behavior. Food has been a constant battle in my home and I’m sure I have a part enabling the disagreements. If I were strict one way and never budged from the time they were born, I’m sure life would be easier. But that is not me. I battle with commitment and follow through to accomplish goals I’ve set for myself. The point is, I do set them and most of the time, stick to a plan. However, sometimes we splurge on a pizza, I keep mac and cheese on hand for a busy night, and many occasions it’s just whatever I can throw together to get everyone fed! I exercise and eat whole foods on a fairly regular basis. When I’m on fire, I sustain a regular workout regimen!
My children know my boundaries and there are some things that are just not kept in the house. This seems to be the only way I know how to control it. I’ve never kept sodas in the house and candy is not on hand except maybe some hidden chocolate. Unfortunately, I know where it is so it doesn’t last long. If they complain, tough. Keeping snacks that are healthy is key. For example, I always have apples, carrots, nuts and popcorn around. Pretzels and chips are backup as well. These rules help me just as much as it helps them. If it’s in the house, my discipline is lowered as well and cravings are hard to resist.
My daughter is the sugar lover. It’s a constant defensive battle because it’s everywhere. Processed foods have tons of added sugar and our schools sell candy bars and soda as fundraisers. It’s no wonder she does not have the self-discipline to limit her popsicle intake. I will find five or six wrappers in the trash before I have the chance to organize my intervention! I have debated going sugar-free but the sweeteners do nothing other than create a higher craving for sugar the body didn’t actually get. They are also just pretty nasty.
The food industry has a strong influence on the dietary guidelines and ingredient regulations. For example, it’s not required to show the percentage of the daily recommended amount of sugar on ingredients labels. Why is that? We can see the percentage of fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs and fiber. For some reason they conveniently leave off the sugar percentage. Interesting.
My daughter is old enough to understand this information and we talk about it and why we have read about what we eat. I reiterate that it is not about weight, rather it’s about how it makes us feel. Until they truly understand how different foods help them or bring their mood and bodies down, I have to step in. I love sweets and will be the first to dive into a piece of chocolate cake, however they are watching me. That keeps me disciplined, healthy and practicing what I preach!