Heather earned her MS in Health Sciences at The University of Memphis, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, and currently works at Hutchison School teaching wellness and training athletic teams.She loves Friday pizza & movie night with her husband and kids, the Smoky Mountains, and yoga. She hates body shaming. And she will be joining us monthly to talk about wellness for six months!
It seems that I have been asked more about how to discuss wellness with children in the last few weeks than ever before, especially in regard to fitness and nutrition. No matter your gender, race, age, socioeconomic status, level of education, etc., feelings run rampant on this topic because our focus and how we teach children about wellness is way off base.
Here’s what we can’t seem to understand. Teaching our children to be well with the underlying motivation of image attached to practicing good nutrition and getting consistent exercise is doomed to fail. With our children’s eyes glued to social media and believing the dishonest, photo-shopped images of what beauty, swagger, and “having it all” looks like, they will quickly find that even the “perfect” diet and working out for 20 hours a week won’t help them achieve what they seek. They will never look like what they see in the media. Because it is unattainable. Because it isn’t real. So, what’s the logical conclusion?
Wellness doesn’t work. Why should I bother?
Can you blame them? Of course not. Children are incredibly smart and, more often than not, see things for what they are and come to the correct conclusion. For that matter, you shouldn’t blame yourself, either, if you have thought the exact same thing. And I would agree with you. If this is how we teach and practice it…
Wellness really doesn’t work.
The truth about wellness is that it has absolutely nothing to do with image. If you want your kids to look a certain way, act a certain way, BE a certain person that is different from who they truly are, then let’s at least be truthful about what we’re doing here. That is to say that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be focused on an image for your child (or yourself) and also be well. Now, we all know that we can limit what we eat and over-exercise to get “skinny”, but I hope that most of us know that “skinny” doesn’t equal WELL. And I’m willing to bet that no amount of skinny would still ever measure up to the swimsuit model on the cover of the magazine in the check-out line.
Before the words “eat your broccoli” ever leave your mouth, we need to get one thing straight first.
For wellness to “work”, you must believe, and then instill in your child that they are already perfect just as they are, that they have a unique and important job to fulfill on this earth, and that practicing wellness is how they are going to play their role to the best of their ability. No matter what they look like.
Your kids must hear this from you, because here’s the deep, dark secret that they’ll never learn from a magazine cover or social media:
Glowing from the inside out is the result of eating nutritiously. Feeling comfortable in your own skin, no matter your size, is what happens when exercise is a part of daily life. Practicing wellness looks better than any photo-shopped image ever could.
So, letting go of what our society tells us we should desperately want for ourselves and our children by way of marketing, what we’re really seeking can inadvertently be attained ten-fold if you instead focus on why wellness is truly important. Admittedly, that’s the hard part. Once you get behind the real purpose of wellness, teaching it is quite easy. Here’s how to do it:
Teach kids that we need to exercise to make it easier for our hearts to beat, to help our muscles move our bodies, and to help our lungs breathe easy. Exercise makes it easier for us to sleep, for us to stay calm, and for us to feel happy.
Tall, short, big, small, athletic, artsy, old, young; everyone needs to exercise.
Teach kids that we eat healthy foods to help our brains think and learn, to keep our veins and arteries clean, and to avoid getting sick. Good nutrition makes it easier for our organs to do their important jobs, for us to be able to focus, and for us to have lots of energy.
Round, lanky, muscular, lean, brainy, extrovert, next-door-neighbor, CEO of the Universe; everyone needs to eat nutritiously.
WHY? Because we NEED you to do your unique and important job on this earth that only YOU can do. WE NEED YOU TO BE WELL.
That’s it. The whole kit and kaboodle. Nothing complicated, nothing overly psychological. It’s simply knowing that placing focus on image or the shape of their body and calling it “wellness” will make children believe that they are only as good as they are good-looking… and that will never be good enough. It’s only when our children learn the importance of practicing real wellness that they’ll see their value staring back at them when they look in the mirror. They’ll be so much more than a good-looking kid.
They’ll be radiant.