Health is “Becoming more like a child”

I realize that kids can be the literal worst when it comes to trying new foods, being in food jags (ruts), and not finishing their foods. But a child is not counting calories, wondering if they should step on the scale now or later to see if their day is going to be ruined, or fearful of GMO’s and nitrates.

With kids going back to school across the country, virtually or physically, it might be a good time to consider what that return can mean to their dietary habits. More importantly for my readers is, what can that return teach them about their dietary habits?

Many parents recognize that prior to children to going to school the kids are more likely to have a variety of foods. While at home they may be trying foods and expanding their palate. Once they go to school they may continue to expand their taste buds by trying new foods that they are not used to at home. Continuing on the thought of a previous article, they are trying new foods. They are adventurous and curious. But, from a parents perspective, when their child’s food environment changes to being around other kids and having different lunch or snack options, they may only want the new foods rather than what was previously being offered at home. This is an example of how our diets change when our lives change.

This same situation happens to families moving from one part of a city, or state, country, or world, to another location. Availability changes, access changes, behavior changes. So, what can we learn from our kids as they go through life changes and alter their behaviors?

Simply, the fact that we are doing the same. The changing process is not something that stops once you get older, have a job, settle into a home and “get comfortable”. Life doesn’t stop even though we are comfortable and hit a stride, or find our rhythm. COVID and quarantine is a prime example of how our environment overhauls our output and input.

As we recognize our surroundings impact on our behaviors we can understand the importance of our created environment, physically, mentally, or emotionally. So, what’s your environment saying to you?

Often, people don’t recognize what their built environments are. In the next week, pick a day or two where you are going to monitor your environment. On this day take the time to be aware of your surroundings, your conversations, your stressors, your schedule, or lack their of. For some, that environment is watching sports upon returning home. It could also be that they are never sitting down throughout the day and having an underlying level of stress that impacts health choices. For others it can be a lack of sleep that compounds until that compounds and prevents physical activity from occurring. And others could have a work environment that asks too much of them without giving enough in return. Every individual is different, and that is why your reflection is important in your progression.

Taking a minute every two hours to write down your thoughts, behaviors, and experiences will help with your recall of the experience throughout the day. It will also cause you to be present while life is happening. We often get into the auto-pilot mode of our habits without allowing ourselves time to reflect on where we are going and if we still want to go there. Sometimes it is nice to remember what it is like to fly the plane.

Once you have kept your journal for a day or two, reflect on what your environment is encouraging or discouraging you from doing, whether it is healthy or not.

Some things you might find are: (1) a tendency to mindlessly snacking, (2) eating your kids left overs, (3) not eating until night time and then eating everything because you can finally “turn off”, (4) the stress of making a meal causes you to snack until you hit your tipping point to making dinner. Then once dinner is made you don’t eat because you are full from your snacks which causes you to eat later at night when you want to be getting ready for bed. (5) You are a stress eater. (6) You are a stress non-eater. (7) You are not sleeping so to give your brain energy to keep you awake you are always snack. Keep your journal and see what patterns you recognize.

And then remember that, just because some things might not be the way you want them now doesn’t mean they can’t get there. Kids go on to the next grade. They change schools. They start sports. They evolve. Go on, grow on.

You might not like this story, so just try another! They’re free like that. Good ole’ information buffet. Dietitian, Professor, Author www.cordellnutrition.com

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