Fitness for Kids

This afternoon on my run in the park, I ended up trailing a mom jogging with her daughter.  The fit, toned woman was decked out in cute activewear, and the little girl – who was probably about 7 or 8 – was dressed up just like her mom.  They stopped every couple of feet to do some stretching and laughing and dancing around, and they both looked like they were having the time of their lives.

I couldn’t help but feel a pang of resentment.  Although I no longer blame my parents for the poor choices I consciously made as an adult that led to my morbid obesity, I can’t look at a family kicking a soccer ball around in the park or going for a bike ride through town without wondering why nobody ever tried to do that with me. 

I realize that my food issues run deep – as do my parents’ issues, and their parents’ issues – but I can’t help but wonder what my life might have been like if mom or dad had encouraged me to step away from the television and go for a walk or play catch once in awhile.  Maybe if I had begun to develop an appreciation of physical activity when I was younger, I just might have been able to keep my head out of the refrigerator and my weight under control.  

I participated in several dance classes and recreational sports throughout elementary school, but I ultimately gave up on all of them when the teasing that was going on in the classroom began rearing its ugly head at the dance studio and on the basketball court.  I didn’t want to give these kids any additional opportunities to humiliate me about my weight, so I convinced myself that I wasn’t “good” enough to play on their team anyway. 

In gym class, I spent all of my energy trying to hide from the gym teacher’s line of vision.  I was always picked last, and knew I’d be ridiculed for botching a volleyball serve or missing a foul shot, so I essentially just kept benching myself.  I earned straight-As in all of my academic courses throughout high school…but ended up with a C in gym class my junior year.  Pretty pathetic.

When I was younger, I remember hosting impromptu dance recitals on the front lawn and playing countless rounds of kickball and wiffleball with the neighborhood kids, but once we started to grow out of such activities, I decided that I wasn’t “meant” to play sports or dance or be active – so I didn’t bother any more. 

As a middle schooler, I adhered to the following sedentary schedule: I went to school, came home, had a snack, took a nap, did my homework, gabbed on the phone, ate dinner, and went to bed.  

As you may have guessed, my parents also have weight issues, and neither has ever participated in sports – in fact, my father is the only man I know who has absolutely no interest in watching sports on television (other than the “Indy 500”).  I suppose it never crossed their mind to encourage their child to be physically active.  It’s almost like they didn’t know any better.  They saw me getting bigger and bigger, but by the time they realized I had a problem, it was too late.

I’m going to be a different kind of parent.  I vow to be like the mom I saw in the park today.  Not only am I going to do everything in my power to prepare healthy meals and teach my kids the delicate balance between junk food and nutritional fare, but I’m going to make an effort to engage them in all the physical activities that I never had a chance to experience. 

These days, nothing makes me feel more energized, more empowered, and truly happy than a long, sweaty run or a brisk bike ride…and I have every intention of sharing that joy with my future family.

It’s too late for me to grab a mitt and try out for the middle school girl’s softball team, but if my daughter ever wants to play, then I’m going to be the one out there with her running laps and practicing her pitching.  I’d be proud to become the proverbial “soccer mom” if it means that my kids are choosing to be outside playing sports instead of inside with the latest video game system.

I know it’s easier said than done, but I’m going to go out of my way to make exercise something that my family does together.  I never, ever want my children to go through what I did, and I think that if more parents took their kids jogging with them – or even on a simple walk around the block every so often – we wouldn’t be in the midst of a childhood obesity epidemic.

The cycle of obesity in my family is going to end with me.

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8 thoughts on “Fitness for Kids

  1. Felisha

    Yet again, all your words could have come out of my mouth! I loved being active when I was younger. Only when I realized I didn’t fit everyone’s mold of an active person did I stop. I also put off gym as long as I could and failed…because I didn’t try. It was better to get made fun of for purposefully doing badly than for the crime of being fat *shock* and *double shock* actually trying.

    I could write forever, but I will stop spamming your page. 🙂
    ~Felisha

    • Hi Felisha,

      Oh, please, you’re not “spamming” me at all! I really appreciate your comments, and it’s great chatting with you! 🙂

      I hear you. I dreaded gym class. Plus, these kids would call me horrible names right in front of my softball coach or dance teacher – who did absolutely nothing about it. What choice did I have but to quit?

      These days, I STILL don’t feel like an “active” person, despite all of my running and lifting and cumulative hours at the gym. But who knows…maybe I will someday!

      Jen

  2. Felisha

    In other news, I don’t specifically blame my mother, but her choices added to the perfect storm. It’s been my choice to be this size for years, so now, it’s my choice to change. Right? Right! 🙂

    • That’s exactly how I feel.

      I certainly believe she could have done a better job at teaching me how to eat properly and the importance of exercise, but at age 18, 19, 20 and beyond, I became an adult who made my own choices. I knew that I shouldn’t pull up to the Burger King drive-thru for a “snack” of chicken nuggets and fries not two hours before dinnertime, but I did it anyway. I saw all of my friends and co-workers choosing salads and chicken entrees when we went out to eat, but I consciously opted for the cheeseburger or fettucine alfredo.

      It’s so hard to change because it means unlearning all of the bad habits our parents taught us…but I know for a fact that it CAN be done.

      It just takes time, and persistence, and the ability to forgive yourself when you slip up!

  3. I feel the same way. I grew up in front of the TV and still hold resentment towards my mother for my weight (she hated that my brother and I were over weight.. but went around nagging us sporadically.. so it never helped).

    One of the reasons I’m doing the road to 30 thing is so I can get into that lifestyle and habit so I can give my kids the education and love of activity that I never really had… and I want to have FUN with my family!

    • Hi Megan,

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      I completely understand. My mom nagged me nearly every day about how I needed to go on a diet and how bad I looked in shorts and how I could make more friends, get a boyfriend, etc. if I just lost some weight.

      Meanwhile, she’d turn around and serve me enough food to feed three grown adults at mealtimes.

      My only justification for her behavior is that she didn’t seem to know any better. It’s how she was raised. I saw my grandparents treat her the same exact way on more than one occasion.

      The good news is that, like you said, we can change all of this! We’ve realized the error of their ways, so now we can take what we’ve learned from our parents’ mistakes and raise our kids to eat well and be active. I plan to do just that! 😀

      Jen

  4. Sylvia

    Love what you wrote so very true for kids growing up in this era. Since I’m closer to 40 yrs old…growing up for me was all about being outside we had no video games to put us in front of the tv all day long.
    My parents didn’t have to push me to be active…physical activity was all we had if we wanted to have fun. We were fed balanced meals and the weekends Sat and Sun were days that we ate out, hamburgers, tacos or pizza.
    I don’t think people that are my age and are now parents realize the importance of being physically active and they weren’t taught that by their parents either.
    I was always a bit overweight but gained a lot more in my late 20’s to early 30’s. I didn’t maintain a physical lifestyle so of course I gained weight. It didn’t help that in the last decade everything became about supersize those fries and drink, people wanted more.
    I also vow that when I have kids to teach them the importance of eating healthy and being physically active through their entire life.

    • Hi Sylvia,

      Thanks so much for checking out my blog! This is a great comment.

      I, too, feel like I came in at the tail end of the era of which you speak. I’m approaching my mid-20s, so our family didn’t even have a computer (with AOL) until I was already in middle school. Meanwhile, I know many kids today are already glued to their parents’ laptops by the age of 6 – or even younger.

      My childhood days were spent playing outside with my friends in the neighborhood until our parents called us in for dinner, but these days, all the children I know spend SO much time with the Wii or the television or computer games.

      And, yes, like you said – fast food is also much more readily available and accepted now. It’s no wonder that 1/3 of all children are overweight!

      Jen

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