Put your health first. Yes, first. Above your kids, your husband and your job. Sounds strange huh? Most moms put themselves last on the priority list. There's just not enough time, so you surely can't make health a priority. It would be selfish of you to care for yourself, right? Wrong! Chances are that you are the back bone of your family. When your kids get hurt, you have to be there to take care of them. When your husband gets sick, it's you again. The reality is that you can't afford and don't have time to get hurt or get sick. But you will. You absolutely will get sick or hurt if you don't take care of yourself. There's no cheating in health. You can't postpone it and say that you'll do it when you're kids are off to college or when you retire. The longer you go without taking care of yourself, the longer and more severe the consequence for neglect. It's a lot easier to get a few walks in a week than to be in the hospital and follow up with rehab after a heart attack. I don't mean to be extreme but the fact is that heart disease is the Number 1 killer of women in America. It's a pretty easy thing to fix. Eat well and exercise.
What you won't do for yourself, you will do for your family. So do it for your family. Eat well and exercise so that you can be a healthy role model for your kids. The fact is that they all take your lead. Aren't you the one cooking the meals? If you aren't eating well, neither will they. Your children should see that mom values her health and enjoys exercise. Maybe your husband will even be inspired by your increased energy. And they will all benefit from you being in a better mood, less stressed and less tired. So now, how to do it? How do we get you to make yourself a priority?
You need a plan. How many times have you said that you are going to start exercising only to be back in your old routine of skipping it just days later? The same obstacles that stood before you last time will stand before you again. You need to have a plan to overcome what held you back last time (and the time before, and the time before). Take a quiet moment and pull out your calendar / appointment book. I know you're going to tell me that you're busy from morning until night and can't fit another thing in. True, but now you're going to change your priorities. Let's take a look at where things can change. Be honest with me, how much time do you spend watching tv? I love the shows as much as the next gal but the fact is that it's wasted time. Are you a morning person or an evening person? You're tired no matter what so would it really make a difference if you went to bed 45 minutes later or woke up 45 minutes earlier? The tiredness from the loss of sleep is far made up with the energy from exercise. I'm a morning person so I set my alarm clock one hour before the rest of my family wakes up. This is the only hour of the day that's just for me. What can you do in that hour? Go for a run, watch FitTV, do a workout video or get out for an early morning gym class. Did you know Netflix and blockbuster online offer fitness videos? That's a great way to keep your workout fresh.
Or, if you have stroller age children, set aside an hour to do a stroller walk or join a Stroller Strides class. It's a great way to get out with your baby and get in a workout. Whatever you do, find 4 days per week that you can schedule a workout. If it's not on your schedule like an appointment, it won't happen. You need to keep that appointment with yourself just like you would with any other on your calendar. Why do I say 4 days per week? 3 days of exercise is actually all you need to maintain health. 5 days is what you need if you want to lose weight. 4 days is a reasonable compromise. And, if for some reason you miss a day, you'll still be getting in enough to maintain health. If you are able to get in an extra day, then all the better.
It doesn't have to look like exercise. Yes, I do recommend that you get cardiovascular, strength and flexibility in to your workout one way or another. But you can get more active in lots of untraditional ways. My 5-year old's favorite game is tag. He and I play, non stop. As soon as one person is tagged, the other person is "it". We both collapse after half a dozen chase sessions gasping for air (and laughter). Next time you take your kids to the playground, don't just sit on the bench and watch. Join in. Dare try the monkey bars or just run around with them. If you have a baby, get on the floor and play with her. Use her as a weight as you lunge or squat with her in you arms. "Bench press" with her as the weight or put her on your legs as you do sit ups. Make your kids part of your workout and they will get the message that exercise can be fun. But it's not just about exercise, we need to eat well in order to support health and energy.
Tired of dieting? You should be. They don't work and they are a detriment to your health. Here are some key components to add healthy foods in to your diet. Sit down and create a master food shopping list. Ideally, make it on your computer so you don't have to re-create it each week. Make sure it is chock full of healthy fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Make a commitment to do this shopping each week so that your pantry and your refrigerator are packed with great choices. The worst thing you can do when you want to eat healthy is to have a bare kitchen. Then you feel deprived, hungry and desperate to find anything to eat. When you have lots of choices on hand, it makes it easier to make better choices. If possible, shop at local natural markets. Grocery stores like Whole Foods, Wild Oats and even Trader Joe's have far more for you to choose from. You will be buying less processed foods and you won't have to spend much time reading labels because you know that they buy quality products. Another tip: plan ahead. Plan what meals you are going to make each week so that it's not a spontaneous decision when you're desperate and hungry. Whenever possible, pre-prepare meals for the week and always freeze extra servings so you have healthful meals to grab. Serve a fruit and vegetable serving at every meal. Too often we eat our veggies only at dinner. You can get spinach in to eggs, tomato and lettuce on a sandwich, avocado in a quesadilla, etc. Kids don't like veggies? Hide them. I keep a bag of chopped frozen kale in my freezer. When I make smoothies for my kids, I throw a handful in the blender. They don't taste it or know about it, but they get vitamins and nutrients from one of the healthiest of vegetables.
So now, I've got you eating a little better and exercising regularly. But that's not total health. You need to rejuvenate and refresh your body and mind for total balance. Set aside a regular time each day for just 2 minutes to be quiet. Yes, just 120 seconds is all I am asking for. I love rituals and think that you should have a special pillow, candle and / or token that sets the stage for relaxation. When I ask moms to meditate, they respond by saying that they don't know how and don't have the time. So, all I ask for is that you sit for 2 minutes and be still. Focus on three words. Peace, health and harmony. When your mind wanders (and it will), just kindly and gently bring it back. You will be amazed at what a difference this little break from your day will make. Even if your kids are screaming in the background, learn how to find a little peace from within. By the way, this is meditating but we're just not calling it that.
We are part of a generation that finds it important to fill every moment with busyness and things to do. I am hoping that you will inspire the next generation to slow down and appreciate the health that we have. It is my hope that you reach Optimom health. It all starts with you, so please, make mommy come first.