One day recently I was bemoaning
body to my husband when
my eight-year-old daughter,
Maddie, walked in the room. She
immediately asked me why I thought
I was fat. I was startled because I had
never used the word fat, but had simply
been commenting that since giving
birth to my youngest daughter I had
not taken good care of my body.
It was a reality check because
Maddie—as well as most kids her age—is becoming more aware of her body
image. It occurred to me that, even at
her young age, she associated being fit
with being thin. I shouldn’t be surprised.
Society certainly supports the
notion that being thin is what’s important.
I wanted Maddie to see that, when it
comes to being fit, there’s a much bigger
picture. I sat down with her and
explained that I simply wanted to be fit
and healthy—regardless of my size.
That meant eating right and exercising
more, both things I had let go by the
Caring for God's Gift
I went on to explain to her how taking
care of my body is also a way of praising
God. My physical being is created in
the image of God. To let it fall into disrepair
would show a lack of gratitude
and respect for such a great gift.
And as someone who faces the uncertainty
of multiple sclerosis every day, I
know that caring for my body is also a
way of expressing my thanks for the
things my body can still do. I thank God
every day for all the blessings my body
But most importantly, I told her, I
want to take care of my body so that I
can live a long and healthy life and
share that time with her and her
brother and sister. Suddenly, she
seemed to understand that fit meant
more than just numbers on a scale.
With everything families have going
on in their lives, taking care of our bodies
often gets put on the back burner.
Here are some suggestions to help you
get and stay healthy:
Check your diet. I know firsthand
that some days it’s far too easy to say,
“Let’s just order a pizza or pick something
up to eat.” But study after study
has shown that it’s just not healthy.
So gather the kids and bring them
into the kitchen to help you create
meals. Use it as a teaching moment
about healthy foods, food preparation,
etc. Preparing meals and eating them at
home together around the dinner table
also provide a wonderful example to
your kids of the importance of good
meals and family time together.
An added bonus is that the money
you save by not eating out could be
used for an outing or on your next
Be a role model. Once my husband, Mark, and I made a commitment
to exercise more regularly, we noticed
that our two older kids started asking to
join us. We modified some of the exercises
we were doing to suit them, and
we also started doing some of the exercises
the kids had learned at school. It
has turned out to be nice family time.
Park it. I mean this both literally
and figuratively. With the rising gas
prices, try walking to some places where
you would normally drive. Start taking
small trips with a reward at the end. For
instance, take a walk to the library for
some books or to the video store to rent
a movie your family wants to see.
Or better yet, walk to the park for
some fun and playtime. After a recent
trip to the park, I was surprised to discover
how sore my muscles were from
doing such activities as climbing on
the monkey bars and swinging.
Keep it exciting. Sometimes people
have a hard time sticking with a regimen
of exercise and healthy eating
because it can get monotonous. To keep
it fresh, have everyone in your family
list some ways to be healthier, be it a
new healthy recipe or a new type of
exercise, and write each one on a piece
of paper. Place all the papers in a jar and
pull one out regularly. Whenever you
find a new suggestion, place it in the jar
so you don’t run out of ideas.
Kick them out. If the weather’s
nice, send your kids outside to play.
According to the 2005 dietary guidelines
from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
and the Department of Health
and Human Services, all children two
years and older should get 60 minutes
of moderate to vigorous exercise on
most days of the week.
Better yet, join them yourself. You’ll
be spending quality time with your
kids and getting some exercise in the
Be a follower. At my kids’ school,
there is a program where students can
earn what are called “toe tokens.” The
students earn these small trinkets in
the shape of plastic feet by walking a
certain number of miles either on the
playground or at home (parents are
required to verify distances walked outside
of school). They can then proudly
display the tokens on their shoes for all
to see their achievements.
In her attempt to collect every color
of toe token available, Maddie enlisted
the whole family to walk with her. She
has also taught us some of the games
that she and her friends play at recess,
many of which I can remember from
my own school days. It’s a lot of fun—and a good workout, too.
In the end, no matter how you and
your family decide to get fit, what’s
important is that you are sending a
positive message that taking care of
yourself is important. It’s a great way
to show your gratitude for God’s great