Dieting on your own… hard. But dieting with a family…well that’s a whole new set of craziness and challenges.
How on earth do you diet with a family?
When I was in law school I lost 80 pounds. I lived alone and therefore had complete control of my life and my surroundings. I could control what was in my pantry, I had all the time in the world for myself. I only had to meet my needs. So I found relatively easy success…for after all, I was living in a chaos-free controlled world.
But fast forward a decade and I have a whole lot of needs to meet as I entered the “anything but controlled” world of parenting. Suddenly I wasn’t just the center of my world, I had to be the center of my children’s worlds. Their needs had to come before my own.
At the beginning, I simply thought it was impossible to diet with a family. I was too busy. I couldn’t eat a salad while they were eating pizza. I could no longer control what food was brought into the house. There were sleepless nights, Oreos, errands, homework, tournaments.
I could hardly diet on my own… how on earth would I diet with a husband and three insanely busy kids??
My husband and kids, who do not diet with me, certainly do create some unique challenges! There is all the junk food, the busy schedules, the commitments, the “oh come on Mom you know you want a Kit Kat” moments.
But I have found having a family with me has been a gift, not an obstacle.
Here’s how I diet with my family:
(1) For the most part my family eats what I eat. I’m too busy to cook multiple meals. However since the 4 of them are not low carb I modify things for them. For example if we are having hamburgers I just eat mine on a tortilla and they eat theirs on a bun. I make them an extra side here and there.
There are things I have changed for our whole household. For example, we all eat Low sugar ketchup and low carb tortillas. I look at it this way… when they are away from me they are eating a lot of carbs so if I have a lower carb meal when they are with me it simply balances out.
(2) I try to inspire and invite not push and force. I always invite my family along with me to exercise, but I have never made them do this with me. If I force them into this world it doesn’t teach them to want this.
And I have found that without forcing they have developed a love for coming along with me. I’ve run 5ks with my son, lifted weights with my daughter, and gone on walks with my husband.
They all feel apart of my journey. They encourage me, they stand at finish lines waiting for me, they play at the Y while I walk the track. But all of that happened by me simply letting them into my world, not forcing them in.
(3) I adapt to their world, not the other way around. I don’t force my family to adapt to my world, rather I adapt to their world. I don’t want my kids to see dieting as a negative thing. If I made them come into my world they would certainly see the negatives not the positives. So I don’t bring them into my world, I adapt to theirs. That means we still eat fast food, we still have ice cream nights. I want to show them that they can do all the fun stuff and still be healthy so instead of taking away things I show them how to modify things. Plus it helps me learn how to… well live life!
(4) I try to teach, not preach. I am not the authority of health In their lives, so I don’t preach my ways as the end all be all. Rather I teach my family what I know and what I learn everyday. My kids listen to me tell them about sugar and exercise. I share blog posts I read. I tell my husband about different workouts or how he can change a bad habit. We talk about label reading and I show them how good healthy food can be.
(5) For them I focus on sugar not carbs. For me I simply count carbs and keep them low. But that’s not how I treat my family. I know they are going to eat carbs so for them I focus on lowering their sugar. Don’t get me wrong, my kids still eat junk… but I feel better if they are eating Cheetos with low sugar than some sugary cereal. I make sure when they eat a candy bar that they really look at the sugar grams so they understand that it should be a rare treat not a snack. Lowering their sugar has done amazing things for them. My youngest had a dramatic improvement in his behavior, my oldest stopped complaining of stomach pains.
(6) I am mindful to tell them I’m doing this to be healthy not skinny. This is a big one especially for my daughter. I make sure I remind my children that my journey has very little to do with what I have lost and everything to do with what I have gained. I make sure they know that I did this to be healthy not skinny. I’ve told my daughter that strong is beautiful, skinny is not at all what I’m aiming for. I talk more about my non scale victories than I do my scale ones. I make sure I praise my strengths, not simply focus on the stuff I want to fix.
(7) I make the time for myself without apology. This was the biggest switch for me. Before I started this, I never did anything for myself. I never had “me time”. So I’ll be honest when I started heading to the gym instead of sitting in the car waiting on them at practice they at first gave some pushback. Why was Mom not there every minute of the day???!
At first I felt guilty, like I was being an absent mother, but I forced myself to do this. I forced myself into taking time to be myself and not just their Mom. And you know what? A strange thing happened. Even though I was spending less time with them it made things so much better. It made me a better Mom, made them more independent, and helped them get closer to my husband who now equally shares the responsibilities.
My journey is not just about me. We’ve done this together as a family. They are there for my ups, my downs. I have intentionally let them into this world to walk beside me, come hell or high water. That means they have seen me at my strong moments, but they have also seen me weak. They have watched me succeed but also struggle. They see me doubt, they see me question…but most importantly they see my consistency and my willingness to work for my goals.
You know what? I think this crazy little journey of mine may just turn out to be as beneficial for them as it is for me.