Lead By Example: 5 Healthy Habits

Today I had the pleasure of speaking to a room full of 3 1/2 year olds at my daughter’s preschool for career day. I signed up to be a mystery reader and her teachers asked if I would share about my job teaching yoga and nutrition and 5 healthy habits we can all practice daily.  I loved having the opportunity to share what I do with my daughter’s peers. They are so young, but little sponges soaking up anything and everything…..I know my little Weezy is! I am always amazed at the things she knows! They were the best audience. I love this age. So eager to participate in the conversation, telling me their favorite healthy foods and most of them were great listeners.


I read the book “I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato” which is an adorable story about Charlie who’s little sister, Lola, is a fussy eater. She says she will never eat veggies including tomatoes, carrots, or peas and Charlie turns feeding time into a fun adventure where they are not eating carrots, but orange twiglets from Jupiter, and so on. In the end, Lola tries all of these foods she said she does not like and finds she really enjoys them! I briefly explained the lesson of the story and encouraged the kids to be open-minded when their parents ask them to try new foods. Make it fun! You may THINK you do not like something but often times it takes trying it because we get a new set of taste buds every 7-10 days! How cool is that?!?! My daughter backed me up when I spoke about the lesson from the book, telling her friends how she used to not like cauliflower but now she loves it. Not really true, she’s always loved cauliflower but she was trying to help her mama out I suppose!


When explaining what I do for work I told them “I help people get and stay healthy. Teaching them about healthy food and helping them exercise.”  I went on to explain that when you’re a kid it’s easy to get plenty of exercise. All you have to do is go outside and run around, play, jump, dance, and so on. Grown-ups get busy and don’t always take the time to do those fun things, so sometimes they need help! Here are 5 healthy habits I help grown-ups remember to do that kids should do as well!


1. Exercise: Keep it fun! Jump, dance, play sports. This goes for kids and grown-ups alike. If you do not enjoy what you’re doing you will most-likely not stick with it. A kid may try soccer and not be into it, but love baseball. A grown-up may not enjoy Bikram yoga but love another style such as Power Vinyasa. Keep trying and keep moving until you find what you love! Finding things the whole family can enjoy like biking, hiking or even going for a walk after dinner are all great choices to stay active!


2. Healthy eating: It’s important to eat a variety of veggies, fruit, healthy fats and protein-rich foods such as meats, eggs, yogurt and cheeses. I explained to the children to keep this fun too. Stick with healthy foods you know you enjoy and also try new foods because you never know whether something will become a favorite food if you don’t try it! As adults it is important we lead by example. My daughter, luckily, has been a healthy, open-minded, and overall GREAT eater since she was a baby. However, as she approaches age four and has been exposed to different environments, she has had fussy moments. It is tough as a parent to not fall into the trap of “negotiating” at meal times with rewards or a certain amount of bites. I try really, really hard to not use food as a reward. For instance, if you tell your child they cannot have any ice cream until they finish all of their broccoli you are basically saying that the broccoli is so disgusting that you will reward them with something sweet for eating it. While I often explain the importance of nourishing foods, I try to keep the dessert (if present) and main course equal so meal-times do not become a struggle or battle of control. It is also potentially framing an unhealthy relationship with food. Ellen Satter actually suggests serving dessert WITH dinner if this is an issue in your household. If a child is hungry, they will eat. Children know when they are full, and we should honor that. As a kid I was never allowed to leave the table until I cleared my plate. As an adult this caused a lot of issues surrounding food and listening to my hunger cues. My daughter will eat a piece of chocolate or a cookie, but then go back to her broccoli or cauliflower and clean her plate all on her own. I have given my daughter dessert regardless of how much she has eaten as well. These things will teach your child that sweets, in moderation, have their place. It also takes away the power struggle and need to be rewarded for behavior. Another factor is simply not having sweets or “junk” in your house if you do not want your child eating them. Plain and simple! If you like the junk, lead by example. Your child will follow! My whole thing is if it is there, and she knows it is there, she can have it when she wants. If she is fussy about a meal, I leave out her dinner or other healthy food like carrots or apple within her reach if she gets hungry later. This has worked for us. We don’t often do dessert with or before dinner. We limit the amount of “sometimes” food in our house to homemade cookies or chocolate and the occasional ice cream. It is all about balance! Explaining the importance of nourishing foods while also enjoying these “sometimes” foods without making a big deal out of them. Many grown-ups are picky or struggle with portion control/listening to their body because of how they were raised. These fussy eating habits CAN be changed, it is never too late!


3. Plenty of sleep: Kids need naps and an early bedtime to thrive! We all know that. Guess what? So do us adults! We do not have the luxury of napping every day (if you have the chance , take it). It is important we do not slack on our sleep. Yes, this is something I help grown-ups remember to do. We are so busy working and taking care of others that we do not remember to nurture ourselves. Just like babies and kids need a bedtime routine, adults can benefit from them as well. If you have trouble falling asleep because of stress or inability to “turn-off” at night, try getting into a regular routine. Try a hot shower, warm bath with epsom salt, massaging magnesium oil into your legs or lavender oil. Another way to unwind is by drinking a cup of peppermint tea or reading a chapter of a “fun” book (no work, no laptop, no iPhone!) Getting at least 8 hours of sleep at night will help you to feel rested and focused the next day without needing a shot-gun pot of coffee. It will also help keep your hormones happy and healthy! Kids and adults alike need rest first and foremost when sick, it’s the most effective medicine for a speedy recovery.


4. Lots of water: Did you know that most of your body is made of water? I was happy to hear many of the kids in my daughter’s class love water. I know Weezy does, it is all she drinks. We never got into juice (except coconut water!) and she never drank cow’s milk. This is another thing I have to remind grown-ups about! I always think drinking water is a given, but I can’t tell you how many clients or Freevivers come to me claiming their struggle with this. Some adults can’t seem to get past 20 ounces a day! You need to drink AT LEAST half of your body weight in ounces daily. If you are active, or it is hot out, pregnant, breastfeeding, you need more.


5. Smile Daily: We should all be smiling every day! It is important to express your feelings. I always tell my daughter to use her words if she is feeling sad or angry. It is important to tell a grown-up what is going on so they can help make it better so you can get back to laughing and smiling again. I always try and let her know I understand she is feeling _____. Even when she is being a little unreasonable or dramatic. I never want her to feel like her feelings are invalid. I am sure any parent reading this will agree, and most-likely teaches their child the same. So why do we do it as adults? Why do we suppress or hide our feelings or put on a “fake” smile?  It is important for our health that we be authentic by venting and express our emotions even if we are being a little “dramatic.” I know I always feel better when doing so in a way where I am not hurting someone else. This will help lower our stress levels overall, and help us to genuinely laugh because, you know, laughter is the BEST medicine!


We ended my visit in tree pose which had everyone laughing, giggling, and filled with delight as they fell over while trying something new. I love seeing my adult yoga students giggle and brush it off when falling out of a pose, but it doesn’t happen often enough. We can all learn lessons from watching the innocent, care-free nature in children. It is so inspiring. We should lead by example but also follow their lead!

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