Unless you live under a rock, you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everywhere you look, it’s pink, pink, pink: pink t-shirts, pink banners, even the NFL teams are sporting pink on the field. And while I’m lucky that no one in my close circle has been affected by breast cancer, I know that could change at any moment, and I appreciate the impact of all that pink.
What you might not be aware of, is that October is also National Family Health Month. Add to that the fact that many of us are facing open enrollment for medical insurance, as well as thinking about the impact of the upcoming election on our health care system, and it seems like a good opportunity to take stock of our health, nutrition, and fitness, don’t you think?
I’m not a doctor, or even a health care provider under the strictest definition of the term, but as a wellness professional, I do have a passion for healthy living. I’ve seen the impact of lifestyle-related illness first-hand with many clients, and I’ve seen the difference healthy changes can make. I’m telling you people, exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes are powerful, magical even.
I know it can be overwhelming figuring out how to start, especially when you have a packed schedule, and a family who might be less than enthusiastic about spinach casserole for dinner and scaled back t.v. time. So, let’s start with a few small, but meaningful changes.
- Cut out one sugary beverage a day and replace it with water. You already know I’ve ditched the fruit punch and lemonade this month (going well, by the way!), how ’bout you try it with me?
- Implement meatless Monday. Or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or whatever day. You get the idea. Just commit to one family dinner that is packed with veggies and alternative sources of protein. Need a great recipe to start with? Try my new favorite soup.
- Turn off the t.v., computer, or smart phone and go for a family walk. Even if it’s just 15 minutes around the block after dinner, or a stroll to the mailbox, it will make a difference. It might even feel so good it becomes a habit.
- Investigate your child’s lunch. I’ll talk about this more next week (Wednesday is National Take Your Parents to Lunch Day), but you might be shocked to see what the school lunch experience is like. Talk to your kids about it and let them suggest some ways you might work together to improve what they eat.
- If your family has poor eating, drinking, and exercise habits (c’mon, you know if this describes you), and you don’t like it, discuss it as a family. Rather than dictating big changes, ask your kids to notice how they feel. Do they sleep well? Do they have trouble concentrating? Are they often tired or sluggish? Do they struggle with activity at school? If the answer is yes, think about why. Help them make the connection between fuel and performance. Brainstorm small ways to change the culture of food and activity in your family.
- Replace one snack food a day with a whole food. By snack food I mean packages of chips, granola bars, candy, or anything else high on sugar and salt, and low on whole grains, fiber, and other needed nutrients. For example, ditch your morning granola bar and eat an apple and a handful of almonds instead. Just one switch a day. That’s all.
Whew! I could go on and on, but I won’t. I think you see where I’m going. You don’t have to make grand, sweeping gestures that feel intimidating and forced. You don’t have to vow never to eat sugar again (I shudder at the thought). Your family’s long-term health can be greatly impacted by implementing just one or two of these totally doable changes . . . today.
I’d love to hear what changes you make at your house, and how it works out. Also, I’d like to know how all of these special months (and days) get designated? I want to start making some stuff up too. National vanilla cake day. National crazy hair month. National stick out your tongue day. Just a few ideas off the top of my head.