My morning routine hasn’t changed much over the past few years; wake up, check facebook, instagram, twitter, quick game of candy crush (seriously I could get an extra 20 minutes in bed if I cut this out), grab a drink of water and then get started on the kids’ breakfasts. At no point does it involve getting on the scales to check my weight “at its lightest” and I don’t remember that it ever has. Come to think of it – I don’t even think we have a set of scales in our house.
Growing up, I don’t ever recall my parents ever discussing weight loss, diets or ritualistically stepping on the scales every morning and night to see if that ‘extra pound’ had come off. I don’t think this was a deliberate tact from them – I just don’t think 30 odd years ago it was even an issue.
I try and follow the same approach now with my two daughters, however this IS a deliberate tact from us as parents. There are so many references to weight on TV, media and generally from people in and around our family circle that it could so easily have an unconscious influence on my daughters.
As a PT, I come across many clients (and friends) who have become so conditioned over the years that they fixate on the numbers on a scale. They simply cannot stop these numbers from defining their happiness – no matter what advice I give them. Every morning, they get up and first thing they do (probably after checking Facebook) is step on the scales.
As harmless as this may seem, little eyes are always watching and forming opinions based on what they see and experience – it’s what children do.
When I was younger, my mam had little idiosyncrasies, which without realising I have picked up and find myself doing with my children. Subconscious imitation at its best. The same goes for the scales – if every single day, your child watches you climb up onto the sad step (scales) and your mood be dictated by the number they land on, they will become conditioned to think that this is normal and that it is what they should be doing every day also. Before we know it, we have young children stepping on scales and questioning whether the numbers are okay.
I am really conscious about teaching my children that exercise/activity is just the norm and is as important as food, drink and breathing. It is just part of life to stay healthy and happy and keep moving. It sounds simple, but it can be if you think of exercise in a broader sense. So many people have developed negative connotations with exercise, viewing it merely as a way to lose weight or as a punishment for overeating/eating ‘bad foods’.
For many people, exercise is a chore and not enjoyable, and is just something we do for a fixed period of time to achieve a number on a scale. Exercise is so much more than that, it is about keeping us active, healthy and can play a huge role in our happiness.
Inactivity is a growing issue in the UK and in fact, is a bigger problem than Obesity is and currently costs the NHS just under £9 billion*. Advances in technology do have a big role to play in the reduction in physical activity, however, so does the stigma and negative association that some adults are placing on activity which is being passed on to our children.
We wanted to explore what exercise means to children and so asked a group of children why they thought their mummy did exercise. I was astounded by the responses of some children and it really made me stop and think about the message we are giving our children.
I want my children to grow up and run around the park for fun, not to lose a pound. I want them to eat a balanced diet to feel good and be healthy – not to fit in a smaller size dress. I want them to view scales as a tool that is used to weigh mass and not to define their self-worth and happiness. I don’t want exercise to be something that they have to do, I want it to be a part of everyday life that they enjoy.
Exercise doesn’t just have to mean working out in a gym, bootcamp or class. It can be absolutely anything that gets your heart rate up and gets you moving. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to exercise, it is about finding something that you enjoy and doing it often.
Please, think really carefully the next time you step on the scale, or the next time you call yourself (or someone else) fat or the next time you associate physical activity with weight loss as there is always someone watching, someone listening and someone developing their opinions that will shape their future.
“I know nothing of diets, scales, weight loss, detoxes, cellulite, fat or skinny. In my first most important, formative years all I will know is WHAT YOU TEACH ME. Choose well”