There are many benefits to being healthy and physically fit. Most of us are aware of how our being healthy benefits ourselves. We know that exercise helps to keep our heart strong and prevent heart disease. We know that weight bearing exercise helps to strengthen our muscles and that more muscle mass increases our metabolism. We know that maintaining a healthy body mass index and not letting ourselves get overweight helps prevent diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure and a host of other health problems. We know that strong bones help our posture and that strong stomach muscles can help prevent back pain. We know that being physically fit means we will have more energy than if we were heavy or out of shape. We know that eating healthy food like vegetables and other fresh produce helps prevent certain cancers.
There are a myriad of health benefits to maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and getting a moderate amount of daily exercise. And we know about these benefits. Newspaper headlines shout about these benefits to us regularly. Television newscasts inform us of these benefits almost daily. We already know.
But parents are busy people, and often we ignore these warnings about diseases that being overweight can cause. Often we ignore the headlines that tell us to eat fresh produce every day. What some of us don’t understand is that when we ignore these articles, like the ones that tell us we should exercise to help prevent heart disease, we are being completely selfish.
Selfish sounds like such a harsh word. But it fits. Letting ourselves be overweight and unfit, eating fatty, sugar-laden food, sitting watching television instead of going out for a walk, all of those things are selfish acts for parents to do. How is it that doing something that is normally seen as only harmful to ourselves can be called selfish? It’s selfish because our lives are no longer our own once we have children.
By not taking care of our bodies, all kinds of things can happen. We can become more prone to injuries and illnesses. Our children need us to be able to take care of them, and that is very difficult to do if we’ve got injuries that keep us from walking easily, or keep getting sick and have trouble getting out of bed.
We can develop chronic diseases. These can be really frightening for our children to see in us, their parents. If Daddy goes into a diabetic coma, his daughter is going to cry and worry and miss him until he is okay, and then she will continue to worry that it might happen again. If Mommy faints because her blood pressure is too high, her son is going to cry and worry and miss her until she is okay, and then he will continue to worry that it might happen again. The safety he once felt will be gone.
We will have less energy. Anyone with small children knows how difficult it can be to keep up with them when all you want to do is sleep. We need all the energy we can find to keep up with our children and to have the patience that they so often require from us. Many of us will have less patience when we are tired. And many of us will be less able to concentrate when we are tired. And children are incredibly inventive at getting into trouble when parents are too tired to be patient or to concentrate fully.
We can die. It is silly to think that playing fire with our health will only affect ourselves. Any child who has lost a parent will tell you that he was never the same again. Our children need us to be in their lives. They need us to give them love and hugs. They need us to help them with homework. They need us to encourage them, to teach them, to listen to them, to talk to them, to just be there for them, always. They need us to live.
We also need to be an example for our children. Our children need to see us being healthy. They learn more from what we do than from what we say. If they see us eating fast food and sitting in front of the television most of the time, then that is what they will learn to do. If instead, they see us eating fresh fruit and going for a walk every day, then they will learn that from us.
It is selfish of us to live an unhealthy lifestyle. By living an unhealthy lifestyle, by letting ourselves remain overweight and unfit, we are harming our children. This is a new year, a time for new beginnings. So let’s start this new year by making a promise to make sure that we are living a healthy lifestyle for our children. We owe it to them.