SELF CARE FOR PARENTS

Establishing Healthy Habits

Making Family Life Easy 7

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I found there are some really simple things that I did that helped make my life healthier:

1. Only buy healthy foods... because if it's not in the house, it's much harder to eat.

  • Buy from a shopping list that ensures you have healthy snacks available

  • Avoid going shopping when you're hungry

  • Avoid going down problem isles in the supermarket (lollies, chocolate, cakes, potato chips, etc)

  • Don't buy reduced price snacks for buying larger quantities (e.g. Two for one, or larger size for equal price, etc). They're designed to send a mixed message. You feel good for getting a bargain while you're actually hijacking your health goals.

3. Set up an exercise routine that's easy to maintain

  • I exercise first thing in the morning if at all possible, while I'm freshest, that way I do it.

  • I leave my exercise gear out somewhere near our bed so I can get up quietly without waking anyone

  • I wish I had ensured I had quality shoes to prevent damage occurring to my feet that was not apparent until I was older. I suggest getting the best quality shoes you can afford.

  • I always had a back up plan for variations in the weather. e.g. I use a treadmill on rainy days or go to the gym.

  • If you can't exercise first thing in the morning, exercising at the same time of the day on working days could help get you into a regular routine, or having exercise days every week.

  • If child care is an issue that prevents exercising, setting up a basic home gym might overcome it. All you need is an exercise bike and/or a treadmill. My exercise bike for example was purchased second hand for $40.

5. Find an exercise buddy or two to exercise with

  • To begin with I looked at the time I had available for exercise to see if any of my friends were available then. In summer I used after work for a kayak or a bike ride one afternoon a week in addition to walking most mornings. Then I discussed with specific friends about beginning a regular exercise routine maybe once or twice a week. That way on the days either of us didn't feel like going, letting a friend down helped make both of us keep our commitment.

  • I was careful with the friends I approached though, so I didn't end up sitting down for early morning coffees and a chat instead of exercising, especially on weekends when I had time to be hijacked. One mug of latte would have undone all the exercise I'd done that day.

  • With some friends we took turns coming up with interesting variations to our normal routines to keep our walks interesting however with other friends we kept the same routine in place over years because walking on the beach watching the sunrise was just about perfect.

  • And I eventually eased into joining a gym. I began by attending an easy exercise class twice a week and there I met more like-minded people to do exercise with. And that helped making exercise an integral part of my life.

8. Get some form of pedometer and keep track of daily steps

  • The advantage of recording my steps raised the importance of walking and it kept me accountable on wet rainy days when I could easily have been lazy.

  • There are some excellent watch/ pedometer combinations and I don't want to recommend any over another. But what I found was some of the accompanying software can be excellent at helping keep track of what you're doing which can negate the need for recording charts, if it includes other forms of exercise as well as walking. (The reason I like the extra layer of a chart is I can see at a glance how I've gone over the past two months across all areas. And I can identify difficulties that are limiting my progress.

10. Reward achieving goals

  • Acknowledging small successes is a really great way to build momentum. For example: When I kept to my goal for the number of steps I planned I recorded it with a star. At the end of the week I looked at the number of stars I had across each priority section of my life. For example: Reading with my children, Exercising, Eating well, etc

  • Initially if I achieved more stars that week, than the week before, I put twenty dollars into a jar towards a privilege for myself. (If you want to adopt this you can adjust your amount of money according to your pay packet.) That way I could buy myself something as a treat that I normally wouldn't buy. (E.g. Buying a more expensive pair of shoes than the practical, less-expensive ones I would usually buy.)

"My swimsuit told me to go to the gym today, but my sweat pants were like... "Nah girl, you're good!"

2. Link new healthier routines to existing routines

  • I looked at what I currently do and added a healthy layer to it. For example: I always clean my teeth of an evening. But if I clean my teeth five minutes after finishing eating my evening meal I'm less inclined to eat snacks.

  • I walk where ever possible. E.g.: If I'm already catching the train, at the station I take the steps rather than the lift. Or I use ramps rather than the escalator at the shopping centre. When I'm ironing I put items away individually or in small groups rather than at the end.

  • On rainy days if I watch T.V. I crotchet rather than eat snacks.

  • I watch a streamed show while I'm cycling on my exercise bike so there's an inbuilt reward.

  • I read a motivational or feel-good book while I'm walking on the walking machine.

4. Keep a record of progress and record minutes exercised

  • I made up a chart to record what I'd done to remind me I kept my promise to myself . And recorded it daily.

  • I kept a copy of my progress over time.

  • I found it worked best when I didn't spend too much time on the recording. When I kept it simple, I was more likely to keep doing it when things got tough. Otherwise it was easy to spend too much time recording when I could have been exercising, which defeated the purpose.

  • Below is a copy of the blank chart my husband and I use which I prepared in Excel. It may give you some ideas for yours. I've found the recorded emphasis varies according to the weather and the seasons.

6. Share goals and progress with others who care

  • I've had issues on and off with my weight during my adult life, largely due to emotional eating. If I'm sad or angry I eat. Like many of you I've had my share of hard times; and when I had to keep going I'd eat... just so there was something in the day for me. I've had times when it's been impossible for me to exercise in the morning due to other's illnesses, and that's when I've been most vulnerable to weight gain. To get past these times I found getting my family on board was when I achieved my greatest success.

  • Sharing my goals with a like-minded individual and mentoring each other as we improved worked wonders for me. One of the best mentors I've had is my youngest son who has heaps of ideas that I wouldn't have thought of. e.g. Putting the Ipad on a slanted desk next to the exercise bike so I can watch it while riding, using protein powder if your muscles are too sore days after exercise, making large amounts of calorie controlled meals then portion sizing it for lunches and freezing them (which was great for winter,)  Finding apps for my phone to help keep with recording of calories, etc

7. Increase awareness of calorie trackers

  • There are some excellent apps that you can get for your phone that allow you to keep track of your calorie intake or at the very least increase your awareness of how many calories are in the foods you eat. Again my son and daughter-in-law helped me out here. The one I use is My Food Diary and its been relatively easy to use and is much quicker than counting calories and manually working it all out

  • Increasing calorie awareness really helped me because although I knew ice cream wasn't great, I hadn't realised that by eating a bowl full with a fudge caramel sauce I'd eaten the equivalent amount of a man's entire calorie allowance for a day in one dessert. And because I wasn't counting calories it wasn't until I noticed how tight my clothes had gotten over a two week period that I checked out the calorie content. Yikes!

9. Make a decision to take one bad food out of your life for good

  • I love honey soy potato crisps. And if I have one I can eat half a packet. So I made the decision not to eat potato crisps anymore for the rest of my life. And it made such a difference. I noticed only last weekend when I was away with friends while they ate chips I did not. And I didn't miss it... because I didn't have the one that trips me up.

  • I've recently decided to take ice cream out of my life, except for if I'm entertaining at home. And that's the only time I'll eat it.

  • I think the power of visualisation can help control what you eat. For example: When I visualise cold frothy fat, ice cream becomes much less appealing.

11. Giving myself permission to have the best quality life I could

  • Instead of being overawed by the achievements of others I thought why not me too. And then I went about finding ways to live the quality life I wanted, making my health a priority rather than an add-on behind everything else in my life.

  • And even if the wheels fell off from time to time and I didn't get to exercise or eat well for a while, I viewed it as a lapse rather than getting back into an old mindset and changing the perception of myself. I gave myself a healthy new script and stuck to it concentrating on focusing on improvements, rather than concentrating on all the things that were wrong about me and my life. I saw myself as a healthy person and a work in progress and although improving I didn't need to be perfect. And over time this was sustainable.

For more Parent Self-Care Ideas go to the following links:

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