The last month of the year is that special time when families come together… and eat! The Christmas holidays would be so much poorer without all the rich food traditions that it brings with it. But even for those of us who believe in the uniting and healing power of food, too much eating can mean extra pounds to deal with going into the New Year. And once that extra pound or two is on, getting it off will be harder than the ease with which we wolfed down that extra serving of Christmas pudding.
For parents and families, this poses a unique challenge. Working parents have even less time to exercise and get back to pre-Christmas-eating weight. And the behaviors that parents portray are mimicked in the children. This means that any lifestyle of non-exercising will be taken up by your crew, too.
But it is not just the extra weight that should worry us. It is the secondary effects of what being overweight does to our health. That is, it increases our risk for heart diseases and type-2 diabetes.
So how can parents deal with the challenges of staying healthy in December that will keep the whole family in good health?
Lace up your tennis and go for a walk
Every evening before dinner, or sometime in the afternoon, when the whole crew is home, take everyone out for a family walk. Go out and look at the Christmas lights throughout your neighborhood. Walk through a scenic park. Do a mall walk. Walk to the supermarket to pick up groceries. Make it part of your December traditions to take a family walk altogether. Have a baby in tow? Use a jogger stroller to make it truly a family affair. Take a look at these jogging stroller pros and cons to get a bird’s eye view of how these compare with other strollers.
Keep track and make it fun!
If there is no time slot where your whole family is altogether and available to walk, consider this alternative. Get fitness tracking devices for each member of your family and then make it a game to see who gets in the most steps per day. Make the rewards appealing to each member, and try to steer clear of using food as motivation occasionally. For example, with children who love their smart devices, allow them an extra hour of game time for every 5,000 steps they log. Adjust this number to the fitness level of your child.
Winter traditions that unite the family and boost fitness
When was the last time you built a snowman? Or had a snow fight with the kids? Or went ice-skating at the nearby rink? Or took the weekend to go to a ski resort? These activities are often limited to winter, so if you do not enjoy them now, you will need to wait until the next year’s winter to get another chance. The fantastic news about winter activities like the ones mentioned here? They are great for getting us up and moving. But not only that, they bring the entire family together, doing an activity that will create lasting memories for all.
Make sure everyone sleeps enough
Is your kid or spouse being prickly, grouchy, or grumpy of late? Have you taken a look at their recent sleep patterns? Not sleeping enough has a direct effect on our moods, our eating habits, and our health. A lack of sleep can put us at higher risk of accidents, due to our decreased motor control. And it just generally makes us more unpleasant to be around. The opposite is also true. If everyone in the family is getting a good night of sleep, then good moods will reign in your house more often than the bad ones.
But how to protect family sleep times during December and the Christmas season? When each night seems to be an occasion or a social event? Fix your priorities as a family. Avoid alcoholic and caffeine beverages in the afternoons and evenings. Or, if it really can’t be helped, see if a sleep-in the next day is possible. The more you educate yourself on the importance of sleep and good sleep habits, the more you will figure out how to give sleep the priority it deserves.
Staying healthy as a family has its challenges. But when taken up by all members, it can become a uniting element and a common goal everyone rallies around.