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Getting Healthy Family-Style

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Updated August 26, 2009

By Special Guest Author Bob Greene

Do you ever think that eating healthfully and working out would be easy if it weren't for your spouse or kids? I hear different versions of the same problem all the time: My kids won't eat fruit or veggies; I have to keep cookies in the house for them. Or, my husband is a meat-and-potatoes guy, so I have to cook two separate meals, and I just don't have the time for it. Or, I have a young child and can't seem to squeeze in my workouts. But there are ways to have a family and be healthy!

Check out these tips on how you can make your diet and exercise routine work with your busy life.

Level with yourself. It's possible that if your husband or kids didn't give you a reason to skip the gym or break from your healthy-eating plan, someone or something else would—the holidays, your schedule, or your job, for example. Why we undermine our own efforts can be a complex issue, so I recommend that you try to understand yourself a little better. In other words, know your motivations and how badly you really want to lose the weight. Ask yourself a few questions, like are there other reasons (such as stress or emotions) that cause you to go off your healthy program? Do you have a need to please other people at your own expense? Sometimes the answers to these and other self-analytical questions can tell you if you really want to do what is necessary to permanently lose the weight. Knowing yourself better leads to self-acceptance, which in turn helps to motivate you each day.

Be patient. In the beginning, your family may have a hard time giving up some of their "unhealthy" favorites, but slowly, you can expose them to healthier versions of these foods, and they should start to come around. Your taste buds have to be re-trained, in a sense, and that takes a little time.

Trick them. Sneak healthy, low-calorie foods into your family's favorite meals. For example, if your children like omelettes, try using egg whites, or cutting back on the number of yolks you use, and toss in a bunch of veggies, like tomatoes, red peppers, even broccoli. Or, try making a batch of sweet potato French fries instead of regular fries. That way you get what you need and they get what they like.

Enlist their help. Often, getting the kids or your spouse involved in food prep or cooking can help them take more interest in your efforts to eat more healthfully. Ask them to go shopping with you, to help cook, or even let them pick that night's meal (check out The Best Life Diet Cookbook or TheBestLife.com for some great ideas).

Get an early start. Exercise first thing in the morning. This will remove many of the excuses that can come up during the day, like your son's soccer practice that ran late or your daughter missing the school bus.

Choose child-friendly workouts. Select an exercise that you know you'll perform regularly. Obviously, if you have young children, it should be one that allows you to watch them while working out. For example, walk or jog with your child in a stroller or baby jogger (in general, the bigger the wheel on the stroller, the better). Or try aerobic dancing or a fitness DVD. You can do this at home, and still keep an eye on the little ones. Try to build up a library of DVDs that you enjoy, so you have a variety to choose from.

Schedule family workouts. If your children are older, or it's just you and your spouse, it should be a little easier to squeeze in workouts. In fact, you can combine exercise with some family bonding by setting aside an hour or two each week for a family activity. Choose a time on the weekend, and plan a family outing; any activity is fair game, from a family bike ride to a trip to the farm to go apple-picking to a simple game of tag in the yard.

Don't make excuses. Make healthy-eating and regular exercise non-negotiable. Not only will this help you stay on track, but it also sets a good example for your children. They'll learn that taking care of your health is a priority.

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