Let me describe the dark side and bright side for a moment. The bright side is where all the people are. Everyone appears to be smiling and belonging here, at least on the outside. Then the dark side is behind the curtain. The bright side doesn’t look behind the curtain, because it is well…..dark and unknown. It is scary. And so it remains dark, forgotten, and unexplored. But why?
Our family left the bright side of popularity over to the dark side (whole foods naturally gluten free paleo inspired) about 3 years ago in order to find our family’s health. And it turns out, the dark side is actually where the light shines the brightest. This is where true health and wellness lives inside and out. It is only behind the curtain and dark, because the bright side pulled the curtain closed.
How is it that we, my husband and I, were able to pull the curtain back to explore the dark side yet other parents don’t?
How did we successfully transition our family over to a healthy whole foods lifestyle while other parents struggle or resist?
Are you a parent who wants to shift over and explore the dark side, but don’t know where to start?
These three simple steps helped our family and continue to sustain us today.
Admit you made a mistake in how you are currently caring for your children.
Ouch. That hurts. Sorry. I couldn’t save that one for later.
This is the single most important step in making the shift to having healthy children.
As parents we know the easy way isn’t always the right way and we fall prey to fatigue and exhaustion so it is understandable. It is ok to admit we are human, because it is the truth. Yet allowing your kids junk food and endless video games is not how you raise healthy children. All parents love their children and we don’t intentionally harm them. Blatantly ignoring fundamental principles of health (like eating whole food, exercising, getting good sleep and connecting to people) and self-justifying your parenting behavior as a means to absolve your own guilt and laziness is simply wrong. Yet, we have all fallen prey to it. I was that mother…until I owned the mistake I made.
To demonstrate the powerfulness of this step, I will share a story with you.
A short time ago, I had an appointment for my son after school. Driving home from work, I almost forgot I needed to pick him up early from school. I quickly checked my mirrors and crossed over 2 lanes of traffic to make my turn to school. Turns out there was a motorcycle in my blind spot (or the dark side). I accidently cut him off, but no one was permanently harmed. He ended up following me to the school.
When I parked and got out of the car, he continued to explain how I nearly killed him and I should pay closer attention. When he finished, I said genuinely, “I am sorry and I am glad you are ok.” And guess what he said…
That was it.
He was….grateful. I made a mistake. I owned it. I apologized for it. What I got in return was gratitude. I have since moved my car seats around to improve my ability to see the blind spot in order to keep myself, my children and others more safe. I learned. But that would NOT have happened if I didn’t first admit I made a mistake.
Think about how much differently that could have been if I self-justified my behavior with things like, he shouldn’t be driving a motorcycle because they are dangerous and you can’t see them. He must not know what it is like to raise three children. I would have deflected blame on him and absolved my own guilt.
Your children will forgive you.
You will forgive yourself.
The family will be grateful in the end as they gain the health you so desperately need.
Now that you have realized a mistake was made, it's time to educate yourself and your family on how to cook, how to move, and how to improve your sleep.
Listen to podcasts.
Buy whole foods based cookbooks.
Start moving together as a family.
Take a class.
I shared all my new found information with my children. For example, we talked about how and why sugar is unhealthy. We used a video game analogy of Pac Man to talk about how our neutrophil cells (Pac Man) eat up all the viruses (ghosts) when we eat nutrient dense whole foods to get power. But when Pac Man drinks soda and eats refined sugar and refined grains and food like substances, he can’t eat the ghosts and the ghosts kill him. In life we get sick.
Seek help if you are struggling from a qualified practitioner.
Working together as a family is a strong predictor of success for healthy behavior. Model the behavior you want your kids to have. Don’t expect them to do different from you. The more you talk with them about it, the more they will become all the accountability you need.
Fake being the parent you always wanted to be for your children.
I will never forget the first day home after having my first child. My husband and I looked at each other in bewilderment. “How did they ever let us leave the hospital to care for this baby? We have no idea what we are doing!”
Mind you, we both have doctoral level degrees and are healthcare professionals, yet we still had no idea.
One day, three years ago, I knew I needed to become a leader for the family. I had never wanted that nor thought I was capable to become a leader/role-model. In order for our family to make a transition to health and avoid chronic disease, as their mother, I had to demonstrate and lead the family in that direction.
Being a self-discovered introvert and a sugar addict, how was I going to do that?
One day, my sister said to me, “You are such a wonderful mother, you must LOVE parenting.”
I responded with, “Wow. It’s lucky I have you all fooled.” And we giggled about how challenging being a parent is and how most of the time you have no idea what you are doing.
I recently read a book by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist specialized in how nonverbal behavior influences people. She writes in her book Presence:
“Fake it until you become it.”
I realized, that this is exactly what I had done. I faked being the parent (leader) I always wanted for my children until I became it.
Amy Cuddy also describes power posing before your biggest challenges in order to boost your hormones to provide you with the ability to become present for the challenge. It has worked for sports teams, why not for parents who are trying to find the courage to become the leader of their family? This tip may help parents to get present and strong when you know you will encounter situations where unhealthy foods will be available to your children. Power up before the party in order to remain present in your goal to raise healthy children and for those temper tantrums that will come as a result of no longer eating candy bars.
Although, I didn’t use power posing during our initial transition, I do now. My children do to, because the world is challenging and we will continue to fake it until we become the best and healthiest versions of ourselves.
As every parent knows, this is the endurance marathon of a lifetime.
We will continue to make mistakes.
Healthy families only remain healthy if you keep repeating steps 1-3.
Explore the dark side. That is where true health and wellness lives.
Remove. Replace. Restore.
Remove self-justifying behavior.
Replace with a sincere apology. Forgive yourself. Educate your family on how to cook, move and sleep. Fake being who you want to be for your children until you become it.
Restore health and wellness for your family.
Eat Well. Move Well. Sleep Well. Soar On.
Dr Carolyn Dolan DPT, Cert MDT, MSHN
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