In today's world, it's tough to live a healthy, balanced life. Even active women can get sucked into fast food living, dieting and disordered exercise that subtly influences their family's habits. Like it or not, women have a major responsibility to those around them to encourage and empower healthy living choices. The tough thing is that there's so much information out there, you may not know where to start. That's why we turned to former Cirque du Soleil performer, best selling author, children's fitness advocate and personal trainer Kristy Lee Wilson for the inside scoop on promoting healthy choices in children and teens.
Fit family, fit future
GirlsGoneSporty (GGS): As a former Cirque du Soleil performer and a current fitness model and expert for Dr. Mehmet Oz’s Sharecare website, you’ve accumulated more than 20 years fitness industry experience. But your real passion seems to be for kids’ nutrition and exercise habits. What is it about children’s fitness and wellness that resonates so much with you?
Kristy Lee Wilson (KLW): I have always had a passion for working with kids. I started coaching gymnastics and trampoline when I was 15 years old, so I’ve worked with children for a long time. I love kids and, knowing how important health and fitness is for everyone, seeing how unhealthy and how overweight kids are today just pulls at my heart.
Fitness and nutrition became a major part of my life at an extremely young age. I was offered a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport when I was just eight years old, so as an eight year old I began training eight to nine hours a day, six days a week. Unfortunately, the sport of elite gymnastics (as well as many others) is also closely related with eating disorders, disordered eating and some other unhealthy behaviors, all of which I experienced.
I know personally how important it is to teach healthy habits from a young age, as our habits and actions as children often stay with us into adulthood. I know what is good for children and what is not good for children as far as health and fitness are concerned. I also know how destructive unhealthy habits can be for children, and how hard they are to break if they start that young. It is my passion to help children grow up healthy and happy and prevent the same issues I went through as a child.
GGS: Obviously there are lots of factors that contribute to poor eating and exercise habits in children, but what are some of the factors that stand out to you as the most “changeable”?
KLW: You are so right! There are many factors that contribute to poor eating and exercise habits in children, and I think the most changeable factor that stands out to me is how parents are feeding their kids. I understand that we are all busy these days, but we still have to put our health and fitness first. How can we be happy and live our best lives if we fail to take care of ourselves?
For parents this means setting a standard for your children and being a healthy role model for them. Parents are the ones who do the grocery shopping and make the decisions in the household — not the children. Choose to put healthier options in the house, such as fruit, cut veggies and homemade trail mix. Also, substituting candy bars for nutritious bars like USANA Nutrition Bars and chips for 100% whole grain crackers are good places to start. All of these are great snacks for both children and adults.
Also, be active as a family. Being physically active together as a family is a great way to strengthen family bonds and have fun. Have family game day, or night, where you go to a park and play touch football or soccer. And as an incentive for participating, bring a cooler filled with healthy snacks. Since energy drinks are so popular, especially with the teen and tween set, try packing a healthy alternative to the most popular energy drinks on the market. I like Rev3 Energy® drinks. They’re healthier and they have no artificial colors, flavors, and are much lower in sugar than comparable drinks. They're also packed with vitamins and minerals.
Children look up to their parents. If children see their parents happy, fit, enjoying life and having fun, they will want to be that way too. What child doesn’t want to have fun and be happy?
It starts with the parents
GGS: In your opinion, what are the most important things a parent can do to help their children achieve health and fitness through adolescence and into adulthood?
KLW: The number one most important thing a parent can do to help their children achieve health and fitness is to live that lifestyle themselves. Lead by example. A very common thing I see parents do, which creates enormous issues with health and fitness, especially with female teens, is diet! I’ve had many clients who come to me unhappy with their weight and fitness levels and have tried every diet under the sun. Be aware that no “diet” will work. There is no quick fix for a healthy lifestyle. If you want to be healthy, you need to follow the components of a healthy lifestyle, which include: being physically active on a regular basis, eating a well-balanced diet, and making sure you're providing yourself with all the daily recommended vitamins and minerals. More often than not, this means supplementing with high-quality vitamins such as USANA’s HealthPak™ and BiOmega™. And this needs to become your lifestyle!
The issues I see within many families is with moms who do not follow a healthy lifestyle and begin obsessing about their weight. They then try every diet under the sun and get frustrated because nothing works for them. They weigh themselves every day and voice to the family how unhappy they are with the number on the scale and are so confused as to why it’s not going down. Little do they know that their young daughters are taking all of this in and begin doing the same things themselves. I’ve had many moms come to me concerned about their daughters’ words and actions toward health and fitness. When I start talking to them, pointing out in fact that their daughters are simply copying their own actions, it’s heartbreaking. It hits home very hard.
As a parent, the absolute best thing you can do for your family is be happy with who you are, accept yourself (no one is perfect), and promote regular physical activity and good nutrition. Your family will follow your lead. I see it happen all the time.
Do you spend lots of time in the car? Keep your kids entertained with coloring sheets focused on physical activity . Check out these three featuring Kristy Lee Wilson, herself! >>
Making good habits stick
GGS: Changing habits isn’t easy, especially if an entire family has become accustomed to eating, acting, and interacting in certain ways. For the parent who wants to change their family’s eating habits, what tips would you suggest for making the transition easier?
KLW: Habits are indeed hard to break and will take time, but if you involve the whole family in the process and make things fun, then it becomes less of a challenge. Explain to your family why you want to make certain changes and how these changes will benefit them. For example, you care so much about your children and want to make sure they grow up living the best life they possibly can. You want them to remain healthy, and by doing so, they will feel better, have more energy, be happier, and be able to play longer or perform better in their chosen sport. Whatever it takes, be positive and excited about the changes you are making.
Also, remember who does the grocery shopping in the house! Make the decision to not bring unhealthy foods into the house. If they are not there, they cannot be eaten. Involve your children in grocery shopping. Give them a list and let them help you choose things at the store. Children love to help and feel appreciated. Make a big deal out of their efforts and make sure they recognize that you really appreciate their help. Let them choose their favorite fruits and vegetables.
Encourage your children to help you prepare meals and snacks. Always compliment your child's choice of a healthy meal, even if it needs some work. If you'd like to change what they consider their favorite snack or food, a positive word goes much further than a negative one.
Make dinnertime fun. Tell stories or jokes. Cut your food up into fun shapes. When our new habits are fun, we are more likely to stick with the changes. And most importantly, let your family know how proud you are of the changes they’ve made. Whether we are children or adults, we all like to feel happy and appreciated. It’s human nature.
GGS: Can you share a little about your book, The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic, Strength, Conditioning and Performance? How can the tips apply to everyone, regardless of competitive sports participation?
KLW: The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance is a book written by a number of the world’s leading fitness experts. It explores the subject of fitness through conditioning the body for optimal results in young athletes. We look at the factors of mindset, nutrition and exercise — all which play a part — from all angles and for all ages.
We discuss the benefits of training, techniques and the indelible influence of coaches on young athletes. Such influence often stays with individuals for a lifetime, and I’m so passionate about this because it’s been the case for myself. The influence my first coach had on me has lasted a lifetime — no matter how hard I try to change some things, some old habits really are hard to break.
Whether you have a toddler or a teen, the experts in this book have found success in teaching and coaching all age groups, skills and mindsets. Whether our students have grown into professional athletes or responsible citizens, appropriate coaching and teaching methods are key to helping them mature into healthy, competitive individuals on and off the field.
The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance also provides an opportunity for coaches, and especially parents, to read and adopt successful, tested, and proven healthy ideas in their daily roles.
Fortify a stong foundation
GGS: Is there anything else you would like to expand on or share?
KLW: Since lack of time is one of the most common excuses for why families sometimes do not make healthy food choices, make a conscious effort to keep fast and on-the-go healthy meals and snacks close by. Some of my favorite are the USANA Nutrimeal™ shakes and Nutrition Bars. I add Fibergy® Plus to help with healthy digestion. The USANA Nutrition Bars have gluten free options and are a great guilt-free snack. I use these products myself every day simply because they taste great, are so convenient, and provide a much healthier option than something off the store shelves or fast-food drive through.
Like I mentioned before, you also want to be smart about nutritional supplements. For our bodies to function optimally, it is practically impossible to get all the necessary nutrients we need from food alone. Supplementation is a must, and at the very minimum, everyone, child and adult, needs to be taking a high-quality multivitamin. Through my practice and research I have found only one supplement company I trust, will use myself, and recommend to others:
- For parents—USANA® Essentials™ for necessary vitamins and minerals.
- For teenagers—Body Rox™ gives active teens the nutrition they need for their busy schedules.
- For children ages 13 months to 12 years old—Usanimals™ are easy-to-eat chewables. Help your children recognize the importance of nutrition at an early age.
Win the Ultimate Family Health Pack!
From July 2nd to July 15th, 2012, GirlsGoneSporty will be hosting a giveaway for the Ultimate Family Health Pack including:
- A copy of Kristy Lee Wilson's book, The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance
- USANA® Essentials™ vitamins for adults
- Body Rox™ nutritionals for teens
- Usanimals™ children's chewables
While you can enter up to five times a day through the online giveaway entry form, you can also receive extra entries if your kids color the Kristy Lee Wilson coloring sheets provided above and you email a picture or a scan of the finished image to email@example.com. We would love to see them! (Hey, if you want to have fun coloring, too, have at it!)