How can I help my family develop a healthier lifestyle? We have young children, and I'd like to do everything I can during these early years to encourage everyone in the house – mom, dad, and kids – to develop habits that will give us many long, healthy, happy days together. Can you provide me with any helpful tips?
The fact that you're even thinking in these terms at this early stage of your family's life is a hopeful sign. Intentionality is an important and often overlooked ingredient of good health. Here's a list of questions designed to give you a heads-up about several areas of your daily life that could have a serious impact on your family's health:
- What's the quality of your fuel? The human body needs a steady supply of high-quality nutrients to build, maintain, and repair itself, and to provide energy for millions of critical metabolic reactions. When planning your family's menu, you should be thinking about such things as the number of calories you're consuming each day; the actual nutrients contained in the foods you eat (check the package labels); the proportions of protein, fat, and carbohydrate in your daily intake; and the importance of eating breakfast and including sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Are you carrying too much – or too little – fat storage? By far the most common, and most serious, nutritional problem in developed countries is the tendency to consume too much food. A much smaller number of people struggle with eating disorders that compel them to eat very little. To confront this threat effectively, know your body mass index (BMI) and find out whether it constitutes a danger to your health. You can calculate your BMI on the Centers for Disease Control Web site. If you or anyone else in your family is overweight, see your physician to develop a program of diet and exercise that will help you shed the extra pounds.
- Do you exercise regularly? This often requires deliberate effort and planning in our sedentary society. But the rewards in terms of long-term health, energy, and alertness are worth the investment. You, your spouse, and your children should be doing some kind of physical exercise at least five days a week.
- Do you ingest any substances that could wreck your health and shorten your life? Tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs, excessive amounts of prescription medications – they all present serious threats to long-term health and the overall quality of your family's daily life. The dangers of addiction are obvious. But it's equally important to realize that even smaller doses of these substances can have seriously damaging effects on both mind and body.
- How is your emotional health? The connection between body and mind is very real, though we are far from understanding all of its dimensions. Many physical symptoms have roots in emotional problems. It's important, then, to take steps to ensure that your family's life is kept on an even mental and emotional keel. Are you living a balanced lifestyle? Are your relationships healthy or toxic? Do you feel anxious, depressed, or stressed out much of the time? Do you struggle with headaches, fatigue, aches and pains, or other symptoms for which no one can find a cause? The answers to questions like these can provide important keys to the maintenance of good overall health.
- How is your spiritual health? Something similar can be said about your spiritual condition. A strong personal faith that affects your outlook on life, directs your daily choices, and brings you comfort, peace, and joy can have a measurable impact on your physical health.
- Do you play it safe, or do you take chances with your life and health? Don't run unnecessary risks. Stay current with immunizations and medical check-ups. Don't neglect basic safety measures around the house and in the car.
- Do you and your spouse enjoy a healthy sex life? Safe and fulfilling sex is a crucial component of a stable marriage, and a strong marriage is the nucleus of a healthy home.
- Are you getting enough refreshing, restorative sleep? Do you feel as though you get enough sleep most nights? Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep? Do you know how many hours of sleep you or your children need each night? We spend roughly a third of our life sleeping, and the quality of the sleep we get is a vital component of good health.
- How well do you navigate the health-care system? If you want your family to stay healthy, it's important to take full advantage of the resources available to you. This means having a qualified primary-care physician, good health insurance, and a comprehensive working knowledge of the medical coverage and benefits provided under your plan.
If you have additional questions, call our staff counselors for a free phone consultation.
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Every Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul