By Rita Chavez 

Recently, I enrolled my 5 year old daughter in hula classes and am considering enrolling my younger daughter in swimming lessons, and it really got me thinking about how I could enhance my own health.  I really didn’t set any health and fitness goals last year because I just wanted to focus on adjusting to becoming a mom of two during my second daughter’s first year.  Now that she is a year old, I wanted to set down some real health goals, both physically and emotionally.  Since becoming a parent, I have learned that many things I do (or don’t do) and my lifestyle mostly revolves around my children. Work, exercise, hobbies; all of these are taken into account around my daughters’ needs and well-being, so I decided to structure some of my health goals around my family. I would really like to get the whole family eating better, to get outside more, and to make time for myself each day.  I’ll be sharing some tips that have helped me achieve my goals in the past and that will help me reach and maintain my current health goals.     

  1. Write it down: Now that I am a mom, between doctor’s appointments, school engagements and snack days, work schedules, playdates, and so on, I find that if I don’t write it down, I will forget about it.  My husband and I both carry notebooks to write things down, from grocery lists to random thoughts and ideas, and if I can’t remember to take my daughter to her dentist’s appointment that I scheduled a month ago, I am definitely not going to remember what my  health goals were toward the end of the year.  Writing down messages of encouragement to read also helps me stay on track when I am not feeling motivated. 
  2. Get the kids involved: It only seemed fitting to get my 5 year old daughter’s ideas while brainstorming goals for our whole family.  She is in kindergarten and learning a lot about healthy habits in class, and this will help her apply her newfound knowledge to everyday life.  It is also a great time for bonding and open discussion between us, and I believe it gives her a sense of confidence because I am asking for her input on big decisions.  Kids are also brutally honest, so I know she will give me a truthful opinion on what we have come up with (vegetables wasn’t on the top of her priority list of things to achieve this year).
  3. Start Small: I have learned that small steps can make a big difference in the long run by helping from good habits for everyone.  I’ve decided to get outside at least once a week, whether it’s planning a trip to the sledding hill or even just a walk to the park with the girls. This is one goal both my girls are excited about, as I find myself wanting to stay warm and indoors during the cold winter months, but they really love to play outside, even when it’s 10 degrees out! As the weather gets warmer, I will try to add more days to our goal with longer walks and hopefully by the summer we will be taking family hikes.  I decided to tackle the challenge of eating better by making small changes to our diets.  Leafy greens are challenging to get my girls to eat, so I started making freezer waffles with spinach, which both the girls love and they’re quick for school day breakfasts.  I also add spinach into our grilled cheese sandwiches, mac and cheese, and spaghetti sauce, in addition to offering raw or cooked veggies as sides, and they’ve accepted the changes with ease.  
  4. Tangible goals and rewards: Making time for me is vital for my emotional health as a parent, so I decided to take an hour of my day to do something that was not “mom” or “work” related, that I felt was important for self-care. Even though nap times are technically “me time,” I find myself meal prepping, cleaning, doing laundry, or making important phone calls.  I really enjoy doing yoga, but my schedule and my husband’s schedule doesn’t work well with our local yoga studio’s class options.  Thanks to suggestions from friends, I found a free online yoga series that I can do any time at home, and it has been a great way to unwind after the girls have gone to bed as I prepare to end my day.  I’ve also worked in a reward system for my daughter as an incentive to eat more vegetables at dinner time.  Frozen yogurt pouches have become a motivator for my 5 year old to eat all her veggies or at least try new ones that are offered to her.  We’ve also switched out ice cream for fun frozen yogurt flavors for everyone at home.  With this system I know we are still sticking to our goal of eating better while still enjoying sweeter things in life.

I hope some of these tips have inspired you to come up with some goals and will help you succeed, whether it’s a personal health goal or a fitness adventure that the whole family is embarking on.  Good luck and have fun!

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Rita is an Army wife of ten years and a mom to two little girls.  She graduated from University of Hawaii: West Oahu in 2010 with a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Public Administration, but has a passion for helping animals and most recently worked for the oldest no-kill animal shelter in San Antonio, TX.  As a recent military move led her family to bid goodbye to San Antonio, she now volunteers with The Carrying On Project in Fort Drum, NY, where she shares her love and knowledge of babywearing with other caregivers.  When she is not volunteering, Rita enjoys taking photos of her daughters and dogs, and her hobbies include cooking and crafting.

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