Working as a personal trainer for a number of years I heard it all. Cutting carbs, juicing, training twice a day for five or six days a week, chicken and broccoli for breakfast, running a marathon. The thing is, most people can't sustain these hardcore plans, least of all parents. Which is why I wrote Family Fit.
As a parent myself, I am well aware how challenging life can be. I often look back at my life before children and marvel at how much time I must have had. What did I do with it all?! Once there's a kid in the picture everything changes. 'Me-time' becomes this myth from long ago, somewhere in the mists of I-don't-know-when. If there is more than one kid then the whole concept is laughable.
We know that as parents we have a duty to help our kids grow and develop into functioning, healthy humans. In reality, we are pretty lacking in the energy and time departments. It is much easier for us to turn the TV on and pop the turkey twizzlers in the oven. But does it really have to be that overwhelming?
The health and fitness industry would have us believe that results can only be achieved with superhuman effort. By results, I mean what the industry sell us as results. Six packs, guns, buns, shapely legs, toned arms, slim waists and so on. Lets be honest though, the result everyone is after is the same: happiness. Happiness with the way we look. Happiness with the way we feel.
This kind of thing is relevant for most sections of society, sure. But I wanted to speak directly to a group I had an affinity with: parents. New mums are being pressured to 'lose the baby weight' and 'get back into their skinny jeans'. I know, I used to market like this too before I learned better. Dads are being bombarded with muscle-bound superheroes and cover models. There is a lot at stake. Self-esteem is being systematically eroded by this incessant media judgement.
Is there not enough to be busy with as a parent without having to concern ourselves with living up to society's ever-changing standards of beauty? Do we not have enough to deal with at home without measuring ourselves against the hips, thighs, abs, bums and arms of celebrities and social media idols?
Those are rhetorical questions by the way.
I wrote Family Fit because I wanted to address parents regarding the reality of being fit and healthy. I wanted to help the overwhelmed mums and dads become healthier, fitter, stronger and more able to cope with the demands of parenthood, instead of yo-yo dieting and attempting workout plans they simply don't have time for.
Read more: Staying Healthy as a Parent
Even if parents did have the time and energy to go all-out, smashing it on some crazy diet and workout routine, the stats don't look good. Diets have only a 5% success rate, with the other 95% of dieters ending up back where they started! Add to this the fact that 35% of occasional dieters will develop disordered eating habits, and 25% will end up with a full-blown eating disorder. This is no joke, you are risking a lot by dieting.
Even if you were willing to fight those terrible odds and put yourself at risk of developing an eating disorder, what about your kids? You're a role model to them, it has been shown time and time again that children emulate their parents behaviour. So even if you don't care if YOU get an eating disorder (which is kinda crazy), what about your kids? Would you want them to suffer with anorexia, bulimia, or any other of the debilitating and potentially life-threatening disorders that one in four dieters will end up with? Yeah, I thought not.
Read more: Why Dieting Sucks
Most parents would love their kids to grow up running around outdoors, exploring, having fun. Staying active and then coming home to eat a big home-cooked meal with plenty of variety. I know life doesn't always conspire to help this happen, I'm not naive. But if we develop a stronger tendency towards this kind of lifestyle that would be a better starting point, right?
I mean, we will always deviate from the plan. Sometimes we will have a duvet day, watch films and eat crisps. Some days the weather won't be suitable for playing outdoors. Sometimes we'll struggle with time and pick up a takeaway on the way home from work. This isn't a problem! Please, please don't think you have to be perfect all the time. Or indeed, any of the time. This is not about perfection, it's about having generally better habits and routines. The Family Fit approach is about moderation and staying flexible, not about deprivation and guilt.
By better I mean specifically for you, no two families will have the same needs, backgrounds, or interests. By better I just mean habits and routines which serve to give you more energy, more physical fitness and strength, better sleep, better cognitive function...just generally better all-round health.
The whole premise of Family Fit is to help parents move away from the classic 'diet and workout' mentality. It's about developing a healthier relationship with activity and eating. I want parents to find ways they can enjoy getting more active, and enjoy eating a varied and balanced range of food. I want your children to grow up in love with being active, and eating lots of healthy, delicious meals!
If you are looking for somewhere to get started then here's my advice: begin by getting more active as a family. That's it, really! Get your family together and plan the activities, both indoor and outdoor, that you would all like to do. If you have a nice extensive list of options you will be much more likely to pick active things to do instead of just putting the TV on again.
Read more: 7-Day Family Fit Challenge
This combination of physical activity and quality family time is one of the main foundations of Family Fit. It also underpins the coaching and workshops I provide. Who wouldn't want to get fitter and healthier at the same time as building stronger relationships with the people they love?! I know it has made a huge difference to my own family life, that's for sure.
I understand that this approach doesn't sell as well as 'lose your baby weight fast' or 'ditch the dadbod'. But that's something I'm prepared to forego in order to stay true to where my beliefs have come to rest. I've been guilty of this exact kind of self-esteem crushing marketing before, but perhaps this gives me some more insight on how to combat it.
My vision for the future is a community of fit, healthy, active parents making small positive changes and reaping the huge benefits. Parents with the strength to carry out their duties, and more energy to enjoy it! And kids growing up with healthy role models, developing the habits to give them the best possible start in life.