6 Top tips for managing your weight when you’re a parent
Over the years many of my clients have told me that they never had a problem with their weight until they had children. Old habits and routines get thrown out of the window as life changes and unfortunately a lot of the new habits are often unhelpful when it comes to our weight. You may not notice it at first, but small changes can add up over time and gradually the weight gain can creep up on you.
So here are my top tips for managing your weight when you’re a parent.
1 – Watch out for finishing the kids’ meals
I’m not a huge fan of wasting food so I can understand why people slip into the habit of polishing off the kids’ plates as well as their own. There are a couple of points to consider here. Firstly it may be worth thinking about how much you are giving your children in the first place. Children are usually pretty good at recognising when they’re satisfied and if they’re regularly leaving food for you to finish then that could be a sign that maybe their portions are a little too big for them. Read more on ‘me-size portions’ for help and ideas for checking children’s portion sizes.
Secondly, consider planning your own portions based on the likelihood that you’ll be finishing the toddler’s food too. If you know you’ve overdone it at a previous meal, try having a little less than normal at your next meal. If you don’t end up finishing off their food and you’re still hungry you can always go back for more (as long as you are actually hungry!).
2 – Make exercise a regular part of family life
Do you find you aren’t as active now due to the children taking up more of your time or is your usual exercise regime not particularly child-friendly? Now is a good time to think about how you could get more active together as a family – it will set a good example for the kids too. How about a kick about in the park or a family walk or bike-ride? If you have a garden you could get the kids involved in helping with weeding or try growing your own vegetables – they may be more inclined to try veggies at meal-times if they’ve helped grow them. If you can’t get outside then how about clearing some space indoors, putting your favourite tunes on and dancing with the kids in the living-room? Follow their lead and dance like no-one’s watching, you’ll feel good and burn off some excess energy too.
3 – Avoid keeping treats in the house
I hear a lot of people say they get treats for the kids and end up picking at them themselves. But do you really need to keep treats in the house? The kids really need them? I’m the last person to say don’t ever have treats like chocolate or pudding, but we really don’t need to have these things every day. Try avoiding buying these things as part of your weekly shop and then they’re not there to tempt you. If you really want a treat then it’s more effort to go out and get some, or you could have a designated treat day when you all get something special or you bake cakes together as a family.
4 – Find non-food based rewards
It’s easy to turn to food if you’re feeling stressed or tired and raising a family can be both stressful and tiring! Try to find non-food based ways to treat yourself, it gives the kids a good example too. Try scheduling in time dedicated to spending time as a family just chilling out and having fun. The family that plays together stays together. It doesn’t have to cost the earth, you could search the Internet for local nature or heritage trails, or ideas for games to play around the house or garden. It’s also important to take some time out for yourself, whether it’s just a soak in the bath or half an hour working on your hobby when the kids have gone to bed – the housework can wait for one night a week! If you can, try to schedule in some time to spend with your partner too – this is where friends/family can help with childcare – even if all you do is get a decent night’s sleep!
5 – Plan meals together
If you can put aside 10-15minutes to plan your meals for the week, you can save yourself money, hassle and avoid ending up having takeaways on those busy days. If you don’t already have a calendar it would really be worth getting one so you can see what’s happening each week then plan for when you will be busy. You could cook extra so that you have leftovers to keep in the freezer or spend a few hours at the weekend cooking up meals to portion off ready for those busy days. If the kids are old enough get them involved in the planning and preparation too.
6 – Try to eat together as a family
If you can try to stick to a routine and eat meals together as a family this can help you avoid constantly being in the kitchen preparing food and potentially picking as you go. Try to take time to eat up at a table and focus on the food without distractions such as TV/radio/Internet. This is good for the whole family as you will enjoy the food more if you pay attention to it. You will also be more aware of what you are eating, how much you are eating and you are more likely to recognise when you are full too.
Louise runs child-friendly weight-loss groups at Baby Bird Cafe on Fridays 11am-12noon.
Louise is an HCPC-registered Dietitian and runs Society Of Self-esteem; for more details check out her website or Facebook page.