Shutting down our entire race operations for a whole year didn’t scare me – I knew we would bounce back. We always do. The truth is that very few things really do scare me. Spartans are Spartans, meaning we learn apathy toward comfort. We don’t quit when it's hard – the hard stuff is what we're built for. So what does rattle me, and what should scare you? The rising obesity rates in kids. We are on a crash course that we may not be able to self-correct if we don’t act fast.
A few weeks ago, I read an article about kids gaining weight during the pandemic. At-home learning, closed-down parks, and direct access to snacks were mentioned as some of the reasons that the scale has been consistently creeping up among kids. I couldn’t help but read the article and think, This is total bulls***. At-home learning isn’t 14 hours a day. Parks aren’t the only available space for play. And Fruit Loops and HoHos don’t walk into a house without someone buying them. Who’s taking responsibility for this? And why are we letting those who are responsible off the hook? It’s as if kids just keep getting fatter, and we just throw our hands up like there isn’t a solution. Well I’ve got one, and it’s not rocket science: Buy better food and get your kids to move.
Get Your Kids on Track with Proper Nutrition and Persistent Movement
1. Stop Stocking the Cupboards. Start Stocking the Fridge.
I hear every excuse in the book why people couldn’t possibly eat better. No time, no access, prep takes too long, too expensive. I honestly believe that 99 percent of it is just an excuse. I get that the processed, expires-two-years-from-now stuff can be better tasting and the "work" that it takes to put more nutritious food on a plate sometimes feels overwhelming. When it comes to parents, however, I don’t care how much work it is. This is what you signed up for, and you’re not out of the woods if your kids still live under your roof.
So start by weeding out the cupboards, get rid of the snack drawer, and begin buying foods that need to stay in the fridge to survive. That bowl of M&M’s on the counter? Fill it with grapes, nuts, and little clementines. "They won’t eat it," you say? They will if there’s nothing else available. Their brain and body want to survive and feel good. Sure, the first few days they may complain, stomp their feet, and refuse. But before you know it they’ll be hungry, their body will be craving nutrients, and you’ll have a win.
2. Don't Make Separate Meals
Parents tell me all the time that their parenting efforts suffer because they’re “just too tired or too busy each day,” and yet I see many of them making at least two meals at dinner – one for them and one for the kids. Sometimes they make a meal for each child and claim, "I’ve got picky eaters." Dr. Lara Pence, a licensed clinical psychologist and our Chief Mind Doc, has worked with kids and parents in therapeutic environments, and she told me that "picky eaters" are the kiss of death for families.
“Unless you’ve got a kid with severe allergies who absolutely requires a separate meal, this is one of the worst things you can do," Dr. L said. "It exhausts the parent and panders the child.”
The only way that your kid is going to get used to eating more nutritious and healthy foods is to actually eat nutritious and healthy foods. That’s it. There are no hacks. So when you cook a separate meal because all your child will tolerate is nuggets and macaroni and cheese, you’re not just contributing to the problem – you ARE the problem. No one wants to be a problem-parent. So start being the solution by feeding them what you feed yourself.
3. Make Movement Mandatory
Ever wonder why your child doesn’t want to go outside and play kickball? Because they’ve got this incredible device right at their fingertips that fires off a whole bunch of dopamine and makes them feel high. Plus, we aren’t out there modeling it for them! Movement in my house is mandatory. We wake up every morning and hit the ground running with a 5 a.m. workout. You know what’s not mandatory? Screen time. It’s earned. Do your workout, get your homework done, and then we’ll talk about it.
If you want your kids to move, there are two ways to start: First, do it with them. Second, reward them afterward. Here's the rule you're going to set: The kids do not get any screen time unless they’ve done at least 30 minutes of exercise. Sure, you’ll be met with screaming and grumpy participation at first. But before you know it, they’ll be game. Why? Because the movement dopamine hit will start to replace the screen dopamine hit. Win, win.
I get it – parenting is HARD. But we’re Spartans, and true Spartans do hard s***. So let’s not let the obesity epidemic creep up on our own children. We can do better, and it does start with us. I know that saying parents are part of the problem isn't exactly popular, but I’m not interested in being popular. I just want to save our f****** kids.