I had an interesting realization as we settled back into normal life, in terms of work and parenting, after the cruise. There are a lot of parallels between raising a toddler and losing weight.
– You have to be consistent. When we were on the cruise, we kept O to a nap every day and veggies with every meal, just like at home. We let him stay up past his normal bedtime, but he did still have a bedtime. The things that were “time out” offenses at home also applied on the ship. We did this because we’ve learned over time that the longer we let the rules “slide” because of a holiday or vacation or whatever, the harder it was to get him back to his normal standard of behavior. You’d think I would have realized that the same logic would apply to myself and my eating. By allowing myself so many indulgences on the vacation, I put myself in a situation where I really struggled for the first couple of weeks after we were home, in terms of resisting the temptation to stray again. Lesson learned: Be consistent and keep treats small and thoughtfully chosen.
– Reward yourself for establishing new habits. Oliver is incredibly motivated by sticker charts, so we use them to help him with any new habit we’re trying to establish, whether it was potty training or getting back on track with good behavior at school after the Christmas-crazies. He earns a certain number of stickers and gets a reward, although he is motivated by the sticker itself as much as the end prize. The same tactic can actually be helpful for adults trying to establish new habits in terms of weight loss as well. I’ve used stickers for exercise myself, in terms of physical stickers (a sticker every day I did at least 10 minutes of exercise, with prizes for certain numbers of stickers) but the little “happy grams” from My Fitness Pal for tracking food or exercise can do the same thing. I’ve even re-established a reward system for myself to earn a new CD currently, using my running log as a way to keep track of my success. Lesson learned: You’re never too old for a reward system and you can come back to it as often as you need it.
– Positive reinforcement works a lot better than negative. With children, it is really important to “catch them being good” to praise and reinforce good behaviors. Most child behavioralists say that this works a lot better than focusing primarily on punishment and certainly it seems to be true in our house. Thankfully, Oliver is a pretty good kid so it is easy to keep the overall ratio of positive to negative feedback we give him on the positive end of things. We need to be conscious of the same ratio in our conversations with ourselves. It is so important to reward yourself, even if it is just with positive self-talk, for the little things you’re doing well in your healthy lifestyle change rather than dwelling on the things we slip up on. Lesson learned: Catch yourself being good.
– Remember that the days are long but the years are short. We’re going through a drama filled threenager week here due to a toxic mix of mom traveling out of town for a few days followed by a cold that disrupted Oliver’s sleep, so we’ve had some days that felt REALLY long. Despite that, last night I had an absolutely fantastic dinner date with my little guy and really soaked up the funny interesting soul that he is at this precise moment in his life. Before I know it, he’ll be in kindergarten and then high school and then who knows what. The time flies. Believe it or not, the same is true with weight loss. There are days that feel tediously forever long, but if you stick with it, you’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come in habits and healthy changes and who knows what else. Lesson learned: The time is going to pass anyway, and faster than you expect, so you might as well make the most of it.
I am by no means an expert in parenting or weight loss, but there are definitely some parallels. Really, some of these are parallels I could have said about raising my dog too, not just my kid, although food based rewards were more important there and we’re trying to avoid them with the human members of our household. 😉
It goes without saying that my biggest failing as a parent is also my biggest failing in self-acceptance and in weight loss – my impatience. At least I know that improving my patience will help in lots of areas of my life. 🙂
What lessons have you learned from your (furry or not) children?