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To those who love children: Is your health, good for them?

My epiphany came the day I told Jessica, yet again, about her bad eating habits and she responded, “Well, Mom, you’re fat too.”  (This is one in a series of monthly guest columns designed to focus the community’s attention on issues that affect our children. The column is part of a Shelby County initiative to remind everyone, in every aspect of daily life, to “Ask First: ‘Is It Good for the Children?’” For more information, call the Shelby County Office of Early Childhood and Youth at 385-4228 or visit www.shelbycountychildren.org.)

by Clintonia Simmons
Special to the Tri-State Defender

Before 2005, I was like many mothers around the world. I took care of my home and my children and prayed God would take care of the rest. Although I thought about their health and safety often, physical health was – unfortunately – not on the list of my top priorities.

Slimmed and trimmed mother and daughter Jessica (left) and Clintonia Simmons in the midst of a workout routine. (Photos by Tyrone P. Easley)

Because of my lack of attention, my daughter, Jessica, who was then 14, suffered from obesity. I told her about eating right and living healthy, but because I didn’t live by example, all my talking went in one of her ears and out the other.

My epiphany came the day I told Jessica, yet again, about her bad eating habits and she responded, “Well, Mom, you’re fat too.”

Something in me changed at that exact moment, and from then on. As an adult, I can handle things pretty well, but as a Mom it was breaking my heart to see Jessica struggle with the same emotional and physical issues surrounding obesity. I decided to begin teaching my children what was best for their health by being an example.

Together, Jessica and I shed over 80 lbs. Now we both know how great it is to see things from a different view. It is possible to make healthier choices daily for a better today, and tomorrow.

We also know that we are no different from any of God’s other wonderful families. So if we can accomplish living a healthier lifestyle, so can every other American mom, dad, daughter, son, grandmother, grandfather, etc. It’s not about weight loss, it’s about living healthier everyday.

I knew I could not stop with just my family. In 2006, I founded Healthy Kids & Teens and The Camp Get Fit Foundation dedicated to educating children and families about proper nutrition, exercise and the fact that they, too, can be in control of their health and physical image.

For over six years, I have worked hard to keep not only my family’s life on a more healthful track, but also teach other children and their families about healthy living. Together with my team of certified trainers, we teach children about how vital it is to practice a healthy lifestyle through our Get Fit and Live Healthy Program. Our program is bringing awareness as well as change in living healthier for numerous kids, teens and families.

It’s amazing how excited kids and teens can be about living healthy. It only takes a small spark and a little imagination. We believe in educating kids and teens in the areas of nutrition and fitness to help reduce secondary health problems associated with obesity such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression. Our classes are reaching kindergartners to high school students in the Memphis community and beyond. We have students who are now consuming more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, dedicated to exercising more, and some, just like my daughter Jessica, have shed significant pounds.

There is not a day that goes by that we do not receive some positive reinforcement from one of the kids. Increasingly, children are prompting parents to view their health in the context of their children.

How can we lead by example?

It’s simple, yet it requires your most powerful tool – your mind! I know we have all heard this before, but we really do have the power needed to change.

(Clintonia Simmons is President/CEO of Healthy Kids & Teens, Inc. For information, visit www.healthykidsandteens.com, or call 901-219-3730 or 901-737-8447.)

Clintonia Simmons (right) said her health epiphany came when she told her daughter, Jessica (left), yet again, about her eating habits, with Jessica responding, “well, Mom, you’re fat too.”

A healthier life – a family journey

Take the family 21-day Healthy Habits Challenge

Research shows that one can create any habit in just 21 days. Start out with one challenge such as eating your “5 A Day,” which is your minimum daily recommended three vegetables and two fruits. There are many viable options for the busy parent. Try quick and easy vegetable steamers in the frozen food isle of any store.

Make exercise automatic

Select the days of the week your family will exercise together and don’t let anything get in your way. Liken it to going to church on Sunday morning. We would not dare miss our worship.

Sleep in your workout clothes, if you have to.

Don’t drink your calories

Soft drinks and other sweet-laden beverages – such as our beloved “southern sweet tea” – are nothing but empty calories. Water added with Crystal Light or other substitute is a good alternative to soft drinks.

Carry your ‘Love Me’ bag

This bag is in a sense a bag of snacks. It is healthy snack alternatives that can be kept in the car, in a backpack or locker, or in the big purses that some of us love. Plan for hunger because it’s coming daily.

Have sometime foods only ‘sometime’

Sweets would definitely be a sometime food. Balance your daily food intake. Begin by limiting sweets to once or twice a week. Before learning better some of our students ate sweets every day.

Make exercise fun for your family

Can anyone say Line Dance Saturday – drop it like it’s hot for your health.

As the song says, “Our children are our future,” and if nothing else, we want them around to help take care of us. I’m still 25 in my head – but not really…

The next time you are making a food choice or the choice to move your body, ask yourself, “Is it good for our children?”

– Clintonia Simmons

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