Hello, fellow mothers (and grandmothers and aunts and caregivers)!
How are you doing?
No – really?
I see you working hard.
I worry that you aren’t taking care of yourself.
You fill a lot of roles and are incredibly busy.
You are a meal-preparer, house-cleaner, laundry-doer, grocery-shopper, homework-checker, and hug-giver.
You are a teacher, a mediator, a nurse, a chauffeur, a therapist, and a chef.
You are selfless – always putting the needs of your family before your own. You sacrifice a lot to make sure your family is happy and healthy.
Whoa. That’s a lot of duties and responsibilities.
Can you remember the last time you had a little time – just a little – for yourself?
If you are like most moms, probably not!
And forget about finding time to get a workout in – you can’t even take a shower (or, let’s be honest, use the bathroom at all) without someone following you in, or standing at the door waiting for you, demanding your immediate attention.
Woooo boy, you are TIRED, and you wonder if you will ever get a good night’s sleep again.
Of course, it is all worth it because you love your family and would do anything for them.
But what are you doing FOR YOU?
Who is taking care of YOU?
If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you expect to be able to take care of others?
I guarantee you – your loved ones WANT you to be happy and healthy. Even if they don’t act like it. Even if they don’t say it.
They love you and care about you and want you to be around for a LONG time.
Do you feel guilty about wanting some time to yourself?
I know I did when my children were young. I wanted to get back in shape after the birth of my second child, but I also didn’t want to take time away from him and all of my domestic responsibilities.
I was tired and about 30 pounds overweight. My pre-pregnancy clothes didn’t fit, and I didn’t want to spend money on new (and larger) items. I was running a business at the time and didn’t believe I could fit in any time for workouts or other forms of self-care.
But I knew that to be the best mother I could possibly be I had to start taking care of MYSELF.
And what kind of role model was I, really? I studied health sciences and nutrition in college and grad school, but I sure wasn’t applying what I’d learned to my own life.
When my son was about 2 years old, I decided it was time to make some changes. So, I found an online coach who didn’t cost a fortune. He designed a nutrition and workout plan for me. I slowly lost the extra weight I’d been lugging around and gained strength. And, perhaps most important – I was a better role model for my children and I had more energy to keep up with them.
Why am I telling you my story?
Well, I know what it is like to be busy and tired and to have REALLY important priorities (after all, what is more important than raising incredible little humans?).
I have been there. My children are adults now, but I see my friends and family members and acquaintances who are mothers and caregivers juggling a LOT of stuff, and I want to help them find balance.
That’s one of the reasons I am writing this article – and is why I created a new project called Healthy Moms, Happy Families.
We have a Facebook group, and it is for mothers of all ages with children of all ages, even grown-up children.
You can join us here: Healthy Moms, Happy Families
Let’s offer each other support, ideas, and encouragement.
Support when times get challenging.
Ideas on how to balance parenting and self-care.
Encouragement to build the self-confidence needed to make real improvements in our lives and be the best we can possibly be.
Click here to check out the group. Join if you’d like. No pressure, but we’d love to have you. Healthy Moms, Happy Families.
You also can join our email list by filling in the information in the box below.
You’ll get a free Kitchen Rescue Infographic Bundle. I know you’ll find yourself using it constantly throughout your busy week. This powerful series of three infographics take virtually ALL the guesswork out of creating the ideal eating habits to help you get and stay healthy for a lifetime.
(Keep scrolling, there’s a lot more after the box.)
There’s another reason I am writing this open letter to moms and caregivers.
As a mother, nutrition professional, and former teacher, I am troubled by a serious problem.
I think we can join together to make things better, at least in our own families and perhaps, in our communities and beyond.
The world is facing an obesity crisis, and children are being impacted, too.
Let me preface this section with a very strong disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be interpreted as “body shaming”.
I believe in treating all people with respect and dignity and love, no matter their body size.
(In fact, I have provided support and guidance to many people who were overweight throughout my career – and some of the people I have worked with were morbidly obese. Everyone has their own unique set of challenges and the reasons some people become overweight are complicated and DEEP. I would NEVER judge anyone for being overweight. I am here to help as much as I can.)
I also believe that treating people with respect and dignity and love means being honest with them.
Accepting people is great – but accepting their unhealthful habits is not. It is enabling and normalizing obesity and unhealthful living.
Truly caring about and loving people means being willing to tell them the truth – and being willing to help them improve their health.
The truth is, many people are in serious trouble.
Just how dire is the situation?
More than 100 million adults — almost half the entire adult population — have pre-diabetes or diabetes. Cardiovascular disease afflicts about 122 million people and causes roughly 840,000 deaths each year, or about 2,300 deaths each day. Three in four adults are overweight or obese. More Americans are sick, in other words, than are healthy.
Poor diet is the leading cause of mortality in the United States, causing more than half a million deaths per year. Just 10 dietary factors are estimated to cause nearly 1,000 deaths every day from heart disease, stroke and diabetes alone. These conditions are dizzyingly expensive. Cardiovascular disease costs $351 billion annually in health care spending and lost productivity, while diabetes costs $327 billion annually. The total economic cost of obesity is estimated at $1.72 trillion per year, or 9.3 percent of gross domestic product.
In December 2019, researchers at Harvard published the findings of a study their team conducted.
Titled Projected U.S. State-Level Prevalence of Adult Obesity and Severe Obesity, the study provides a look into the bleak future of the health of Americans. Here’s an excerpt from the associated press release:
About half of the adult U.S. population will have obesity and about a quarter will have severe obesity by 2030, according to a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The study also predicts that in 29 states, more than half of the population will have obesity, and all states will have a prevalence of obesity higher than 35%. The study’s researchers estimate that, currently, 40% of American adults have obesity and 18% have severe obesity.
It isn’t just adults who are at risk.
According to a recent report from Partnership for a Healthier America,
Approximately 17 percent of U.S. youth have obesity, and nearly one in three children and adolescents are either overweight or have obesity.
No one is immune to the risk of growing up at an unhealthy weight. Childhood obesity cuts across all communities and all categories of race, ethnicity and family income. Alarmingly, the obesity problem strikes at an early age, with researchers estimating a staggering 9.4 percent of children ages 2 to 5 already have obesity. The obesity rate for children ages 6 to 11 has also more than quadrupled during the past 40 years – from 4.2 to 17.4 percent – as well as tripled for adolescents ages 12 to 19, climbing from 4.6 to 20.6 percent, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
Harvard’s Obesity Prevention Source provides additional details – ones that are tragic:
Childhood obesity has been called “one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century,” and with good reason.
Obesity can harm nearly every system in a child’s body – heart and lungs, muscles and bones, kidneys and digestive tract, as well as the hormones that control blood sugar and puberty – and can also take a heavy social and emotional toll. What’s worse, youth who are overweight or obese have substantially higher odds of remaining overweight or obese into adulthood, increasing their risk of disease and disability later in life.
These problems are not limited to the United States.
While the statistics above are for adults and children in the US, unfortunately, obesity is a worldwide problem, reports the World Health Organization (WHO):
- Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
- In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.
- 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese.
- Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
- 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2016.
- Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016.
Why is this so concerning?
Common health consequences of being overweight and obese include:
- cardiovascular diseases – heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US
- high blood pressure
- kidney disease (diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney disease)
- gallbladder disease
- fatty liver disease
- asthma, sleep apnea, and other breathing problems
- pregnancy complications
- vision problems like macular degeneration
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis – a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints)
- certain types of cancer (including meningioma [cancer in the tissue covering the brain & spinal cord], endometrial, breast, uterine, ovarian, prostate, thyroid, blood, esophagus, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, upper stomach, kidney, colon, and rectal – obesity is also linked to earlier onset of cancer)
Recent studies have yielded some alarming findings.
In one recent study, researchers found signs of damage that may be related to inflammation in the brains of obese adolescents: MRI Reveals Brain Damage in Obese Teens
Another recent study – published in the journal Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology and titled Beyond the Calories—Is the Problem in the Processing? – found that increasing obesity rates in the US appear to be related to the increase in the consumption of processed foods.
In a press release, researcher Leigh A. Frame, Ph.D., MHS, said:
“When comparing the U.S. diet to the diet of those who live in “blue zones” – areas with populations living to age 100 without chronic disease – the differences are stark. Many of the food trends we reviewed are tied directly to a fast-paced U.S. lifestyle that contributes to the obesity epidemic we are now facing.
Rather than solely treating the symptoms of obesity and related diseases with medication, we need to include efforts to use food as medicine. Chronic disease in later years is not predestined, but heavily influenced by lifestyle and diet. Decreasing obesity and chronic disease in the U.S. will require limiting processed foods and increasing intake of whole vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruits, and water. Health care providers must also emphasize lifestyle medicine, moving beyond ‘a pill for an ill.’ ”
There is some good news…
If you are struggling with your weight or want to prevent obesity in your family, or aren’t concerned about weight issues but want to eat and move better and find time for self-care, we’ve got the group for you.
Your family does not have to be a statistic.
Join us here: Healthy Moms, Happy Families.
We will talk about the challenges mothers face, finding time for self-care, eating healthfully, fun family activities that encourage fitness and wellbeing, and of course…have some fun!
To the world, you are a mother, but to your family, you are the world.