Keep your eyes on the goal

I was sitting at the pediatrician’s office waiting for my four children to be seen. I happened to pick up a small health magazine and was leafing through it when an article on sugar caught my attention. I think most of us know sugar should not be the star of our diet; however, I am not certain if we are aware of the depth and width of the negative effects sugar can have on our bodies.This particular article outlined exactly howsugar deteriorated and harmed each part of our body in the short and long term.

There is a magnified effect of one’s health concerns when you read about wellbeing at the doctor’s office. I don’t know if it is the smell of medicine, the blue walls or the nurses and doctors pacing up and down the halls with charts, or perhaps the screaming children getting their shots…? At any rate, your desire for health grows exponentially when visiting a health-care provider.

Needless to say, from that point forward, I decided to completely halt my intake of processed sugar and put an even more conservative limit to the amount of processed sugar my children consumed.

Although my decision was based on fear, the fear of illness to be exact, I felt good about the choice I had just made. Unlike a diet, where you are suppressing your desire for a period of time, many times unwillingly; the choice to “break up” with sugar for good was empowering, much like ending a relationship with someone who does not provide you with any true happiness. Come to think of it, our connection with sugar is just that; a toxic bond based on addiction, short-term rewards and no health benefits.

My first instinctual reaction was to dramatically and authoritatively put an end to the concept of sugar in my house. After all, if I had the fortitude and determination to do it, so by that token, everyone else could do it as well. However, the voice of experience warned me against such rash behavior. When I first became a parent, I quickly recognized that I could never expect my children’s experience to be the same as mine. As a result, I am often reminded that my babies are living in a completely different world than the one I grew up in; hence, the voice.

To be exact, I live with four children ages 13, 11, 7 and 4 (and my husband, who has a sweet tooth!)whose favorite meal is desert. They are also strong willed creatures,who will find a way to achieve their desire if it is “unfairly” or “unjustifiably” taken away. There are very few healthy children who will understand the negative effects of sugar on their bodies and willingly give up candy, ice cream and cupcakes. Not to mention, the rest of the world has not yet caught up to my “progressive” views, and whilst my children want to be famous and unique, they also want to blend right in with the crowd. Consequently, I decided to switch my strategy.

If there is one thing my youngsters have taught me about parenting, it is that my silence and habits have a much larger impact than my words and random actions. In other words, the choices I make on a daily basis are my true legacy to them. They do not remember what I tell them to do, or what I think they should do, they remember what I do; although, my words do gain some recognition when they are the result of their curious and inquisitive minds. As you may well imagine, there were many questions when I didn’t consume my usual sliver of cake or dollop of ice cream. The ensuing conversation was informative and productive, but it was not going to make them stop eating sugar. It was however, a great way to begin changing their perception.

The second step of my strategic plan was to decrease the availability of sugary treats. There is a lot of complaining when there is “nothing for desert” (nothing being what their expectation is demanding). However, they eventually settle for the yogurt, granola and dark chocolate-chunk parfaitalternative. Or the natural dark-chocolate covered cherries choice, which by the way are bursting with anti-oxidants!

Let me make it clear, it hasn’t been easy. It is easier to give in to the demands of short-term rewards in order to avoid crying children or angry tweens and teens who chose to give in to their own short-term plunders. However, I always go back to Henry Ford’s quote that so aptly states; “obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal”. My goal is to model healthful habits and environments for my children, not to avoid their tempers. I will say that the absence of sugar in my body has enabled me to physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually be a better parent. Without a doubt, my children will benefit from this in the short and long term.


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