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It’s a Woman Thing: Make Health a Daily Conversation

As a single mom, men’s health isn’t something I consider on a daily basis, but I do have a teenage son, so I should consider it!

As I ponder this, I realize that we talk about health frequently in my home. It is part of our regular conversation and they, of course, know health is important to me as a nurse and medical professional!

I always comment to my children about how healthy they are.  I tell them that they were breastfed as infants and how valuable that was and is now to their health today.  People find it hard to believe when I tell them that my triplets have only been to the doctor for well visits!  Between the three of them, in 13 years we have only had one ear infection, and one case of strep throat!  That is amazing when you think about the number of childhood sicknesses out there!

Build health awareness

My kids have started noticing their health more now too. They comment how other teens they are friends with are “always sick.”  I believe the conversation about health always starts with a mindset of health. If you believe you are healthy, then you will be healthy.

My kids have always been active and at this stage of their lives I feel confident that we can declare them athletes. My son’s passion is baseball. He has been playing since the age of 5, when he started T-ball, then up to little league and now playing Junior league.  He also is playing for a travel baseball team.

Not only is the travel organization providing great skill training, physical conditioning is also a big part of the curriculum.  He is learning how to exercise his body in a positive way.  He is tuned into his strength and performance.  His goal is to become a MLB player someday, so he is very aware of how the professional players train and how rigorous their playing season is.  He came to me the other day and told me that he needs to practice hitting the ball about 50 times per day this summer while he is off so that he can get better.  I am not sure he has made the connection between physical activity and mental health.  However, as a runner, he has heard me talk about how running makes me feel good and gives me a chance to think and clear my mind.

Image file: Bridget and her son on the way to a baseball game.
Bridget and her son on the way to a baseball game
Image file: Bridget and her son headed to a baseball game.
Bridget and her son headed to a baseball game

"No Yik" and Food Choices

One topic that we routinely discuss is nutrition.  Since they were old enough to listen, I have talked to my kids about eating well.  We talk about healthy foods in terms of being real and natural, no artificial ingredients or preservatives.  As I call it, “No Yik!”

We talk about sugar, we talk about “red food dye,” we talk about “whole foods.”  My son has ADD and the science shows that there are many foods that are triggers.  I have shared this with him to make him aware that his brain works better when it gets protein, minimal sugar, minimal dairy, and Omega 3s.   Our freezer is full of various varieties of Breyer’s ice cream, even though ice cream may not be a health food, we talk about Breyer’s being all natural!  Even when we splurge and eat out, his favorites are Chipotle and Panera, and I am quick to point out to him that they use fresh ingredients, which are better for you.

And, of course we talk about hydration! I talk about how important water is for you to keep you hydrated, especially when playing sports, we always make sure to have a water bottle on hand!

Make the Moments Count

Our lives are very busy, but we do manage to sit down at the dinner table as a family.  I do point out how this is also a “healthy choice.”  It gives us a time to connect, talk about our day, and enjoy healthy foods that are prepared at home with fresh, whole ingredients.  I believe my kids look forward to eating dinner at home, as opposed to a quick dinner when we are running around.

Another favorite topic that I discuss regularly with my son is sleep!  He, especially, needs adequate sleep.  All children and adults need restful sleep, but for him it is critical. We talk about how many hours are needed, the importance of winding down before bed, and the overall quality of your sleep.  He will often ask me “If I go to bed now Mom, how many hours will I get?”

He recognizes that his overall performance is improved by a good night’s sleep.  And, of course, I explain it in terms of his brain needing the chance to rest and restore itself.  As a child with ADD, brain rest is critical and he has now made that connection; a connection I hope he will pay attention to as he continues to grow.

Even though it seems that we are busy and always on the go, there are plenty of times where we just hang out on the couch. We talk about “down time” and that it’s not only OK, but necessary. The good news is, neither of my kids watch much TV.  If my son is in front of the tube, it’s a NBA final or a MLB game on ESPN!  I like that he has found topics that interest him; it is purposeful and not mindless.

By making nutrition and health part of our every-day discussion from a young age, children can learn what works for them to stay healthy, strong, and focused on their goals.

Bridget Buckaloo

Bridget Buckaloo

Bridget Buckaloo, MSN, is Executive Director of Women's Health Services at Beebe Healthcare.