Often when I share my story with you, it's about how I lost my weight. How I maintained this loss and how Busyslim came to be. But through this journey I have had to navigate not only my own healthy changes but learn how to implement and embrace these changes whilst raising three amazing children.
All my children are different in their personalities, life situations and were born in practically new decades. Because you see they are all 8 years apart, each with different fathers and different family dynamics. I have been a mother for the past 27 years, 25 years of those have been my personal transformation and many of these years I was also a solo mother.
Looking at each of my children - Corey 27, Natalie 19 and Charlotte 11 I can see how my growing knowledge in health and wellness has really impacted on how I parented each of them. As said 8 years apart I practically raised them from scratch entering a new decade with new parenting theories and advice.
Recently my middle daughter Natalie had her year 12 formal. As you can see from the photo collage she looked gorgeous. She is in great health and in great shape. I know as a mum we do a good job of beating ourselves up for all the mistakes we feel we have made but looking at my daughter all dressed up for her formal I was so proud of who she has become and I'll be honest, I was proud of how she looks. I was so happy knowing that she was wearing a dress that made her feel and look absolutely stunning and it made me also proud of myself because in this moment I felt like I had done something really positive with her.
I went into my 20's with the belief that the woman in my family were 'big boned' to excuse being overweight. You didn't waste food put in front of you and well I didn't. If you had seen me at a buffet back then you would have been either impressed or really disgusted with how much food I could pile away. I lived my life using food to manage my emotions and I had no real understanding about how food affected me or the importance of regular exercise.
And here was my daughter nearly 20, stunning, beautiful figure, healthy and about to embark on the journey of adulthood in a completely different mindset. She will not be dealing with a weight issue at this age like I already had.
This moment made me reflect on the impact my personal change has had on my parenting and the future health for my kids. There are words of wisdom I feel I can give because I've run the gauntlet of parenting and I have learned some key lessons along the way.
Lets start with Corey. He is now 27. Corey is very health conscious, goes to the gym regularly and loves to cook fresh meals for himself. He rarely eats junk food. Roll back to his youth and it is a very different story.
For the first few years of his life I was at my biggest. Needless to say there was no 'healthy' lifestyle that I was living despite always going on a new diet. From about 8 Corey really stated to become overweight. The truth was I had completely overhauled my life throughout 6 years of his life but he was born into a time where overeating and sugar was still abundant. I was so focused on myself during that period that while I did feed him healthier food I still didn't take true ownership of my role as his mother in ensuring he was on the health track to. I was a young mum and I found it really hard. It was easier to just give in to tantrums about food. By the time I had started to really lose weight McDonalds was still a regular stop for us. Yes I ended up losing 50kg's but I wasn't the super health conscious mum in the beginning. Corey was born into a world of overeating, binging and fast food, a quick option to make an exhausted mothers life easier. I gave out lollies an sweets all the time as treats for being good. If I served up vegetables and he didn't like it I didn't make him eat it or give him options. There was a lot of fish fingers, tomato sauce and chips on his plate as a youngster. Family dinners were an 'eat until you practically explode' affair. As far as exercise went it was only what he did at school in the early years. I was exercising at a gym myself and loving it but I didn't stop to watch him playing Playstation and be worried about the fact he wasn't running around outside.
As I changed and my lifestyle changed we ate better but the truth was I was still almost separating the way I managed what I ate and how I conducted my life in comparison to the expectation around his. He was also between homes as his father and I parted way when he was a toddler. On his dad's side he lived with a grandmother who is simply the most fabulous cook. Her way of loving her family is to cook food and I mean loads of food for 'her boys' on a daily basis so Corey was always just surrounded with people who overate and didn't move. So I blamed his weight issues on his genetics. I blamed his other family. I blamed lots of other factors when in truth I was just as much a part of the problem.
By the age he was 14 however my learning around exercise became a turning point for Corey's journey around health and weight. I believe if I hadn't embarked on becoming a personal trainer then I would have probably not made the impact I did on his outlook on life, fitness and food. During my studies in personal training Corey was my first 'client'. By this time I was really starting to see that he was not in a good place at all. It was time for me to start using my knowledge I was gaining to help him and as his mother I really started to step up.
It was a great time for us. Some of my happiest memories are of when Corey would meet me at the gym after school and I would train him. At 14 he was a big boy, by 15 he had lost a significant amount of weight, around 15kg in a year. His value for exercise really changing for the better. He was also taking an interest eating better and he was on the path to where he is today. He actually thanked me at his 21'st for the things I had taught him about being healthy and the value of exercise.
Corey today is in a great place. He is now actually eats a predominately plant based diet and exercise is engrained into his lifestyle. However, the way I parented him during his foundation years means he will always have to manage deeply engrained behaviours around food. He, like me gains weight easily and he needs to really watch his choices and stay on top of this just like I do.
Natalie, my second child came into my life at a time when I was so much healthier. As said earlier I still went for the fast food option. On reflection I can see we were eating better meals but I was still feeding her way too much sugar and was completely unaware of the damage I was doing. She was diagnosed with ADHD when she was 7. She used to be so up and down and I now think that a lot had to do with her diet and the fact that at that stage I didn't understand how dangerous sugar was or how much we had in our diets. This was back in the 'low fat' movement, which we now know meant 'high sugar'. It is important to mention that Natalie 'grew out' of her condition but again maybe it was simply an improving diet? We were a much more active family of 3 as by the time she turned two I was once again on my own with my kids.
This chapter of parenting as said was a lot more active for us. I have great memories and pictures of the 3 of us - Corey, Natalie and I on weekend hikes. When I started my personal training she was 6 so already I was becoming more focused on better meals, not overeating as much and moving more and passing this onto my children's lifestyles. Fast food was becoming less and not as much when we had it. I was also making better meals, learning quick healthy recipes we could all enjoy, and I was starting to place more value around food preparation and planning.
When Natalie was 13 I created Busyslim. She was growing up in a culture where we were way more health conscious than when I had been raising Corey at the same age. The way I was raising her again was changing. She didn't just eat what she wanted. She learned she had to eat healthy but I gave her choices. As a result , I could really see how she was so much more open to eating fresh food than Corey was when he was young. She had a love of exercise from an early age and she also had a healthy mindset around eating and a good level of self worth.
Roll onto today. She looks fabulous. Not only is she healthy but she loves to exercise, and it is a part of her life She knows how to eat well, loves her vegetables and fruit and I know she is going to have a completely different experience in this chapter of her life than I did.
And then along came Charlotte. Charlotte's lifestyle and the way she approaches life is already at this young age SO MUCH DIFFERENT to Corey and Natalie. She really watches what she eats in a healthy way . She understands that she can have treats but this isn't a daily thing and she is absolutely on board with this. She drinks a lot of water, loves to exercise and be active and she will try any food concoction I put in front of her at least once. In a nutshell out of all my children at the same age Charlotte is leaps and bounds ahead in being MINDFUL of maintaining a healthy weight and making her own HEALTHY CHOICES as a result.
Here's the thing though - by the time Charlotte was 3 I was a solo mum again and Charlotte was navigating life eating in different households. This time a third household as she spends a night each week with her grandparents (which is so awesome). But yeah, 3 households, 3 homes of food and a world where food is everywhere especially sugar!
I could see around 8 she was starting to gain some stomach fat despite her above average height. It was not healthy. I knew we were all trying to be healthy in our parenting of her but I was also aware that if we all were giving her a 'treat' at our house then in a week she is suddenly having 3 not 1. I brought it to the family's attention. I would never have done this when Corey was her age but now I know that taking ownership is really important. We must manage our waistlines and our children's and we cannot do this by staying in denial about what is going on. I asked Charlotte to weigh in . She cried and said I was calling her fat. It wasn't a comfortable thing to do at all. Her grandmother worried this would make her feel self conscious. But I know from the work that I do and with other children that this was important. As a family we all committed to doing a food diary of what she ate over a few weeks so I could analyse and report back on the results.
I also sat Charlotte down at this time and did not buy in to the emotional meltdown she was having. I understood and truly sympathised but if this is one thing I have learnt on my journey is that perception is everything. So I explained to her that this wasn't about her being fat but about her health and the fact that collectively as a family we could be letting her down and not being helpful - that we needed to make some changes for her benefit so she could feel great and not feel self conscious. She was so much happier about it all after this chat. I would also like to say that I didn't do this to finger point and lay blame. I just wanted to know what we were dealing with.
You cannot change what you do not know!
The report showed exactly what I suspected. Her weight and the creep of it due to her overeating between us and eating high levels of sugar with us not realising it. 27 years of being a mum and now an expert in weight management I was no longer interested trying not to rock the boat. Her health is massively important to me. Even more so because the world she lives in is totally set up for weight issues. Child obesity is an epidemic.
So we acted. I can lead by example but I also need to guide her and make decisions for her at times for her long term benefit. The goal therefore was not to put Charlotte on a diet but start communicating better with each other and start changing things to ensure she wasn't overeating anymore and her sugar intake drastically lowered.
As a result of what we did as a family I'm pleased to say that Charlotte has gone on to really become mindful in a positive way and simply by us as a family making changes and being aware she actually lost 4 kilos, her stomach has gone, her weight has stabilised and she feels better about herself.
So three children, three different chapters of my learning and growth but I have comfort that all of them will go on to lead healthy mindful lives and not have to go through the terrible time I did as an adult struggling to manage this time of life and a declining health situation.
I leave you with this thought - it is never too late to start making positive change for your children As parents our influence over their choices is massive and we must lead the way. You don't have to overhaul everything overnight but make some steps forward and a food diary as awful as that sounds really gives you perspective . Expect to be resisted for a while and enjoy some tantrums along the way but dig in and persevere because it is worth it. The work you do now will shape the attitude your children have as they become adults about what healthy is. And I know that you like me want your children to thrive and feel great about themselves. One day they will thank you and along the way you will have made memories full of heath and happiness with your family.