The Parent Fat Trap

Once you have kids, it’s easy to leave exercise and proper nutrition on the backburner. Here’s how you can start living healthily again, even when you think you have no time to do so.

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Once you have kids, it’s easy to leave exercise and proper nutrition on the backburner. Here’s how you can start living healthily again, even when you think you have no time to do so.

When a fitness and nutrition expert writes a bestselling book titled Why Kids Make You Fat… And How To Get Your Body Back, you know that he understands parents.

“I never understood my mum’s saying of ‘Being a parent is a 24-hour job’ until I became a parent myself,” says Mark Macdonald, who has coached Olympic gold medallists, professonal athletes and celebrities. The 46-year-old has two kids aged 13 and four.

“As parents, time becomes our greatest commodity. There is always a need for more time to sleep, eat, exercise, work and, of course, relax. 

“It is the sheer lack of time and the never-ending job as a parent that makes it common for us to disregard our health. But as challenging as being a parent can be, it is the greatest experience in life as the tough moments are priceless and worth every second.”

The founder of Venice Nutrition and the International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaching visited Singapore earlier this year to launch a new weight management programme called Zen Project 8. He tells Young Parents how busy mums and dads can get healthy and fit. 

Many Singaporean parents work long hours and don't spend much time with their kids. How can they still keep fit?

It is time to change your mindset. Being busy makes us think we do not have time to exercise. This is an old concept.

The amount of active muscles in your body has a huge factor in controlling your metabolism. So the more you activate your muscles, the faster your results and the stronger your body gets.

Here are five simple exercises that you can do at your office, home or during your daily commute:

Ditch your chair for an inflatable ball By sitting on a ball instead of a chair, you activate about 50 per cent more muscle fibres in your body and burn three times more calories every hour.

Get a standing desk Standing allows your body to stay active all day long and keep your core strong. Make sure to tighten your abdominals every 30 minutes for a bonus burst of muscle toning.

Do a 60-second burst of exercise every hour Whether it is running on the spot, doing some stretches, hitting a squat or doing a plank. Perform an exercise that keeps you active during work.

Go for family walks and bike rides When you are home, do a fun activity with your kids instead of watching television or sitting still. Get creative on ways to start exercising as a family.

Take the stairs Always use the stairs instead of taking elevators or escalators. Imagine the amount of additional exercise you can incorporate just by walking all the stairs you encounter.

As you can see, these are all simple and straightforward ways to stay invigorated and keep your body strong in our everyday lives. Keep adding to this list and adopt an active lifestyle whether you are at work, at home, or on-the-go.

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"The greatest thing any parent can do is to lead by example. Your kids will do what you do and will eat what you eat. So it all starts with you."

Many working parents in Singapore eat out often with their kids, sometimes every day. How can they manage their weight better under these circumstances?

They can start with education. As parents, we face different hurdles on how to bring food on the go, and eating balanced meals while dining out. With education, every parent can achieve balance with their food, regardless if they cook or eat out.

These are also some fantastic dining out strategies to help you and your kids get started:

Choose your protein first Protein will help keep your blood sugar balanced and adjust your body better.

Cut your rice in half Most Singaporean dishes are loaded with carbohydrates. Simply cut your rice portion in half and replace it with some fresh vegetables.

Choose all sauces on the side Sauces have lots of hidden sugar and salt. By placing them on the side, you can decide how much sauce to have on your plate.

Ask for light oil Local dishes are loaded with oil, which is all fat and loaded with calories. Light oil will ensure you still get fat in each meal in the right amount. Remember, you must eat fat to lose body fat.

How do you teach your kids about having a healthy diet and fitness?

The greatest thing any parent can do is to lead by example. Your kids will do what you do and will eat what you eat. So it all starts with you.

My wife, Abbi, and I live by what we teach and practise everything that is shared in this article. We also know that food is the start and activity keeps the body healthy and strong.

We exercise as a family, whether it is family hikes, playing at the park, bike rides, frisbee, golf, basketball, soccer or just running around our house. Exercising as a family is the key to instilling these habits in your kids.

If you live it, your kids will live it, and they will teach their kids to live it. This is how generations of families become healthy for life!

As a father of a girl, how do you teach your daughter about positive body image?

It is an equal role for mums and dads. Positive body image starts by educating our children about food and fitness.

Fat cells are primarily developed during adolescence. When girls go through puberty, there is an increase in the level of fat storing hormones, namely estrogen and progesterone.

A teenager needs to understand the food they are eating to prevent spikes in their blood sugar and the storage of unnecessary fat cells. This is essential to ensure they live life as a lean and healthy adult.

While food education solves the physiological part of body image, the psychological part of body image comes down to the teenager’s environment. I grew up with two sisters and watched my mum and dad empower my sisters about their body image and confidence.

As dad to my girl, Hope, it is all about acknowledging and providing her with the strength and confidence to love herself and feel good about her body.