SummaryGinny Seuffert explores her three biggest and basic ways to become fit, remain healthy, and instill healthy habits in our children. And they’re not hard!
I chuckled when I went to my local fitness center on January 2 this year; all the treadmills and elliptical trainers were taken.
This was in the middle of the day when the place is generally deserted, so I figure the crowd was made up of New Year’s resolutions.
I have no doubt that machines will once again be widely available in just a few weeks, which is a bit sad considering the sorry state of fitness in the United States, some of it within our home school families.
Overweight, Overworked, Over Stressed?
It is easy for a mom who is pregnant or nursing all the time to add three or four pounds per baby. Considering the number of children some of us have, that’s enough to send some good Catholic moms into the plus sizes! Dads, who are working two jobs just to keep a roof over the family’s head, give little thought to jogging or lifting weights.
Home schooling mothers and fathers figure they practice “aerobic parenthood” and have little time to think about themselves, but fitness is one item that should be moved to the top of our “to do” lists.
Home schooling parents have not been immune to the American epidemic of over-round stomachs and underused muscles, but we have an even greater need to remain fit than the average American.
Because we spend so much time with them, our children are more likely to imitate our habits, good and bad, than students who spend many hours out of the house.
We recognize this and try to avoid watching too much TV or using bad language, for example, and we work to instill virtues of work and prayer, but we also need to give good example in our health habits. Additionally, most home schooling moms don’t have the time or money to get facials or pedicures, or even shop for nice clothes.
Nothing is more attractive than a serene Christian woman shining with good health. If these reasons do not satisfy, consider that we need to remain strong and free from disease to fulfill our roles as Catholic parent-teachers.
So what can overworked home educators do to become fit, remain healthy, and instill healthy habits in our children?
The keys to good health are proper nutrition, some strenuous physical activity, and reducing stress, and these goals are absolutely attainable in our good Catholic homes.
1. Proper Nutrition
Home schooling moms do not have the time to research nutritional values, but there are some sound shopping habits that accomplish the same purpose. As far as possible, shop for groceries around the perimeter of the store in the produce, meat and dairy departments.
Fill half your cart with fruits and veggies in the produce aisle. Choose whole grain bread and cereals, and watch the sugar content in packaged breakfast cereal.
Limit snack foods, like bakery goods and high-fat chips to an occasional treat. Substitute whole or dried fruit instead. Be especially aware of sugary beverages.
Many families follow the Standard American Diet (ironically but appropriately abbreviated SAD) because that is all they know. Advertisements promote quick, convenient, processed, and high priced food choices, but healthy foods are readily available as well.
Wholesome food need not be terribly expensive or difficult to make. It is quick and easy to peel a banana, and what a healthy snack! One practical shortcut is prewashed, prepared salads. Although they cost more initially than buying a head of lettuce, there is no waste so it is an easy way to get more veggies in the family’s diet.
Recipes for cooking zucchini or fresh fish are readily available online at no cost.
According to numbers posted by the National Center for Health Statistics, six percent of American adults are super-obese, just over one-third are obese, and just under another one third are overweight. Stop this life-threatening epidemic at your family’s doorstep.
2. Physical Activity
Until the advent of labor-saving devices in the twentieth century, heavy physical activity was part of virtually everyone’s life.
Plowing fields, hauling wood and water, hanging heavy wash on the clothesline, and a thousand other tasks were all the exercise most adults and children really needed.
Today, even in homes that limit tube-time, family members spend hours each day sitting, either teaching or learning schoolwork, and driving from one activity to another.
A gym membership is nice, but can be pricey and many of our parents find they do not have enough time to exercise outside the home on a regular basis. Do not give up hope!
Be on the lookout for ways to add some regular physical activity to your ordinary daily life. If you can, it is a great idea to wean yourself from the car habit.
For much of our married life, we simply did not have enough money to keep two family cars. I used our car on weekends to shop, but the rest of the time, I was on foot.
I live in an urban neighborhood now with many amenities close by, but even walking a few blocks is valuable. Having lost the automobile habit, I walk to my dentist’s office, a five-mile roundtrip, and rarely use a car even when one is available.
Weather permitting, the whole family should spend lots of time out of doors. The kids will benefit from running and playing, and Mom and Dad can play right alongside of them.
Mowing, raking, sweeping, and shoveling are all good exercise, and your neighbors will love your spiffed-up yard.
My husband and I would often take a long walk on nice evenings, leaving the older children to watch the younger. That’s good for your cardiovascular system and your marriage, which brings me to my final point.
3. Reduce Stress
Raising a Catholic family in a family-unfriendly society can be stressful enough; throw home schooling into the mix and blood pressure can percolate to the boiling point.
There is little that can be done to reduce the anxiety of paying bills, keeping up the house, disciplining the kids, and staying on track with school, but we can control how we react to our worries. Our holy Faith provides us with several strategies that are sure to help us remain serene.
A few minutes outside the home can be put to good use. Daily Mass will help you reflect and sort out your day, especially if you can stay a few minutes afterwards to pray in silence in front of the Tabernacle.
I spend some time each week in Eucharistic Adoration and I cannot recommend that practice highly enough. On Sundays, we should consider reserving time to socialize with other Catholic families, which allows us to put our individual problems in perspective and share a laugh or two.
It is not always necessary to leave the house in order to gain some tranquility. The Rosary is a wonderful, peaceful meditation. I often use favorite pictures from the Seton textbooks ( especially Art 5, 7, and 8 ) to meditate on the mysteries.
Reading the words of Blessed Mother Teresa always comforts me: “We do God’s work. He provides the means. If He does not provide the means, that shows he does not want the work. So why worry?”
The Psalms encourage us, especially Psalm 26: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?”
Another encouraging psalm is Psalm 45: “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. Therefore we fear not.”
Meditate on the 14th chapter of St. John’s Gospel: “Let not your heart be troubled.”
When we accept our own weakness and place our troubles before the Lord and His Blessed Mother, our hearts are filled with peace.
Remain strong and healthy, physically and spiritually. With God’s graces, your children and someday your grandchildren, will look to you for guidance for many years to come.