I had a conversation with my father recently while we were out on a hike in the mountains of Colorado.
My dad has worked out basically all his life, has always taken care of his body and has tried to eat right, especially as he’s gotten older. He’ll turn 60 this year, and there he was, climbing boulders and traversing the trails right along with me.
As my dad and I talked, we got on the topic of parents – specifically fathers – and how disappointing it was to see so many leading out-of-shape and unhealthy lifestyles, seemingly content to live their lives in front of a TV eating something processed and microwaved and allowing their kids to do the same. He said to me, “Our bodies were made to be pushed and tested. Our bodies weren’t designed to sit on the couch and not move for hours on end.”
It’s not some deep revelation to say that based on all the data we have, we’re losing the battle when it comes to physical fitness and health in the United States.
As a side note, in 2006, the Pew Research Center found that despite Americans knowing we have a problem with unhealthy weight in our country, we tend to turn a blind eye when it comes to how we see our own bodies. We need to get real with ourselves.
Recently, researchers at Oregon State University and the University of Mississippi released findings that paint perhaps the dimmest picture of all: “Only 2.7 percent of the U.S. adult population achieves all four of some basic behavioral characteristics that researchers say would constitute a ‘healthy lifestyle’ and help protect against cardiovascular disease.”
Less than 3 percent of the adults in the United States say they:
- Eat a good diet
- Exercise moderately
- Carry a recommended amount of body fat
- Don’t smoke
Less. Than. Three. Percent.
I read the study and my heart sank. It saddened me. I genuinely felt sorrow for the people in this country because so many have allowed their bodies to fall into a state of disrepair. But more specifically, I felt sorry for the children of today’s American parents.
One of the greatest responsibilities we have as parents is to set a good example for our children. And based on the data, we are showing our kids how to be great at overeating and being physically inactive. Worse yet, many lash out when it is suggested that this is a problem, demanding that they be “loved for who they are.”
Nevermind the fact that one of the greatest displays of love is showing concern for someone when they are living a harmful lifestyle, and make no mistake, allowing yourself to be overweight or obese, eating poorly, remaining physical inactive and carry out other unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking excessively are harmful. Period.
What’s more, there’s evidence to suggest that a father’s example has an enormous affect on how their children eat.
A study in 2011 found that “how often fathers ate in fast-food and in full-service restaurants influenced how often their children ate in the same places.”
Listen guys, as it specifically relates to fatherhood, kids deserve a healthy, involved dad. That’s not to say that an overweight, inactive father can’t be a good and loving dad. But it does mean that being out of shape and practicing poor eating habits as a father does a great disservice to your children, potentially setting them and yourself up for a lifetime of health issues, low energy, and a host of other complications.
Dads, make the effort to be more like the 3 percent of the country that exercises, eats right, doesn’t smoke and maintains a healthy body weight. Don’t know how to start? Start somewhere. Take walks. Eat a salad instead of a baked potato. Turn off the TV and play catch in the backyard with your kids.
And then get someone to help hold you accountable. Set goals. Make a plan.
Do it for yourself and the chance to feel and look better, but perhaps more importantly, do it to set the example for your kids that they deserve.