By: Linda Brodsky, MD.
Most of us were younger and slimmer and probably healthier when we first conceived our first child. Pregnancy was a great excuse to “eat for two.” Young children even a better excuse to let go by the wayside our regular exercise routines. And the busy schedules of our tweens and teens gave us a “pass” from taking time to tend to our own health.
This painfully familiar state of affairs is all too familiar to many of us. It doesn’t have to be that way; it mustn’t be that way. This is true for the sake of our children, and especially for the sake of our daughters.
Last post I talked about not having to be perfect. No one is. But we need to be good enough. This is not the message the media is sending to our daughters. It is our responsibility to counter these messages with better, healthier messages. And there is no better way to do this than to be a role model for your daughter when it comes to your own physical health.
Women, and therefore girls, have special physical needs. We need more calcium, for example. We need to exercise certain parts of our bodies more (lest they literally sag so far that they are outside when they should be in), especially after child bearing. We need to be aware that we can develop more medical problems than men because of the complexity of our reproductive systems, and probably our immune systems as well (since they are challenged with the ultimate “foreign” invader—the embryo turned fetus).
So if we want to make sure our daughters become strong and healthy, we must make sure that we are strong and healthy. How do we do this? First, make sure that they eat what you eat and you eat what is healthy. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and sensible snacks. Eat together in a relaxing environment. Make sure there is enough calcium, vitamin D and other essential nutrients. Eliminate processed foods, excessive caffeine, and refined sugars. And don’t eat too much.
Next, make sure you exercise almost every day. Exercise is easy to include in daily routines. House cleaning can be great exercise (as I learned from a mother of one of my patients who started a house cleaning business and came in looking lean and happy). Walking, running and biking are all accessible outdoor sports. Yoga, pilates and other exercise routines are readily available on DVD and on TV. You do not have to spend a lot of time, go to classes, join gyms, or have a different sport scheduled everyday to get into the exercise groove.
Finally, make sure you examine your breasts (and talk to your girls about it as well, when they are of age), get your immunizations updated, and see a physician regularly. Find them a good pediatrician or family practitioner whom will want to talk to and confide in. Help them learn whom they want to trust and that regular check-ups go hand in hand with a healthy life.
When children are young, they want to be like their moms, especially most daughters. So if you eat well, exercise and pay attention to your health, they will, too. Good health leads to strong, and happy, women.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Linda Brodsky is a respected Pediatric surgeon advocate and mentor for the next generation of women doctors. She is an active blogger as part of NPR’s Talking Science blogger team (her section is “Like Mother, Like Doctor”) and on her own blog, The Brodsky Blog (http://thebrodskyblog.com) . On the Brodsky Blog, Dr. Brodsky addresses topics such as gender equity/inequity in health care and the issues faced by women in the medical field.
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