Family health

Make a fresh start in 2022

Before being bombarded with ads for a quick fix or a new trend, take a deep breath and think long term. Good health for the whole family goes through basic steps. They are simple, if not always easy, and build resilience for you and your children. Ready to start? Beth Motley, a family medicine and lifestyle medicine physician and mother of three, practices what she teaches her patients. Here are her tips for growing a healthier family in the new year.

1. Start with your plate. “From a family perspective, we like to focus on the default eating style – I don’t even like to use the word ‘diet’ – the default eating style being a healthier style where we do good choices. At home, we eat vegan.

Motley recommends a whole, plant-based diet, but doesn’t focus on what not to eat.

“Let’s try to include as many healthy things as possible to crowd out the less healthy things,” she said. “Offer healthy choices, and if you’re going to a holiday party, give yourself and your family a little extra grace.”

2. Keep moving. Especially at this time of year, it can be difficult to get everyone out. Motley keeps a running list of playgrounds and parks and even indoor play areas that his family can try out so they never run out of ideas. For an activity that has many benefits, Motley recommends enrolling children in swimming lessons. Low-cost or free programs are often available year-round. The YMCA offers scholarships based on financial need, so all families can access them.

A mother and her daughter train at home.

3. Manage your stress. This may be easier said than done, but find what helps you control stress in a healthy way. For Motley, that means often inviting grandparents over to help entertain her little ones. “It’s always nice to increase that adult-to-child ratio,” she said. And she said just getting outside can help lower anyone’s stress levels.

No grandparents nearby? See if you can trade breaks with a friend. Try an online meditation program or a breathing bubble (calm.com/breathe) to find your calm. Always ask for help if the stress becomes unmanageable.

4. Build relationships. Another pillar of lifestyle medicine, social support is key to leading a healthy life. Building community is difficult even without a pandemic, so make it a priority to connect with friends, neighbors, or religious or social community. According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, social connections are essential for emotional resilience and important for overall health.

5. Sleep. Everyone, regardless of age, needs a good night’s sleep to function well. “If you give a child a strict sleep schedule, it’s actually very liberating,” Motley said. “You may think it’s restrictive, but your children’s biological clock adjusts to the schedule you set.” And having that set time to sleep and wake up can help reduce stress levels for the whole family, Motley said.

See our sleep tips on page XX.

A mother and her daughter prepare a healthy meal.

6. Model what you want to see. Motley said she and her husband try to model behaviors, like honesty, that they want to see in their kids, but that also extends to what they eat and how active they are. Children will be what they see.

“We do a lot of family walks,” Motley said.

Motley also reminds parents to model good behaviors around alcohol consumption, which has increased during the pandemic.

“If you have a house full of alcohol and you drink it all the time, that teaches kids that it’s okay,” she said.

7. Make mental health a priority. Since the start of the pandemic, stressors of all kinds have increased, and during the winter months people are less likely to be outdoors and active. Some also suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s time to eliminate the stigma of mental health care. Motley said almost anyone could benefit from seeing a counselor, and any primary care provider can offer a referral.

“It’s basically a third party to help you navigate your life and your goals,” she said.

8. Catch up on health checkups. In an effort to avoid COVID, many people have delayed routine visits and health checks. Motley has seen some conditions that have been brought forward due to this delayed care. Plan now, especially as wait times for appointments may be longer than normal. Ask your primary care provider what’s due – blood tests, office screenings, mammograms and more.

“It’s a really good time to get things done,” Motley said. “Even if you don’t feel comfortable right now, at least make the appointment.”

9. Catch up on pediatric and adult vaccines. As with health screenings, the pandemic has delayed some appointments where vaccines would have been recommended or administered.

“Vaccinations are important,” Motley said. “They are recommended for a reason. If you look at doctors, including pediatricians, I guess 99.9% of them are fully vaccinated because we believe in it and recommend it. This is very important, and it often only leads to regret when an infant or child contracts a disease that could have been prevented. An important part of vaccines is not to protect us but to protect our loved ones. »

10. Set the stage for a healthy future. Weight can be a tough topic, but Motley said childhood obesity rates are rising.

“As parents, sometimes we don’t even notice kids are overweight because they look like other kids,” Motley said. “If children are overweight as children, they are much more likely to be overweight and have a chronic disease as adults. I know we think children are invincible, but it is Now is the time to set the stage with healthy habits. These habits will carry over into adulthood. We are raising adults. We are not raising children.

Learn more about lifestyle medicine and growing a healthy family at bethmotleymd.com and lifestylemedicine.org.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: 10 Tips for Better Family Health: Get a Fresh Start in 2022