How to Avoid Hidden Hindrances: Outsmarting the 6Ss
The Family Fit Plan strives to help families boost health by improving habits in one or more areas of nutrition, physical activity, sleep, screen time, and stress management. Sometimes families feel like they are doing everything 'right' but aren't yet seeing the changes they'd like to see. Often, this is due to one or more of the 6Ss -- hidden hindrances that can get in the way of reaching your goals.
Snacks make up a sizeable portion of most kids’ and adults’ daily caloric intake. And much of the time, snacks are lacking in nutritional value. “Outsmart” snacks by choosing mostly vegetables and fruits as snacks. Avoid oversnacking by having a plan for when and where you will eat them. For example, snacktime is 10:30am and 3pm, to be eaten at the kitchen table. Whatever it is, as often as possible stick to that routine. That way when a child is begging to eat something because they are ‘starving’ you can redirect them. For example, “Ok it is 10:00 right now, in 30 minutes we will have snack time.” If you want to include snacks between meals for yourself, try to have a ‘schedule’ for yourself, too. This helps to minimize grazing, snacking out of boredom, and other triggers to eat. Try to have a set place for eating snacks – ideally at a kitchen table, with no distractions. This way you can be more mindful and savor the snack. Portion out snacks to keep servings small.
Most people like sweet foods a lot, especially kids. While plans to ‘get fit’ often include avoiding desserts, too much restriction can lead to cravings and increased consumption later. Instead, include them in your plan. For example, make a plan to have dessert two nights per week – and stick with it for the most part. When you have sweets, savor them. That is, portion them out. Eat them slowly. Avoid distractions.
Sodas, teas, coffees, fruit drinks and even 100% juices and smoothies have a lot of sugar. Whether they contain added or natural sugars, these drinks usually are high in calories and don’t contribute to feeling full, making them easy to overconsume. How to outsmart sugary drinks? The easiest way is to avoid storing them at home. Choose water or sparkling water always (or almost always). This change alone can lead to significant results in improving health and fitness.
Teens spend eight or more hours of day in front of a screen. While younger kids and adults don’t quite hit that mark, most people spend too much time on the screen – a largely sedentary activity, where we get bombarded with ads for unhealthy foods, and might be mindlessly snacking as well. How to outsmart screen time? Make a rule no screen time at meals or within one hour of going to bed (the backlighting on screens makes it hard to fall asleep). Increase buy-in from other family members by sitting down together to come up with a family plan of how you will handle screen time. The AAP Family Media Use plan as a guide (healthychildren.org/mediauseplan) can help.
The role of sleep in overall good health cannot be overstated. But oftentimes kids and adults alike have a hard time getting and staying asleep. Few achieve the amounts of sleep needed each night for optimal health, learning, and daily functioning. Screen time, caffeine, irregular bed and wake times, and unmanaged stress can make getting and falling asleep a challenge. Start by keeping a sleep diary to figure out what is getting in the way of your and your family’s good sleep (see sleepfoundation.org/sleepdiary for an example). The 5Bs bedtime routine (bath, brush, book, (deep) breaths, bed) can help ‘train the brain’ to fall (and stay) asleep more easily.
Why are sugary cereals in the same aisle as diapers at many grocery stores? Strategic placement prompts toddlers to pressure their parents to buy cereals adorned with the kids’ favorite characters. How come social media influencers are drinking branded soda? To get teens to buy it. Avoid letting slick sales strategies cause family havoc first by being aware that these strategies are in play everywhere and then trying to avoid exposure to them as much as possible. Teach older kids to recognize advertisements and their objective to sell a product, not to look out for anyone else’s health or best interests.
While the 6Ss can interfere with good health and family fitness, they don’t have to. By becoming aware of the 6Ss, you already are half way there to outsmarting them.