Making Fitness a Priority in your Family

Last week, my family’s participation in shared fitness goals was featured in an article titled “Fit Families” in the Albuquerque Journal (3/23/20, pages B1-2).  This weekend, my son and I will begin 5 weeks of roller skating lessons together.  I hope this leads to both of us feeling confident and safe skating together.  I have decided to focus this blog on making your relationship with fitness a priority in your life today.

I was a heavy kid have a VERY vivid memory of being pushed through the uneven parallel bars routine by the gym teacher and three other students “because every kid had to complete each routine to pass the class.”  There were many physical activities I could do well as child, like dance and swimming, but lifting my body over that top bar was not one of them.  From age 9, I dieted with my mom when she decided to try to lose weight.  Each time I lost weight, and then gained double almost immediately after I reached my goal.  In High school, I was labeled as “fat,” but I at 5’8″ tall and 150 pounds I WAS a healthy weight!!!  At 18, I swore off diets and tried to accept myself the way I was, but I had a fat brain, and a culture that told me I was fat. By the time I was 27, I was over 300 pounds.  I began a 12 step program and took many years to gain physical, emotional and physical recovery.  I started by accepting myself at the weight I was.  Later, fitness tests showed me that 165-185 is the best range for my body.  I reached my optimal body weight of 175 at 42 years old.   My son was exactly the same weight and size as I was at birth. I wonder if “overweight” is defined differently now.  He looks like he is a normal weight, yet he has always been in the 95th percentile for height and weight, and he is close to 90 pounds at 8 years old!  I probably had his same body at his age and was labeled fat because I was HEAVY.  If I was boy they would have put me on the football team and rewarded me for my size, but because I was a girl, I had to be pushed over the uneven parallel bars!

Adults and Children need help to find physical activities that

1)      Improve self esteem,

2)      Are accessible,

3)      Feel good,

4)      Provide internal motivation to keep it up,

5)      Manages feelings more effectively than food or inactivity.

One of my favorite tools for setting fitness goals matches activities with personality styles and preferences (extroverted, social, competitive, focused, etc.) to find the activities most suited to your style.  It took me YEARS to figure this stuff out, but now I help others find that is right for them before they start a plan for exercise.  I have used exercise videos to allow me to get exercise in my own home, but I still need external encouragement to keep it up, whether is it a video, a class, an online fitness journal or bragging!

Physical activity is SO GOOD for you.  Research shows that exercise has longer lasting effects than medication for most low to moderate forms of depression and, along with sleep, is one of the best interventions for other mental illnesses.  But sometimes you have to feel better to move at all, and that is when medication may be necessary.  Helping kids to feel good enough to try something is essential, and one of the best ways to get kids to move is for the adults to get active.  We walk, ride bikes, swim and will add Roller skating with Jacob as a means of transportation, in organized events and as play.  Doing what you like, what feels good and what works is the key.  No one could have done it for me.  When I participate in the physical activity I enjoy, am good at, and I feel encouraged, and perhaps I will avoid going back to 300 pounds.

I hope the ideas presented here support you and your family to make fitness a priority in your relationship!

8 Responses to “Making Fitness a Priority in your Family”

  • Andrea Hawkins Schoellkopf says:

    Jacob thanked me in class yesterday for making him “famous!” As you so wisely point out in your blog … each person has his or her own ideal of fitness activity. I’m a competitive athlete, but others choose dance or other activities that improve their health as well as personal satisfaction. My daughter likes to compete and copy mom, but my son likes to ride his bike (she does too), have Nerf gun wars and do outdoorsy things with the Boy Scouts.

  • Lisa Johnson, LMFT says:

    Andrea your points are well taken. I have also observed that different family members in our household like different physical activities. My husband tends to prefer solitary activities while I prefer more social activities. We both like to ride bicycles together, so there is something we can all share once Jacob can ride his own bike.

  • Jack Lee says:

    What a great article. Life is a balance of work, family, pleasure and spirituality. Your suggestions of the family exercising together building
    esteem and enjoying the activity is beautiful..I have fond memories of me as a child playing golf with my Mom and Dad. Those memories stay for life…

  • Erika J-J says:

    Excellent article, Lisa. I was also a “fat girl” though, looking back now, I see that I was at a pretty healthy weight for my body type growing up. However, I adopted the identity of being fat and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the past year, I have chosen to shrug off this identity and improve my health. I started with finding an exercize that I enjoy and doing more activities with the kids. We like to play baseball or whiffle ball in the park, go on walks, or play Wii Fit together. Max is learning to ride his bike too and I have been running along while he rides. I am so hoping my kids will reach adulthood with less emotional baggage about weight than I had and will be active, healthy people.

  • Holly Anselmo says:

    Lisa. Congratulations again on your success. Making exercise and fitness a priority when you were so wounded from childhood takes true courage and heart.Jacob is a lucky lucky kid that he has your whole journey behind him to grow into a healthy young man. So what if the chart says 95%. Just keep enjoying eating well, exercising as a part of daily life and being kind to yourself and your family as part of your finess regimine! Keep up the good work. Love, Holly

  • Paula says:

    nice job, lisa! to you and andrea… the article was FANTASTIC! i was so proud to know both of you! well actually, lisa – all 3 of the johnsons!
    regards to the blog – luckily, my kids LOVE to be active and sweating! katie is extremely competitive and always striving to improve her performance. sean just loves the social part of activity. in fact, a few days his second mid-school track meet a few weeks ago, i asked him if he thought it might be as much fun to finish higher in his half-mile race? he said, “I don’t know. I mean, it’s not like my life depends on whether or not I place in the top 3 or 4.” it was a brilliant flash of non-competitive, just-for-the-joy-of-it light to me! My husband, my daughter and I are so very, very competitive when it comes to physical activity/sports that this is really weird – but quite a breath of fresh air! Now, how we handle it through these next 6-1/2 years of mid and high school will be interesting!
    Another thought, too….. I felt so mature when I was regularly doing yoga – not so much that I was doing it, but that I DIDN’T WANT to IMMEDIATELY become trained and become an instructor…. I ALWAYS want to LEAD things (hence, the teacher….)…. but you know, with yoga – I LOVE being told what to do. I LOVE being a follower and relaxing in that position. THAT experience has made me feel like I have reached another level in my life journey.

  • Jaymee says:

    I was 5’7 and 140 lbs in high school and told by my mother to lose weight. I always felt huge as the rest of my family are short, slim people and I inherited my Grandmother’s body. I was taller than my father and outweighed him by 20 lbs. I resolved the issue by marrying a man who was 6’7″, weighed about 250, and thought I looked great. Amazingly, I became petite and I looked great! The “aha” moment was when I realized that comparing my body to others’ and deciding how I felt about it based on what others’ said was absurd, because it was always the same body. My lesson was: I needed to decide for myself if I looked great or needed to make changes in my body based on my own criteria.