Like most parents, I could spend all day extolling the virtues of my three awesome children. However, despite all of the accolades and proud mother moments, there is one thing that I won’t tolerate and that is for any of my children to mistreat anyone. While I am my children’s greatest cheerleader and supporter, I make it a point to not turn a blind eye on misbehavior. On the contrary, it gets my full, undivided attention.
These days a lot of parents I come in contact with at places like swimming lessons, the play ground, school, skiing and karate, act as if they can’t see when their own child is abusing or mistreating another child. Worse yet, they may witness the abuse or gather all of the facts and still not react as if there is a problem. Prime example is when my son went on an all-day ski trip without us about an hour away from home. We got a call towards the end of the day from the head ski instructor informing us that my son had gotten his front tooth knocked out, not while skiing, but by a boy who threw an ice ball at his mouth as they were waiting to board the bus to come home. Hello? Surely there must have been a bad connection. In retrospect, I’m thankful that my husband answered the phone because he was calm, mature and willing to listen. I’m not so sure I could have handled the call as well as he did. When we met the bus to pick our son up, the parents of the boy who knocked my son’s tooth out were there too. Do you think they apologized or had their son apologize? Not even close. Instead, they stood there defensively ticking through all of the reasons why this incident was so uncharacteristic of “Johnny”. We later found out that “Johnny”, on a previous ski trip, had tried to push two children off the ski lift! I guess my son got off relatively easy.
Another example is when my youngest daughter was taking a shower after her swimming lesson not too long ago. She’s a petite 3-year old to begin with, and she was just standing in the shower as I was rinsing her off. Out of nowhere came a rambunctious boy, a big 5 or 6-year old, one of a set of twins, who pushed her out of her shower so that he could be next to his brother. My daughter let out a loud, “stop boy, that’s my shower!” and I thought that would be the end of it. Well, to my surprise his mother just smiled and said “go quickly, honey, so the little girl can take a shower”. Of course my head was spinning around 360 degrees after that comment, so I said “did you not see that my daughter was in this shower and your son just pushed her out?” The woman looked at me sheepishly and said “he gets really unruly if he can’t shower next to his brother. I promise he’ll be out in 30 seconds”. I stood there with my eyes as big as saucers not believing that this woman was serious. She was afraid of her son getting “unruly” so she was willing to let him push a 3-year old girl out of the way to get what he wanted. She taught him in that instant that his desires come first no matter who he has to hurt to get them. Even a little girl half his size. Incredible.
I have numerous examples I could site where different iterations of the same theme have happened to each one of my children numerous times, and the offending child’s parents reacted in a similar fashion. It is clear to me why there is a bullying problem in our schools. In my opinion it is linked directly to the fact that some children are not given boundaries at a young age, then they grow up not respecting authority, and feeling like they call the shots. In many cases children face zero consequences when they use bullying tactics with their own parents, which only encourages them to use them against their peers and others. I think some of it may also stem from parents wanting to be friends with their children, so they are reluctant to discipline them. Whatever the reasons, until parents begin to hold their children to higher standards and to call them out on their inappropriate behavior we will continue to grow a nation of entitled, disrespectful bullies. Admitting that your child has a behavior issue, and then dealing with it, is not necessarily an indictment of one’s parenting skills. However, it does mean that the child’s issues need to be sincerely and honestly addressed before you turn him or her loose on the rest of the world.
I feel sincere empathy for anyone who personally knew and cared about Gary Coleman. The way the tabloid media, with a strong assist from his ex-wife Shannon Price, is treating his death is shameful. On the heels of a truly disturbing 911 call in which Shannon apathetically sounded as if she couldn’t be bothered to help a seriously injured person (never mind the fact that he was her ex-husband with whom she was currently living), she actually took, then sold Gary’s deathbed pictures for $10,000. That’s cold-blooded. Now it has been revealed that Shannon claims she is the sole heir to Gary’s estate and should be the executor despite the fact that they have been divorced since 2008 and his will name’s his ex-manager as the sole executor. She even produced an unsigned addendum to his will detailing Gary’s love for her, as well as checked that he was still married to her at the time of his death on his death certificate. To make matters worse, without authorization, she removed all of his possessions from his house, including his collector’s items, flat screen televisions and pick-up truck. Shannon has mad skills.
This is a pitiful ending to what, by many accounts, appears to have been an unhappy life. Gary was adopted as an infant, and as a toddler it was discovered that he had a kidney disease that would eventually stunt his growth, require him to suffer through two kidney transplants and ultimately force him to undergo decades of dialysis treatments. Although he found fame and fortune first in commercials, then as the star of Diff’rent Strokes, it all came at a hefty price. He became estranged from his family after accusing them of embezzling his money, and once the show ended he was virtually unemployable in Hollywood. He spent most of his adult life broke and doing odd jobs, most notably spending some time as a security guard. Whenever he was interviewed he came across as extremely unhappy and mad at the world. In fact I caught one of his last interviews a few months ago where he pulled the microphone off and walked off the set because he was displeased with where the dialogue was headed. Ironically, a couple of years ago he and Shannon appeared on Divorce Court.
Gary’s adoptive parents have spoken out recently to say that when they contacted Shannon that she left them a very dismissive voice mail message and never bothered to give them any details surrounding Gary’s death so that they could have some measure of closure. Shannon even went so far as to tell them to contact her brother, who was handling the funeral arrangements. Wow.
Sadly, there is no one to blame but Gary himself for this debacle. By virtue of the fact that he dated and lived with Shannon for a while he clearly knew her better than most. Someone doesn’t just instantly develop the kinds of character flaws that Shannon has publicly displayed. She comes across as an opportunist, someone who has experience with taking someone else’s misfortune and capitalizing on it. I’m not saying she’s a gold digger, but it’s noteworthy how quickly she mobilized and went into action for her own benefit even before Gary had actually died. I have to wonder if in Gary’s final moments, when he was bleeding profusely from a head wound and she would not go near him to help, it dawned on him what he had gotten himself into by dealing with her. Poor thing. His portrayal of how they met and hooked up painted him as a lonely, needy and desperate man who was vulnerable. It seems that Shannon seized on the opportunity and worked it.
If there are any lessons to be learned from the tragic life and death of Gary Coleman, the primary one that stands out in my mind is to love yourself. Know when you are being used and abused and move on. Gary initiated the divorce from Shannon, and in retrospect one can surmise why. She certainly appears to be self-centered and heartless. If he had a strong sense of self worth then perhaps he would have moved on after the divorce was finalized instead of moving back in with her and continuing the relationship. The other lesson I gleaned is to never let anything, especially money, come between you and your family. Gary disowned all of his family members in a battle over money, and in the end he died broke, unhappy and virtually alone. The one person he considered family treated him like an animal in his time of need.
The universe has a way of correcting wrongs, so in the end I know that Shannon will get exactly what she deserves. It’s clear that she thinks she’s gaming the system but it’s only a matter of time before karma posts up on the top spot.
I’m known as one who speaks my mind, so I’m going to give it to you straight. We’re all crazy-busy, running around like chickens with their heads cut off. We have work obligations, family responsibilities, homes to clean, laundry to do, meals to prepare and the list seems endless. Exercise, eating nutritiously and self-care in general, are often the last things on the “to do” list, if they make the cut at all. In a nation where a significant percentage of the population is considered obese or overweight that obviously has to change. I want to give you a few things to consider that will not only make it easier to add fitness and improved nutrition to your priority list, but make perseverance, commitment and consistency part of the mix as well.
Before I jump right in to my recommendations for improvement, I want to make three things perfectly clear. First, we must give up on the illusion of a silver bullet, pill or potion that will magically melt away thighs and tone your glutes overnight. It doesn’t exist. The reality is, achieving and maintaining your health and fitness requires a consistent effort, thoughtfulness, planning, focus, commitment, honesty and a dose of moxie. Second, just know, fully acknowledge and wholeheartedly believe that your health begins and ends with you and the decisions that you make. Fully own that responsibility and you are headed in the right direction. No one can exercise for you or monitor every morsel that enters your mouth. If someone could do that then every woman with a little disposable income would be a size 2. Third, draw on two adages that could not be any truer---“you are what you eat” and “if you don’t eat it you don’t have to burn it”. Realize that nutrition, the pattern of what you put in your mouth over time, significantly influences 80% of your fitness results. In our “quick fix” culture this information can be hard for some to swallow, but the sooner you come to grips with these truths the sooner you can start getting healthy and achieving your health and fitness goals.
So, now that shorts and tank tops are front and center in your closet, how do you feel about your personal fitness and nutrition plan? Are you happy with your muscle tone, shape and weight? Do you have the energy to do all of the things you want and need to do? If you’re like the majority of people I know your focus on fitness and health could use an overhaul. While I have numerous tips to live by, I have distilled them down to a list of my top ten pieces of advice for successfully incorporating health and fitness into your life:
1) Get your head in the game. Just like most initiatives in life, your success as it relates to health and fitness has a lot to do with your attitude and mental toughness. Wo(man) up! Accept the reality that you will have to incorporate healthy decision making into your life for the rest of your life. One thing that makes this easier is if you find a sport or activity that you’re passionate about and find ways to incorporate it in your fitness routine.
2) Be bold! Set short and long-term goals as well as aggressive “stretch” goals and write them down, along with milestone dates when you plan to reach them. Refer to your goals daily. Have you always wanted to run a marathon? Put that on your “to do” list and figure out what it takes to get it done.
3) Eat treats outside the house. Don’t bring the junk home! If you must have, for example, ice cream or chips, buy a small portion or bag while you are out and about, eat it all before heading home and don’t obsess over it. Once it is consumed move on.
4) Set a specific time to exercise daily and stick to it. Consistency is king when it comes to exercise so schedule an appointment with yourself and don’t be late.
5) Find a workout and/or nutrition buddy. Tell someone what you are doing and share your goals so they can hold you accountable. Additionally, if you are a competitive person challenge someone to a weight loss contest to boost your results.
6) Be realistic in determining how many days of the week you can actually work out. Perhaps you can only start with twice a week. That’s okay. The important thing is to start and to keep going!
7) Go to bed early enough to get 7.5-8 hours of sleep, especially if you plan to exercise in the morning.
8) Plan your meals and snacks in advance to avoid relying on takeout and fast food when you’re starving and desperate. Don’t get caught without your own snacks. Pack a lunch box or cooler full of your favorite healthy snacks and munch on those things all day instead of going to a fast food restaurant or hitting the vending machines. Also remember to drink enough water to remain hydrated throughout the day. Shoot for 96 ounces.
9) Write down what you eat every day. Study after study shows that people who keep food journals lose twice as much weight as those who don’t. Without recording your food it’s easy to be delusional and in denial about what you’re truly consuming. Plus human nature makes us underestimate our calorie consumption and overestimate our calorie burn. Keep yourself honest by writing down everything that crosses your lips.
10) Loosen up once in a while. The goal is to not feel deprived—eat controlled portions of what you truly love. Make a conscious decision to make healthy choices 90% of the time, and the other 10% eat things you really and truly love but may not the healthiest for you.
Know that it’s going to take time to see results. Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up, get discouraged and quit prematurely. If you’re just starting out or jumping back on the health wagon you’ll probably take two steps forward and one step back, but the important thing is to keep moving forward. Real life is not an episode of Law & Order where by the end of the hour everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow. So, manage your expectations accordingly. Rome wasn’t build in a day, so be patient with yourself.
I’m often asked, as a trainer, what I do to stay in shape. My answer is simple – I consistently seek new physical challenges to keep myself motivated and moving forward. Currently, I’m training for my second marathon. Last quarter I did P90X with Tony Horton. The quarter before that I did Insanity with Shaun T. So I’m constantly trying to up my fitness ante. In short, whatever excites you and gets your competitive juices flowing is a great base from which to build a fitness program. Once you start putting in the effort to exercise regularly don’t sabotage yourself by eating poorly. Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. I encourage everyone to train and make healthy nutrition choices like your life depends on it because, in reality, it does.
Boys II Men said it best when they crooned, “it’s so haaard to say goodbyyye to yesterdaaay”. My daughter is on the brink of “graduating” from lower school and it is ripping me up. She’s going from 4th grade to 5th, which means that she and her friends are moving on from being the “seniors” of the lower school to the “freshmen” of the middle school. Next year she’ll rotate from classroom to classroom, take on greater academic challenges, receive grades for the first time and interact with 6th, 7th and 8th graders regularly. She’s 10-years old but, lately, when I look at her my mind flashes back to the day she was born in 2000 in Germantown, Tennessee. She was an adorable, hearty baby, with lots of leg rolls, weighing in at 9 pounds even. She smiled easily and was just a very free flowing little soul. She would go to anyone and was relatively low maintenance. Luckily for me, she has maintained that same sweet disposition and continues to be a curious, happy, loving child. I know it sounds dramatic, but the other day I actually woke up in a cold sweat thinking about her getting older and moving on.
Change is a curious thing. I sometimes find myself wanting something new, for things to be shaken up a bit, but when it involves my children I often go into my cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, back to the future mode, and start wishing for the days long ago when they were babies. Back then things were hectic and crazy, but the kids were solely under my control and life was much simpler. Yes, I didn’t get enough sleep and barely had time to go to the bathroom, but the bubble we built around the kids was impenetrable, and they were safe under our watch. Fast forward ten years and I find myself contemplating a lot of deep questions, such as are we parenting effectively? Have we made the right choices? Is she equipped to face the world without us?
As if the heavens were listening, just this morning I received an e-mail from a friend who had recently spent some time with her daughter and mine, just chatting and having lunch. My friend said wonderful things about my daughter, and as I was reading the e-mail I just burst into tears. I am so proud of the person she is becoming, but ironically, I’m so emotional because she is maturing and becoming her own person. It’s funny that as we near a major transition in my daughter’s life that it just dawned on me that she doesn’t depend on me for every need like she used to do. She’s finding her own voice, shaping her own opinions and developing her own style. Times are surely changing. She is entering the stage where her friends’ influence is becoming stronger and I’m just becoming slightly embarrassing. While she used to laugh and join me as I sang and danced around the house, now she just says, “moooom!” as if I’m the biggest nerd walking the planet. She obviously didn’t get the memo that I’m still cool.
While I take note of the fact that she will sometimes go into baby-mode, wanting to sit on my lap or just be hugged and kissed unexpectedly, the writing is definitely on the wall that she’s moving on. She’s ready to begin taking on life’s challenges on her own terms. I often jokingly tell my friends that she’s the nosiest child I know, but I recognize that she’s just trying to get a jump start on figuring out what adults talk about in private so she can prepare herself for what’s to come.
I’m finding that on most days I have mixed emotions about the passing of time. Although I’m partly happy and partly sad about my daughter’s inevitable transformation from baby to child to young lady, I realize that I seriously need to get a grip or I’m going to completely burn myself out before she even gets to high school. I plan to suck it up, put my game face on and get ready to embrace the unmistakable change that’s coming my way. The 4th grade dinner and “graduation” is tonight and I need to make it through without crying uncontrollably and completely embarrassing my daughter. While I’m learning that it’s definitely hard to say goodbye to the past, at the same time it’s exciting to say hello to tomorrow.