Nearly every night, I'm asked the question, "Can we have dessert?" Many nights, the answer to that question is "yes." Some nights, though, the answer is "no." That answer is usually met with groans and cries of "But why not?" from my kids. Kids love sugar (and so do I). This generation also seems to prefer video games over playing outside. Those things can be a dangerous combination if we let our kids indiscriminately partake of them.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." We are called to honor God with our bodies, and we, as a culture, struggle more with this than with any other directive. In this culture, it is so easy to not pay attention to our bodies and to unintentionally pass that inattention on to our children. The percentage of obese people is at an all-time high, and childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic.
If you or your children struggle with your weight, I'm not trying to make you feel bad. I am trying to point out that the way we treat our bodies is important to God. He calls us to honor Him with our bodies. Our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit. Anywhere that God dwells is holy. In the Old Testament, there were specific rules for taking care of the tabernacle, where God's spirit dwelled during the Israelites exodus from Egypt. Our bodies have become the temple for God's spirit, so we should follow His instructions for taking care of our bodies as well.
Teaching our children to care for their bodies at an early age means that they will be less likely to struggle with body image and weight problems later in their lives. Our example is the single, most important way we teach our children about taking care of themselves. That's not easy. I'm guilty of telling my kids to eat healthy, and then sneaking some chocolate when they're not around. There's nothing wrong with a treat, but our lifestyle needs to show that we think that our bodies are a temple -- holy and set apart.
If you don't already lead a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and physical activity, it's never too late to start. Start with little changes and have fun doing them.
- Read Daniel 1:3-16 with your kids. Talk about how Daniel made the choices about his food that God would want him to make. Ask your children how we can make good choices in our eating habits as well. Discuss how those choices honor God.
- Let your kids plan and cook a meal. Lay out guidelines for them -- they have to include a meat, a dairy and a fruit or vegetable -- then let them do the planning, shopping and cooking. Provide whatever level of help and supervision that's appropriate for the age level of your child. Be sure to emphasize that healthy eating builds strong bodies and honors God.
- As a family, come up with some active activities that you can do together. It can be anything from bike rides or walks to basketball games and ice skating. Just taking a soccer ball and shooting it at a net after supper offers physical activity and fun for your family. Not only are you getting active together, you're spending time together.
- Add walking to your daily routine. Walk your kids to school instead of driving or park farther away from the store when you go so you have to walk farther. Make little changes that add up to big ones.
Whatever you choose to do to improve your family's eating and exercise habits, remember that the main goal is not to have the skinniest, most toned body. It's to have bodies that we treat as temples for the Holy Spirit. Healthy eating and exercise habits give us more energy, which allows us to answer God's call no matter what He calls us to do.