We are examples. We are leaders. Someone, somewhere looks up to us. As a parent, this is especially true of my kids. When I was a Marine leader, it was true of the troops I lead. We are always told to be a good example, but we typically think that it means only in deed and action. We assume that it means for us to be honest, kind, humble, and giving. What we don’t think about, however, are things like eating habits, physical fitness patterns, and activity levels.
I grew up eating all kinds of good foods. My mom, grandparents, and just about everyone in my family cooked foods that were made with natural ingredients: meat and vegetables. Sure, we had the occasional pasta dish, and bread was a part of every meal, but they were never the center of the meals. That was typically meat and vegetables with bread as a side. This gave me some pretty good examples for how to eat. I was encouraged to be physically active, and I spent the majority of my childhood on a bicycle, or in the swimming pool. These habits of eating good food and staying active kept me very fit and thin until I was around 27. Then, due to a surgery that kept me sidelined for over six months, my health and fitness declined rapidly, and it no longer was a priority.
For the following 20 years, I was morbidly obese and unable to get control of my eating. I ate everything, and I ate for fun. It was entertainment to me. I was not setting a good example for my kids, and as a result, my son became overweight as well. My daughter, fortunately, wasn’t affected as much, although her eating habits were not the healthiest.
My sister and my cousin were both someone I looked up to in terms of their physical fitness and health. They both took their health seriously and worked out regularly. It wasn’t until my cousin talked to me about Whole30 and Paleo did I consider even getting healthy. Then, one thing led to another, and after nearly two years of the Paleo Diet, I’m down 150 lbs from my max of 312 lbs and I run every other day and I do 120 push ups before each run.
My son, who learned his eating and health habits from me, struggles with his weight. He picked up horrible eating habits from years of watching me gorge, but fortunately, he has been inspired by my own journey to eat right and exercise. In three months, he’s already lost over 40 lbs and he continues to make progress weekly. I have numerous friends who all, once again based on my example, have taken to eating right and losing weight.
When I set out to lose weight, I was doing it for me, my wife, and my kids. I didn’t want to die young. Now, I realize that I’ve always been an example to others. Initially, I was an example of what happens when you eat without limits and don’t take fitness seriously. Now, I am the opposite example: one of health and fitness. It’s a responsibility I take seriously, and I endeavor to live up to the important role in my family and friends’ life that has been thrust upon me. I do this with enthusiasm and I’m happy to do it.
Be the best you can be, not only for yourself, but those little eyes that are watching you at the dinner table and on the weekends. Those little eyes will watch your every move, every morsel you put into your mouth, and every activity you partake. Make these examples the best you can for their sake.