Does Your Past Influence Your Health Behaviors?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As I get closer and closer to sending my children out into the world on their own, I realize how much of their foundation will be carried with them when they go. As we talk about different topics, I am quickly reminded of how my foundation is still carried with me and influences how I teach and train them. As I look at the foundation we have attempted to establish for our children related to living a healthy lifestyle, I am struck by how my own upbringing and experiences have shaped my behavior and directly relate to the choices I make today.

I grew up on a twelve-acre farm as one of a family of six with loving and involved parents and a mother that wanted nothing more than to be home to raise her family. We played in the fields for hours, waded in the creek all summer long (pulled off leeches when necessary), and had regular chores and responsibilities for farm animals and pets. Mother made nutritious meals on a shoestring budget and we ate dinner together each evening and only went to a restaurant on special occasions like our birthday. My younger brother created a chart that hung on the inside of our cupboard to help our mother keep straight which child liked which vegetables so she could rotate them regularly so we all got what we didn't like, equally. She made us a hot breakfast every morning before school and on Saturdays, she would let us eat Pop Tarts or donuts fresh from the bakery that she would surprise us with when she returned from the grocery store. We drank milk or juice if we were thirsty because we had a well and the hard, rusty water tasted horrible. My mother was and still is a terrific cook, makes wonderful pies, and could make SPAM taste good when she used it to top homemade Au Gratin potatoes. Summer holidays brought sweet, rich, cold homemade ice cream and orange juice popsicles from Tupperware molds. On many Sunday evenings we would gather around newspaper on the floor for a picnic of hot dogs and chips or a pizza with my two brothers and I sharing a bottle of soda while watching The Wonderful World of Disney. To make ends meet we grew a large garden with tomatoes, peas, beans, and corn that we would enjoy fresh each summer and work diligently to freeze or can for the winter. We picked fruit from trees that we mashed into sauce and canned for the winter. We cared for cattle that we took to be butchered each Thanksgiving and provided a freezer full of pasture raised beef for the next year. When we got in trouble with our siblings, there was rows to weed in the garden or stalls to muck in the barn and I got a great deal of experience weeding and hauling manure to say the least. Each evening there were things to be picked or snapped and animals to be cared for. Cows were not pets and death was a part of life.

My parents volunteered in our school, church, and community and taught us to do the same. At the same time, I set and achieved many goals in music, athletics, and other extra-curricular areas of life. I participated in 4-H and showed horses for 10 years, played the piano when I was young and the flute and French horn in high school as well as participating in church choirs. I began competitive athletics around the age of ten, started working out in a weight room shortly thereafter and continued a training cycle for the next ten years of my life. In high school I started volleyball conditioning and training each summer before the school year began and since I qualified for the Ohio Track and Field State finals all four years, I didn't complete training and competition until the school year was over while fitting the basketball season in between. I attended college on a full volleyball scholarship, started conditioning immediately after high school graduation and the state track meet, and continued non-stop until the end of the competitive season in the winter of my senior year of college. For eight years someone told me when and how to exercise and for the last four years it was when and how far and fast to run, when and how to strength train and what to eat (sometimes accurate and sometimes not) and how much to weigh.

Today, while I may know the nutritional value of homegrown food or how to create a healthy meal on a budget, I don't like to do either. I do them because I value teaching and training my children much of the lessons I learned but I don't enjoy cooking or gardening. I LOVE to eat out and would do it every day if it were up to me. Gardening is not enjoyable but a chore and nothing tastes better than a thick juicy steak. My pies don't stack up to my mother's, I still love ice cream and my own family gathers for pizza and movie nights in front of the television whenever possible. I prefer exercising on my own and avoid group classes or using a DVD where someone is telling me what to do whenever possible. I set goals, volunteer in our schools and community, fill my days more full than I should and no longer step on a scale unless it is in a doctor's office.

My point in sharing my childhood recollections is to express that we are each unique and much of who we are, the habits and routines we have established and how we view food and activity were shaped by our life experiences and the expectations of others. Some things I love today are because I have wonderful memories of them from my childhood while others evoke the opposite response. Some people never had the experience of competitive athletics and seeing how far they can push and be pushed while growing up and now thrive in it as an adult. For them, the idea of training and running races and improving their time motivates them in new and exciting ways. My life was filled with it and as the saying goes, "I've been there and done that" so it is far from interesting or motivating to me now. I have set and reached many goals, achieved more than I would have thought possible and still hold a few records over 25 years later and feel blessed for the richness of my experiences and opportunities. I have had to learn to acknowledge what motivates me and what hinders me and find new ways to keep eating right and making exercise fun and interesting. Realizing why I make the choices I do and why I struggle with certain things has been helpful as I continue on in my journey to live a healthy life.

What about you, are there things from your childhood experiences and upbringing that influence what you do and how you live today? Are there new insights you can discover that will help you successfully break though barriers that are limiting you from reaching your healthy lifestyle goals?

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