What I’ve learned about health…..from my 2 year old! - Care For Health | Godalming Chiropractor | Chiropractic & Physiotherapy
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What I’ve learned about health…..from my 2 year old!

May 1st 2024

My son Charlie turned 2 recently and I have no idea where that time has gone. As a parent, you constantly want what’s best for them so you protect them, feed them and comfort them through all the highs and lows. You want them to grow up healthy and live a great life, so watching him over these last 2 years has definitely made me question health more and forced me to make changes in my life to improve my own health. So here’s what I’ve learned, that you can also apply to make your life healthier too.

When did we get lazy

          Have you ever watched a toddler pick something up? I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw Charlie, or any other toddler for that matter, bend over to pick something up and stand up slowly, holding their back. That’s because they don’t. Watch them completely subconsciously line up next to a toy, squat down, grab it and stand back up again using their legs.

So at what point do we stop doing that?

Maybe in our teenage years when we actively take as long as possible to do so, in the hope that our parents will give up nagging and just let us live in the mess we created?

Lately I have been trying to convince more and more people to do this simple action, even for the lightest and smallest of tasks but why should you?

  1. It’s so much better for your back, and if you’re reading this, you have probably suffered with your back at some point. By bending straight over, you are placing a huge amount of stress on the lower back; adding unnecessary extra pressure to the discs, loading the joints and straining the muscles. By squatting, you are offloading all that pressure and sparing your back from further pain, damage and aggravation.

2. It’s great for your legs. Think of it like this, every time you squat down to pick something up, you are giving yourself a mini workout. You’re making your legs stronger, which will make it easier to repeat in future, so you can do it even better again next time. The more you make a conscious decision to squat to pick things up, the more it becomes a subconscious action meaning that eventually you won’t even have to think about protecting your back. I make sure every time I go to lift Charlie up, I squat right down to his height and lift him up using my legs rather than bending over and relying on my back.

So remember that next time you’re unloading the dishwasher or picking up things from the floor.

Do we need to prioritise (or compromise) more?

We all seem to lead such busy lives juggling work, families and trying to find time for social activities. Add to that trying to be healthy; cooking good food from scratch, exercising, mobilising our bodies, or taking time out for a mental reset. We often don’t have time for everything so sometimes we have to make compromises or change our priorities.

I used to be in the gym most days and then playing football weekly as well, but as soon as Charlie came along, it became far more difficult to maintain that. Time became an issue, so with a dog to look after as well, it seemed either Mylo got a walk, or I got to go to the gym, but never really managed to do both, and my exercise regime took a hit as a result. So I needed to rethink things. Let me just state that I HATE running (and you will never catch me running a marathon by the way). I just don’t have the motivation to run for exercise, even though I could chase a football or a squash ball around for hours. But I begrudgingly made the decision that if I wanted to exercise and walk the dog, I might as well combine the two. So now I run with Mylo, and although I don’t necessarily enjoy it, at least we both get the exercise we need.

So how can you make changes, even if it’s hard and we don’t want to, to take back some time to improve your health?

Should we unleash our inner child?

Maybe this is easier for men as I would debate whether we ever really grow up but George Bernard Shaw once said: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”.

Toddlers possess an innate sense of wonder and curiosity that propels them into constant exploration. Whether it’s crawling under tables, climbing on chairs, or gleefully splashing in puddles, the simplicity of life and play and exploration is just amazing to watch. Charlie always wants to be outside and in the garden whether cold or warm, rain or ….. well more rain. As a working parent, sometimes all you want to do is come home and relax in the warmth and dry, but that just isn’t stimulating for a toddler. Embracing this playfulness into our own lives slows things right down, and could boost our mood by releasing endorphins and serotonin. Initially for nursery pick up we would just walk home and then have to find things to entertain him at home. Now we take multiple detours for his favourite new activities; looking for robins and pigeons, creating echoes in tunnels and walking on walls just to jump off them.

When was the last time you took a detour on your way home from work just for the sake of it?

Create Mindful Eating Habits

Have you ever observed a toddler eat? It’s a challenge, it’s entertaining and frankly, it’s messy! Thank god we have a dog to clear up after him.

They approach meals with a sense of pleasure, enjoying each bite but, just like adults, are massively influenced by the tasty things we all know are bad for us. Charlie is a snack machine. If he had his way, I think most of his diet would consist of something crispy and sweet. As a result, we realised quite early on that we couldn’t entertain this sustainably and so had to make changes. We gave him options so that he feels a sense of control over his food, but limit those choices to better, healthier snacks. Nuts, cheese, fruit, carrot sticks, humous over biscuits and crisps and oaty bars. Probably the easiest change I created for myself was the idea that if we didn’t have it in the house I couldn’t eat it, whether I wanted it or not, so I just stopped buying things. Now I find it easier to eat things that I should be eating rather than the things I shouldn’t (but secretly want to).

Prioritizing Rest and Recovery

I would say that toddlers are experts at listening to their bodies when it comes to rest, but actually that’s rubbish. Babies are experts; they sleep anywhere, anytime, whenever they need to recharge. Unfortunately Charlie has just reached that stage of life where he fights his bed and nap times. But guess who doesn’t? Me!

As adults, we often neglect this crucial aspect of health in favour of productivity or entertainment. I used to be a night owl and would always stay up late but since becoming a father, I definitely value my sleep more. This was only increased further by listening to the book ‘Why we sleep’ by Matthew Walker which is a brilliant book that absolutely everyone should read! Prioritising adequate rest and sleep is essential for physical and mental recovery, not only from toddlers, but from all of our busy lives.

Are you getting a full 8 hours?

Health is a choice

                You have to choose (and then and commit) to be healthy via series of conscious decisions we make each day. Whether it’s opting for nutrient-rich meals over processed convenience foods or carving out time for physical activity despite a hectic schedule or going to bed early to get those 40 winks, every choice shapes our well-being.

Through the lens of parenthood, I’ve learned that these choices aren’t just about me anymore; they ripple out to influence the health and happiness of my family. By embracing this agency and recognizing the impact of our decisions, we can reclaim more control over our health journey.

As we navigate the busy-ness of modern life, let’s draw inspiration from the unwavering curiosity and boundless energy of toddlers like Charlie. Let’s squat a little lower, prioritize a little smarter, and choose health, not just for ourselves, but for those we hold dear.

Mark Fairclough MChiro DC