Lunden Souza: Good values don't have to be forced

April 14, 2012 

Lunden Souza

On the refrigerator in my parents' house there was always a yellow square piece of paper with a Bible verse typed on it: "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

Looking at it then I had always imagined it just referred to religious beliefs and prayer and going to church weekly. Now looking at it, I know it refers to an entire lifestyle: living for Jesus mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.

I am proud to say that my parents have done an incredible job at instilling this verse in all aspects. And, for the sake of this column's topic, being physically active and eating a well-balanced diet are attributes I was constantly surrounded by while growing up.

God has blessed us all with one body and one life, and it's our job to live it to the best of our ability and take care of it the best we can.

My father was an athlete growing up and has been a coach my whole entire life. We spent a lot of my childhood practicing and playing sports and being out and about on the baseball field. We would go to the driving range and play golf, to the park to play with the dog and countless other fun, physical activities.

My mother loved to run when I was younger. She had a group of friends she would go running with on a regular basis. I was always so excited when I got to go with them and ride my bike along with them as they'd run. I even remember my mom going to the gym early in the morning. When I wouldn't want to go into the child care center, she would let me walk on the treadmill next to her -- and I just felt so cool.

I didn't enjoy all that physical activity because I thought that I was working out or that I was trying to be skinny, but because I was doing fun things with my parents that also happened to be beneficial for my health.

My mom is the most amazing cook, so is her mother and so was my nana (great grandmother). One thing we always did was eat at home. My mom always took the time every morning to make us breakfast, pack us a homemade lunch and have a hot dinner on the table when we got home.

This type of eating, without all the processed foods and sodium, played a huge role in how I like to eat today. We weren't deprived as kids; my mom has a great cookie recipe that will make anyone drool. But we always learned that living a life of moderation is the key.

I don't have any children, but one of my best friends has a son I love with my whole heart. Ayden is so curious and so smart -- I try to always be a good, healthy and positive influence with him. Whenever I visit, I always let him help me in the kitchen put together a colorful fruit salad. I always tell him about the importance of all the colors. Sometimes we will even joke around and get on my parents' gym machine and do some seated rows together. He loves how the seat slides back and forth and actually sees it as fun. He also loves to practice his golf skills with my dad on his homemade putting green in the dining room. There is not a sport Ayden doesn't enjoy, and it is so cute, how happy he gets when we all play together.

There's no need to force diets and exercise in a negative way with children, especially because the media already put so much pressure in that direction. Make healthy and nutritionally sound eating a normal part of everyday life, and physical activity fun and consistent, and when the child grows up he or she will not depart from it.

Lunden Souza can be reached at lundensouza@gmail.com.

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