If you’re like many parents, when it comes to taking care of your family’s needs, your days are really full and your to-do list is really long. At the same time, the list of things you do to take care of yourself may be extremely short.
Why such an imbalance? A new study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Jenny Craig found while you may have the best intentions when it comes to putting yourself on your priority list, your other duties and your mindset may keep you from doing so. According to the survey of 2,000 parents, moms and dads combined spend an average of 27 hours per week on basic parenting tasks, with moms logging an additional nine hours each week. Parents are so busy, in fact, that they eat an average of 156 meals standing up each year—and they get just more than two hours of “me time” per week.
What’s more, 82 percent of the parents surveyed stated that their kids’ health comes before anyone else’s in the family. That may be no surprise, but how far should it go? More than 62 percent of moms said they prioritize their health the least in the household—even behind pets!
“We can see from the data that parents, especially moms, are often sacrificing their own health and wellness in favor of taking care of their family,” said Monty Sharma, president and CEO of Jenny Craig. “It is critical for weight loss and healthy eating programs to respect the lack of time that parents have today. We must provide them with plans that are simple in design and take the work out of healthy eating.”
Not only is such self-sacrifice harmful to our weight loss efforts, but it’s also just plain bad for our stress levels, not to mention our physical and mental health. And while it may be hard to change some long-established patterns of self-neglect, there are ways to start prioritizing your own well-being starting today.
Realize That Taking Care of Yourself Is Not Selfish
If you’re not at the point where you can boldly proclaim that your health should be top priority, start off by acknowledging that taking care of yourself actually means that you can take better care of your family. “If you are not healthy, then you won’t be able to manage the health care of others,” says Dr. Pamela Peeke, assistant clinical professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chairman of the Jenny Craig Science Advisory Board. “Parents, and moms specifically in this case, need support to believe that it is OK to prioritize their own health to be at their best to care for their family.”
As you slowly become more comfortable prioritizing self-care, you may become more accepting of the fact that your health deserves attention and care, just like the rest of your family.
Make Healthy Eating a Priority
If you relate all too well to eating most your meals standing up or grabbing whatever is convenient due to your busy schedule – it may benefit you to look at how you can incorporate healthier meal options into your routine without adding more stress or time to your day.
Start by looking at situations you’re inclined to opt for less healthy food choices. Is take-out your go-to on busy days? Do you tend to mindlessly snack until dinner time? Once you assess your tendencies, look at ways you may be able to make simple changes.
If the drive through calls your name frequently, perhaps you can update your order and swap fried items for grilled. Or better yet, having a healthy, ready-made meal on-hand can make it easier on your budget and waistline.
If you tend to mindlessly snack out of boredom or stress before dinner – try opting for a snack with a balance of protein and fiber like an apple with a light string cheese or nonfat plain Greek yogurt – to help you feel more satisfied until dinner. Another tip: try practicing mindful eating techniques that may help you slow down and savor your food.
Learn to Ignore Your Critical Inner Voice
Many people struggle with their own “inner critic” that pushes them to be productive or helpful, and that tells them anything they do for themselves is selfish.1 It can also drive a desire for perfection and to always put other people first.
To counteract this critical voice, talk to yourself as you would to your own child or dear friend. Replace critical, well-worn thoughts with nurturing ones; check in with yourself regularly and notice how you are feeling. Tired? Stressed? Give yourself time and permission to sit down, have a cup of tea, make yourself a healthy lunch—whatever you need to care for yourself, and your health. That 10 or 15 minutes can put you in a different frame of mind for the rest of the day. And challenge yourself, to do one thing daily for you.
Learn to Say No
Don’t have the time or energy to organize and run the school book fair? Feeling resentful of being asked, but also compelled to do it? Pay attention to your feelings and your own needs and gather up the courage to say no. Yes, it can be difficult, but try to learn to draw limits on your own time, and on the demands made of you.
If your daily routine feels overwhelming, it may be beneficial to have a close friend or family member be your “self-care buddy,” someone who is also striving to prioritize her own well-being.2 Hold each other accountable day in and out and support the other’s needs to draw limits and find time for yourselves—and for your health. And getting support from an unbiased, professionally trained person is always helpful, especially if you want support with making healthier choices for yourself. Try a free one-on-one consultation with a Jenny Craig consultant and see if outsourcing healthy meal planning and prep can free up your mind and schedule.
Start with Small, Do-able Steps
Commit to taking a few minutes every day to devote to yourself, even if it’s just reading a book or a few minutes of quiet, solo-time. As you slowly become more comfortable, try to add a bit more “me time” to your days.
Try taking time each evening to plan what you will do for yourself, and when, the next day.3 No need to be overly ambitious; be realistic and plan activities that you can succeed with. If an hour-long walk is not likely, plan on a shorter one—the achievement of the goal is more important than the length of it.
Above all, remember that being healthy will keep your family healthy. And while your days are woefully busy, it’s imperative that you find the time to care for yourself. “Think of the little things you can do every day to contribute to your overall health,” advises Dr. Peeke. “Find outside support to help you plan healthy meals and to achieve your health and wellness goals. Schedule daily self-care and make it a routine part of your schedule, just as you would any other appointment. Make that commitment to yourself for you and for your family.”
If you’re struggling with finding the time to eat healthily, Jenny Craig can help. Contact us today for a free appointment to get started!