A proactive healthy lifestyle as a military family is living each day making good eating decisions, staying active, and having a positive mindset. There are so many little things military families can do on a daily basis to be proactive healthy military families. It helps us to be both physically and mentally healthy during those times of change or unknown.
Over the years I have discovered four key elements to create a healthy lifestyle for my military family. Much of it has been trial and error, ups and downs, along with lots of tears and joys of accomplishments. All of these have made us a stronger, healthier family in the long run.
HOW OUR PROACTIVE MILITARY LIFESTYLE BEGAN
The start of it all was…
When I married a man in the military. I realized very quickly I had to figure out how to live the military lifestyle with a positive mindset or I wouldn’t be able to cope. I started off by moving across the country to live in a completely new place with no family or friends. Being married for seven months with a 3-month-old baby, my husband was tasked with an unaccompanied tour overseas for 15 months. This was beyond scary and a bit inconceivable.
I had to figure out how to be a military wife from afar and how to be a new parent all on my own. Of course, as a new wife and parent, I wanted to do everything right. I wanted to make the military lifestyle work for us. I also wanted our son to grow up happy and healthy, but in doing this I needed to figure out how to be happy and healthy myself in this new lifestyle.
For me, being proactive about our family’s health started off by doing everything to stay positive and embrace this new military life. I felt the stress and loneliness. I also experienced all the joys of watching my son grow, learn, and change. Every day I had the opportunity to smile and see him discover new things. It was up to me to give him a good start to his life so that his dad could stress less about being gone and focus more on the work he was doing away from us.
FOUR TIPS TO CREATE A PROACTIVE HEALTHY LIFESTYLE AS A MILITARY FAMILY
The first key was creating a routine. Routine is key to keeping consistency, especially in a military family. Military families often have different routines depending on the season. They learn to move smoothly in and out of routines depending on their life situation. This will serve military children well into their future. They learn to become very adaptable to new routines, but also know how to appreciate a consistent one.
I knew that being consistent with things would help me and my son get through our days smoothly. A routine kept us busy, which gave me little time to let my mind wander and worry about what my husband’s situation was overseas.
I focused on how to help our family eat healthily and make fitness part of our routine next. The military encourages good health and physical fitness, which means this is a great opportunity to work as a family to live a healthy lifestyle. It’s amazing the influence a parent has on their children all the way through adulthood. When we make eating healthy and our physical fitness important, they will too.
Incorporating fruits and vegetables throughout the day and lots of water is a good start to eating healthy. Limit sugar intake for everyone in the family. The easiest way to achieve better eating is to put healthy foods in the refrigerator or in your cabinets. Take your children grocery shopping and spend most of your time shopping in the outer aisles of the grocery store. Teaching your children how to shop right is a great way to live a proactive lifestyle at a young age.
Eating healthy should be done by the whole family, not limited to just the service member that needs to hit military health and fitness standards. Encouraging your children to eat healthy and pay attention to what they are putting into their bodies is important.
I decided a great way to do this for my child would be to find easy ways to make baby food myself. It was important to avoid processed foods and added sugars as much as possible for both myself and my son. I hoped that if I fed him good healthy foods when he was a baby then he would learn to like them as he grew up.
The military has physical fitness standards, which once again gives us the opportunity to make physical fitness important to the whole family. Let your kids see you take time out of your day to work out. This shows them that you find your physical fitness to be important. As they grow up they will be more likely to make physical fitness important to themselves too. There are always things you can do as a family to be active. Riding bikes, playing sports, water sports, walking, and hiking are all great ways to keep physically fit as a family.
When my husband left for his unaccompanied tour, walking became part of my daily routine. Strapping my son into the stroller and taking some time to breathe in the fresh air, kept us healthy and busy at the same time. We explored new trails all around us while enjoying the outdoors.
Communication plays a major role in living a healthy lifestyle as a military family. Military families are very unique when it comes to how they need to communicate with each other. Often communication is done from afar or can be very limited depending on the circumstances at the time. Learning to talk to each other, share feelings, and be open is important. Make family time important. Take time to talk about each other’s day in the car, at the dinner table, before bed, and anytime that works for you. Just TALK, TALK, TALK, and LISTEN!
During those walks with my son, I would talk to him about nature, our day, what we were going to do, or where we were going. From the time he was very young, I talked to him as if he could understand me. Obviously, he couldn’t respond to me when he was young, but as the years went by he was able to join in the conversation.
Now that my son is 13 years old I realize that always talking to him has kept our relationship and communication so open. It has also trickled down to his two younger brothers. Having their dad be open and honest about his job and what it entails helps our boys to understand why he needs to be gone so often. It also allows us to share our feelings of worry, sadness, loneliness, concern about the unknown, nervousness, happiness, excitement, or anticipation.
MAKING MILITARY LIFE WORK
Over the years our healthy lifestyle has changed based on our situations. Deployments, moves, and transitions have made us rethink where we need to make changes so that everyone in the family can be happy and healthy. We are continuously encountering life changes, which is why leading a healthy lifestyle together as a family is essential.
Being proactive about a healthy lifestyle is a great way to not only create healthy bodies and minds but also promote healthy relationships. Military families are always looking for ways to develop strong relationships and bonds that will withstand military training away from family, deployments, transition times, PCS, and all the stresses that military life brings on its families. It can be fun and beneficial to everyone involved and has the ability to set your whole family up for success in work, school, and home life. I encourage you to take some time to be proactive and figure out what works for your family.
“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.”– ANTHONY BRANDT
Michelle Ann is a proud military spouse to a Navy Diver and homeschool mom to her three energetic boys. She has a Bachelor’s in Language Arts and Psychology along with a Masters in Elementary Education. She is a writer and the owner of Embrace Life Writing Agency. She loves to encourage military families and others to EMBRACE LIFE!