3 Tips for Cultivating a Healthier and Happier Home

“3 Tips for Cultivating a Healthier and Happier Home That Surprisingly Everyone Enjoys – Even With Your Family’s Busy Lifestyle and Annoying Picky Eaters and Teenagers In Your Home”

This topic has come up in many different conversations I’ve had with moms all over the world who really want to change, not just their own eating habits, but also the habits of their households. I’ve heard from so many women who want to make the lifestyle changes required to fight off their illnesses, their hypertension, their diabetes, their stress, and their own weight gain, that it’s hard for them to make the necessary changes because there are always snack in the house. And they blame the kids and the husband or partner on their inability to stay focused and committed to their own personal goals.  

Now before I dig deep into my thoughts, experiences, and give you some tips that helped me change the family’s food and wellness lifestyle, let me first say that improved health and wellness is a journey, especially when you take on the huge responsibility of the family’s health and nutrition. It takes time, commitment, and a lot of grit to create a healthier home, specifically when your family members could care less about eating healthier.

AT FIRST… The struggle is all the way real.

I am the mom of two teenagers: a son, Arnez Jr., who is less than a month away from turning 16-years old soon, and a daughter, Lauren, who is 13-years old.

Lauren came out of the womb with a love for avocados, salads, seaweed chips, and edamame.  So she’s been easy with regards to food and wellness from the moment she was born. My son, on the other hand, spent many evenings at the table staring at the cold asparagus on his plate that he let sit for hours because he refused to eat it.  I guess he thought he would turn into sand if the asparagus or any vegetable came into close proximity of his face.

Then, there’s their father, my husband, Arnez Sr., who would equate having a cabinet full of sugary treats and beverages to “being a kid”.  When I packed our pantry with healthier snacks and beverages, Sr. saw it as some sort of punishment to the household. For every healthier snack I bought, he would buy twice as many Oreos, chocolate donuts, and Hershey Bars. He was my biggest obstacle. Without his buy-in, the kids always knew there was one parent that would give in and get them what they wanted. Also, my husband, like most of us, had a lifetime of unhealthy habits that were normalized by our upbringing, cultures, and trained palettes. So he was a hard nut to crack when it came to food and nutrition in our home.

Many times I gave in to the pressure to let the kids “just be kids”…

BUT THEN…  I fixed my tilted crown and unapologetically put my foot down…

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.

~ Samuel Johnson

For a while I tiptoed around the family’s complete dissatisfaction with my attempt to overhaul the our eating habits. Being a busy mom, wife, entrepreneur, and at the time working full-time as a software professional, I had more pressing and immediate concerns and issues to face daily.  But even with all my other responsibilities, concerns, and worries, I could not shake this feeling that I owed it to my family to make their wellness my top responsibility, and to push what I knew was best for them – even when they couldn’t see it for themselves.

During this time, I suffered near-fatal complications from high blood pressure, which also included losing part of my vision in my left eye to a condition called hypertension retinopathy. This acted as a wake-up call, not just for my health and the need to ramp up my wellness and fitness, but it woke me up to the need for me to be more persistent with my family and their nutritional needs. I decided that junk food, sugary treats, and our infamous “snack cabinet” would no longer be a staple in our home.

I reminded myself that “I am in charge”, not the kids! And because I do the shopping, I am mostly responsible for what they eat. Thankfully, both of my children are very healthy, very athletic, and have always had excellent physicals and exams. Even with healthy children, I know that if I want them to maintain these levels of health and wellness throughout the course of their young lives into their adulthood, that it is important that I fuel their bodies with good foods that nourish and support their development – mind, body, and spirit.  

As far as my husband, I had to realize, respect, and accept that he is a grown man and that he would need to make changes in his own time. There was nothing I could do to change him other than be a consistent example in our home of good health and nutrition. So, I focused on the kids. I became relentless about their dietary patterns and habits.

AND GUESS WHAT?? My efforts started to stick….

I did not indulge in their objections. I pressed on. I got creative and the process of changing our lifestyle began to take noticeable shape.

Here are the main 3 things I did to help my family embrace a healthier lifestyle in our home:

#1 Swapped the sugary snacks for snacks with less sugar and less bad carbs, and then I bought less and less of the junk home

Instead of buying donuts, I bought granola bars. Instead of the gigantic box of chips and snacks you can buy from the market, I bought the smaller baked-version of that variety pack. I traded in the Hershey Bars for protein bars. And when I thought the protein bars were just as sugary as the Hershey chocolate bars, I broke them in half, and the kids knew to only eat one half at a time.

I didn’t get rid of snacks altogether. That would be unrealistic. I simply swapped out bad ones for better ones. And I also purchased more fruit and increased the amount of healthy options available at home.

#2 When the husband bought home excessive amounts of junk, I threw it out or poured it down the drain

I don’t even need to tell you that this was borderline divorce court behavior!

Yes, my husband was not happy when he would bring home two gallons of peach tea and find that an hour later, one of those gallons was poured down the drain by me.  One time he stuck a pack of Hot Pockets in the freezer, and in less than 3 hours, my son ate two of them. A few hours after that, my husband asked where the Hot Pockets were. When I told him they were in the garbage, he was beyond furious. I didn’t give in though. I explained that I couldn’t allow my son to gorge himself on processed foods high in sodium. And I let him know that every time he gifted us with junkie foods, I would toss them.

I refuse to have my kids eating crap in large quantities because I know what it can do to them, and why would I just sit back and watch them destroy their bodies by consuming so much of it??

Not on my watch!

I haven’t seen a Hot Pocket since.

#3 A Little Trickery Goes A Long Way

I begin to add spinach to burgers without telling the kids. Just chop it real good and add to the ground meat (or meatless option) before you cook it. They won’t notice, and they’ll love the burgers.

Instead of onion rings, I’d bake cauliflower rings which look very similar to onion rings, and AFTER the kids tossed a bunch of them back, I’d tell them what they were actually eating – something healthy – cauliflower!

My son claimed to hate chia seeds. Really? Hummmm…. I made him an ice-cream and protein powder smoothie one day, and I added “white” chia seeds to it. He loved it!  Afterward, I told him that the smoothie had chia seeds in it. He’s been drinking smoothies since that day. The ice cream was eventually replaced with milk, which was eventually replaced with soy and almond options. And he still enjoys them. He made one today. Who would have ever thought?!

Now my husband…

As it turns out, a health scare scared him straight! After extensive testing by a cardiologist and our primary care physician, my husband was given a great bill of health, but the incident that occured made him more aware of the importance of his diet to his health, wellness, and livelihood.  He’d already started eating better foods, but after the scare, he has really accelerated his lifestyle changes and efforts. He is drinking several bottles of water each day, consuming less peach tea, and eating salads and veggies almost every day. I don’t know the last time he bought home donuts or cookies.

AND THEN THE MAGIC HAPPENS…  Transformation begins.

And now everyone is on board, in their own way. The son is more open to trying new things and adding spinach to his smoothies. During the Easter season, I brought home a pack of yellow stuffed Oreo’s.  My son threw them away immediately. When I asked him why he threw them away, he said that “the ingredients will kill you.” My daughter enjoys cooking and trying new recipes with healthy ingredients. And my husband continues to surprise me everyday as he has become open-minded to eating a variety of healthy foods and snacks. 

Sure, we still buy cookies and cupcakes every now and then, but they are no longer the norm; they are the exception.

Let me end by making two final important points:

~ Plant the seeds. What they eat (mind, body, and spirit) when you are not around will be up to them. As a parent, my only wish is that when my kids are confronted with life decisions, that they tap into the lessons that have been planted in our home and firmly rooted in their spirits; and make good decisions. This isn’t about controlling everything they put in their mouths, instead, it’s about showing them a better way and a ealthier way – because if we don’t introduce them to it, who will?

~ It takes time, commitment, and a lot of grit to create a healthier home.  There will be opposition and attitudes.  Nonetheless, it’s up to you to have a bigger vision for your family and to stick with it! You know better.  And the best way to move the family forward in health, wellness, and fitness is for you to be consistent, be bold, and most importantly…

BE THE EXAMPLE!

xx, Coach Rhonda

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My Family – How We Make It Work!

A Mom, Wife, Boss, and Her Soulful Family Connection… “How We Make It Work!”

My family is my everything! And in this season of giving thanks for our blessings, celebrating life’s miracles, and preparing to move into a new year, I am filled with gratitude for the wonderful gifts of my husband, Arnez Sr., my son Arnez Jr. (age 14), and my daughter, Lauren (age 12).

Together, we create something extraordinary and very unique: A recipe for togetherness, unity, and an unbreakable bond that we live daily; that other people can see and feel as they experience us. We hear it often from people that know and love us, but it‘s also very common for complete strangers to approach us and comment on our very visible eurhythmic family bond.

A couple of summers ago, we took an unforgettable 14-day European vacation. On one of those amazing days, we got up very early in the morning, met our tour guide in Piazza del Popolo, departed the beautiful city of Rome and traveled to Pompeii where we enjoyed an incredible walking tour through the ruins of Pompeii. From there, we journeyed to beautiful Naples, Italy for some final sightseeing and late afternoon pizza. As we sat waiting for our lunch, we did what is very normal for us – we talked, laughed, shared stories, acted silly and slightly crazy, and just enjoyed each other’s company. My husband and I noticed a man that kept looking over at us from his table off in the corner of the restaurant.  He was with his family, too, but he was the only one not looking down at his cell phone. Every time he looked up at us, and we caught eyes with him, he’d smile, and we’d just politely smile back. After pizza, it was time to travel back to Rome. As we walked out of the restaurant, the man and his wife approached us. They introduced themselves as a family of four from Ohio on vacation, too. As his kids and wife walked ahead, he stepped closer to my husband and said he noticed how we were, “having such a good time together”. He commented that “no one was on their cell phones” and that our “kids seemed to actually like [our] company.” He said, “Clearly I am doing something wrong, my kids have no interest in talking to us.”

He then asked, “How do you do it?” “How do you make it work?”

That’s the question we hear all the time, even to this day. It’s the question every busy working parent who wants a fun and fulfilling family life wants to know the answer to. So, with the help of Arnez Sr, Arnez Jr, and Lauren, here are the “Top 10 Ways We Make It Work.”

Rhonda’s Advice (Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur, Success & Empowerment Coach, Self-Care Strategist, Author, Trainer, 21 Years as a Software & Technology Professional before leaving corporate America)

Live Your Core Values and Display Love Daily

Our family is our top priority and we are deliberate about displaying that core value to one another every day: It’s not just lip service or pretty words, but it’s how we model our lives and our household. We show our kids they are our priority by being present and available to them as much as possible. My husband’s rule is that we have a formal dinner together every Sunday. I have weekend movie nights with my kids and its pretty common to see me hanging out with my son or daughter enjoying quality time with each of them separately. My husband keeps me company when he knows I am watching a movie in bed so that we can spend time together. Every day right before he walks out the door for work, I give him a Rocky Balboa neck massage and three kisses, and if it’s not too cold outside, I’ll follow his truck down the driveway and wave goodbye to him as he drives away. And in the middle of his day, I randomly text him old baby pictures of the kids as a reminder of what and who he has waiting for him at home. He loves when I send those pictures.

It’s these little things we do that create and cultivate our tight bond and special connection.

What is your family’s core value? How do you and your family outwardly express this core value daily? How do you display love daily?

Set Non-Negotiable Boundaries

Early in our careers, before we had children, we were very intentional about living a life that was true to our core values. I never wanted to have success publicly, but come home to a mundane marriage and kids who were both indifferent to my presence and broken because of my lack of presence.

Every job, every certification and every business decision needed to be in alignment with my desire to create a family framework that honored my core values. I turned down promotions and career opportunities that compromised my core. I took risks at work and in business by creating boundaries around my time and commitments in the office. I worked for companies who accommodated my limits and boundaries to a certain point. There was always backlash and a few managers who did not support my core values. When I got tired of asking for permission to live my truth, and love my family the way I wanted to, I created my own company, became the boss, and said goodbye to corporate America for good.

What boundaries can you begin to set today to live your truth and get into alignment with your core values? What risks are you willing to take to protect your core family values? What are you willing to give up to uplevel your family life?

Put the Cell Phone Down

I get it! I can run my entire business, check my bank accounts, reply to emails, manage my volunteer committees, and play Angry Birds all from my cell phone. And some days I do! But not when I am with my kids or my husband.

Our rule is simple, when we are all together in the car, at dinner, or sitting in front of the fireplace watching Netflix – no phones! Period.

We recently stopped taking so many pictures when we are out so we don’t look at our phones. Cell phones can pull you into another world quickly, and immediately distract you from all the awesomeness and beauty sitting right in front of you. Our kids appreciate this and feel special when we deliberately and happily put our phones away.

How can you be more deliberate in being present and eliminate cell phones distractions that prevent you from delving deeply and completely into real-time family experiences?

Include Your Family in Your Work and Business

When I worked in corporate America, my kids came to work with me quite often. I wanted them to see what I was doing away from home in hopes they would develop an appreciation for my job and how hard I worked for the family. And they did.

When I wrote my first book, A Life Ignited – Ignite Your Inner Fuse, I dedicated it to them. I always want them to know they are the center of all that I create and that they encourage me to move forward even when the journey gets tough.

When the hubs and I started our first real estate investment company, we named it “Kinard Family Realty”, and when my husband left corporate America to become an entrepreneur, we incorporated, “Kinard & Son Contracting”.  Do you see a trend?

How do you include your whole family in your work? If you do “what you do” for your kids and family, how do they feel and soulfully experience the best parts of that, from their current view and understanding of the world? Do your children feel they are an important part of a bigger legacy?

Travel together

We love to experience new and exciting places together. There is something magical about seeing the world together, for the first time, as a family. Our children have been international travelers most of their lives. They were raised with an appreciation for different cultures, touring, and trying new things. Even when we could not afford Paris or The Caribbean, we created some of our fondest memories close to home like fishing in The Outer Banks, trying to beat my husband, aka “The Reigning Champ”, in a game of mini golf in Myrtle Beach, and simply enjoying the view from the National Mall after a long and educational day in Washington D.C. just to name a few.

And let’s not forget the singing and harmonizing in the car – priceless! My husband can’t sing, so he just listens.

When was the last time you traveled with your family, and just your family, not a group?  When is your next trip?  What are you looking forward to the most? If you have never been away with your family, start planning a trip today.

Dance, Be Silly and Laugh Together

Having a good time together is a priority in our home. If you can’t be a silly goofball at home, where can you be one? We dance. We sing: Check out my Facebook page. We don’t care how ridiculous we look.

When the world is being serious, uptight, and rigid, our kids know they have a place where they can let go and express the silly sides of themselves. We laugh a lot. Life is so much better when we are laughing, smiling, and having fun – together.

How can you create a silly zone at home where your family feels free to express their crazy, goofy sides? When was the last time you laughed so hard with your family your eyes watered and you could barely speak? What made you laugh so hard?

Take Care of Your Self

I make time for me. I take care of my health – mind, body, and spirit. I work out, eat healthy, and make my appearance a priority. I read. I pray. I meditate. I seek spiritual strength and guidance so that I can continue to be a strong, active, healthy mom who can continue to guide, provide for, and support my family. I take consistent steps every day to be a better mom, wife, and human.  I pour into my “Rhonda” cup daily so I’m able to continue to pour freely into others.

How do you fill your cup?  Do you have an overflow for your family?  How can you promote self-care in your home? How can your self-care strengthen your family bond?

Arnez Sr.’s Thoughts (Husband, Father, Entrepreneur. Protector, Friend, Walking/Talking ATM)

Pursue Happiness

“As the Father, it is my job to make sure my family is happy; and that has nothing to do with money, possessions, or things.

I’m grateful for my family. They see that and feel that every day. And because they have an example of what love and gratitude look like, they know how to love me back; and love each other, too. Through an honest display of love, love flows all around us and through us. That’s the magic!”

How do you pursue happiness every day?  In what ways do you show gratefulness for your family in a way they can feel, appreciate, and reciprocate?

Arnez Jr.’s Thoughts (Age 14, High School Freshman, John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, Academic Scholarship Recipient, Athlete, Volunteer)

Spend time together.

“Spend time, play board games, get outside together. This is important because you get fresh air while making memories together. Besides, when your friends are not around, you’ll always have your family. We enforce our family values through time together. That’s the key.”

Plan to go out and get some fresh air. Put “together time” on the calendar. Set the date now. What’s the date?

Lauren’s Thoughts (Age 12, 7th Grade, Competitive USAG Gymnast, Scholar, Entertainer, Dear Evan Hansen Fan, Volunteer)

Cherish Every Moment

“Cherishing every moment we have together is key in our family. We laugh and cry together. We are one with each other and care so much about each other. We all show so much love, and everyone is so selfless, especially mom and dad. We do whatever we can whenever we can together no matter how crazy or simplistic it is. I love this about my family because I have so many memories with them whether it is going on an awesome vacation or just watching a movie, I know these are memories I can never forget. Every day is a new adventure, and I can’t wait to make more memories that will last a lifetime.”

What memories are you looking forward to creating with your family in the new year? What memories are they looking forward to creating with you? Cherish them.

From our family to yours, Happy Holidays! As you move into a new year and new season of life, may you discover the untapped magic in your family.

Live unapologetically, love unconditionally, sing, dance, and continue to strengthen, indulge in, and enjoy the soulful connection of family this holiday season and beyond.

Be Magical. Be Memorable. Simply be – together!