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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

  This content is selected and controlled by WebMD's editorial staff in collaboration with Sanford Health Systems.

"Sometimes we arbitrarily, artificially separate emotional well-being from physical well-being," says David Ermer, MD, child psychiatrist with Sanford Health, WebMD's FIT educational partner. "They are intimately intertwined. Being positive, valuing yourself, respecting yourself, and having good self-esteem are part of being fit, too." In fact, emotional health is one of the four areas of the FIT Platform: MOOD, FOOD, MOVE, and RECHARGE. All four of these areas of life have an impact on you and your family's health -- and all four interact with and influence one another.

Here is how MOOD can influence FOOD and MOVE choices, as well as the ability to RECHARGE.

MOOD Can Affect Your Motivation to MOVE Your Body

If you've ever blown off a session at the gym after a particularly ego-busting day, you know that stress can lead to poor lifestyle choices. You may feel as though you don't have the time and mental energy to deal with exercise.

"I've seen people who are nervous or stressed drop out of activities like sports," says Ermer. That’s unfortunate, because if they could just take that first step, they’d find that moving could help them feel better. Instead, blowing off a workout leads to that spiral of feeling bad, not exercising, feeling worse, not exercising, and on, and on.

MOOD Often Influences Our Ability to RECHARGE

You're lying in bed knowing a work deadline looms. While the thing you need most is sleep, you've just checked the clock again for the fifth time. It's 2 a.m. -- and you're still wide awake.

"Certainly if you are stressed, it can affect your sleep. Stress can affect your ability to calm yourself down," says Ermer. "You can ruminate about things, worry about things, and maybe not sleep as well." In fact, insomnia is a common symptom of depression.

Mood can affect the sleep of children as well. A National Sleep Foundation poll from 2006 found that of the children aged 11 to 17 who reported being unhappy, 73% said they did not sleep enough at night.

MOOD Can Lead Us to Choose FOOD That Is Not as Healthy

Often, the foods we want to eat the most to try to soothe us after a bad day are the worst for us. (And way too easily available at drive-through fast food pick-up windows.) "People talk about their comfort foods or eating to relieve stress," says Ermer. "That's a coping strategy you want to turn around pretty quickly." Calming yourself with food is a sure road to weight gain. (To learn more about the effect of MOOD on weight, read FIT Connection: Weight Management.)

Plus, if your children see you deal with emotional upset with unhealthy foods or by overeating, they are likely to follow your lead. You may exacerbate the problem if your stress results in you feeling like you don't have the time to prepare healthy meals. Then, your whole family's nutrition may suffer.


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