Creating healthy habits creates a happy family

Jun 16, 2023, 3:20 PM | Updated: 9:53 pm

SANDY, Utah — In Shalese Sorensen’s garage you’ll find a collection of weights, brightly colored bands, and exercise equipment. You’ll also find a smaller, much lighter set of weights – brightly colored like the rainbow, for her two daughters, Remi, 5, and Riley, 2.  

“They just grew up seeing mom and dad out in the gym doing their workouts and we didn’t say come out with us, we just led by example,” Sorensen said. “And she was like ‘Well I want some weights too; I want to come out there and do it with you guys!’” 

Sorensen is passionate about living a physically active lifestyle, she grew up dancing and is now a corporate wellness coach. Almost every day you’ll find Sorensen and her husband taking their girls on walks, swimming, or riding bikes as they try to nurture healthy family-centered habits.  

“It was also always a priority of ours to let the girls see that we do take care of our bodies, not only out here but also with the food we put in our bodies and the sleep that we get, and fueling our bodies with water,” Sorensen said. 

Creating healthy family-centered habits has come to the forefront of the discussion on holistic well-being. Experts from various fields, including psychology, sociology, and public health emphasize that when adults model and prioritize healthy habits, families can thrive together and inspire change for future generations.  

“The most important influence on a child’s healthy habits is the parents’ healthy habits,” said Dr. Liz Joy, a family medicine specialist at Intermountain Healthcare’s LiVe Well Center in Salt Lake City. 

One of the most significant benefits of embracing family-centered habits is the positive impact on physical health. Regular exercise, be it outdoor activities, sports, or simply going for walks together, promotes cardiovascular fitness, strengthens muscles, and helps combat a sedentary lifestyle. 

“About 50% of Utah adults are not meeting recommended physical activity, and 80% of Utah high school students are not meeting recommended levels of physical activity,” Joy said. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of creating family-centered habits, Dr. Joy suggested starting with changes in your current everyday life; taking walks, using the stairs, and reducing soda and sugar. She suggests using her 5, 2, 1, 0 approach. 

“It’s five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, two hours or less of screen time, zero servings per day of sugar sweetened beverages, and one hour a day of physical activity,” Joy explained. “If we can succeed with that, that’s going to go a long way of improving health of kids and families.” 

By leading by example, Sorsenson has seen a positive impact on her young family. When she needed a new fitness tracker she set a goal, and 5-year-old Remi did too!   

“One of Remi’s goals was to run to our neighbor’s house, down and back every day in the summer and so we said if you can do that for a full week then we’ll buy you a fitness watch so you can see how far you’ve gone and how active you’ve been, and she was super motivated,” Sorensen said. 

Sorensen also established nutritious eating habits with her girls, they make home-cooked meals together and focus on making high-protein snacks the girls like to eat, like butter-finger protein bites.  

 “This is one of our favorite snacks that we recently got into, it’s nice because it’s a grab-and-go snack and they think it’s a treat and it’s just full of good, yummy ingredients,” she said. 

In their refrigerator, the girls also have their own easily accessible grab-and-go spot designated for fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, and granola bars. 

We never try to talk about weight or anything like that, but we talk about how strong we are and just that they can appreciate what their bodies are able to do and always stay active so they can do those things like hiking and running around with their friends,” Sorensen said. 

Beyond the physical health, Sorensen said their family-centered habits have bolstered their mental and emotional well-being.  

“They’re happier,” Sorensen said. “Their moods are so much better, you can tell that they’re having so much fun, and this little one (Riley) when we’re out running around, she all the time says ‘I love you mommy, I love you daddy,’ because she’s just having so much fun.” 

By creating healthy family-centered habits, Sorensen has laid the foundation for her family’s overall well-being. She’s strengthened not only their physical, mental, and emotional health, but created an environment where her family can thrive. 

I just hope they always appreciate their bodies, that they can recognize that their bodies are strong, and never look at their bodies as I need to fix this or this,” Sorensen said.

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Creating healthy habits creates a happy family