The first day of the school each year was my reset button – even more so than New Year’s!
I love the Fall. It is hands down, 100% my favorite season. The crisp, cool air, the spectacular foliage, and the smell… that incredible smell in the air that reminds me of fall bow season, fall sports, and just being outside also signaled my annual chance at a fresh start.
I was never a great student nor was I ever happy with my weight. But, the promise of a new school year gave me the push I needed to finally get it “right” each year. And, why wouldn’t it? After all, there were always so many factors that provided a truly genuine opportunity to make change. Each new school year brought a new classroom, a new teacher, and new classes. We would go back-to-school shopping so I could begin each year with new clothes, new notebooks, a new Trapper Keeper, and a new pencil case. All students also started the new school year with a completely clean slate. It is as if all sins from the previous year were automatically forgiven – the teacher’s gradebook had no grades entered into them and the absentee and late counters were reset. And, there was a schedule. Each year after spending hedonistic summer breaks with practically no set schedule all students’ days were dictated by a strict schedule. All of these factors provide the perfect foundation to making a lasting lifestyle change. And, I eagerly tried every year but was missing one very important thing.
Keep it small
To take full advantage of this opportunity for a fresh start and to make real, lasting changes that will make an impact in a lifelong way then the changes have to be small. Yes, that’s right. Small. Why? Because small things don’t turn your world upside down. Small things are easy to incorporate into your day. Small things are enduring. And, that is the key!
Don’t underestimate the power of small things. A small thing implemented once is no big deal. But a small thing implemented day after day, week after week, month after month snowballs into a very powerful force that can change your life.
Structure is Key
The structure and repetition that comes with the school year provides the ideal platform to execute these small changes in your children’s lives. Breakfast is eaten the same time each day before the bus comes. Lunch is packed each night, carried to school the next morning in backpacks, and eaten at the same time each day. Maryland law requires that schools be open for pupil attendance for 180 each year. Introducing even just one small change in breakfast or lunch compounds 180 times in one year alone. That is 180 chances at better nourishment, better health and a better life. Yes, it’s the small things that matter.
So, where to start?
Below I have included some things that have certainly helped our family over the years. Don’t feel the need to dive in and do them all right away. That sounds great in theory, but the reality is that approach is doomed for failure. Instead, incorporate one at a time and, once everyone is comfortable with the change and it becomes routine then add something new.
- Make sure to use real cheese in your children’s sandwiches! American cheese and other cheese foods have no place in our childrens’ diets. They are completely different foods than real cheeses made using traditional methods. Cheddar cheese slices are a great way to replace American cheese with something that looks similar and doesn’t taste that much different. Here is a link to a recent blog post on why we should stay away from American cheese.
- Replace the standard grocery store sandwich bread with wild, long fermented sourdough bread. Here is a link to a blog post I did on our Sissa Sandwich bread which includes the recipe we developed to use here at the Modern Stone Age Kitchen.
- Replace the mayonnaise on your children’s sandwiches with homemade mayonnaise that doesn’t use any industrial nut or seed oils. I have a recipe on page 88 in Eat Like a Human.
- Instead of slicing raw carrots for your children’s lunch boxes try fermenting them first! It is incredibly easy to do and fermented carrot sticks are superior to raw carrot sticks because they are full of probiotics, are lower in sugar (the sugar is used as food for the bacteria during fermentation) and they taste better too! There is a recipe for fermented carrot sticks on page 52 of Eat Like a Human.
- Make sure all chips are fried in animal fat! Our kids all love some sort of crunch with our lunch, but almost everything in the chip aisle at the grocery store is fried in an industrial nut or seed oil. It is easy to make and fry chips in lard or tallow at home. And, if you are going to make them yourself, take one more step and ferment them first to ensure they are as safe and nourishing as they can possibly be. Here is a link to a blog post on fermented potato chips and you can find the recipe for fermented potato chips on page 56 of Eat Like a Human
- If you feel obliged to include a sweet treat in your child’s lunch box then make sure that they are getting some sort of nourishment from it and make sure they are made with an unrefined sweetener. Honey, maple syrup, and completely unrefined sugars like muscovado are good choices. Homemade gummies are a great example of how to accomplish both of these goals simultaneously. When made with high quality beef gelatin they are loaded with a ton of valuable collagen and they can be sweetened with honey. You can find the recipe on page 258 of Eat Like a Human.
Change takes time
Remember, each one of these things alone may not seem like a big deal. But, when they become part of your childrens’ daily lives they gain power over time. Perhaps most importantly, because they are small changes they are not disruptive. They have the ability to last well beyond the first few weeks of a new lifestyle change after the newness has worn off. If they can be fully incorporated into a new lifestyle then they don’t need to be “reset” each year.
And, that is the real key. I had to reset each year because I attempted to make broad, intensive, sweeping changes which never lasted. Over time I would fall back into old habits and there was an annual need to start over.
I wish I realized then that it is the small things that matter most.
Read more at the following blog posts: