5 good, bad health habits we learn from our parents
By Rhonda Alexander For Sun-Times Media
We learn a lot of important lessons from our parents: how to make the bed and how to get dressed, for example.
We also learn a lot about how to take care of ourselves. Some of those lessons are beneficial, and some … well, not so much.
We asked five local health experts to tell us about five of the best and worst health habits we learn from our parents. They recalled personal and professional experiences that revealed how strikingly similar health patterns are — no matter where we grew up.
One thing our experts agree on: there’s no reason we can’t take the health habits we learned from our parents — the good and bad — and modify them to suit a more balanced lifestyle that includes more healthful living.
Here are five of the worst health habits we learn from our parents:
1. We must eat everything on our plate.
“As children, we are expected to clean our plate regardless of the portion size being served,” said Beckie Frieders, a certified health education specialist with Valley West Community Hospital in Sandwich. “Most times, portion sizes aren’t adjusted for age. Parents are simply doing their best to make sure their kids are fed.”
2. Using food as a means to comfort oneself.
According to Brian Adrian, M.D., Ph.D. with Rush-Copley Medical Group, “people use food to comfort themselves … but we learn that the more we use, the less comfortable we tend to be.”
3. Adopting the polarizing philosophy that there are only good and bad foods.
“The dieter’s mentality … salads and cottage cheese are good, but cake and ice cream are bad,” said Cindy Johnston, a registered nurse and wellness educator at Valley West. “Finding balance enables us to fit all foods into our diet.”
4. Assuming that you are predestined to inherit the health problems of your parents.
“Many patients feel they are doomed to be stricken by the same diseases their parents have,” said John Saran, M.D., internist at Edward Hospital in Naperville. He said many of the major diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes are not genetic. They are only “inherited” because our behavior and lifestyle choices mimic our parent’s choices.
5. Having a reactive approach to dental health.
“[Patients] weren’t taught to brush, floss or go to the dentist,” said Jamie Broekhuizen, DO, family physician with Valley West. “Not getting used to that pattern [of good dental hygiene] and learning the importance of taking care of your teeth [is a bad health habit].”
It’s not all bad news. We learn a great many good health habits from our parents. They include:
1. Take care of your body.
Frieders explained that this includes, “[Everything from] making sure vaccinations are kept up to date as well as regular hand washing.”
2. Be physically active.
“Go outside and play … keep busy all day long … outside,” Broekhuizen said.
3. Be mindful about eating.
Johnston described this behavior as, “Pay attention to when you’re hungry and learn to use food as fuel.”
4. Know the value of homegrown food and home-cooked meals.
“Use fresh foods as well as fewer ingredients,” Saran added.
5. Have fun.
In addition to regular checkups with the family doctor and bi-annual dental visits, Dr. Adrian said, “Everyday is an opportunity to go out and have some fun. Play ball with friends … go outside and have a nice day.”