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The Power of Parents

It’s not so much about what you say—it’s about what you do.

By Kellee Katagi

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As a longtime runner, I entered my fair share of races over the years. But I’ll always remember my first one, not because of how I performed, but because of my running partner—my dad.

I was 9 years old, and I’d already been a spectator to many of his races. I’d stand streetside and wave excitedly at him as he ran by, smiling at us under his Tom Selleck mustache and dark, curly hair, and wearing his too-short running shorts that were all the rage in those days. Or there was the time he entered the Montana version of a triathlon—run, bike, canoe—and we stood onshore, uselessly calling out advice as he furiously tried to paddle himself out of a river eddy.

I have no idea if he was any good. And to me, it didn’t matter. All I knew is that I was crazy-proud of him—and I wanted to be just like him.

See also Exercise is Better Together. 

My mom, too, left her mark on my lifelong approach to healthy living. Her exercise choices skewed more toward yoga and Jazzercise, neither of which were my thing, but her primary influence came in the area of nutrition. She made functional smoothies—adding wheat germ, oatmeal, nut butter and more—long before the Jamba Juice days. We ate zucchini pancakes for breakfast and tofu stir-fry for dinner, while all my friends chowed on Lucky Charms and hot dogs. I took my first—and only—bag of chips for school lunch as a special treat in fourth grade when President Ronald Reagan came to our Montana town. I can’t say I always loved my mom’s culinary approach at the time, but now I’m thankful for the strong nutritional foundation she laid for our family.

Today, I try to emulate my parents’ example with my own kids, hoping they’ll catch the value and, even more so, the joy of being active and eating well. We go on bike rides and play basketball in the driveway, just as my dad always did with me. I pack their lunch bags with healthy proteins and produce, and they grumble (just as I did) that all the other kids get to eat junk food every day.

See also Dealing with Picky Eaters

But my hope is that, as they go through life, they’ll appreciate (just as I do) that our bodies are designed to move, to breathe fresh air, to eat natural food. And that they’ll be thankful for parents who lived well, so that they could live well, too.

Kellee Katagi is one of those strange souls who actually enjoys working out for the sake of working out. She’s spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel, as well as outdoor sports ranging from skiing to spelunking to street luge (yes, that’s a thing).

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