10 tips for single parents wanting to live a healthy lifestyle

Posted 24 July 2018

Single mum Lidia is a personal trainer, nutritional adviser and life coach. In her latest blog, she discusses her own wellbeing journey and suggests top tips for other single parents who may be looking to lead healthier lives.

Lidia and her daughter - July 2018

I am an inspired, passionate, proud single mother born and bred in South Africa.  I grew up always dreaming and wanting to achieve more in life; however, circumstances like poverty, abuse and trauma led to me taking a different journey to the one I wanted. This journey has taken me through various paths and allowed me to be the person I am today, and I am proud of that person. My suffering has become my strength.

I am a mother to an amazing teenage daughter who has a diagnosis of ADHD and general anxiety disorder – my daughter is one of my inspirations in life and my WHY.

I used to be relatively healthy, but when I moved over to the UK, I fell into stress and anxiety. My friends and companions became addictions like smoking, drinking and living an unhealthy lifestyle. Over the last two years, I have been living a healthier life to become a better person, not only physically but mentally and emotionally.

One of my passions in life is to help other single parents and individuals to live the life they want to live. I want to help and inspire others simply because I know and believe that no matter what life a person had in the past, the present and future can be modified.

1. Make a decision today

If you are stressed out, unhappy, unhealthy, and uncomfortable with your life, body, and mind – change it. Take the first step by making a choice to change the way you feel. Taking action can already make you feel better. Your mindset is a very important aspect of living a healthy lifestyle. It is not only about making a decision, but about changing your mindset and keeping to the decision you have made. The most important thing is that you are happy in life, and in your body and mind.

2. What is your reason why?

The day you make a decision to change your life and achieve your goals, you will probably have a reason why. My reason a few years ago was initially because I was unhappy, and I just wanted to feel better – however, I personally believe this is not always enough to keep us going and help us moving forward every day. I believe we need to have a bigger WHY – a bigger reason for following our dreams and goals. If we don’t know the reason why we want to become healthy, we will live a roller-coaster life. My daughter is my number one reason, and there are a few others that are close to my heart. Spend some time thinking about a bigger reason why you want to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

3. Change bad habits

I had many bad habits that I was addicted to. These addictions were really bad for me and controlled my life, and my body suffered. I had to kick the habit of drinking alcohol in excess and smoking as this was the start of a healthier lifestyle for me. Some people say it takes 28 days to develop a new habit, or 30 days to start a new behaviour. Whatever this means, it actually does work.  You could perhaps stop an unhealthy habit by doing something positive – for example, I signed up to Go Sober to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support in tribute to a friend I lost to cancer.

When you stop an unhealthy habit, there’s no harm in replacing it with a healthy one. I started exercising as one of my good habits and it is so beneficial.  I am aware that as a single parent, it’s so easy to give in to stress as some days can be really tough, but I have learnt to relieve the stress by adopting good habits in my life.

4. Follow a healthy, balanced diet
Fill your plate with wholesome, nutritious food that fuels your body and does not destroy it. We all know we need carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats for our body to function, grow and live every day. However, because of the fast pace in society and the range of products out there, what looks healthy is often not. Here are a few basic points that I found really worked for me:

  • Ditch the sugar
  • Read labels and know what you’re putting in your body
  • Cut down on or avoid alcohol
  • Eat protein with each meal
  • Eat complex starchy carbs
  • Eat healthy fats
  • Be mindful when you eat
  • Hydrate with water
  • Eat breakfast
  • Snack healthy
  • 80/20 Rule (80% nutrition, 20% exercise).

5. Keep moving

When I made the decision to change my life, I couldn’t even walk up a hill, let alone run or do workouts so I started slowly. I tried to run but it was really hard, so I joined a fit camp and went twice a week.  Gradually, I really started to enjoy moving my body. I was able to hire a personal trainer and it didn’t cost me that much as she allowed me to pay in instalments. After three months, I joined a gym and before I knew it, I was doing some sort of exercise four to six times a week. Today, I absolutely love exercise no matter what it is.

(Okay, I’m still not a fan of running but I try.)

I understand that as a single parent, you don’t always have the time or energy to move your body, but you only need a minimum of fifteen minutes per day to do some sort of exercise. If you fuel your body with good food, you will have the energy to move. If you hate the gym, find something you love doing, even if it means dancing like crazy with your kids – the point is you are moving. Here are a few tips to help you get fit in everyday life:

  • Take the stairs and ignore the elevator
  • Park further away from shops
  • Go for a walk at lunchtime
  • Run up and down your stairs at home
  • Ride your bike, play ball or go swimming with your kids
  • Walk to the shops instead of drive
  • Follow exercises on YouTube at home for fifteen minutes.

6. Educate yourself and your children

I believe that knowledge is power! Educate yourself and your children about living a healthy lifestyle, and what that means to you as both a person and a family. There’s lots of amazing information out there that you can adapt to your own life. I’ve learnt so much over the last few years and I try to educate my daughter in these areas daily – even if your children aren’t interested at the moment, you can still be a good role model and it will have an impact on them one day.

7. Take a break

Everyone needs a break to relax and take time out.  It feels as if we single parents need more of a break as we’re only one person trying to do a million things. I am always busy and love exercising; however, I do take my rest days. I try to practice meditation and other forms of being still and mindful, and switch off from the outside world. This can really help with anxiety, stress and other issues we face on a daily basis. Taking a break and having some ‘you-time’ can rejuvenate your mind, body and soul, and make you feel so much better.

8. Love yourself
One of the most important things in life is to love and accept yourself, no matter what people say or think about you, no matter how you feel or how you look. It’s a major step to achieving a healthy, happy lifestyle because you will not hate yourself if you make a mistake, or take longer to achieve your goal. It takes time to nurture yourself into living the healthy life you want. You mean the world to your children, so start looking at yourself through their eyes.

9. No quick fix

Achieving a healthy lifestyle does take time and it’s not a quick overnight fix. There are many fad diets and methods that will give you the fast results, but it’s more about changing your life and becoming a better version of yourself. A quick fix is usually not long-lasting.

10. Never give up
Last but not least, my second favourite three words in the entire world: never give up. I have had so many reasons in my life to give up but I never have and I never will.  The reason is I know what my WHY.

When you know your real purpose and passion, and the reason you want to live a healthy lifestyle, you won’t give up easily. You will, however, have days that are harder than others, and you’ll fall and mess up as all humans do – but, mostly, you won’t give up.

Read our information pages on you and your child’s wellbeing.

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