Model Behavior

After our ride on Sunday Jennifer and I went to get something to eat, leaving my car at the park. Afterwards upon my return to pick it up we were chatting a bit and a car pulled up in front of us, parking, and we watched two young women get out with a young boy, maybe three years old.

No big deal right? It’s a park.

They were both smoking.

And I just don’t get that.

When I first started on this fitness journey back in 2010 I was wandering for quite a while until I connected with others, some healthcare professionals, some coaches, books, podcasts, that helped me understand where I was going wrong in what I was trying to do and gave me many ways to correct my lifestyle. The more I learned, the more I was able to throw out what didn’t work and try to develop a plan that was suited best for me. At the beginning I became … let’s just say “highly motivated” in sharing what I was learning to others that may not have been as opened to hearing it. I chalk that up now to another learning issue. I have since toned that down quite a bit. Yes, I will still rant on these pages from time to time about people who complain about their weight yet still insist on downing gels and gu’s during races and training because “it works for them”, but as a whole my opinions have remained online, with the occasional foray into the podcast.

But here is one thing I have not wavered on and still believe in 100%. If you are an athlete, a professional in healthcare, or a perceived “expert” you have an obligation to set a good example to others. And I include parenting as one of these experts.

I have never understood parents who model bad behavior or unhealthy habits to their children. I find it a very selfish act.

As fate would have it, on my way home Sunday I was listening to NPR and a story/interview came on that was very close to this subject. In the story they were talking about drinking alcohol and how that is passed down from generation to generation. I knew a woman a while ago whose husband would have his 8-year old son “fetch him a beer” from the fridge. I hated it. First off, telling your kid to “fetch” something for you is so demeaning I can’t even get started on that right now, but just the act of drinking in front of your children has always bothered me. The woman on NPR was talking about the impression it leaves on a child when a parent comes home, says something along the lines of “God that was a hard day, I need a drink” and pours themselves a bourbon, grabs a beer, or opens a bottle of wine. What message does that send to the child? And I can hear you out there now, the wine drinkers especially, thinking “aw come on, a glass of wine isn’t going to hurt them”.

Probably true. It’s not about the wine though is it? Not totally.

It’s about learning to cope with a “bad day” with the use of a drug (and yes, alcohol is a drug).

This is just people who have a glass or two, but how many parents out there actually get drunk in front of their children? Sunday barbecues during the football game? The same woman I mentioned above told me a story about her husband getting so drunk at a Tampa Bay Bucs game they had to call her parents to get a ride home because she was pregnant at the time and her oldest was with them. What kind of parenting is that? This is the same parent who will wonder why their daughter started drinking at 14.

I consider things like this selfish because it puts your own needs over that of your child. Your need of alcohol, or a cigarette, over weighs your impulse to provide a positive role model for your child.

When I started working at Healthy Start in Tampa it used to drive me crazy that the smoking area was right outside the entrance to the office. How much sense, I used to think, does it make for someone seeking guidance in having a good birth outcome to have to walk through staff members smoking in front of the building? None. I thought, this would be like doctors and nurses smoking in front of a cancer hospital. Ridiculous!!

Then I went to work for the Moffitt Cancer and Research Center and guess what I saw?

Doctors, nurses, and staff smoking in front of the hospital.


That practice was ended while I was there, but how did it take 15+ years to figure out that smoking in front of a cancer hospital was probably sending a bad message?

And the same goes for food.

I have written many times on here how I feel when I see an overweight child.

I want to slap the crap out of the parents.

The child knows no better. The child will eat what you give them. It is lazy parenting.

I’ve had a long day, I am tired, so let’s just pick up some McDonald’s on the way home.

Yay Mom!!! Yay Dad!!!

You’re a hero, and it feels good.

The child becomes the parent, calling the shots, deciding what they are going to eat.

When you (those of you in my age range) were growing up did your Mom cook three different dinners in order to appease everyone at the table? Probably not. Mom made dinner and you ate what was put in front of you. There were no questions. And you cleaned that damn plate too.

About a year ago I got into a “discussion” online with a women who is the CEO of a fitness company. In a personal post on her Facebook page she was complaining about people “calling her out” for posting pictures of unhealthy food she was eating (i.e. donuts, fried chicken, etc.). In her post, she was telling people to mind their own business, ya know, the normal reaction when someone is called out on something they are doing wrong.

I responded to her post in a very calm manner (shocking I know) basically saying that the issue is that she has put herself out there as a fitness professional, so seeing her behave in a way that was opposite of how people knew her was off-putting and I could see how people would have reacted negatively to those posts.

I have gone at people much harder than that and did not get the hate that came my way from her. She stated that she “never claimed to be a fitness expert”. It got to the point where I could no longer support her business as the owner of Fat Slow Triathlete and pulled out of her group.

I have tried to state this to others locally in the same way, that if you are a coach, or even a known race participant, you should at the very least be aware of the influence you have on others. You may not have put yourself “out there”, but in a way you have, and you should be aware of it. I am in no way an expert on nutrition, or fitness, but I know I am read and listened to every week, so if I slip up, which I do from time to time, and eat something I shouldn’t, you don’t see a picture of it on Facebook. It’s not that I am hiding the fact that I slipped up, but I don’t advertise it either, and I certainly do not champion it.

4 thoughts on “Model Behavior

  • August 4, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    I agree 100%. We are the primary role models for our kids. They’ll grow up emulating our behavior and actions. Whether it be language, alcohol, attitudes, and eating, we need to watch the examples we set.

  • August 4, 2015 at 9:51 am

    While I do understand your sentiment, we have to be very careful when judging the behavior of others. Take the alcohol as a prime example. Italians don’t have near the level of alcoholism as many of the other nationalities (Native Americans or Indians are a fascinating example) yet they are very nonchalant about drinking. The scientific thought is that Italians have been consuming alcohol for centuries and have thereby weeded alcoholism out through natural selection. Meanwhile, alcohol is relatively brand new to Native Americans so they suffer immensely.

    In other words, disdain through ignorance is often unwarranted. I, being a cyclist, allow myself to partake in a donut now and again. Usually in-season and only a few times a year (certainly not enough to develop a craving for them). Is this part of that untoward behavior that you refer to? Indeed it is, but just because I choose to eat a donut now and again, that doesn’t make me a bad role model – not even a little bit. It means that I eat donuts in moderation (something that eludes me when we’re talking about alcohol though).

    Smoking? Well, that one’s just a little too easy. I’ll tell you what, you throw the stone and I’ll watch for the lightning. 😉

    • August 4, 2015 at 10:06 am

      Totally agree. Why do people assume I am judging them though? I have reread the post a few times now and I don’t get that I am judging. It is my opinion. I am Italian. My distinction, as I believe I wrote, was when it is used as a “drug” and stated as such, which then gives impressionable minds the feeling that you need this to cope with life (instead of, say, meditation, or getting on a bike). As far as the “donut” thing, I get in trouble for this a lot. I have no issue with donuts. I really don’t. The issue I have is when it is stated “there is nothing unhealthy about a donut”. It’s not true. Yes, as you say, a donut every once in a while is not going to kill you, but would you tell a recovering alcoholic that “just one drink every once in a while is not going to kill you”? No. You wouldn’t. The issue is that “over eating” is not seen as an actual problem, when for some it is. Moderation is difficult for some people (me included). And as for throwing stones, I state several times I make many missteps as well, especially in parenting, so I am throwing them at myself more than others. 😉

    • August 4, 2015 at 10:09 am

      By the way Jim, I always enjoy your comments, even when we don’t agree 100%. They make me think more about what I am writing after the fact. Appreciate your input a lot.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: