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Get Your Body Back!

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Trap 4: You feel guilty about taking time to exercise or go to the gym.

Why does it seem selfish -- or just a really low priority -- to work out, or even take a long walk, once you have kids? It is harder to find time, but being a good parent partly depends on your own well-being and contentment.

Try to find creative ways to carve out time for physical activity. You might look for a gym that offers daycare, swap kid-watching favors with a friend or neighbor, or exercise in the evening while Dad's on duty.

"Twice a week, I go swimming after my husband comes home from work," says Ryan. "It's a great way to relieve stress and tension too."

For the overly time-pinched: Remember that even 10 minutes a day counts. Currently, experts recommend 30 minutes a day, or three and a half hours a week of moderately vigorous activity (walking, bike riding, swimming). But start out small and build up; that way, you don't set yourself up to fail.

Schedule exercise appointments on your calendar just as you would a business meeting or a doctor's appointment. "It has to be deliberate," says Kara Witzke, Ph.D., associate professor of exercise science at Norfolk State University, in Virginia. "You can't just wait to find time in your day; that'll never happen when you have kids."

Trap 5: You're preparing higher-fat meals.

Many children won't touch foods that are mainstays of a healthy diet: green vegetables, legumes, broiled fish, and whole grains. To make sure that the whole family can sit down to dinner without your having to prepare separate meals, you may be catering to young palates by cooking macaroni and cheese, hot dogs and french fries, chicken nuggets, sloppy joes, and other high-fat dishes.

You can still prepare kid favorites, just in healthier ways. Go light on the butter and use skim milk in macaroni and cheese (and throw in peas or beans for a nutritional boost). On the other hand, don't go overboard trying to please your kids. It's important to expose them to a wide variety of foods, and if you always give in, you'll only wind up restricting what they want to eat. And why sabotage your own nutrition by catering to the lowest common denominator?

So provide healthy meals you want to eat, and establish a rule that your kids have to take at least a bite or two. Their food preferences are still developing, and this is a prime opportunity to nudge them in the right direction.

And if they won't go near what you've prepared for the family? "Give your child a peanut butter sandwich or a bowl of cereal with milk," says Zelman. He won't starve, you won't resent caving in to his umpteenth demand for chicken nuggets, and you won't take in extra calories.

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