Have Your Parents Decided Your Fitness Fate? Happy Star Wars Day!

“[Luke,] I am your father.”

I bet you can remember where you were when you heard that famous line uttered by Darth Vader to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back. I remember watching this as a small child and my jaw dropping at this revelation: holy crap! The bad guy is the dad of the hero! Han is frozen in carbonite! How the heck do they get out of this?

With today being Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth be with you!”) and a recent trailer dropping that took the internet by storm, I felt like this would be a good chance to explore our fate and what we really get out of our time on this planet.

Ultimately, do we have to follow in our parents’ footsteps? Am I predestined to be like them? 

Star Wars explores this very question, and I want to talk about our own fate today. It’s probably best you listen to Duel of the Fates in the background while reading.

Destined for the dark side?

lukevsdarth

“The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it.”

When Luke discovers Vader is his father, you have to feel for him. The guy he’s been chasing, the guy who killed his mentor, the guy who is trying to kill him…is his freaking DAD. Luke is wondering “if he is capable of this great evil, am I capable of it as well? The same blood that flows in his veins flows in mine.”

I’m sure we’ve all been there, parents especially – when growing up we saw our parents do something and said, “when I’m a parent I’m not gonna be like them!” And then you have kids, and realize things are more complicated. Or maybe your parent was a smoker, or struggled with addiction/obesity, and you vowed to be different. But can we?

We have to face facts first: genetics and the habits we were brought up with do matter. Whether they are healthy habits or unhealthy habits, learned from great parents or parents who didn’t pass along a solid foundation – they matter. Maybe you have anger management issues like your dad, a sugar addiction like your mom, or you had parents who struggled to hold a job (or, parents who are doctors or scientists)!

We can’t pick our parents, just as Luke didn’t pick for his father to be Darth Vader. We also can’t pick how we were brought up (good or bad), or go back in time and change how we were treated or raised:

  • If you have overweight parents who thought trying to get healthy was a waste of time (“my dad was overweight, so was his, and you will be, too”), or they ate unhealthy foods and never gave it a second thought, it’s challenging to break free of that destiny.
  • If you had parents who placed values on the wrong things, or shamed others for being different, there will be a STRONG pull to go in that direction.
  • If we had parents who struggled with addiction or abuse, it can feel like ‘history will repeat itself.’

Ultimately, it can feel as though the deck is fixed and it’s going to play out in a certain way regardless of what decisions we make, which can make us feel helpless.

But there is (a new) hope!

In my years of running Nerd Fitness, I have seen thousands upon thousands of people buck the trend, break free of their fate, and change the ‘predetermined path’ they were on. The pull towards the dark side is strong, but with the right strategy you CAN turn out differently.

And only you can alter your path.

It’s something we need to learn before it’s too late.

You are not your father

Darth

In the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, do you know what the #1 regret was of people who were on their deathbed?

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” 

Maybe you grew up in a family where obesity is par for the course: fast food, diabetes, and heart attacks at an early age are part of the plan. Maybe now you feel like you dying young of heart disease is a foregone conclusion, as it happened to your dad and your grandpa. Heck, it even applies to your career, education, and other life choices!

I was fortunate to be raised by loving parents, and I subconsciously led myself to follow a particular career path because I thought it would make them (and thus make me) happy; I figured that they were both in sales and thus I should get into sales too. It turns out, they just wanted me to be happy, but I put unnecessary pressure on myself because I thought this was what was expected of me.

But let me tell you something that Luke learned long ago:

You are not your father.

You are not your mother.

Luke was aware of his father’s path, and had the choice to join him. In a what is surely a 20 seconds of courage moment, instead of seeking his dad’s approval, he chooses to stand on his own:

As Henry Rollins points out in The Iron and the Soul:

“I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. Completely.”

You get to pick if you want to go to the light side or the dark side: Become the Jedi you want to be, not the person you think you’re supposed to be. There might be a very strong pull in one direction, but ultimately it is never too late to start your training, or change course. Villains can become heroes, second-tier characters can become major players, and futures can change. But it requires honesty, a bit of bravery, and taking bold action.

Just know you’re not alone – We have about 33,000 Rebels on our free message boards who are here to support you, help you, and offer up words of advice as I’m sure many of them have felt the same.

Remember, true courage is living a life true to yourself, not the life others expected of you.

Motivation goes both ways

Although we spend three full movies absolutely loving to hate Darth Vader, he redeems himself in the Return of the Jedi when he chooses to sacrifice himself and destroy the Emperor in order to save his son:

There are few tougher conversations to have than one as a child telling his or her parents, “I’m worried about you, and I want you to be healthier.” Parents are often set in their ways (see Vader), but deep down it doesn’t mean they’re not listening (see Vader).

We grow up seeing our parents as invincible….until the day they’re not. My parents weren’t the healthiest people – raising three kids and both working jobs resulted in them putting on a few unhealthy pounds over the years. After starting Nerd Fitness, I started to worry more about them, but struggled with finding a way to bring it up the right way.

So I did the next best thing: I got myself in the best shape I could. I asked for healthier foods when I came home to visit, laughing at the “wait, but I thought you only ate pizza and spaghetti?” jokes. Unbeknownst to me, it had an effect on my parents – they actually started to apply some of the principles I chose to live by as well! It was really cool to see and I’m glad to see my choices have influenced their choices.

Having a conversation with parents about making changes, when it comes to being healthy or happy, is never easy. This is especially true if your name is Luke Skywalker, and your dad is trying to chop your head off with a lightsaber. If your name isn’t Skywalker, then you’re still up against the people who changed your diaper – tough.

Use the Force: If you still have parents and talk to them regularly, then your best bet is to become a model Jedi. Be ready, willing, and able to have a conversation with them about being healthier and happier when they bring it up, and offer support when they ask. The pull can be strong on you – but know that the pull can work BOTH ways, so use that to your advantage!

What are you giving to the next generation?

lukehan

This Winter, Star Wars Episode VII will be released, and a whole new generation of Jedi, X-wing pilots, storm troopers, and Sith lords will do battle. Oh and the freaking Millenium Falcon is back. And a whole new generation of Star Wars fans will be born.

You have an opportunity to change the fate of the Galaxy as well. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics said the factor that puts children at greatest rick of being overweight is having obese parents.

If you want to give your kids the best possible chance to live the life of a healthy Jedi, taking care of yourself (and ‘selfishly’ making your health a priority) is the first place to start. Your kids are watching not what you say, but what you do, and you can drastically impact how they treat others, how they feel about themselves, and how they take care of themselves through YOUR actions.

The choice is yours. I hope you pass along the great qualities you’re building in yourself. And please, don’t blow up any planets.

I want to hear from you: have you bucked the trend of unhealthiness or unhappiness in your family? Have you broken out on your own against the path set for you? Or did you end up following a “pre-determined path” and now realize it wasn’t the path you wanted for yourself?

How about inspiring your parents to live better lives through example? Or have you gotten in shape and helped your kids make the connection with healthier choices too?

May the fourth Force be with you.

-Steve

PS: With a bunch of new campers signing up over the weekend, we have something like 25 spots left for Camp Nerd Fitness this fall! Hope to see you there 🙂

###

photo source: JD Hancock: Luke vs Darth, JD Hancock: Han vs Luke, Kenny Louie: Luke Lego, JD Hancock: Snake Eyes vs Luke

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  • Amanda

    Thank you for this article. All the women on both sides of my family are overweight. And I mean all of them. I’m trying to live a better life but it hurts to see them and think I’m stuck like this for life. Thanks for the Duel of the Fates. It brought a tear to my eye.

  • Nerd-Faced Woman

    Do you even Star Wars? The line is, “No, I AM your father.”

  • I Star Wars twice per day, sometimes three times 🙂

  • Nerd-Faced Woman

    Good answer. Perhaps I will join your rebellion…

  • Jennifer Nelson

    My family history is terrifying!! My mom died at age 56. My dad died at age 58. Both struggled with substance abuse and addiction. Neither struggled with eating healthy; they just didn’t do it. Heart disease and mental illness run rampant in our family, too…we’re up against a ton of bad stuff.

    My twin brother and I are planning an EPIC 59th birthday party. We don’t know what form it’ll take, it’s still 26 years away, but it will happen. We will live longer than our parents did. We will win. And then we will celebrate! My daughter, who will be a 34-year-old woman at the time of the party, will see how being healthy and living well helped her mom and her uncle grow older and more awesome as time goes on.

  • JLR

    Hey Steve! In my house we had the blessing and the problem that my mother is the one who makes the lunch for all of us and they cook a lot of grains and other things with sugar. Our nutrition isn’t bad, but my sisters and I, we eat more bread and rice, bacause we don’t want to let lose the food that my mother cooks.

  • This resonates with me so much. My parents are my “Big Why” and I fight everyday to be better, healthier.

  • Krista

    Love it! This post reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from James Altucher – “Don’t plagiarize the lives of your parents, your peers, your teachers, your colleagues, your bosses. Create your own life. Be the criminal of their rules.”

  • This resonates with me so much. My parents are my “Big Why” and I fight everyday to be better, healthier.

  • This resonates with me so much. My parents are my “Big Why” and I fight everyday to be better, healthier that either one of them. It’s like the family “joke” that I’m “totally screwed,” when it comes to health.

  • Right after I started reading Nerd Fitness, I got my mom addicted to it. I started eating more Paleo, especially on the weekends she comes over (we have “family night” every weekend, adults and kids alternating). Since then, I’ve found she’s altered her diet to go more paleo as well. And right after I got myself a bike, she told me she was getting herself one!

    The real key is to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Be the one that influences others. I’ve involved a half-dozen other people in a “Hobbit Walk,” and I’ve even started building an application for it (check it out at http://bit.ly/hobbitwalk).

  • Ian

    Hey Nerd Fitness Friends!

    Great article I can relate with. I recently scheduled an appointment to see an emotional growth facilitator to heal and work through the flashbacks and trauma I endured with my mother and father. I’m also seeing a doctor who has me eating a paleo autoimmune ketogenic diet to reverse the inflammatory/autoimmune thyroid issues I tested for, along with vitamin D that runs in my family with mental illness.

    I’m on a different path for sho and committed to living a different lifestyle than I was raised in. I recently celebrated making the most money I’ve ever made in one month in my entire life in March and am being proactive to healing emotional wounding and take care of my health to avoid the challenges my parents have.

    Step-by-step I’m a living testament to this being true!

  • Ian

    This is lovely Jennifer – I can relate as my mother is dying of bladder and breast cancer in her late 50’s because she is an alcoholic and sugar addict – and I don’t have many pleasant memories of her – just the abuse and traumatic flashbacks. Sadly she can’t find remorse for what she did and now it seems to be eating her up inside.

    Cheers to you and your brother – I too am dedicated to living a rich and healthy life!

  • Link

    Thanks for this article, this is what I need to hear today 🙂

    I especially liked the part about second-tier characters becoming major players. It reminded me of Smah Bros. meta-game: characters seen as average, or even bad, can be brought up to top-tier characters if one is creative enough in how they use them.

    The same for us: some people may be naturally gifted (they would the Fox’s, Falco’s, Meta Knight’s of the world) and have an easier time advancing, whereas others might be slower, or weaker in comparison (the Shulk’s, Link’s, and Sonic’s of the world); but if you learn how to work towards your strengths, and use them in creative ways, even you can become super strong! 😀

  • K Hyler

    Thank you for this encouraging article, and thanks to all my Nerd Fitness fellow rebels for their support.
    I saw the cause of my late father’s death on his death certificate – complications due to Obesity. I knew at that point that I had to turn my path around immediately and make better decisions about my health and wellness. I am not my father and I don’t have to suffer his fate. Bless you!!!

  • K Hyler

    We will celebrate with you in spirit. We can do this!

  • Kari Hamm

    So much yes! My mother was always on this diet or that and always focused on weight. My dad ate whatever he wanted and a lot of it. I have since realized that I don’t need to focus on weight and need to pay attention to mine. This idea of course came after my daughter was born and I thought deeply about what I wanted to pass on to her.

    My husband has always been overweight and his whole family is overweight. A running joke when I visit is “If you want to be a Hamm you need to eat like a Hamm.” We have both been making changes and we can see those changes reflect when we visit and ask to eat at home instead of out and want fresh fruit instead of candy. It’s amazing the little affects we can have on our family by choosing to do what we feel is right.

  • Caleigh86

    I grew up, and once again live in, an agricultural community. Grain farming is a way of life here, and when I announced that I was no longer eating grains or processed sugar I got the most negative feedback from my family. From genuine concern (but the government says you need to eat grains!) to total derision & misunderstanding (‘fine, go ahead and starve yourself’) it was super hard to maintain a primal/paleo habit. The only person who was supportive was my husband!

  • T-Rae

    My mom has always struggled with her weight. During childhood, with both parents working she and her sisters were left to fend for themselves, and that meant lots of junk food. I grew up with her constantly dieting, doing aerobics videos in the living room, and weighing herself everyday. She’s had 5 kids, lots of ups and downs, and a strong sweet tooth, so it hasn’t been easy for her.

    I’ve never been overweight, thanks to taking mostly after my dad physically. We didn’t eat a lot of fast food growing up, but we rarely had fresh fruits or vegetables (unless my brother and I specifically asked for them); it was mostly pre-packaged meals, Hamburger Helper style.

    Once I moved out on my own, I tried to focus on eating fresher and more natural foods, and I never diet. Even when I gained about 20 lbs while backpacking (this happens to females more than males, I’m told), I refused to try a fad diet to lose it quickly. Actually, I’ve seen the most dramatic changes after learning about NF. I’ve cut out most processed carbs (focusing mostly on bread, pasta and rice at home, sometimes at restaurants) and stopped doing so much useless cario (that my mom does. I wonder if I can convince her to stop and pick up some weights?)

    Anyway, I didn’t come from the worst family, but I sure didn’t come from the healthiest. Hopefully I can carry on these changes in the future.

  • Anna Pitonyak

    This article was awesome! I was heavily influenced on fast food as a child but my parents were in fairly good shape; both were very active individuals but I was not. I am one of 5 kids and we are all very different in our own ways (physically and mentally). I have always been overweight and unhappy about it but never had the courage to do anything drastically different about it. I started my journey because I am afraid that my families’ medical records are going to haunt me. I am now proud to say that I am 80 pounds lighter, happier and less worried about my medical future. And I would love to thank you for posting these articles to stimulate our thoughts and help us lead a happier, healthier lives!

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  • Pieter Coessens

    My parents, especially my dad, were always very healthy minded. But the nudge to really be healthy come 3 years ago for me, and i’m in the best shape i’ve been. But the interesting thing is that I did my first obstacle race in november 2014, and just finished my second last saturday. The result is my dad and brother also doing an obstacle race in two weeks and i’ll be running a third one in september with my uncle. I started doing obstacle races and it’s taken my family by storm 😀

  • Doug Provins

    Alright. I want the truth here. This site isn’t really about health and fitness, is it? I think it is really about one man’s insatiable appetite for all things action figure and Lego and this is simply an avenue to buy them as a business-related expense. If so, it’s genius!

    I love your posts. Keep posting.

  • Amazing article, really great analysis to share with family members, thanks.

  • Nol

    Great article! So epic and emotional with Duel of Fates in the background ^_^ Growing up, I never saw my mum NOT dieting, she followed weight watchers very strictly and always counted EVERYTHING. We ate a very healthy and balanced diet as a result, but the problem is that she hated her body and had a negative relationship with it. Still until today, I have a love-hate relationship with my body and food and so does my brother. Though I’ve left my ED days behind me (yay, small victories), I have a lot of work to do to build a healthier lifestyle and mentality, I’m so scared of raising children who are obsessed with food and have body issues just like we do. It’s such an unnecessary pain.

  • Fiona Clark

    Thanks for this article, I think this is really great. My mom’s always tried to be pretty healthy and lost a bunch of weight in the last couple years, but she still talks about being fat and tells me she isn’t doing good enough and wants to lose more weight, even though I now weigh more than her and I’m 5 inches shorter. I don’t want to end up in that mind set where no amount of progress is good enough.

  • This is great. It’s really made me reflect on the dichotomy that exists in certain households. For example, my boyfriend and I, more than trying to lose weight, are trying to be more active and get in better shape – not only for ourselves, but for each other, our future, and for the family we want to have one day.

    On one hand, my mom has been really supportive and has even joined in. On the other, his mom has adopted an almost sabotaging attitude. She tries to make him/us feel bad about working out by telling him he has too much time or should be doing other things or “Well look at everything I have to do because you’re too busy working out!” And there’s a plethora of bad food at his house that she (at times) tries to make us eat.

    It just sucks because his parents could really use with the health-boost, and his mom has turned hostile on us because she sees our actions as an attack on their life style. That’s not at all how we mean it, but there you go.

  • Debra Marone

    Just a quick note to show you how much I appreciate your articles, Steve! I sometimes go days without checking my email and, once I do, often delete or mark as read probably 95% of them. Yours are a must read/skim!

    Reason I’m responding to this one is because my mom has been obese since I was about 9. She was/is my first and always hero due to her incredible abilty to love, forgive, support, care and work, but since about 20 years old, I have been calculating to make sure I wasn’t at the same place (weight-wise). I have tried to lead as “the Jedi” and sometimes Mom’s referred to me as the “food nazi” even though I love all food (including junk) equally. Try to live in moderation and eat pretty healthy most of the time. She is coming along (not losing weight but modifying her cooking). This is of the utmost importance because, most of the year, she and my dad live with us and our kids and, thankfully, Mom does all the cooking. My parents understand how important these habits are to all of us and no longer refer to me in this negative way.

    Thank you for all you do!!!!! Over the past year you have become my newest hero!!!!!!

    PS Love the Ted Talk!

  • This actually really got me thinking, aside from all the Sci-Fi, how much genetics really plays into how we battle our own individual weight loss struggles.

  • Awesome post Steve, I am sure it will resonate with a lot of people. It’s really interesting how our childhoods, upbringing and family norms often dictate what we do later in life. A lot of parents are really positive role models for their kids, being active, keeping themselves in shape etc. But it seems quite clear that these are becoming more and more of a minority.

    Of course it is totally possible to break away from a life of poor habits, it’s just strange that so many people DON’T 🙂

    We tend to forget that we then become role models for our children, the idea of leaving a legacy of poor health, diabetes, and shorter lives for my children is an awful thought.

    Of course, we are all genetically linked to our parents, and my have a propensity towards certain illnesses, but in most cases, these illnesses are manifested through gene expression (epi-genetics) which is a result of environmental factors, including nutrition, activity levels, stress etc etc etc. So, even with a history of poor health and illness, it isn’t written in stone that you’ll get the same.

    Also, most people never get anywhere near their genetic potential, I’ve wondered often how many world class athletes are out there, overweight and lazy, just because that is the way they’ve always been, and never got to a point that they realised their was something special about them?

    Even with poor family traditions for nutrition and exercise, it is totally possible to change your body and your life, and become a role model for the next generation.

    Nice article, looking forward to the new Star Wars movie for sure

    Steve

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  • Jenniffer Jarrett

    I was a semi healthy child but we were too poor ($5 a day to feed 5 people 3 meals) to eat healthier. Veggies? Out of the question! When we moved to a different state we had more money for food. My mom discovered Stromboli and we ate that all the time. Talk about calories! Needless to say I grew heavier as the years went on. I watched my mom become so disabled she is now in a wheel chair. She has had heart attacks, and can barely walk to the bathroom 3 feet away from her. When I was in my 30’s I was starting to go down her path. I started needing a wheelchair and oxygen all the time. We moved into the house that I am buying now and the way it is designed it is like one of the houses we lived in as a kid. I began to feel like a kid and so I started to act like it. Even though there are 6 able bodied people in the house Way younger than I am, I had to go out and explore the new town and find out where everything was. That began my walking with my 18yr old so I could explore. I am walking so much and loving it. Yesterday I tried to bring music with me. The house needed some food so since I did not have any type of portable music device, I brought my laptop. It has 8 hours of battery life even when I play EQ2. I forgot to turn off the music when I got into the store and everyone was trying to find it. I was found out but NO ONE asked me to turn it off. I am going to bring my laptop everywhere I walk from now on. I have so much more energy with it. My 13 year old could not keep up with me. What a great feeling to know that my mom no longer has control over what I eat and how I exercise.

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  • Angie

    Amanda, does being overweight run in your family? Losing weight doesn’t have to take long. If you’re looking for something that works to lose weight quickly and keep it off, I recently discovered The 3 Week Diet online (go to venusfactro.com/try ) on our local news and it really helped me. I went from 195 pounds all the way to 145, so I’m glad I made the change to a healthier lifestyle. If I can do it, you can too! Get up off your butt and do something about your health and fitness! Three weeks from now you’ll wish you have started today… good luck and you can do this! I promise 🙂Text me if you need some help staying motivated! (706) 968-7729 – I might be a little slow at replying but I’ll do my best to be your free personal trainer. We can be here for each other 🙂xo,Angie