The Saturday Skinny: Single parents can still find time to lose weight

By: Don Chaddock, Gold Country News Service
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Finding the time to exercise has not been easy for me lately, particularly over the last six weeks. Why? I’ll let you in on a secret that I’ve not shared with many – I’ve been a single parent for months.

That has left me caring for my 3-year-old and 1-year-old children full time, as well as my 12 and 14-year-old kids (from my first marriage) when they come up for their weekend and holiday visits.

I've done my best to maintain a regular exercise routine but as my little ones are going through an emotionally confusing time, they have needed more of my attention.

I’m sharing this slice of my personal life because I know I’m not alone. There are plenty of single parents struggling to raise kids, make ends meet and still find the time to take care of themselves.

For those who are so busy they can't even get a full eight hours of sleep each night, there are still ways to squeeze in some much-needed exercise and here’s how I’m doing it.

Turn chores into exercise

When I get home from work and the living room looks like a toy tornado has swept through, I turn “cleaning” into exercise. Place a toy box at the far end of the room and start with the toy farthest away. As I pick up a toy, I squat, stand and walk across the room to place that one toy in a box, squatting again as I do so. I repeat this process for each toy, no matter how small. Tedious? Yes. Fun? Not really. Good exercise for your legs? Of course.

Exercise time can be playtime

When my 1-year-old daughter Deirdre is being super clingy, I use her as a way to get some arm exercises. I hold her over my head, looking up, and count as I raise and lower her in the air. She doesn’t weigh much (18 pounds), but after 20 hoists, she’s laughing and my arms are turning to jelly. I do this while standing or lying flat on my back.

When Liam, my 3-year-old, needs some extra papa attention, I hide in the kitchen and call out his name. As he comes around the corner, I squat and walk toward him, pretending to be a silly monster. Liam runs and laughs. I return to my monster cave (near the back door), and the process starts over again. After 15 or 20 minutes of this, my legs can really feel it.

If Deirdre is in a dancing mood, we do a papa-daughter dance, while I sway from leg to leg, giving me a good stretch.

Walk when you can

I still try squeeze in some “me time” when I can. That can be during a lunch break at work. I will walk for 30-45 minutes during a solid lunch break (when I get them) or for a few quick 10-minute walks spaced throughout the work day.

Remember to eat

There were a few weeks, when all this personal turmoil started for me in early December, that I would forget to eat. I was so focused on just doing the “next” task (particularly for the children), I would sometimes forget to eat breakfast or dinner. Luckily, I always remembered to pack my lunch and snacks. When dizzy spells started, I stopped, took a breath and focused on what was important: Taking care of myself so I can take care of the kids.

I now make sure I eat breakfast. When I’m pressed for time, I will opt for a small bowl of cereal such as Quaker Oatmeal Squares (90 percent of my Iron and 19 percent of my dietary fiber) or the Raley’s store brand Nutty Nuggets (90 percent of my Iron, 50 percent of my folic acid). I use non-fat milk.

Scrambled or boiled eggs are also a good choice. If boiled, I don't eat the yolk. I always have a piece of fresh fruit for breakfast as well.

The important thing for me is to take a little time for myself (even 10 minutes sometime during the day), maintain a positive attitude and make healthy food choices. Those are all things I can control, even when everything else seems to be spinning completely out of control.

To read the first three installments of this column, go to and keyword search “Saturday Skinny.” Don Chaddock can be reached at or follow him on Twitter @anewsguy.