The Gift of a Healthy Life

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Mother’s Day is on Sunday (You should probably call your mother that day). I am going to use this as an opportunity to talk about one of the greatest gift my mom gave me: the gift of a healthy lifestyle.

When I was about 6-7 years old, my mom embarked on a journey that changed both of our lives significantly. She had spent her life battling her weight and had topped out at a rather unhealthy 225 pounds. With an active small child to care for, being overweight was not easy and it certainly was not going to lead to the longevity of life that she wanted. So, she decided to change her lifestyle and lose the weight.

This was not an easy journey. It took several years, completely new eating habits, new friends, and ultimately, a new hobby of power walking. She became a vegetarian, and added things like tofu and veggies into her diet. Keep in mind, this was in the early ‘90’s. Tofu and vegetarianism were not normal words in American language and certainly was not easy to find on any menu. But she kept at it and she had a great support system with my dad and grandmother encouraging her.

She woke up every morning, took me to school, and then went to a local park with a 1-mile gravel trail to walk on. I am not talking about a leisurely walk here… she walked FAST. She pushed 12-13 minute miles for 5 miles at a time, a respectable pace even for a runner. In the summers, she would wake me up and take me with her. I was certainly not going to get in the way of her quest towards a healthy life and I am glad that I didn’t.

After years of this new lifestyle, it became the new normal and the weight came off. She went from 225 pounds to cracking into the 130’s. She lost 90 pounds total. But that is not where the struggle ended. Most people who lose weight gain it back and often times end up at a higher weight than they began. She was determined not to let that happen. Despite reaching her goal weight, she kept at it… going to the park in the morning and eating well all day long. It was her normal and it was my normal.

Now, those of you with kids probably know this, but children watch EVERYTHING that you do and they emulate it. I had no siblings, so my mom was my role model and I copied everything that she did. Sometimes I would go to the track and walk with her (I was much slower) or lightly jog. I started to realize that I loved running and would do it at any opportunity. This was totally normal because my mom would walk 5 miles every day. If she liked walking so much, it makes sense that I would like running. I also ate better than probably any other kid. My mom packed my lunch each day because she thought the lunches provided at school were not healthy enough and she did not want me to struggle with weight the way she did. That seemed normal, because it was the way my mom ate.

I got to high school and I noticed that other kids adopted less than optimal eating habits. People would routinely drink soda and eat food from vending machines. But I brought my lunches and my mom packed it with healthy snacks so I wouldn’t feel compelled to stop at a vending machine.

By college these eating habits were normal and when I lived in my own apartment, I cooked food that was similar to what my mom made… beans, veggies, tofu, brown rice. I did splurge when I would eat out, but seriously, it can really only be so bad when it’s vegetarian (actually, Tijana Flats has some pretty terrible vegetarian food that I had frequently). I never gained the “Freshman 15” and I never suffered from disordered eating, like a lot of my friends. I used exercise and good food to maintain a healthy weight, just like my mom had. And when I gained a few pounds in grad school from being overworked and not finding time to exercise, I channeled her and lost those pounds (and kept them off) by eating well and maintaining an active lifestyle.

I’m sure it makes sense to you now that I am a runner and that I make time to exercise nearly every day. I also (usually) eat well… although Captain Crunch Cereal can be a bit of a weakness of mine. I maintain a healthy weight and I like my body and what it does. It is strong and capable, and although I might not have any boobs at all, I actually prefer it that way! By watching her conquer her weight loss and adopt a healthier life, I adopted that life too and learned that changes, such as weight loss, happen slow and that you need to love your body throughout the journey.

So, thanks, Mom, for pushing me to eat the dreaded broccoli. Thanks for teaching me that food should not be used when you are lonely or sad or happy… it should be used as food! Thanks for showing me that people can overcome being overweight and that weight loss and maintenance should be done in a healthy way with consistent exercise and good food.

This is a great gift that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Happy Mother’s Day!

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12 thoughts on “The Gift of a Healthy Life

  1. I LOVED meeting your mom. She is a total spitfire and I could tell she’s your biggest fan and such a wonderful role model and support system. You’re lucky to have her! I’m impressed with her journey and glad that she instilled those healthy values in you!

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    • I loved meeting you too Ali. You guys are all so full of life and fun that it’s infectious. I was happy to hear that you decided to run the marathon and finished. You go girl.

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    • She can be your biggest fan too! Haha! She has always been a big fan of all of my friends. Her journey was certainly not an easy one, but it definitely made a big impact.

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  2. OMG Peewee! I never knew that dragging you to the park had any effect on you other than you being mad having to go and now you are running a marathon. Thank you so much for posting this. It’s the best Mother’s Day present I could have ever gotten. Knowing that you are healthy and happy is all that matters to me. I love you more that words can say.. Now go kick that Marathon’s ass! ❤ ❤ ❤

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  3. Kerry your words to your mother are the most beautiful thing I have ever read. Don’t forget I was around to watch your mom through her journey and am so proud of her. You are an amazing daughter who as you put it, copied everything she did. You are lucky to have her. Nana is so very proud of you both, I am sure she is happy at the legacy she left behind.

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    • Thank you! You were a huge part of her support system and I definitely remember that. I think having you there gave her someone to share the highs and lows with, which is so important. You have always been like a sister to her.

      I definitely see a lot of my personality in her (and Dad too!) and I think I copied a lot of what both of them did when I was young. The way I treat running reminds me a lot of how my dad treats golf and how she treated walking, so I guess I learned a lot from them both. It is too bad Nana didn’t make it to see me as an adult. I look and act just like Mom, so she would have loved that! Haha!

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