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!