So many of us, like me, observed our mothers and/or grandmothers make questionable choices about their health. I know I did. I watched as my mother fought to stay slim and svelte. Many of her choices have been a persistent reminder for what not to do.
When I became a gerontologist and began helping women to live and age more vibrantly, I realized why, in large part, I had chosen a different lifestyle. I wanted to stay healthier as I got older.
Did you have the same experience?
My mother tried every advertised fad diet. She finally settled on coffee and dry toast for breakfast, a Diet Dr. Pepper for lunch, and ended her day with some semblance of a normal dinner. When she was “dieting,” she would have three small scoops of the dinner she cooked for the family.
Somewhere in my growing up years, I became aware of Dexatrim®, the prevailing answer to everyone’s weight loss issues. My mother loved that product. Then the truth about it emerged, and she began having heart issues—a condition that didn’t run in her family.
I look back now with great sadness and frustration at what she did to her body in the quest to be thin. Healthy never entered into the picture.
To help keep the weight off, she also smoked. After her heart issues developed, she still continued to smoke. She never drank water, as she “hated” the taste, and she loved red meat. Until she was in her mid-fifties, she had never exercised. She was a product of her era, to be sure.
Even while my mother was still quite young, the results of those choices manifested in many ways, and by her early fifties, the evidence of her choices became life threatening.
I didn’t want to get diseases like my mother.
Unconsciously then, I rebelled against what I saw, and looked at more holistic ways of eating. I learned about the nutritional content of food and read about nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds. I still ate too many grain-based foods, but at least they were always made with whole wheat flour.
Living a healthy lifestyle still challenges me. Each day I must consciously make good decisions. It doesn’t ever become easy or seamless. Sometimes the only options that will suffice are a chocolate soda and a grilled pimento cheese sandwich.
But, I appreciate my mother for the lessons I learned early enough in my life about the effect of one’s lifestyle choices, which allow me to make judgments that serve me well every day.
The good news is we are not destined to become our mothers, if we decide to act differently on our family’s health history. We can change the way we age and embrace a more vibrant life!
Until next time… Be Vibrant!
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L.J. Rohan is a Gerontologist (University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology), Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), and Vibrant Aging™ Coach. L.J. is dedicated to redefining the aging process. With a focus on holistic well-being, she combines scientific research and practical insights to guide women age 55+ towards a vibrant, fulfilling life. Her work has been featured in numerous publications and she frequently speaks at institutions such as Yale University and Southern Methodis University. Be Vibrant!