As a health coach, we are often asked to share our why. Where does our passion for good food, fitness, and health originate? Why are we drawn to helping folks turn from their bad habits? There are a million health coaches, trainers, diet gurus, bloggers but what is your story? I have been a coach for over a year now and I always believed my “why” to be helping other moms feel as good as I do. I believe to the core of my being that a healthy mom creates a healthy family. She changes herself and her habits and, in turn, changes the course of her family and their habits. A mother who knows the importance of good food and a good sweat is the key to ending the trend of obesity. That was my why.
But this is my why now. Meet my mother. We are opposite in so many ways. She is short, I am “tallish”. She “was” dark haired, I am “blondish”. She’s unorganized, I crave order. She’s a free spirit, I’m a dedicated planner. She is sick, I am not.
Mom and I (2016)
My mother’s fight with diabetes started nearly 20 years ago. A disease that has slowly and methodically ravaged her body. From her eyesight to her feet, the effects of high blood sugar have left their permanent and devastating mark. Recently, we learned that she needed a major heart surgery. This surgery is not optional, this surgery is necessary for her to be around for years to come. Without this surgery, I am afraid to think of the number of days we have together. But until we get this diabetes under control, there can be no surgery. So what is a daughter who has a sick mother to do? A daughter who happens to be a nurse, a health coach studying holistic nutrition? She clears out the playroom, sets up a bedroom, and moves her mom in. She prepares for “Operation Healthy Grammy”. She dedicates herself to helping her own mother become the healthiest version of herself.
My mother and I decided to share our journey with you. For me, this is a true life case study in how simple whole food can bring health to the sickest person I know. Donna is on board, she’s ready to try new things, ready to learn, ready to share her story.
My mother and I never talked about nutrition, health, food. It was my thing, not hers. Now it’s ours. So I asked questions I never had before. I wanted to hear her journey. Now, my mother’s memory is times a bit shaky, she forgets some things and can’t remember specifics but she was able to share things some things I had never heard before.
My mother and I (1978)
My mother becomes a grandmother (2006)
Growing up my mom remembers eating a old fashioned “meat and potatoes” diet. Her father had a garden out back where he grew potatoes, carrots, beans, peas. There was no fast food, no mega supermarkets to buy a last minute dinner. Her mother, my Grammy, made pierogies (a traditional Polish pasta “pocket” stuffed with potatoes) and kielbasa. As my mother and I talked, I had to ask if her mother’s style of cooking influenced how she fed her own family decades later. “Well I didn’t like vegetables, so I didn’t prepare them”. So simple. So true. So like many moms today. I didn’t have my first pepper, broccoli, cauliflower until I was an adult. When I was younger, my mother served the same “meat and potatoes” type of diet. We ate pasta and tacos and the same pieorgies and kielbasa. Another generation of non-veggie eaters. See the cycle??? It’s incredible.
My Grammy and my mother (1980s??)
My mom and I talked about the changing culture of nutrition in our society. The explosion of weight loss programs, dietary supplements, fad diets. She shared that when she was younger (about the age I am now!) the best way to lose weight was to eat half a grapefruit and Lean Cuisine at every meal. A sure fire recipe for rapid weight loss! Like me, her weight fluctuated for years. Until the diabetes took control.
My mother at her heaviest (1996)
I asked my mom about her diabetes, why she wasn’t compliant with her diet and medication beyond the first years. The simple answer: she didn’t feel sick. Diabetes is a silent disease. My mom said she never felt bad. She slowly became accustomed to have a high blood sugar. I imagine it’s difficult to stay motivated when you do not feel the effects of your disease. Over the next 2 decades my mom continued to do life as her diabetes was destroying her from the inside out. She battled many other diagnoses from high blood pressure, vision loss, mental health problems, neuropathy. Diabetes officially won it’s biggest battle on October 6, 2015. Initially I received the call that my mother had suffered a stroke and I needed to head to the emergency room. When I arrived my mom was confused, didn’t recognize me, unable to walk, unable to follow simple commands. Her blood sugar was 680 (a normal blood sugar for adult should be less than 140).
As I like to tell my mom, that day was a new dawn. From October 6th, I knew that we needed a major life intervention with my mother. The last few months have been a rocky road for her and my entire family. But we are fighting back. For the first time in my mother’s life, we are taking control. And our most powerful weapon??? Food. Beautiful wholesome food. Food thoughtfully served in proper portions at regular times. Food that can heal as well as any medication.
Today marks the completion of week one of “Operation Healthy Grammy”. Here are our success:
- Grammy willingly ate green beans, broccoli, sugar snap peas. And I have snuck things like mushrooms in chili and kale and avocado in her daily Shakeology.
- In her last week at the rehab unit, the nurses were giving Grammy about 24 additional units of insulin to control her blood sugar. We are giving her about 4 additional units a day.
- Grammy checks her blood sugar 5 times a day. In the last week, we have had 5 readings outside of her target range. At the nursing home her average reading was over 300, at home her average 160.
- One of her blood pressure medications has been discontinued.
- One of her oral diabetic medications has been discontinued.
I want to reiterate…the ONLY change we have made is eating wholesome food at regular intervals. That’s it. Simple. Beautiful. Life changing.
During this week I confirmed my “why”, why I am so passionate about good food, proper nutrition, and Shakeology. It’s not just to help moms feel as good as I do, it’s not just to teach mothers how to feed their families healthy meals, it’s not to just show how to fit 30 minutes of activity into your day. My “why” is to help others never have to walk the road my mother has walked. My “why” is to take the hand of someone on that road and help them turn direction. My “why” is I believe good food is life giving and life saving.