Grant you, it was nice that someone noticed my healthy BMI but what I didn’t like was the part about my being “lucky.” The comment didn’t feel good because, first of all, it came across more like a comparison than a sincere compliment and, secondly, it denied the active role I played in maintaining a healthy weight. If it was true that I was lucky, I thought to myself, that would mean that folks with higher BMI’s were unlucky…uhm. Neither version sounded true. Somehow I knew there was more to a healthy weight than luck, or even conscious choices, but it took me a few decades before I identified the fundamental factor favouring my slender figure.
You see, my brother, sisters, and I were born to an overweight father and a healthy weight mother. Father ingested way too many calories for his rather light activity level. Consequently, he spent all of his adult years carrying an extra load and sadly died of a heart condition before his 67th birthday.
On the other hand, Mother was a typical 60’s woman. She kept a spotless home while raising four kids. She washed dishes by hand, air-dried laundry, and walked to and from the grocery store several times each week. She scrubbed floors, windows, and walls more often in one single year than I did in the past 25 years! This said, a physically demanding domestic life was not the only variable that helped Mom maintain a healthy weight.
Mom also had…a vision.
The Power Of A Vision
During a recent visit, my mother admitted that, at a relativelye early age, she saw herself as a slim and youthful woman and imagined she would stay that way as long as possible. Although she has no idea where this vision stemmed from, she is certain it contributed to helping her manifest this reality. Of course, she’s not alone. Researchers in the field of psychology, particularly sports psychology, have concluded that visualizing – aka mental or cognitive rehearsing – clearly enhances performance.
For my mother, the simple act of holding a mental image of vibrant health during all of her adult years translated itself, behaviourally, in many subtle and not-so subtle ways.
Firstly, Mom had excellent eating habits. She modelled the way by preparing three meals a day, snacking on fresh fruit and raw veggies, drinking water, and staying away from chips, pop, fried foods, and sweets. The fare was simple but generally tasty. It seemed so normal and effortless that it was only when I ate at friends’ that I noticed how other mothers were not as invested in the kitchen as mine.
So, when I left home at 20, I did the same without giving it any conscious thought.
Secondly, Mom did not diet. In fact, I don’t believe ever hearing the d-word in our house. Even after giving birth to the youngest, her body gradually resumed its pre-gestational form while she quickly resumed her domestic duties. Later, when we grew up and the load of housework lightened, Mom stayed active by walking twice a day, often carrying grocery bags on her way back. Even though she never stated the following quite like this, it was clear that as long as she expended what she ingested, Weight Watchers would stay off her radar.
Naturally, after I had my children, I did the same. I ate well and stayed active. Thinking back, the only other time I put on extra weight was the summer I enrolled into the Canadian Forces. During the 8-week Basic Officer Training Course, I gained 15 lbs of gravy, chocolate, cake, pudding, candy, and midnight sandwiches. Although I didn’t see myself expand, this excess was easy to justify: I needed to stay awake and ambush-ready at all hours...yeah, right! Having had the benefit of a great model, as soon as I returned to my normal home environment and school routine, I shed the pounds without resorting to a restrictive regimen or weekly weigh-ins.
Thirdly, Mom never commented on her body or, if she did, I don’t remember. To Dad’s credit, I never heard my father making derogatory remarks about his appearance either. In fact, he was very complimentary towards my mother and acted like a proud peacock when in public with her.
Today, I believe that both our parents’ healthy body-image had a positive effect on us. I treasure not having any memory of my sisters and I, or of my friends and I, comparing or criticizing our bodies.
What’s The Emotion Connection?
I’m sharing this part of my story with you simply because I am grateful.
I’m grateful to my mother who valued health at an age where most people take it for granted.
I’m grateful to my mother who, despite a very tight family budget, always found a way to serve nutritious meals.
I’m grateful to my mother for having modeled an active lifestyle despite the turbulence of our tense family environment.
I’m grateful to Mom and Dad for having endowed me with a sound self-image.
As I observe my cohort (middle-aged women with two children), I notice that many are struggling to maintain a healthy body as well as a healthy body weight. Mind you, I’ve grown a pair of love handles in the past few years but I feel energetic, strong, flexible, and my BMI is still well within the normal weight range.
I concede that I may have been lucky after all. Not lucky to have inherited the right genes; lucky to have had a mother with an exemplary vision.