Growing up the youngest of three, and the only girl, I was somewhat “tomboyish.” I was the athletic girl with “the calves” who could out-run all the boys at field day and crossover, box out, and score double digits on the basketball court. But the one constant was, I hated to run; I’m flat footed, so it was painful. Once I reached 10th grade, I exchange my high tops for Capezios and joined the dance team. At that age, I could eat whatever I wanted and stayed thin as a rail. In the deep south, whatever I wanted consisted of fried foods including chitlins, rabbit, kool-aid, and every kind of Southern comfort food you can imagine. My family cooked it, and we ate it.
In college, I chose Exercise Physiology as a major, but hated working out — go figure. Since then, it’s all come full circle (look at God & the universe), because I learned about the impact of diet and exercise on your health at that point in time.
In my early 20s, after meeting my husband, who was an athlete, and learning that he was raised not eating pork, he would always tell me “Mo, your bad eating and minimal exercise is going to catch up with you one day.” And one day, in 2010, it did. I know that you’re thinking that it was probably due to some weight gain, but instead, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I began having extreme nausea that caused a sense of urgency which triggered anxiety because I was always worried about having to be near a restroom. This made me afraid to do many things like travel or participate in outdoor activities, I even questioned how my anxiety and fear would affect me as a mom one day.
I tried, for years, to manage it with medication, with little success as my UC never fully went into remission. It wasn’t until I became serious about my diet and exercise that I saw the correlation between certain foods and my UC. I started first by minimizing sodas (high fructose corn syrup) and fried foods. My eating and exercise evolved from that point. I started with barre exercise classes, eating high animal protein, and following a low carb diet. These days, I’m lifting heavy weight, cycling, sprinting on the treadmill, and eating plant-based 80% of the time. I call it Flexetarian.
Once we decided to start a family in 2013, exercise and healthy eating became even more of a necessity. Yes, there was a fear of becoming overweight and wondering if I would “snap back” but more so because I wanted to stay well. I knew I had to maintain my eating and exercise habits in order to be a whole mother and wife for my family. I couldn’t go back to the days of urgency, anxiety, sluggishness, and nausea that plagued me when I was eating terribly and not exercising consistently when my UC wasn’t properly managed.
I worked out for both of my pregnancies, literally up until the day of labor. It’s important to me to listen to my body, so I would take days and sometimes weeks off when I needed to. But consistency is what kept me going and feeling well. I would like to admit that I’ve sometimes felt guilty, especially when friends and strangers mention my “snap back” and asked how I did it, so I have to mention that I feel privileged, in some ways, as a stay at home Mompreneur with the flexibility to work out during the day. But, I want to encourage all moms, especially my working moms, to make time for yourself. Whether it’s 10 minutes before the kids wake up or 30 minutes after work, do it for you. At this time in our culture, I think of exercise and eating healthy as self-preservation, self-care, or political warfare even.