February 5 is the day that my Dad suffered from a massive stroke, at the young age of 64.
I am often asked what inspired me to lose weight, how did I do it. What was my motivation? We all have experienced pivotal moments in our lives that redirected us, promoted change, and even propelled us forward. For me, losing my Dad was that pivotal moment.
It is important to know that my father led a very sedentary life. He was not overweight by any means, nor was he a drinker. To look at him you wouldn’t think that he was an unhealthy man. He was probably very typical of most people. He pretty much ate whatever he wanted, which primarily consisted of fast or “fried” food, and of course, sugary desserts and snacks. He was a smoker. Oh, and one more thing, his idea of exercise was crossing the room to retrieve the remote control, and only because he couldn’t train the cat to fetch. (No disrespect intended…I inherited my Dad’s smart ass sense of humour. He would have found that funny!)
I have since come to understand that it was the combination of poor nutrition, smoking and lack of exercise that led to his stroke and ultimate death, but at the time it just didn’t make any sense to me. How could someone so young just suddenly die? Strokes were for old people. Surely in this day and age a person should expect to live well into their eighties, right? I mean, my Dad was only 64!
In fact he was only 26 years older than me.
This was my wake up call. The unhealthy choices I was making for myself, in terms of food and lack of exercise, were not that much different than his. And worse than that, as the matriarch of my family, I was creating this lazy, unhealthy culture for my kids. (Can I blame Nintendo, please?) I was raising them to be lethargic, fast food eaters and sugar junkies. I was leading them down a path of obesity and sickness. Wasn’t it my responsibility as their mother to teach them how to be healthy; to be safe? I took great care to make sure they looked both ways before crossing a street, to hold a hand rail when going up or down the stairs, to never talk to strangers…and yet, here I was, forgetting the most fundamental life lessons to ensure a long and healthy life…to eat well and exercise.
So I had asked myself this question. “What if I only had 26 years left to live; would I be ok with that?” I was 38 years old but my biological age was probably closer to 60. I was sick. I woke up tired. I couldn’t climb the stairs without stopping half way. I suffered from constant headaches. I popped Imodium like tic-tacs. I also was borderline diabetic. (My Doctor had shared that with me a few years before and advised me to eat better…yadda, yadda, yadda…)
Yes. It was that bad. And yes, I was in serious denial.
I didn’t want to die a young-ish woman. I wanted to see my children through their graduations and marriages. I wanted to experience the joy of being a grandparent. I was looking forward to watching my grown children endure through the terrible two’s, back talk, and defiance from their own children (with great anticipation and glee I might add). I wanted to grow old and travel the world with my beautiful husband. I wanted to be a sexy senior!
I had to take absolute, complete, total, 100% ownership of my choices. My motivation was me. I chose life. And in doing so, I have created a healthier, happier future for my kids. By my actions I have taught them to live responsibly, to educate themselves, and be critical thinkers. I will be around to watch my precocious, opinionated daughter grow into a woman who will change the world! (I apologize for her teen years, but I promise, she will be an amazing, strong and powerful woman…if her Dad and I don’t kill her first.)
My Dad would have turned 70 this year. In the 5 years he has been gone, among many happy events, he has missed seeing his grand-daughter Stephanie’s marriage, the birth of his 3rd great-grandchild Freddie, and my child Anthony graduating from high school. He would have been so incredibly proud of them.
My Dad is gone.
But I am still here, maybe even thanks to him. He has inspired me to turn my life around, and in turn, to help others.
He would have been fiercely proud of me too.
P.S. Ironically, February is Heart and Stroke Awareness month. Please visit www.heartandstroke.ca. It is a wonderfully informative website that offers education and tools for healthy living! As well, learn the symptoms and signs of a heart attack or stroke. You could save someone’s life. Maybe even your own.