Healthy Families Challenge: Meet the Jacksons

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

The last time I checked, Mississippi was still the fattest state in the nation.

And, in the 10 years that my son and I have been living here in northern Mississippi -- "hill country," as the natives call it -- the grease-laden cheeseburgers, country-fried steak, fried catfish and bubbly peach cobbler, have provided a good explanation as to why.
So it's with some pressure that we represent Mississippi, the Deep South, where soul food and Southern cuisine loom large and taste insanely good, and obesity and diabetes run rampant.
I, Deidra Jackson, 43, and my son, Jackson, 11, live in Oxford, home to Ole Miss (The University of Mississippi), my alma mater and my employer. I work there as an instructor of journalism. The two of us moved to Oxford in 2000. Jack's father and I divorced when Jack, who was born in Raleigh, N.C., was an infant. After deciding to leave Raleigh, where I was a newspaper editor and reporter, we moved to Mississippi to be closer to my parents, who reside in Columbus, some two hours away. Jack makes me happy and proud to be a mom. We make a great team.
We live in Lafayette County, six miles outside eclectic Oxford and its 120-plus restaurants, several of which feature award-winning chefs. Jack and I rarely eat at those restaurants. It's the more affordable family chain eateries and fast-food spots and their quesadilla burgers, egg rolls, rib-eye steaks, stuffed-crust pepperoni pizzas, chicken tenders, waffle fries, cheese breadsticks and chili dogs that are our bugaboos.

Even though we don't always eat as healthfully as I'd like, largely because of time constraints, Jack is svelte. He's nearly as tall as I am -- about 5 feet 7 inches -- and stays on the run, zooming by the living room window on his scooter, dirt bike or skateboard. He golfs and fences, and plays on soccer, baseball and basketball teams sponsored by the Oxford Park Commission or formed with neighborhood friends.

A sixth-grader, Jackson is a sensitive, smart, popular and personable young man. During the Healthy Families Challenge, he says, he'd like to improve his fitness level, build muscle tone and eat healthier.

Unlike most youngsters, Jack willingly eats fruits and veggies, and he's not into many sweets. That said, he has his limits. A couple of days ago, I replaced our usual two-percent milk with healthier "lite" soy milk. He said it smelled like "clay water" before reluctantly blending it with his artificial strawberry drink mix.

I bought the soy milk after reading this from a chain e-mail letter my aunt sent me, titled, "Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins."

"Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract," read the email. "Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk, cancer cells are being starved."

Jack said he threw up twice after downing the drink. Not sure if it was the "clay-water" or that extra heaping spoonful of sugar he dumped in, but either way, we've got work to do.

As I write this at 9:37 a.m., I'm munching on kettle-cooked hickory barbecue potato chips, not because I'm hungry, but because I want something savory and crunchy to help trigger my thoughts.

Help me.

I used to be a gymaholic. High-impact aerobics and weightlifting gave me a high like nothing else. But, over the years, I tired of working out. Whereas, I once ate whatever I wanted and watched the pounds melt away, I have for some time now watched them creep back on.

Being overweight is horrible. Socially, I believe people look around and beyond me for those who are more attractive and pleasing to their eyes; professionally, I suspect that a thinner me would be valued more and possibly closer to breaking that proverbial glass ceiling. I feel invisible. I'm miserable carrying around this excess load. I want to begin a fitness routine, but alone, I'm not motivated enough to just do it. Walking up and downstairs to my office and across campus is my daily exercise routine. I need to do more.

My goals are to lose at least 30 pounds in these eight months, get back to a routine of rigorous exercise and regularly prepare nutritious and tasty meals for my son and me.

I know I need to set a better example for Jackson to keep him healthy. And me, too.

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.