The Jacksons, Week 4: Allergens in the Air, Eyes on the Prize

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge



First things first. Jack and I had minor setbacks this week.

He was sidelined briefly by allergies and is still suffering from deep sinus congestion, worsened by one of the driest seasons on record here in the South. I hobbled around with flashes of lower back pain, which made getting out of bed agony.

But, thanks to over-the-counter meds and our resolve not to be down and out, we pressed on.
Jackson did so in the most spectacular fashion.

Kudos go to him for winning a silver medal in a local fencing tournament. With patience and skill, he lunged and parry-riposted his way past several challengers in his 12-and-under age division at "The Gathering," a regional practice competition sponsored by the Oxford Fencers Club, which drew some 45 ranked and unranked fencers from other clubs around the region.

Match after match, I watched my Jack and his peers of varying heights, ages and skill levels challenge each other in this elegant yet intimidating sport. They may not actually impale each other with those pointy weapons (sharp tips are capped with protectors called "buttons"), but fencing is no joke. The physical demands are incredible, and those conditioning exercises that my son and his teammates perform before and after their fencing practices have a purpose: The youngsters are working their calves, quadriceps, biceps and triceps, all while developing quickness, agility, strength and strategy.

Jackson at "The Gathering" fencing tournament, moments before he won a silver medal in his division. Credit: Deidra Jackson

Jack turned in some pretty awesome performances during the tourney, despite the fact that he hasn't competed in a while. He first picked up a foil (also referred to as a sword) as a 7-year-old, but his swordplay soon took a back seat to more traditional sports like basketball, baseball and soccer.

Despite feeling "really stuffed up" -- so that he couldn't always breathe through both his nostrils simultaneously -- and at less than 100 percent, he stayed in the game, ignoring his sinuses to remain focused on the tournament. "I was paying attention to the competition," he told me.

Ever the cool tween, he's either keeping his excitement at winning in check or has won numerous other fencing tournaments of which I'm not aware.

Jackson said he didn't set out to win a medal, but simply to do his best. I like his philosophy of focused determination without stress. It's a mindset I can certainly learn from along this personal journey of mine.

I had to hang tough this week and work through that nagging lower back pain. Although it didn't stop me from working out in the gym, it did beckon me to soothe my discomfort with a big bag of Kettle-cooked barbecue potato chips.

Which I did not, I'm proud to say. Though I wouldn't have beat myself up if I had.
It isn't that I don't like healthy foods -- I do. If I were to eat my final meal on this earth right now, it would include a huge spring green salad with grilled fish, multi-grain breads and strawberries.

But I have in the past made the mistake of getting carried away with the you-can't-have-thats, and I've vowed not to make that blunder during the Healthy Families Challenge. Looking back, I see in my many failed attempts to keep off lost weight, I spent way too much time fixated on the foods I felt I couldn't eat. Every time I pushed aside the chips or soda and ate my red beets or slurped some diet shake, I felt I was depriving myself of something I really wanted.

The foods I did eat -- grapefruit, boiled eggs, celery, gelatin and diluted soups made with beef boullion cubes – weren't fulfilling.

I'm not limiting myself like that this time.

In the weeks to come, I won't go whole-hog and eat whatever I want, but I'll enjoy, in moderation, whatever I eat. And that includes the uber-healthy foods.

A few days ago, I finally freed those whiting fillets from their icy slab in my freezer. Although I was tempted to slap those babies in some cornmeal and canola oil, I restrained myself and baked them in a broth of light butter, lemon and seasoning. As I chowed down on this lighter fare, I wondered why I didn't cook fish more often.

But Jack wasn't sold. He yielded to a frozen pizza.

I realize he's not a big seafood fan. Minced and breaded fish sticks are probably as far as he'll go. But I stuck with my baked fish.

For more inspiration in the weeks ahead, I'll be flipping through the pages of a new cookbook in our kitchen: Weight Watchers Eat! Move! Play! A Parent's Guide for Raising Healthy, Happy Kids. It looks as if it contains some pretty good low-cal and tween-friendly recipes, and, while not exactly enthusiastic, Jack says he'll give them a try. Tops on our list? The fish tacos with mango salsa on page 175.

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.