The Jacksons, Week 7: Going for the Gold in Mental Gymnastics

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

roasting marshmallows picture

Camping out or not, Jackson enjoys roasted marshmallows, his favorite sweet treat. Credit: Deidra Jackson

It's already been a roller coaster ride for me, filled with ups and downs, highs and lows.

Just when I think I want to get off, I see an appealing fork ahead and hold on for dear life. "Deidra, you don't want to miss this, girl!" I convince myself. It's a lot of thrills, this Healthy Families Challenge.

I'm still sweating it out in the University of Mississippi's Turner Center, and even in the pool. I'm exercising on my own when I'm not with my personal trainer. I'm heeding the directives of my faithful and candid health-and-fitness team. I'm willingly passing up opportunities to indulge in Slim Jim™ interludes and my adored late-night sweet-tea sessions. And when I say sweet tea, I'm talking about the real, Southern, slow-brewed stuff, sweetened with pure cane sugar. However, for seven weeks now, sweet tea, I hardly know thee; empty packets of Splenda lay waste in my garbage. The tiny white granules in the yellow wrappers? They are now my familiar sugar substitute of choice.

Then there are the mental gymnastics.

One pound lost one week. Four pounds lost another. No pounds lost the next week. Still exercising. Still abstaining from the delightfully wonderful foods that ultimately made me miserable and had me teetering toward ill health. The weight-loss game for the last several weeks has been fairly unpredictable for me. What will be the verdict down the road after such irregularity?

There hasn't been a day lately when my mind doesn't flash to what may be a defining moment for me next May, when the Challenge comes to an end. Will I have lost any more weight? And, if I haven't, how will I feel?

As I fortune-tell, Jackson, oblivious to my angst, is still going at top-speed, more aware than ever of the foods he eats. We've been eating chilled leftovers like roast chicken, stir-fry rice and vegetables and cooked corn, and waiting for my next pay period, when it will be feasible to replenish the pantry with quality stock; such is life when you're the sole breadwinner in the house. The opportunity for transformation via contemporary healthy recipes, unfortunately, must wait. But my son is patient.

In an effort to clean out the old, I transformed a frozen pound-and-a-half of beef into the most delicious meatloaf Jack and I have eaten in a while. While it wasn't a low-cal recipe, I substituted an ample amount of shredded carrots for the green pepper, which Jackson dislikes, and switched to healthier ketchup that purportedly contained no trans-fats.

Jackson chomps on green apples without my encouragement and those ice cream half-gallons that occupied two reserved spots in our freezer -- one for him, one for me -- aren't there anymore. Roasted marshmallows on the stove top are his sweet treat of choice. Remember, he's got some throwaway calories that he can spend each day.

Here's Jackson's personal take on the week:

I think the goals for the Healthy Families Challenge are great, although I haven't eaten any cheddar cheese for a while. But other than that, I'm great! My mom has really gotten into shape! I have been, too! The program is really helping me out!

And so, despite Jackson's mom's self-doubts, she has -- I have -- not given up this challenge by a long shot. I've soldiered on, exercising on feet and Achilles tendons that throbbed. During my down time, I treated my sore muscles with ibuprofen and periods of rest.

What helps me further commit to running that fifth lap, to treading water for another minute, to finishing those 10 reps or to abstaining from that favorite fatty food, is thinking about the words from the poem "God's Minute," by Benjamin Mays, the president of Morehouse College from 1940 to 1967:

I've only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.

. . .

But it's up to me to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it. . .


My "harsh" moments are mere flashes in the great pan of life. I can do this.

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



How is the Jackson family doing? Check in on their progress!


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