The Jacksons, Week 24: Relative Models of Health

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

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Nana gives Jack, then 5, a defensive challenge on the basketball court in 2003. Credit: Deidra Jackson

Jackson and I don't have far to look when it comes to robust health and fitness role models.

Our favorite mentors -- my mom and dad -- are ideal examples of how taking care of oneself can lead to well-being.

Both in their early 70s, James and Emily Jackson -- Jack's "Nana" and "Poppy" -- really are pictures of good health. Compared to others their age, they look at least 15 years younger. They're always on the move, exercising regularly. Mom, a mad gardener, speed-walks around an outdoor fitness track several times each week, and Dad, an avid golfer, hits the gym just about every day, favoring weights and the Nautilus equipment. They also maintain strict controls of what they eat and drink.

People always say they think my parents are in their late 50s or 60s, and can't believe they're in their 70s. Or, as Jackson likes to put it: "I don't mean to be offensive, but some 70-year-olds aren't active, and my grandparents are really active for their age."

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Jack lets Nana test her chops on Nintendo's Rock Band for Wii. Credit: Deidra Jackson

However, they weren't always energetic folks. It was the diagnosed health scares and frank discussions from their physicians that eventually compelled them to start exercising more and eating better for their health's sake.

Mom and Dad were a huge impetus for both Jackson and I agreeing to play a part in the Healthy Families Challenge. Both of them warn us frequently about eating too many fats and sugars, not drinking enough water and being sedentary for long stretches. In reality, they've been pleading with us for years about the dangers associated with diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.

During the five years or so that they've been active and in control of their diets, my parents have lost some 40 pounds between them and have kept diseases at bay; Mom controls her cholesterol and blood pressure levels through diet and exercise, and Dad avoids major complications from his diabetes and high cholesterol through the same natural preventions.

I admit that when I was younger, I believed I could still live a long time before my luck would run out and I'd have to pay the consequences of my bad health and fitness behaviors. But when your physician tells you that you're "borderline" for a chronic illness or two, it's the wake-up call before the wake-up call. For me, being told two years ago by my University of Mississippi Employee Health Center doctor that I had an elevated blood sugar level was too much to ignore for too much longer.

My mother and father make their own homemade trail mixes and healthy soups, pack their diets with fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods, and make fitness a key part of their lifestyle.

I love the fact that they indeed practice what they preach. Although I'm all grown up, I still strive to be just like them.

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