The Jacksons, That's All Folks! We're Ready, So Bring on Tomorrow

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

I'm craving roasted-garlic hummus with toasted pita chips right now.

I mean, I really want some. Longing for pulverized garbanzo beans, lemon juice and various spices is a far cry from some of the more horrifically calorific foods I used to yearn for -- and later succumb to. Not too long ago I would have been wanting kettle-cooked barbecue potato chips, sweet tea, chocolate-chip cookies crumbled in natural vanilla bean ice cream, rib-eye steaks, pepperoni pizzas, double cheeseburgers, etc., etc., etc.

But eight months ago was then, and this is now.

My son, Jackson, and I are a better family, a better team and better people -- physically and emotionally -- for having taken on the Healthy Families Challenge.

The HFC promised to provide the experts who would volunteer their time and services to help us four families achieve our health and fitness goals; in turn, we agreed to document our journey through words and video. Back then, we Jacksons were game, but a bit unsure of what we'd really be able to pull off. At the very least, we said our main goals were to lose some weight (me), and gain some muscle (Jack).

Well, we both reached our goals and then some.

The numbers tell us we did well. Both Jack and I took turns last week sitting in the egg-shaped Bod Pod, which measured our body compositions. Housed in the University of Mississippi's Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, the machine confirmed my weight lost (a total of 20 pounds) and Jack's weight gain (17 pounds), but it also told us more: Both of us had indeed increased our lean muscle, meaning that, in my case, some of the weight that did not fall off had actually converted from unwanted fat to desired muscle mass.

jackson family picture

Eight months later, we've never felt better. Thank you, Healthy Families Challenge. Credit: Deidra Jackson

In addition, I learned that I improved my resting metabolic rate -- the percentage of calories that I burn at rest. In other words, I burn more calories now -- doing nothing -- than I did eight months ago. Blame it on the muscles I gained and the weight I lost slowly, which, in the end, helps speed metabolism. That keeps the fat off longer, the experts tell me. More important than BMI (which I did decrease by more than two points) or what you weigh is body composition.

Quite simply, mentally and physically, Jack and I feel better. Taking this journey together has been a tremendous test and a huge boost for us both. We won't look at rutabagas or Slim Jims, or approach cross-court lunges or parry-ripostes, in quite the same way again.

Today, without even having to think about it much, we both eat healthier, exercise more often than we used to, and think twice before we make certain food and drink selections.

Representing the South, I began this blog on Oct. 5, 2010, by writing, The last time I checked, Mississippi was still the fattest state in the nation .... Sadly, the same continues to be true. If a recent NPR news story is to be believed, "Mississippi is losing the war with obesity." If our home state is still losing this tough battle, it's not because people and influential forces in this state aren't trying. Turning these numbers around is going to take undoing a historical mindset that has lasted -- and has been claiming victims -- for generations.

We want to thank our phenomenal health and fitness experts who were so giving of their time and expertise in helping us reach our goals. They include:
* Jenn Hall, personal trainer, UM Department of Campus Recreation
* Emmy Parkes, instructor, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, UM Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management
* Melinda Valliant, UM assistant professor of nutrition
* Mary Amanda Haskins, certified health-education specialist, UM employee health program project coordinator
* Doc Matthews, Sean and Marguerite of the Oxford Fencers Club
* Dan O'Sullivan, Tai Chi instructor, UM

To Carole, Susan, Damon, Paige and the other talented HFC facilitators, you were quite literally our lifesavers. Thank you, forever.

Although we're saying our goodbyes, Jackson and I aren't nervous about tomorrow or the day after as we continue our journey. As a matter of fact, I'll be meeting Jenn tomorrow to resume my workouts. And I'll continue to chronicle our journey on my own website at Please join me!

When it comes to our health, I think Jack and I will be more accountable to each other. Now, when we go out to eat, we've agreed that at any point necessary, one of us may randomly say, "...Healthy Families Challenge!" -- which is code for "Do you really think you should eat/drink that?" That usually means no luscious chocolate or cream-filled dessert for us, this time.

To our dear followers, including those of you who also are struggling with weight or routine fitness -- you've got this. Here's what I learned:

* I urge you to stay committed to a plan. If you fall, get back up, but don't give up.

* Keep healthy foods in your cupboards and refrigerator to avoid last-minute unhealthy runs to restaurants. Before you say there's nothing to eat at home, think about whether you can throw together something that's nutritionally better for you; keep that money in your wallet for something you really need.

* And, most importantly (if you can remember to do this, I will, too): Always love yourself even when you don't always feel passionate about whom you see in the mirror.

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

Check out how the other families are doing!


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