In honor of February being Heart Health Month, the Clinton Foundation is featuring a series of blog content focusing on sharing heart-health tips and real-life stories to help educate both men and women on the dangers of heart health and how they can take action to improve both their own and their families' health. Last year, Woman's Day—the first women's magazine to champion heart disease awareness—brought its monthly Live Longer & Stronger heart health column off the page and into real life for a group of readers. After a nationwide search, six women were selected to work with WD nutrition columnist Joy Bauer to change their heart-health destinies. Their powerful stories were shared on-stage at the 2014 Red Dress Awards, where the Clinton Foundation was recognized for its work to promote heart health across a variety of its initiatives both domestically and internationally.
I applied for the Woman’s Day Live Longer & Stronger Challenge because I didn’t want to be the overweight mom sitting in the bleachers watching her children play sports. Being selected meant that I received a meal plan and continued support from nutritionist and WD contributor Joy Bauer, along with regular check-in calls and a private Facebook group with the five other participants. As part of the Challenge, New Balance sent each of us a pedometer, and it was a huge wake-up call for me. Monitoring my steps made me see what I had (or had not) been doing every day. The first day, I only logged 2,340 steps. (Experts say to strive for five times that!) I suddenly realized how I got to be overweight.
I am a busy mom, but I was busy driving everywhere. We drove to the park, to the pool, to the fast food place and to school. Even though I was going places, I was inactive. When my kids and I were at the park, I would sit and talk to the other moms or catch up on emails on my phone. I never thought about actually playing with them! Once I put on the pedometer, I was on a mission to hit the recommended 10,000 steps per day and that meant getting in on the action. The first time I did the monkey bars, my daughter was in awe. She told me that I couldn’t do it, so I had to prove her wrong. (Bonus: I got a great arm workout too!)
Once I got the hang of moving more, I addressed my eating habits. I started by eliminating two go-to beverages. I used to drink a sweet tea from the convenience store and a large mocha every day, totaling well over 500 calories and a lot of sugar. I went cold turkey and it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. I dropped 10 pounds in one week.
I thought meals would be the easy part because my husband is a chef. But the chef in my life loves to prepare fried chicken, pork chops and hand-cut bacon. While these items are yummy once in awhile, eating them regularly was building up the fat around my midsection, which put me at a higher risk for heart disease. I convinced my husband, Lindsay, to bake our meats and ditch the pasta by telling him it was just for a few weeks. But, we felt so good that the whole family ended up agreeing these habits should be permanent.
I also realized that no matter how many times I told my kids to eat their veggies, if they only saw me eat bread and pasta, the lesson wouldn’t sink in. Part of Joy’s suggested eating plan was to always eat a vegetable before you chow down on the rest of your meal. Now, it’s a race to see who can finish their salad or vegetable first at the dinner table!
This Live Longer & Stronger Challenge has not only changed my life and my appearance, but the heart health of my whole family. The kids now pick flavored water instead of soda, and when we go to the park, we walk the trail first, which lets us get in some extra steps before we play. And it all began with a simple step: Wearing a pedometer and moving more.