Thoughts on the Fit Family Challenge

By Beth Purdy

“Pain is weakness leaving the body.” 

This is one of the phrases my late husband, a Marine Corps veteran, used to quote when I would complain after a hard workout. It has certainly stuck with me and helped me through many difficult times. I think it’s the military’s version of the old adage (and Kelly Clarkson hit) “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

About five years ago, I was in the best shape of my life. I was a devoted runner and health fanatic. I had a great job that presented me with mental and physical challenges on a daily basis. I had gotten married earlier in the year, and six months later found out I was expecting a baby. Life was great!

One day in March 2009 changed all that. My husband, who had retired and was caring for our infant daughter, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We worked quickly to schedule surgery, recuperation, and follow-up treatments. I quit my job and began working on a part-time basis, largely from home, so that I could take care of him and our sweet little girl.

For almost two years, things were pretty good. Eventually, the disease caught up to my husband (pancreatic cancer has a 14% survival rate beyond 5 years even if detected at its earliest stage, according to the American Cancer Society), and he passed away in July of 2011.

Sometime during those years, amidst trying to introduce healthy foods to my extremely picky then-toddler and perhaps even pickier husband (chemo practically ruins your taste buds), and working an irregular schedule that changed to suit our family’s needs, I got way off track on my own nutrition and physical activity.

It resulted in some terrible family eating habits (confession: I couldn’t tell you the last time the stove was on) and an erratic exercise routine that left me about 10-15 pounds heavier, flabbier, and with a mountainous load of stress that I was internalizing rather than working out of my system. Something had to give.

And then I stumbled across the Fit Family Challenge, which to me, deals with precisely these things. It’s about taking charge of the aspects of your health that you can control; about being accountable to yourself, your family, to the nurses, nutritionists and trainers who are here to guide us; and about launching us on a path toward life-long wellness.

No pressure, right? It will certainly require some major changes on my part.  But with all this support, the only person I can blame for failure is me.

Certainly, change is uncomfortable, even painful at times. There are two choices when faced with something that makes you uncomfortable: Avoidance, which at best slows down progress if not derailing you completely; or working through it.

By participating in this challenge, I have chosen the latter. I am determined to come out of this project a stronger, healthier person, and most importantly, a healthy example for my young daughter. I hope and pray for successful outcomes for my family and all those participating in the Challenge.

Thanks to the Lexington Family Magazine staff for selecting us to participate, and thanks to all those who will work with us along the way. And to Alex Laughary of the YMCA, my assigned personal trainer:  please don’t kill me in our next session!