Defeating “Poor Genes”


I grew up playing sports with my dad.  Much of what I remember about my childhood centers around me playing some kind of sport.  I was good at sports, but my parents, who were always overweight my entire life, rewarded my success in sports with trips to McDonalds or Dairy Queen.

It didn’t take long for me to become the overweight kid who couldn’t keep up, so I quit playing sports at a relatively young age.  

I began playing sports again in high school and it made a big difference in my confidence and my fitness level.  I lost weight and turned into an all-conference player.  My staying fit carried on through college, as I participated in the cheerleading squad at GVSU and just generally stayed active.

Then I ventured out into the real world, got a job and a bunch of other responsibilities and settled into the life that many people settle into, spending evenings eating whatever was easy and rarely ever getting any exercise.

So, the weight began to add up.  Because my parents were always overweight, I just assumed that was the way I should accept I would turn out because I had poor genes (nice excuse, right!).

I watched my parents health begin to decline when they were too young to be having chronic health problems and saw my dad popping Tums or drinking antacid every night.  Several years later my dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and eventually pass away because of the cancer – he was 74.  I watched my mom have a massive stroke when she was only 73 and spend the next three years (up to today) in a nursing home, unable to care for herself, speak well or walk.

You would think these things would have opened my eyes to what they brought on themselves by the choices they made.  It didn’t.  I began to be the one popping Tums every night before bed because I had heartburn.  My weight was increasing, all while trying to keep up with my two kids, knowing I should be setting a good example for them, but not doing it.

Finally, while I was on the couch browsing through Facebook one night, I saw the ad for the “New You Challenge” and decided enough was enough.  I spoke with my wife about it to see if she wanted to join me in the challenge so I would have some accountability and she decided it was time for her to take her health and fitness seriously too, so we decided to jump in.

The experience has been nothing short of amazing.  I have felt welcome and encouraged every time I stepped into the gym (I think they call it the “box”).  The workouts have been challenging, but I’ve been able to push myself and get better each week.  I’ve lost about 20 pounds in 5 weeks, but better than the weight loss has been the way I feel.  I’m energized, more confident and know that I’m making a difference for myself, my wife and our kids.  I haven’t taken a Tums in 5 weeks, since I started the challenge and began eating well.

My wife has also seen great results and is amazed by her ability to get through workouts that she never would’ve dreamed she could complete.  She’s lost weight and feels great!

We’ve held each other accountable and have an opportunity to complain with understanding, because we’re both doing the same workouts each day and understand what hurts and why.

I don’t want to be cliché, but the “New You Challenge” may have saved me from the fate that both of my parents have faced.  The funny thing is, both of my parents had parents who lived well into their 90’s, so had they made better decisions with their diet and fitness, they may have had a much different, higher quality and longer life.  That’s what I’m hoping for – and I think I’ll get there because of the decisions I’m making now.

A thought came to me at some point along the way…

You can either let the hard things in life be your excuse for failure or be your motivation for great success.  

I’m choosing to turn the negative things that happened to my parents into my motivation for success.  Along the way, I believe I’ll be teaching my kids how to make that same choice, and there’s no better gift I can give to them than being around for as long as possible and helping them make better choices so they can live long, healthy lives too.

Author: Jeff Stukey


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