|Dancing with my dad on my wedding day.|
Happy Valentine’s Day to my first Valentine — the guy who loved me from my first breath of life; whose face lit up when he handed me a cuddly stuffed animal or a new pack of Crayons (and continued the tradition with my kids); who supported me through all of my activities, performances, and academic and professional pursuits from childhood through adulthood; my secret admirer who sent me a sweet anonymous Valentine in the Pennysaver one Valentine’s Day when I was in elementary school; my biggest fan, who saved every article and blog post I ever wrote, proudly showing it to everyone around him; the life of the party who knew how to help me get through heartbreak, hurt or disappointment with a joke; who fell in love with Penn State as much as I did and became its biggest fan; became a huge fan of my husband, too; and who fulfilled the duties of both parents during 20 years of highs and lows after my mom died, including my wedding, and the births of both of my kids.
So to my dad, thank you for a lifetime of love, and for a final lesson that has changed my life. It is appropriate to thank my dad during the American Heart Association’s Heart Month because his big, loving, generous heart is what ultimately failed when he died in October 2015 after suffering a heart attack following years of heart health problems. Through the pain of losing him, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was traveling down the same path. I had gained a lot of weight, and while I acknowledged that it put me at risk for heart disease and many other diseases, I wouldn’t take the leap to do anything about it. When my dad died, I had to face the fact that my weight was putting my health in jeopardy.
Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths in women each year, according to the American Heart Association, which places cardiovascular disease as the No. 1 killer of women. Among the steps the American Heart Association recommends to help prevent heart disease is to lose or manage your weight.
|Hanging out with one of my loves.|
It took me a couple of years after my dad’s passing, and more weight gain to have the courage and the will to really commit to making my health a priority by losing weight. So I joined Weight Watchers (now WW) Freestyle on Jan. 28, 2018. The app makes it so easy to see what foods will fit into my daily needs and to track everything I eat without having to count calories. I do not feel like I am being deprived, especially because the program doesn’t make any food off-limits. I can even still enjoy a sweet treat, but WW helps me do so in moderation. I love to bake because it is one way I show love for my family, especially by baking treats that are safe for my food-allergic child. But now I don’t indulge in so many of those treats I make for my family, instead I allow myself a sample of the baked goods every once in a while.
I was so proud to step on that scale on my one-year anniversary and see that I had lost 60 pounds in my first year on WW! Yes, it feels so good dropping clothing sizes, but more importantly I feel better physically. My knees, which had been bothering me to the point that I needed physical therapy for them, feel better. My energy level is higher, and I feel like I am more present in my kids’ lives and more comfortable participating in activities with them. I can also track my activity on the app. I haven’t been as successful in sticking to a regular exercise routine, but I certainly do more knowing that I can track the activity on my app and because I know that it is a big part of ensuring that I’m doing everything I can to help my heart health.
I miss hearing the pride in my dad’s responses as I tell him about the various goings-on with my kids; I miss talking to him about Penn State’s highs and lows on college football Saturdays; I miss hearing his hearty laugh; I miss knowing he has my back, even if we disagree; and most of all, I miss his big heart.
So to my dad, who gave me the confidence to know that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to, even learning from a lesson that came from heartache — Thank you!