'I'm a Better Mom--and I Broke the Cycle of Obesity in My Family'

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Editor's Note: Growing up in North Carolina, Brandy Blackburn (BBANGEL1214) ate doughnuts and cookies for breakfast. She was "the fat kid since kindergarten." Fried foods and sugary sodas were ubiquitous, and exercise wasn't a part of her life. After ballooning to more than 300 pounds by the time she graduated high school, she had let her weight get in the way of many aspects of her life--including her career path. Giving up her childhood dream of being a doctor ("Well, who wants to listen to a doctor who is morbidly obese," she thought.), she graduated college, got married and gave birth to her daughter, Melody, now 4. Her daughter was her wake-up call. Brandy, now 25, joined SparkPeople and lost 177 pounds--surpassing all her goals! She was such a successful member that we presented her story to People, and she was part of the magazine's most recent "Half Their Size" issue, as an example of our program's success.

Here, Brandy shares the story of how she lost weight, broke the cycle of obesity in her family, and is working to help stop childhood obesity and "be a voice for kids like me."

By Brandy Blackburn

I was going to ride a roller coaster with my husband, and I couldn't fit on the ride. I was horrified and I just kept thinking, "What if this had been Melody's first roller coaster ride?" She would be standing there watching me do the walk of shame back down the stairs. So that day I decided something had to change. She couldn't grow up like this.

When I was little, my doctor told my mom that we needed to get my weight under control. I didn't want to do it, and she didn't push it. I would much rather have been mad at my mom for a few months than have to go through everything I did with my weight for years.

As a parent, I now understand you don't want to hurt your children's feelings, but being a parent isn't easy, and it's our job to protect our kids even if it is something like their weight and bad eating habits. I know the habits I teach my daughter today are the ones she will teach my grandchildren because I had taught her my bad habits.

Someone has to break the cycle, parents have to get educated on what their children are eating, and school systems really have to put physical education/healthy eating back as a priority. In so many school systems, health education classes and physical education classes are gone. Teachers don't have time to take kids to recess because we are so focused on test scores. Yes, it is vitally important for our students to learn their core subjects, but I also think there is something very valuable about learning healthy habits. So many parents have to work full time or even two jobs to support their families, and these healthy habits can easily be overlooked in the grand scheme of money and time.

Both of my parents are severely overweight. I grew up eating junk food, not working out, drinking tons of sodas, lots of fried foods (I am from North Carolina), so I never had good eating habits. I just thought eating cookies or doughnuts for breakfast was normal. I realized I had to create Melody's "normal," so that she had the good habits I never had. She is a very active little girl and loves it. She even loves going to the gym with me. In fact she is a huge motivator because she helps get me out the door when she is begging to go (they have a class for kids that she loves).

Our family meals have changed for sure, too. There is no more frying, we eat wheat pasta, the vegetables aren't covered in butter, and I actually cook dinner. Before I knew how bad it was for me, I just fixed food from boxes, but now I cook with Melody.

We are definitely a healthy family now. We love to go hike and we like to go in the canoe at the lake. I would have never done those things. When I was overweight, because I was too scared to get in and out of the boat. Fear and my weight got in my way.

When I was younger I wanted to be a doctor, but everyone told me I was too heavy, that med school was very physically demanding and that I'd never survive. So I got my degree in psychology. Last year (before we moved) I was working at an elementary school as a fifth grade tutor who helped kids gear up for the state tests. There, I saw many kids who were in the same battle that I was at that age, and I could identify with them. I was the kid who had been picked on and tortured, who tried to put on a happy face. Then I'd see the kids' lunches and be horrified by the candy and cookies and leftover pizza--even the school lunches weren't healthy. I'm sure some of the kids I tutored didn't like me for it, but I refused to give candy as a prize. If you were getting a reward from me it was a new pencil or a new sticker.

I can identify with these kids, but helping them is a very touchy subject. There isn't really an appropriate way to turn to another parent and say, "Hey, you need to do something about your child's weight," even though in my head I just keep thinking "please do something, please save your child." I feel like maybe my advice would be better received with a medical background (not just a psychology background), which is why I have decided to become a nurse.

I'm shifting my life into the health field. I'm applying to nursing schools, and I'm also working on becoming a Spinning instructor. Since we moved, I'm staying home with my daughter, but someday soon, I want to start helping other children again. For now, I'm setting a good example, and so are my daughter and my husband. I've also inspired two friends to join SparkPeople, and they've lost 40 pounds and 60 pounds, respectively.

Since losing the weight, I'm a much better mom. I remember the first time Melody went into the tunnel play structure at a fast food joint. I was terrified.

"If she gets stuck, I can't go get her," I thought.

"Oh, let her go, if she gets stuck, I'll go get her," my friend replied.

Two years later, I'm the mom that goes in to fetch stuck kids, I'm the mom that is with all the kids jumping in the bounce house, and going on rides with them at the amusement park. I'm the fun Mom I wanted to be and I'm getting to enjoy my daughter.

I was always worried about embarrassing her because of my weight. I'm sure I'll embarrass her plenty when she is a teenager, but right now she just thinks it is awesome that I can go play with her and her friends when other moms can't. At my heaviest, I couldn't go up the stairs without being winded let alone run around the park and chase after her.

I'd love to say that starting this journey got my parents on the right road, but if people aren't ready they aren't ready, and I don't think my Dad is there yet. My Mom however, just finished reading The Spark she just finished week 1 and set up her account on SparkPeople. I'm really hoping this is the beginning of something good for her. I was home last weekend, and she was cooking much healthier and asking me for tips.

What steps have your children taken to improve their health since you started your own healthy journey? How have they influenced your decisions to get healthy? What is the most profound change you've witnessed in your family since joining SparkPeople?

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RAZZOOZLE 6/7/2019
thank you Report
You are a very wise and courageous woman! You are also an inspiration to manypeople. Report
Way to go!! Congratulations!! You are awesome!!! Report
Congratulations! Report
Well Done! Your journey has just begun!
Nursing will give you many opportunities to make a positive difference in someone's life. Nursing is the best of all the healthcare professions, as we care for the whole person. Report
Great Job! Report
Wow! Thx for the uplifting story! I am trying to do this too! Report
What a great story. I hope that i can be the one that breaks the cycle in my family. Report
Great job! You broke the chain ... now, not only are you free but so is your daughter! What a role model! Report
You sound so happy! Well done. Report
Since eating better and refusing to bring things into the house or allowing it to be eaten all the time, I have now limited what's in my home, how often I buy things, and how often I allow my children to have something. No longer am I being begged and pleaded to by my 8 year old daughter who reminds me of me at her age. I was a LEAN baby (as were all of my babies). I was the kid with the knobby knees who played all the time and hardly sat still long enough to eat. But I ate junk food and I craved it all the time. It was only when I learned there were GOOD books out there and I hit puberty did I struggle with my weight.

DD8 is the same knobby knee'd kid who craves junk and plays all the time. And I used to worry about how things would be when she starts to enjoy reading and puberty comes around.

I know with my history and my parents' history that health wasn't focused on. I have no idea how to eat healthy at a healthy weight but I'm not going to let it stop me.

With my 2 year old twins, I'm so careful about their sugar & fat intake keeping things in moderation and in what their needs are) because that's how I always have done it - and I decided that it shouldn't change. Sure they can have something, in moderation. And now they do.

It's only been since March; however, I am no longer whined at or begged at for something every single day. Before, it was a ritual to get something after getting DD from school, not any more. And they know it and expect it to be this way, even the twins no longer expect it. And all I did was work on myself first. Report
From the medical articles are Sparks, one of the worst things you can do for a child is have them be FAT before the age of 2. I nursed my four boys and made sure they stayed thin growing up. I didn't nurse my dd because I was too busy with the boys then, but I didn't let her be a fat baby. I was not fat growing up and could never understand how anyone would put up with being fat and getting teased about it. When I started high school i was 5'4" and 108#, since they weighed us the first day and put it on our report cards. Report
My children and grandchild were my main reasons for buckling down to reach my goal of losing 55 lbs. My kids are responsible, hard working young adults and as my weight crept into the morbidly obese category I had to make a change because the last thing I ever want to be is a financial burden on my kids. I felt it was my responsibility to get control over my weight and to improve my health so I can continue to work for the next 20 years.
Since my weightloss, I have seen my kids take steps to improve their health/fitness levels. My daughter does "boot camp" training and my son/DIL have purchased gym equipment and placed a treadmill in front of the tv. I love having energy to engage in active play with my granddaughter--that might be the best benefit from all of the healthy life changes I have made. Report
Your story was great! People need a trigger on some sort to get started - mine was high blood sugar. My daughter and I started a weight losing contest last August, and that's what has worked for us - she is down 28 pounds and I am down 19, so that's progress. Report
What a great inspiration you are. Congrats on your success. Report
such an inspirational story. congrats on your weight loss, and setting an example for young daughter.

you should be proud !!! Report
You are a very special person.  You are so beautiful inside and out.  It can be done and you are living proof!  Eating right is an every day challenge but the ultimate responsibilty of what goes in our mouth falls on our very own shoulders. Hopefully you will be an ispiration to all that read your article. You have certainly been an inspiration to me. Report
Thank you so much for sharing your story! It has inspired me to do more and be better for my family. It is up to me to keep them healthy! Congratulations on your loss - and thanks again for sharing! Report
You are doing great things. Among so many, I especially want to applaud your call for recess to be restored in schools. Research shows that kids perform BETTER academically when they're getting regular exercise. So it would strengthen test scores on top of improving kids' physical & social health!

Keep going--you're an inspiration! Report
Such an inspiration! I've been on this weight rollercoaster for too long, and I'm having a tough time making the changes stick (especially tracking my food!). Thanks so much for showing us that it can be done. I just know that I'll be a better mom, wife, and person once I get this under control!

My daughter (age 5) just saw the pediatrician last week, and we've been referred to a Weight Management clinic at the local children's hospital. So I have a little extra incentive... Report
Congratulations ... keep up the good work and thanks for the inspiration! Report
I really like where it is more than the blank statement do something about the weight, but what changes need to be made. Healthy meals do not necessarily mean expensive. How expensive is pizza? My mother used to nag me about being fat, but she controlled the cooking. Back then, everything was drenched in butter. How was I supposed to magically lose weight? Report
your accomplishment is inspiring to me, great job Report
I feel exactly the same way as what you are saying. I however was a stick figure until I hit early 20's when my metabolism changed. ALL the women in my family are the figure I became and if you turned us all around we looked the same from behind. The only difference for me is that I was about 8 inches taller than them.

Now some almost 30 years later I'm doing something about it. I'm currently the weight I was when I was 25. I will never get down to my teenage weight and frankly it was way too light but I feel excellent! Report
You are such an inspiration!!!! Congrats on your wonderful journey!! U deserve it! Report
Brandy, you have accomplished a great thing, and you have determination and desire. I'm so proud of you for wanting to become a nurse, but never forget your doctor dream. We need great, inspiring people like you as our doctors! I should know--I have a daughter who is one! Good Luck to you, Brandy, and thanks for sharing with us. Report
Thank you for sharing your story. Hopefully I am one of those that can be the "fun mom" and chase the kids around too. It makes me know that if I "keep moving", I will reach my goals too! Report
You are a champ!!!!!
My mother still lives off of doughnuts and cookies. She is not over weight either. My mother was always a great cook who served balanced meals but she had to have cake! At 82 she does not even have adult onset diabetes. Meanwhile the rest of us ate a good meal plus the cake! Wish me luck on getting some of this weight off. I am 54 and it is taking a long time to lose weight. Report
Congratulations! You have broken that chain of obesity! That is so powerful because it is thats how we go...generation to generation, etc... Report
How great that you "got it," Brandy, and did something about it. You're right, though, this is something that people have to do for themselves. Report
Wow! You are so inspiring! To your daughter, to your family, and to all of us here at SparkPeople! Thank you! My daughter is 16 and battles with weight and she and I have been motivating each other to go to the gym to workout. It's great to have someone kind of shove you out the door to go especially when you just wanted to sit on the couch and watch tv. Thank you for your inspirational story! Report
Congratulations! Your story is inspirational and will help many people as they travel along their journey. Thank you for sharing your story. Report
What an inspiration you are. I loved that your article talked about eating right and getting healthy so you could enjoy life. It was also refreshing to hear that uour motivation for losing weight was so you could do things and be a good role model for your daughter, not just to look better. Thank you for sharing your story and good luck with the ongoing efforts of helping others learn healthy living habits. Report
You are definately an inspiration. I have a daughter in law who needs to read this article to help her daughter (my granddaughter). As there many bad eating habbits in that house hold. Thank you. Report
Brandy you have to be very proud of yourself, this was one of the best true stories I've read thanks for sharing!! You're a Blessing to alot of people. Report
I am absolutely grateful for your blog. It was definitely a wake-up call for me. Thanks for making a change and motivating others to make the same change. Report
Congrats! Report
I am scared that I will be obese the rest of my life! My grandmother was morrbily obese and my mother as well! I just want to be a healthy, happy mom and wife! Great job breaking the cycle in your family! Now it's my turn to break it in my family! Report
You're an inspiration! And you're so right about school lunches. Hopefully they'll improve soon. Report
Why to go I hope one day I can have a good ending to my journey. Thank You Report
Brandy, you should be on a healthy speaking tour. You must be an inspiration to all those you touch. Much success to you and your family. Report
Great job Brandy losing weight and learning how to eat better for yourself and your family. My husband has benefited from me losing weight on SP, since i do the cooking for both of us he is also eating more healthy foods. He has lost l0 pounds since i started on SP. Report
Brandy has taken "If it is to be, it is up to me," to a whole new level. Great article! Report
Brandy, you are an inspiration!! You will be a great nurse!! Report
That's FANTASTIC!! Way to go, Brandy! Report
Your story is very inspiring to all. Keep up the good work. Report
What an inspiration!!! Go girl!!! Report
Thank you for sharing!! Keep up the good work. Report
Very nice! Thank you for sharing!!!! I posted your blog on my facebook profile, I hope it inspires some people to teach thier kids to eat well, and have a fun healthy lifestyle. If yougrow up doing it it is just natural, and you don't have to relearn to make healthy choices. Report