COVER STORY | By Lara Bell
Photos by Michael Martinez Photography
Styling by Full Blown Dry Bar –
Over the last three years, I gained 45 pounds while going through my mom’s illness and eventual death last January. I ate fast food on the run and didn’t exercise. In September, a friend of mine and I took a grief class together. In the middle of this weekly class, I felt myself circling back to the Lara I once was. I gained courage to confront my unhealthy eating and reel in poor choices. In turn, I have taken a proactive role in developing healthy patterns of eating and exercise for my family and myself. In my newfound love for health, I wanted to find out what other Memorial ladies are doing to stay fit and motivated.
Susan Westmoreland McConkey, 50
“Physical fitness has always been important to me, and now that I am 50, I feel it is even more important to stay active. I make time every day to do some form of exercise. When my kids were young, that could be challenging, but I was able to find gyms with fantastic child centers and encouraged friends to join. Our gym time became a play date for our children!
“Now, my kids are grown and gone, but physical fitness is still a priority for me. I wake up early each morning and either go running or go to Lifetime, where I combine cardio work with weight training. I also love to cycle. Every year, I train and ride in the MS150. By remaining fit, I am strong and more energetic. We love to ski, scuba dive, hike, fish and more. And the fun that I have with my kids and their friends is worth every early morning sweat session! I feel that exercise is a blessing – not a chore. I am grateful that I am physically able to work out. Once the commitment becomes a habit, it’s really not difficult to maintain, and it is definitely worth the effort.”
Beth Houston, 39
“As a teen, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, and I have found that keeping a strong back and staying active is the best way to stay pain-free. I walk my dog two to three miles a day in our neighborhood and on the bayou trails. Also, I enjoy taking weightlifting classes at the gym about three days each week. Strength training is so important, because it helps achieve muscle tone, keeps bones strong and increases metabolism. My advice to those trying to get fit is to be as active as possible. Find an activity that you enjoy, and make it part of your daily lifestyle. With a consistent healthy lifestyle, you will really see results! Just be patient.”
Casey Brand, 44
“I began running over 22 years ago, so literally half of my life. It is such a part of my life that there is little separation from it and me. My story is nothing like my training partners’ and best friends’ stories; however, when we are out running or biking side by side, our shadows and lives blend into one. Our common goal is something that I find so much support and security in.
“When my son, who is now in eighth grade, was in first grade, I started a running group at his school, Meadow Wood Elementary, twice a week before school. There were no real rules but to show up and run. Teachers told me that kids behaved better and were more alert in class on our running days and that they had less disciplinary issues in class. Kids who otherwise weren’t involved in sports because of either monetary or interest showed up all on their own, and they belonged.”
Kristy Lancaster, 44
“I was heavier in high school and ate fast food all of the time. I worried about my weight and always felt like a failure. In boarding school, we would go to the 7-Eleven, get a big gulp of diet coke and make that lunch thinking it would make us skinny and look great. It wasn’t until I was in charge of my own kitchen after college that I really found a love for food and healthy eating.
“Nutrition is most important. If you have poor nutrition, you will not have energy for more important things in life, like family, kids or giving back to others. I eat lean protein at every meal, including snacks. I try not to eat white carbs and stick to whole grains. Besides the recovery drink and one to two cups of coffee, I only drink water or sparkling water. I love swimming, biking, yoga, running and boot camp workouts. Once exercise is a habit, it will stick. I think it is important to continually be setting personal goals to stay motivated.”