Tarrick Lavender faced a serious illness that took over her life, but strengthening her mental resolve helped her win the fight and live a healthier life.
Written By Carrie Vittitoe | Submitted Photos
Moms of young children know it is a challenge to find time to do anything for themselves; even going to the bathroom alone is a luxury. But in order to take care of one’s family, moms have to take care of themselves first. It isn’t an easy task, but it can be done with support and commitment. Tarrick Lavender, a stay-at-home mom of five children (ages 11, 10, 9, 5, and 2), created some systems to help her get healthy when Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) began to wreak havoc on her body.
Prior to having her children, Tarrick didn’t have problems with her weight, but her pregnancies changed everything about her body. “I was losing weight during my pregnancies but gaining weight after I had the babies,” she says. She developed diabetes and had liver issues so doctors encouraged her to start exercising. It didn’t take long, though, for them to realize that exercise alone wasn’t going to cut it for her. “I can work out as much as I want, but I had to figure out a diet plan. I went to a dietary specialist; he had to give me a strict diet,” she says. In 37 days of following her new food plan, she lost 26 pounds.
Under this diet, Tarrick can have unlimited vegetables all day. She can have six ounces of seafood or four ounces of land meat. “I can’t have any starches; no macaroni and cheese, no mashed potatoes, none of that,” she says. She can only have a certain amount of fruits each day, as well. It is a challenge to follow this diet, and Tarrick admits that sometimes life and busyness get in the way of following it perfectly. But at the time she was placed on this diet, “my life was hanging in the balance,” she says. “They didn’t know what was wrong with my liver. My hair was falling out.”
“I would start on the treadmill. I would walk for about a minute and then run for 30 seconds. I would run and then walk, run and then walk.”
The exercise part of Tarrick’s lifestyle change wasn’t simple either, but she used the support of friends and family to help make it happen. She and other stay-at-home mom friends would meet at Iroquois Park and walk four miles five days a week. Tarrick also had the support of her husband, Brandon, who got her a Planet Fitness membership. “I would go to Planet Fitness every night around midnight,” she says. She would work out for about 90 minutes. “I would start on the treadmill. I would walk for about a minute and then run for 30 seconds. I would run and then walk, run and then walk,” she says. She would then switch to crunches, pushups, jumping jacks, and weights. Finally, Tarrick had the support of the public and her community. “I started going live on Facebook,” she says, which led to other women joining her at the park to walk.
Anyone who has tried to make changes to their dietary and exercise habits knows that stress and life changes can turn things upside down, at least for a while. Tarrick and her family recently moved from Louisville to Texas and had some vacations in the last couple months, which threw both her diet and exercise plans off. She is now incorporating more salads back into her daily routine: “Bell peppers, red onions, flaxseeds, cucumbers, Tony’s Cajun seasoning, and lite Italian dressing. It’s battling the belly fat,” she says.
Tarrick has learned a lot about her metabolism and physical health from this experience, but she’s also learned a lot about her psyche.
“I started to become depressed. When I met my husband I was 110-115 pounds. Over the course of our marriage of 13 years, I probably gained around 80,” she says. Although Brandon would tell her she is beautiful no matter what, those words weren’t what Tarrick was telling herself. “I make sure I tell myself every day that I’m beautiful and I’m worthy. My husband can tell me, but as women we go through our own personal battles.”
Commit to Living a Healthier Life
Jennifer Daily, M.D., CAQSM and Medical Director with UofL Health Sports Medicine says making simple lifestyle changes results in increased energy and improved sleep quality which elevates our mood and strengthens resiliency. “You cannot drive your car without gas, and likewise you cannot manage a challenging workday and busy family life without the right food, daily exercise, and positive reflection to sustain you,” she says. She shares three suggestions for taking control of your health so you can be your best every day.
- Get moving. Five minutes of brisk walking can get you started. If you have a desk job, take time to stand. Take the steps, not the elevator. Physical inactivity is the greatest challenge to improving our health.
- Eat real food – fruits, vegetables, lean protein. Do not skip meals. And hydrate – women should drink approximately 2.5 liters of water a day.
- Find healthy ways to deal with stress. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a great deal of anxiety and isolation. Disconnect from nonstop social media and too much news. Read a book or sign up for daily positive affirmations. Connect with a group of women to meet with weekly for real social interaction. — Tiffany White