Jolted Into Action: How My Feisty Niece Got Me Back on the Healthy Track


By Dawn Onley

I remember the moment because I was mildly offended and amused at the same time.

I had just finished my annual Vision Board and was showing it to my 17-year-old niece, Maya. As I explained the themes, one of which was to get back in shape and to drop some weight, her saucy response was: “That’s been on your Vision Board for the past 3 years. Let’s get it done this year, ok?”

Um, ok.


I laughed at how spot on and funny the comment was, even though my pride suffered a bit of a blow. It proved to be just what I needed to hear. In previous years, I accomplished many goals on my Vision Board while I struggled to stay consistent with my diet and exercise because I love cake and bread and pasta and cheese and everything else that doesn’t love me back. As a result, my weight loss goals have remained elusive. Maya’s reminder jolted me back to reality. Even while I deluded myself each year with my half-hearted effort, she had noticed. She was paying attention. She knew I could do better.

She was holding me accountable.

It forced me to have a serious conversation with myself. Her words made me question and ultimately decide whether I wanted to spend this year talking about getting healthier or actually doing it. I decided to finally get serious about what I eat, when I eat, how much I eat, how often I exercise, how often I challenge myself during those exercises, how much water I consume, how much sleep I get, etc.


I knew in that instance my thinking had shifted. Before then, I was way too casual about becoming healthier, and because of this, I wasn’t getting the results I was after. Imagine a person wanting to save money, year after year, to accomplish a goal yet not changing any aspect of how they budgeted their money, or refusing to sacrifice some of their wants for the bigger picture.

This is exactly how I felt regarding getting healthier.

Suddenly, it all made sense. I now felt more serious about the outcome and more determined to make it happen. I had finally reached the point of being sick and tired of being sick and tired — sometimes literally.

Admittedly a portion of it came down to this: I like to win. Scratch that, I LOVE to win. Plain and simple. I took Maya’s comment as a challenge. But it also came down to this: Getting stuff is fun, planning experiences is a thrill, but there is no bigger reward and better payoff than taking care of our physical bodies and improving our health. Not just for vanity’s sake, although that’s icing on the cake, but to ward off a whole host of maladies that threaten to come as we age and as our metabolism slows down.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve dropped 6 pounds. It’s been a slow process, but I’m learning what triggers unhealthy food choices inside of my brain and which foods instantly make me feel sluggish and look bloated. I’m paying attention to my new-found energy. I’m noticing a difference in how I feel.


I’m not there yet. I still have a ways to go. I still have off moments and days. But I’m making great progress. I’m making better choices. I know that turning back is not an option. I still have about 20 pounds left to shed and this year, I’m more hopeful than ever that I will reach it. I’m on a roll!

Sometimes what we need most is the type of jolt that only a teenager can deliver.

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