What I Learned From My Mother
With Mother’s Day around the corner, I’ve been thinking about how my mother has guided me, including my career choice as a wellness entrepreneur. Long before there was social media, my mom Shon Field was the first “influencer” in my life. She has always been ahead of her time. In the 1960s, she was running around her neighborhood in Keds. She tracked her exercise in a calendar before there was FitBit, planned meals based on macronutrients before My Fitness Pal existed, and ate locally from the food co-op before organic certifications were widespread. She has a master’s degree in exercise physiology and her lifestyle includes eating well, exercising daily, and always opting for natural solutions over medications. She gave me a healthy foundation and continues to be a wealth of knowledge.
Five Mom-approved Healthy Habits
I learned more from my Mom than I could possibly include here, but these are the most important:
1. Eat breakfast—especially eggs.
A typical teenager, I was always running late out the door to school. My mom would scramble an egg or two and remind me that I could finish it in 3 minutes or less. She impressed on me that I needed nourishment for my mind and body to have a great day. I was always grateful that I’d eaten breakfast when my stomach started to growl for lunch in math class. I can’t imagine how I would have felt if I hadn’t.
I continue to prioritize breakfast today. Currently, my favorite standard is two soft-boiled eggs with a whole-wheat English muffin and sometimes a piece of fruit. Eggs are a power pair of protein and healthy fat that kick start your morning and keep you satiated throughout the day.
2. Recognize thirst vs. hunger.
My mom had a funny analogy for the feeling of dehydration. She would say, “You look like a little wilted flower! Are you thirsty?” I learned from my mom that dehydration makes us feel lethargic and we often confuse hunger with thirst because of this lack of energy. My mom started sending me to school with a water bottle in my backpack when I ramped up athletically in middle school, and I noticed that I did feel more energetic when I drank a lot of water.
Hydration is super important for a healthy metabolism, muscle recovery, and even our skin. So drink up and remember if you’re feeling hungry for no reason, you might just be thirsty!
3. Practice portion control.
Second helpings were not a part of our family dinners. My mom made balanced meals that she plated and served. I remember that I could always tell whose plate was whose based on the amount of food that was perfectly matched to our needs. We were never forced to finish our food, but we weren’t allowed snacks after dinner if we didn’t. As my siblings and I grew up and started playing sports, our meal sizes grew, too. This was my introduction to portion control, thanks to my mom. She demonstrated to us every day the concept of being full.
4. Have intentional treats.
My family went to the same beach town every summer growing up, and there was a local ice cream shop that we always visited. It was a summer tradition, a special treat we had on vacation after a full day of running around on the beach. We each got a single scoop and enjoyed every last bite.
We didn’t keep ice cream in the house all the time— dessert was a treat rather than a routine. But we always stocked the real thing—no fake sugars or low-fat versions. My mom may have passed on her sweet tooth to her kids, but she taught us that special treats should be just that—special.
5. Stay young with exercise.
My siblings and I had a lot of energy as kids. My parents always encouraged us to play sports and set an example for us by exercising regularly themselves. I remember doing aerobics with my mom as a toddler in the 1980s and trying to swim laps with her in the pool. My mom told me that exercise made her feel alive and physical fitness made her feel young. I didn’t fully appreciate any of that until my 20’s, and I’m still learning in my 30’s.
I am so grateful to my mom for the habits she instilled in me, and summarizing the highlights made me curious to ask her: did she set out to teach me about a healthy lifestyle? It turns out she did!
Q&A With My Mom, Shon Field
What did you want to teach me about nutrition and fitness?
I wanted to teach you to enjoy the flavors and textures of real food: fruits and vegetables and grains, not “fad” processed food. I wanted to teach you that exercise is a basic necessity of a happy life, after food, clothing, and shelter.
What did you hope I would learn for myself?
That you would learn to enjoy the feeling of wellness that comes from eating real food—how wonderful it is to feel healthy. I wanted you to discover the joy of movement and strength and the emotional calm that results from exercise.
How have your beliefs changed over the course of your life?
I’m now much more concerned about food safety: I’m skeptical that fresh food is always safe and free from chemicals, pesticides, and packaging with preservatives. I now try to buy more organic food.
How would you describe your lifestyle now?
I make sure to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, exercise daily (even if it is just a 30-minute brisk walk), and hydrate throughout the day. For protein, I focus on fish from the “safe" list, shellfish, and antibiotic and hormone-free chicken. I eat whole-grain products and fruits and vegetables in season. For snacks, I love grape tomatoes and red grapes. When I eat out, I always make sure to order a salad, vegetables, and a whole-grain side dish. I eat slowly and stop eating before I feel full; then I usually take half my restaurant meals home for the next day’s lunch. I also eat “unhealthy” foods like alcohol, chocolate, salty snacks, farmed fish, red meat, etc.—but all in moderation.
After reading a draft of this article, my mom told me that it brought tears to her eyes. She realized that she had succeeded in her goal to teach me how live a happy life full of rewarding exercise and nutritious food. This Mother’s Day, thank your mother for a lesson, skill, or value you learned from her and share one of your health secrets with her!