Jeanine McDonald didn't fully realize how much she had neglected her body and health until her son gave her the wake-up call she says she needed.
The 39-year-old mom of four from Pennsylvania had already been designated as obese by her doctors when she asked her kids, "Do you think mommy is skinny or fat?"
Her now-7-year-old son, Chase, told her she was "really fat."
Turns out, being fat-shamed by your kids isn't a rare thing for moms, from questions about whether there's another baby on the way to their repetitive poking of your gut. Mom.me contributor Meredith Gordon was stunned when her kids said she had a big tummy or asked about her hips.
"Even if we get our bodies back after having kids, things aren’t exactly the same. Getting fat-shamed by your own kids hits below the belt. Literally. It hits right where it hurts," Gordon writes.
For McDonald, Chase's comment was straightforward and powerful.
“He obviously didn’t realize what he was saying would be hurtful, he was just being honest," she told Caters News. "But hearing that I was ‘really fat‘ from my son motivated me into action, I knew I couldn’t keep making poor life choices."
To the mom, her bodily changes were mainly driven by her pregnancies and daily food choices. Finding time to exercise was also very hard for her as a mom of four, three of which have autism.
“Having three boys with special needs is tough because there’s a lot of doctor appointments, therapy, etc," the event designer tells People. “You just get into a routine and it’s hard to get out of. My eating habits were terrible. I made dinner for the boys and ate what they ate. I did not take the time to prepare healthy dinners, as it’s very hard when you’re a full-time employee and mother of four.”
So for more than a year, the mom significantly changed her lifestyle.
In December 2015, she signed up with Isagenix, which is a diet and supplement-based program that cleanses toxins and fat from the body, and lost 30 pounds. But the plan has its critics who say it doesn't promote a balanced nutrition plan with the right vitamins and minerals.
McDonald told People she felt confident enough to start strength training and going to the gym in March 2016. She would go at night when she has a babysitter or follow routines she can do at home while they were asleep. The mom also traded chicken nuggets, hot dogs and pizzas for healthier options like fruits, grilled chicken, and egg whites and spinach.
McDonald hopes that by focusing on herself and her emotional and physical health, she can be a role model for her boys (ages 9, 7, 5 and 3) as well.
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Now, she weighs 131 pounds, has normalized her blood pressure, and doesn't feel breathless trying to walk up the stairs or keep up with her kids. She also started a Facebook and Instagram page @livingfitat40 to help motivate others into being their healthiest selves.