Why I Finally Take Care of Myself

I spent my entire twenties as a dedicated couch potato. Sleep late? Yup. Chocolate PopTarts for breakfast? Four, please! Weeknight activity? Watching Friends on the couch with a bag of Doritos, thankyouverymuch.

I was never unhappy enough with my appearance or fitness level to do anything differently, although my jeans size always fell firmly in the “plus size” category, and I got winded climbing the two flights of stairs to my apartment. At 25, I got married. To a man whose business is fitness. He had loved me as a couch potato since we met at age 18, and I saw no reason to change for him since he seemed quite pleased with the junk in my trunk.

When I was 28 I had my first daughter and the couch potato life seemed like a natural fit for someone with an infant. When I was 31, I had my second daughter. Nine months later, I ran my first half marathon.

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For the first half of my training, I hated Every. Single. Mile. Sure, I was doing it for me — I had held onto a few pregnancy pounds from each of my girls, and was getting close to needing a size bigger than I’d ever worn before, but mostly it was my girls who kept me putting one foot in front of the other.

My oldest daughter was three, and I just couldn’t keep up with that energy level. Her little sister was just a baby, but the busiest baby I had ever met. I needed to keep up with them and the demands of being a mom. More than that, I wanted to be an example for them. A strong, capable, confident woman. When I was wavering at mile ten on race day, it was their sweet faces on the sidewalk, cheering for me, that made me keep running when I thought I couldn’t.

“Skinny” is not part of the conversation with my girls, but “strong” and “healthy” are big. I don’t talk about losing weight or looking fat, because the world is going to bombard them soon enough.

When I was 33, I had a surprise baby, a boy. I had a five year old, a two year old, and a newborn. I had a husband who had just started a new business, a part-time job with many clients to please, and an energy- and joy-sucking case of post-partum anxiety. Something had to go, and running could have been the first thing. I had shown my girls I was strong, right? I didn’t have time. I didn’t have the energy, or the desire. I was barely keeping my head above water and keeping all three kids alive seemed like the best I could do.

But then I knew I had to do it for my boy. The boy who will grow up to be a boyfriend, a husband, a father. Just like my girls need to know that women can be strong, so does my son. I want him to be drawn to someone with healthy self-esteem based on what she can do, not how she looks. Someone adventurous who feels strong enough to go rock-climbing or mountain biking with him.

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When he is a father, I want him to teach his daughters to play sports just as he would his sons.

So many moms are aware of being a role model for their daughters, but our boys need that, too. They will very likely be forming their ideas of good wives/girlfriends based on what we model for them.

I want all three of my kids to know being healthy is important, and feel like they can do anything. I want them to know women can be strong and confident.

And I want them to be comfortable eating that fourth chocolate PopTart every once in a while, too.

Related post: Through My Children’s Eyes

About the writer

Julie Holt is the mother of three fantastic (except when they're not) children under six, and the wife of the world's most patient man.  She works part time as a hairstylist, but should probably just call herself a therapist. Julie spends her free time running, reading, and fantasizing about actually having free time. You can find her on Twitter.


Lisa Franklin Smith 10 months ago

Smore’s Poptarts are so yummy :). And getting in better shape, being healthier and feeling better is SOOOOO worth it!

Jessica Wegrzynski Barone 10 months ago

Love it. Strong, healthy, HAPPY. not against anyone trying to lose weight, I am too. I try to stay active to keep myself healthy but also to keep up with our son ( and dog)

Angie 10 months ago

I can relate to the first part of this. I’m 36 and still a couch potato. 2 boys and 37 weeks pregnant with a girl. After I recover from my planned c section, it’s on. I need to get healthy for my kids….be active, be strong, and be here for as long as I possible can. I want to be a good role model but I also want to be spend as much of their life with them as possible.

Julia Gutierrez Sparacello 10 months ago

Facing this and this lady hit the nail on the head.

Roxanne Heisler Burke 10 months ago

I just started working on getting rid of bad habits. Hoping to continue working on bettering myself

Holly Luvmyhubs Engler 10 months ago

I did it for my older 2 when they were little but with a divorce, working lots of hours, & a very busy social life (aka lots of drinking & eating out) I regained all my weight. I now have a 16 month old, am at my heaviest but I’ve promised him & myself I will do it again. I’m taking care of myself for baby boy! I don’t want him to remember me like I am now.

Vivian Harrold 10 months ago

Take care of myself??? Yeah right! If I’m not on point the whole world will explode!

Jenna Sampson 10 months ago

Not a runner but this is my exact reason for starting my own path of health and fitness nearly 2 years ago.

Lisa Wise 10 months ago

Love this! I wasn’t a full-fledged couch potato before having my son (I had a gym membership, I exercised at least once a week or so, and I was always starting a new diet). But I gained 60 lbs with pregnancy and have only lost about 35 in the 20 months since. A year ago, I had to have surgery on my knee due to a torn meniscus, and my doctor said I had arthritis due to my extra weight. My husband fell in love with me 30 lbs overweight, still loved me at 90lbs too heavy, and says my stretched-out deflated belly are sexy. He doesn’t care.
BUT as my little boy becomes more and more active, I need energy to keep up. I want him to make healthy and balanced food choices, which is why his diet includes both Kale chips and the occasional Chick-fil-A. I want him to see me as a strong woman, but also to learn how to be fit and healthy. So while running a half-marathon might be too much for my knee, I think I could manage to walk at least a 5k soon.

Leanne Robertson Marrese 10 months ago

Brought tears to my eyes. Keeping this to read again and again to get me motivated to get healthy again and be a role model for my 17 and 4 year olds

Christina Anthony Bechard 10 months ago

I didn’t love myself to take care of me and developed diabetes. So now in loving my daughter enough to lose 30pds so far and am no longer diabetic. Spending time with hr walking is always fun…well once we get out there. She’s my motivation.

    Christina Anthony Bechard 10 months ago

    Correct Helen. I’m no longer in the diabetic zone. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant, but my sugar levels returned to normal after I had the baby. However I gained so much weight after I had the baby that I became diabetic. My mother is a diabetic and I knew I had a predisposition to it. I never monitored my sugars prior to being pregnant so I very well could have been prediabetic but never went to dr for physicals.

Ali Faye Rood 10 months ago

Almost 56, dealing with arthritis in my knees and other chronic pain, yet I want to be healthy. Thanks for the encouragement. It was only a few minutes ago that I was 33 with 3 kids and I remember the energy it took. I keep trying because I want to be healthy. Thank you for your words. I enjoy your posts.

Katie Sanders 10 months ago

Love this one!

Nancy Welker Fortais 10 months ago

This was me! I took up running- just two or three miles each day- when my first was born. It was cheaper than the gym (just needed a good pair of shoes) and took about a half hour. The “me” time was priceless. I ran my first half marathon at 39 and try to run one at least once each year. It’s not about being thin- something I’ll never be- but about being strong, healthy and a good role model. They also need to know you need to take care of yourself- and some days fitting my run in can be tough. I work full time and their schedules are pretty crazy, too, but they know “mom needs to go for her run”. BTW- my family also stands at mile 10 on my half marathon and those cheers of “you can do it” give me the boost I need to keep going and finish!

Kristin Unrein Maiorano 10 months ago

And this is why I’m running my first 1/2 marathon in October

Katie Krause 10 months ago

Read this at 2 am eating Doritos in bed after waking up to take care of a 2 yo nightmare…. Think this was a good late night read.

Vikki Ashton 10 months ago

.. And off to the gym I go!

Allison 10 months ago

Love this article! Before my son, I drank and ate as I pleased and the pounds kept adding up. After my son, I used the excuse that I just had a baby. Then I saw a photo of myself…. Oh my. But the best possible thing that could have happened. I tossed my excuses out the window and started taking care of me. I also suffered one hell of a case of postpartum anxiety but getting healthy changed my outlook of absolutely everything. I dropped 90 lbs (yep nine-zero) and got down to the size I had been in high school. I started doing 5Ks and mud runs and having a blast dressing my new, fit bod. When I became pregnant with my daughter, I truly struggled emotionally with the weight gain. My doctor told me I probably wouldn’t lose the weight like I did last time, so I set out to prove her wrong. And now at just 3 months postpartum, I am back in my pre-baby clothes and feeling amazing. All it took was someone to tell me I couldn’t. Everything I’ve done, I’ve done for myself but I know my family benefits immensely from a healthy diet, exercise and a happy mommy. Find whatever motivates you – even if that’s someone telling you that you can’t – and be the parent you’ve always aspired to be!

Danelle Bailey 10 months ago

I started the fit lifestyle a few years before becoming a mom but motivated by that future and the wisdom of learning when I had the time. So glad now!

Julie Anne Kroeker Collett 10 months ago

I’m saving this story. I am a rotund couch potato and have a super athletic 14 -year -old daughter and a husband and two sons that love to ride motocross, swim, and ride bikes. Yeah, it pretty embarrassing to be the fat mom at their events!!

    Nicole Gonzales 10 months ago

    When you decide that you are ready to get healthy please let me know! I run accountability groups and clean eating educational groups and would love to help you!
    I am a mom of twin boys and started my health journey to be able to run with them and not feel like I needed an inhaler! Now I am still working for it but trying to help others reach their goals as well.

    Amber Leys 10 months ago

    Right there with ya hun! It’s tough breaking a lifetime of couch lovin habits. But like this post says, it’s not about losing the “fat mom” label, it’s just about being healthy enough to keep up and enjoy life WITH our kiddos instead of being an observer 😉

    Mary Schneider 10 months ago

    Yeah but you know what- it’s not embarrassing to have MOM at their events. There are too many kids who don’t have parents who show up. Way to go, Mama, and good luck!

Cris Castro 10 months ago

Omg I almost cried. I love my baby so much and I never thought about it like this. I feel super selfish now :/ gym time it is.

Elvia Perez 10 months ago

I can totally relate! I’ve been a couch potato all my life. Now I have a two year old boy, with an abundance of energy!
I just joined the gym. I need to be able to keep up with him now but what’s more important…I need to stay healthy because it’s not all about me anymore. He is going to need me for many years to come.

    Carrie Nelson 10 months ago

    Elvia- I have the same why as you. Last summer I was in a rut, because I couldn’t play hard enough with my kids. My son is 2 and daughter is 4. I started working out at home and eating more cleanly. I’ve lost 30 pounds since then and plan to lose more. I’m doing this for myself, but in turn being a better mom. It’s about becoming strong and athletic for them. Let me know if you need any help or support, because I’ve turned this into more. I have groups on FB helping other people feel better on the inside and outside.

    Elvia Perez 10 months ago

    Carrie Nelson It’s so motivating to hear your story! They asked me at the gym my reason for joining. A few years ago I would have said to loose weight….and while I do need to loose at least 30 pounds…the first thing that came out of my mouth was “I need to feel healthy and energized”. I was proud of myself for finally having turned the page and realizing how important it is to take care of ourselves inside and then out.
    I would LOVE to join one of your groups!

Jessica Hunkele 10 months ago

Yes!! I so needed this right now!

    Carrie Nelson 10 months ago

    I feel like I could have written parts of this. It spoke right to me. Let me know if you need any help or support. I have groups on FB helping other people feel better on the inside and outside.

Morgan Allen 10 months ago

great read

Averi 10 months ago

Oh Julie, I think we’d be great friends. I’m right there with you.

Nicci Casey 10 months ago

Great read! Love every bit of it!!

John Shaff 10 months ago

Good story

Sarah Guilfoy 10 months ago

This is so touching. I can completely relate. ♥

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Dawn White 1 year ago

I used to have guilt about taking time away from my kids to workout until I read somewhere to think of it like being on a plane and they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first THEN help your children with theirs, because you aren’t in a position to be an effective parent while you’re depriving yourself of what you need. Taking care of yourself IS taking care of your kids. Change your perspective, rearrange your priorities, make things happen.

Emily Darling-Funk 1 year ago


Jasmine Eaglin 1 year ago

Perfectly said!

Kelz Pyffer 1 year ago

it’s awesome how she pointed out the emphasis of “healthy and strong” vs. “skinny” …. a healthy attitude will take you further in life than a bad attitude about body image ever will, which is what I wanna teach my daughter. you only get 1 body in life so you need to be comfortable in your own skin!

Steph Church 1 year ago

Love what you are saying and it hits a spot in my heart. I think both genders need a role model but with fitness they can both learn the same lesson. At the end u stuck up more for your son than the girls. Equal rights r what we hav to teach

Kathy Naldrett 1 year ago

Love love love x

Ashley Norman 1 year ago

I love this!!!

Emily Victoria Brandon 1 year ago

I love running! It’s seriously the best break from the monotony of every day life.

Sharon @ What The Fork Food Blog 1 year ago

THIS. I love this <3

Rebecca Stockwell 1 year ago

Sometimes you need to take time for yourself! I know that my households happiness is hugely intertwined with my own happiness and that usually stems from how I feel about myself and my body.
Luckily my husband recognises this and so two nights a week I toddle off to bootcamp. We all benefit from it; my girls get a happy energetic Mum, my husband gets a happy not so jiggly wife and I feel proud about my accomplishments.

Melissa Bjerke Thome 1 year ago


Christine Gritmon 1 year ago

I’m a total couch potato and I think it’s made my second pregnancy much harder. I really want to start taking care of myself now. I already started eating better after Kid #1 and started taking slightly better care of myself during this second pregnancy but I want to kick the actual physical activity up a notch once she’s out.

    Mandy Engelbrecht 1 year ago

    walking made my pregnancy a breeze, once the chiropractor sorted out the sciatica…

Stephanie Torok Waddell 1 year ago

So glad to see a commentary of a mom being a healthy example for her son. Poor body and confidence issues shown by moms can be passed to sons as easily as daughters.

Denise Heaney 1 year ago

Wow. That’s made me think. I knew I wanted to be healthy for my kids, esp. my daughter. Now I have more reason to think of my son as well. Thank you!

Autumn Garrod 1 year ago

You have to choose to make the time. My kids don’t allow me to exercise at home so I go to the Y, where they can play with other kids while I take care of myself. And impress everyone with how many pull ups I can do, not how many pullups I can change 😉

Nichole Ferello 1 year ago

I loved this article. I’m pregnant with my third, but I look better than I do in my wedding pictures, I believe. Though pre-kid me was more well-rested :). It’s tough to fit in exercise, but so worth it. Eating right is easier at the moment than fitness, but both are an important piece of the puzzle. I love playing soccer and teaching my daughter how to hit a baseball, two activities that bored me when I was young. :)

Mandy McClain Broker 1 year ago

I have a 7 & 5 yr old and a 6mo old. After I had the baby, I was tired of feeling exhausted and drained all the time so I started working out from home. I do Turbo Fire and Piyo and love it and my kids can even workout with me. The baby laughs at me in his swing and the older two watch and try it out with me. It’s been a fun bonding experience, and my children and family benefit from the extra energy I have because I’m taking care of myself. It’s not selfish to want your family to experience the best YOU that you can be!

Shannon Forrester Roberts 1 year ago

So true!!!

Heather 1 year ago

I agree that we need to set the same example for our boys as we do our girls, that women can be strong confident and powerful and that we want them to encourage them to seek out women based on something other than their looks, but I don’t think it is universal that we need them to seek out adventurous outdoorsy types who like sports and physical pursuits at all. I think that personality, more than athletic ability or even health, should be key.

A healthy self-esteem based on what a person can do doesn’t automatically mean that what they can do is physical. I have a healthy self-esteem that comes from knowing I’m an intelligent problem solver who can learn quickly and be creative. I nurture my creativity more than my physical body and that is okay too.

Lore Na 1 year ago

Great article!

Michelle Harwood Dero 1 year ago

I’m trying to get in the mindset that I can put myself first when it comes to taking care of myself

Jessica Anne Dill 1 year ago

Today i was up a 430am and had my 4 mile run done long before anyone else woke up. I knew i wouldnt have any other blocks of time today, so i just did it early and it felt amazing :)

Jessica Anne Dill 1 year ago

I have been using my gym for childcare during the summer if im working oyt there. but most is done at home with them with me, we have a treadmill which helps a lot, but between my husband and i we make sure we plan out our weeks so we both can get work outs in! Its a lot about just making it a priority and scheduling it just like anything else. Dont make it an option.

Christina Justice Gillardo 1 year ago

Still trying to get in the mindset that taking care of myself is okay and that my kids will survive without me. (unfortunately I didn’t marry a man who has a clue so I have had to do pretty much everything and all of the time.) I know that I need to set a better example for my kids but it’s really hard to do when you don’t know how. Not that I can’t, I just really don’t know how. I know that sounds stupid but my mother was a single parent who worked and went to school and took care of my sister and I. She never did anything for herself. Ever. So for me to think that I am worth the time away from my family is just completely alien. When I think about it, I think that it’s selfish to focus on me when I have kids. I need to lose weight and get into better shape but I can’t seem to focus on anything other than kids and laundry and the house and the yard and every other thing that I have to take care of. How on Earth does one just ignore all of that and workout??!! Please tell me so that I can have a clue to put myself first for once. I deserve it. Thanks.

    Mandy McClain Broker 1 year ago

    I try to look at it more like I’m taking care of myself than “focusing” on myself. I want to be able to chase, and run and play with them, and I can’t do that if I’m not exercising daily and eating right! Being healthy and active is the best gift you can give your family (and my first husband was not at all supportive, so I feel you on that!). You are definitely worth it, and you AND your children deserve a healthy, happy you!

    An Le-Be 1 year ago

    I think it’s even okay to be a little selfish from time to time. You’re a human being of your own after all, not existing merely for others. That would actually be sad.

    Christina Justice Gillardo 1 year ago

    Thanks for the comments. I guess it would be easier if I was actually married to a man who was supportive and would handle things on his own so that I didn’t feel like I was neglecting my duties. I literally have no life or existence outside of my house or kids and it is really sad and has made me miserable. I know that it is a choice but I always felt like my kids would suffer if I wasn’t handling things. I am resentful of the fact that I am everything to everyone because no one is that for me. I need to put myself first and just go for walks at the park because the house will still be there when I get home. I am worth the time and the effort for sure.

      Reina 10 months ago

      My son and I dance while we pick up. Lunging, squatting, jumping, and running circles around the living room with a sword whilst dumping toys into a basket. Take as long as you need to putting the blocks away. Wave them over your head and high step. Even when he gets bored, I keep going. He will color or read books, I “dance” and clean up.

    Valerie Swenson 1 year ago

    It’s hard the first few weeks. I have a y membership so they watch the kids, or I go in the morning before they’re awake. At first I feel more exhausted, but after about 2-3 weeks, I get the energy boost. It gives me more energy to then accomplish everything else.
    Also, if you’re trying to keep a perfect house you might need to adjust your expectations of yourself. I personally sat down and picked the things that were really important, and then allowed some of the rest to slide. For example, my hubby works second shift so I don’t worry about having the house picked up at night because he never sees it. But I do make sure to keep the laundry room (where he comes in from the garage) and hallways clear. I don’t keep a perfectly dusted home, but I make sure that all the laundry is hung up so that uniforms are not wrinkly. That kind of thing.
    Best of luck!

    Mandy Engelbrecht 1 year ago

    take a look at http://www.flylady.net if you want some ideas on keeping the house under control, but have to say it is hard when your other half either is gone for weeks for work, or is a waste of space when they are home, so I’m grateful that we only had 1 kid, & though not the best idea, I left him when said kid turned 15… Never been happier, or at least since I was dumb enough to get pregnant & then married…
    Good luck & there is a lot of good advice from the others above – YOU ARE WORTH IT!!!!

    Tara 1 year ago

    I was in the hospital for 4 days back in 2011 for pulling out my back again. While I was there I had several different nurses tell me, “As we get older” I think they were in cahoots with each other to REALLY make me pay attention! Lol ok! Ok! I got it! I have 5 kids, and I’ve never been really over weight but I eat crap. I never exercised a day in my life (at 38) but I realized I didn’t want to be in a wheelchair. I wanted to be able to get up and down off the floor without a huge struggle, and not hurt myself with every movement! Lol I wanted to be the old lady who still lifts weights! I joined cross fit and I learned more than I ever imagined! I have since quit because of the expense but I can take what I’ve learned with me to any gym! There is also a website for free works every day, emailed to you, and some are just 4 min. Workouts! Remember SOMETHING is better than nothing at all! I haven’t worked out in a while either but I try to get in something here and there. Hopefully I’ll get back at it 3-4 days a week. Check out YouTube! There are tons of things you can do at home! You don’t need a gym. But you do need self discipline which is where many of us are lacking. Lol

    Julia Nowak 1 year ago

    I work out in the morning before the kids (ages 1 and 3–so when they’re awake they need constant supervision) are awake. Half hour workouts at home. Then shower and get on with my day. It means getting up early, but it’s worth it!

    Dawn White 1 year ago

    Go to a gym with childcare, my kids love it so much they beg to go which helps keep me on track because a lot of times when I might be tempted to skip because I’m exhausted, I’ll still go just to shut them up, lol. Beyond that it’s all about priorities. I’m a single mom, there’s NO WAY I can “do it all”, so I don’t even try. With three little boys running amuck my house is always messy, I have the shaggiest lawn in the neighborhood and I’m sure my neighbors hate me but my kids are healthy, fed, loved and their mama is fit and strong, IDK, to me it’s a happy trade.

Tania Carfa Tarshishi 1 year ago

Same here-help! I have two kids under 3 and I just don’t find enough time in a day!!

Erin Zielenski 1 year ago

Nobody has time. You MAKE time.

Exercise doesn’t add time to your life, but life to your time!

    Valerie Swenson 1 year ago

    Well said!

    Alicia Collins-Goveia 1 year ago

    Love this

Esther Renea Poole 1 year ago

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for this. I was a mom like your former self (Couch Spud) .. I have a 6 year old & 4 year old son and my daughter is shy of 2. I want to be a healthy role model for them and I had neglected myself most of my days since I became a mom. I woke up on day and realized my surrounding. I live 2 miles from Mammoth Cave National Park. So I stopped complaining of all my baby weight & I started exploring my surroundings with my kids. The weight started coming off slowly with out trying and my kids love our walks in nature and jogging up rock trails and wadding in the river .. My son just started first grade & he said he likes a girl b/c she raced him to the slide while the others just watched lol

Carol A McCullough 1 year ago

I am just starting to take care of myself after being an at home mom to my two daughters for 13 years now. It’s hard when you are so busy taking care of everyone else’s needs. But I decided when I turned 40 I needed to start making myself a priority. Lost my own mother to colon cancer when she was 51 and she could’ve possibly caught it early if she took better care of herself. It’s still a work in progress, but I won’t forget because I know what it’s like to grow up without your mom.

Valerie Ann 1 year ago

I want to be strong for my son to – and although I have no intention of running daily, I’d like to do a 5K while pushing him in his stroller! its a goal – someday I’ll achieve it!

H Zahid 1 year ago

Thank you so much for writing this! I gave up a six figure salary so that I could have my baby girl and I don’t regret it one bit. I do, however, regret not being active now that I have the time and I feel like I am letting myself and my daughter down. I need to be a better example for her and that begins by taking care of myself.


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