Sometimes it's natural for a mother's needs to come second after she has a kid—something single mom Marsha Parker knows all too well. (Related: How to Make Time for Self-Care When You Have None)
When she had her daughter Kumari eight years ago, Marsha's number-one goal was to make sure Kumari was healthy and getting the best of everything.
"I wasn't doing too well financially and wanted to use whatever money I had on my daughter's healthy eating," Marsha recently told Shape. "So I always ended up eating stuff that made sense economically, which was almost always bad for my health." (P.S. These 10 cheap meals will make you realize that eating healthy on a budget is totally possible.)
Never ever underestimate a mother losing for her 1 Love. Never ever underestimate YOU. From 250+ pounds to running 10 miles and feeling like I can run more miles. This a BLESSING!!!! Find your reason why and work. @nyrr #NBBronx10mile was an amazing race with amazing people. How blessed am I to have such an amazing little girl who loved me to better health? How blessed am I to have so many amazing people with @nyrr @ckoues @milehighrunclub and @team_mhrc ? How blessed am I to have friends who encourage me support me and Kumari on this journey of renewal? Super Blessed. I didn't have to run, but I was given the honor and privilege to do so. So I grabbed it and ran with it. Pun totally intended. #nyrr #teamforkids #runwithpassion #runforacause #runforlove #runbecauseyoucan #runningisagift #halfmarathontraining #nycmarathon #spreadrunning #teammhrc #BEASTMODE #spreadlove #spreadthehealth #forMyLittleGirl #mylittlehealthguru #MyPumpkinSpiceisWatching #shemakesthetracksweet #TrackFabulous #MilesandSmiles #InThisToRunThis #putonefootinfrontoftheother #AttainableMoonshots #ironsharpensiron #ckoues #ckokickboxing #jabcrosskick
Years passed, and while Marsha's financial situation got better, her eating habits didn't change. Before pregnancy, she weighed 130 pounds. But by the time her daughter was 4 1/2, Marsha's weight had spiked to 265. "Simple day-to-day tasks became harder to do," she says. "I remember one time I took my daughter out to play in the snow after a giant snowstorm—and all I could do was stand there while she threw snowballs at me because bending over and running around with her wasn't physically possible for me."
Marsha made a few efforts to lose weight, but nothing ever stuck. "I had hypertension and was told I was prediabetic," she says. "I would also wake up in the middle of the night with bad headaches."
I could literally give 100 reasons why I CKO. Losing 100 pounds in under a year is a huge reason, but what I have GAINED is priceless: Health, fun times with my little girl, and the ability to be an example of fitness for her are some important reasons why I CKO. Joining CKO was a new beginning for us. You are coached to lose weight and become stronger in a healthy way. You are surrounded by knowledgeable experts, who are vested in your progress. You learn to LOVE fitness, and that love for fitness translated to my little girl. We love CKO and the people. #WHYICKO #ckoues #ckokickboxing #jabcrosskick
What finally pushed her to make a change though, was her daughter realizing that her mom's health was out of control. "Kumari began reading at a very early age and liked to educate herself about healthy eating," Marsha says. "It didn't take long before she started noticing what I was eating versus what she was eating and started asking me to eat some of her healthy green foods. But I'd say 'No, that's for you.'"
What really put things in perspective for Marsha was when her daughter asked: "How come I eat healthily and you don't?"
"I didn't know what to say," Marsha says. "I had no excuse and knew she had a point. Every day, she'd offer me her green smoothies, tell me not to get up for a second serving, and even pray for me out loud every time I slipped up and fell back into my old eating habits." (Related: How Having a Daughter Changed My Relationship With Food Forever)
Marsha realized that to set a better example for her daughter, she had to practice what she preached—which was to eat well and live an active and healthy lifestyle. "I was showing her something entirely different than what I was trying to teach her," Marsha says. "If she grew older and fell into unhealthy habits, that would be my fault. And that realization made me buckle down."
This is a throwback, but last year I was wishing for the first step in this collage. Still working on things. Still learning. Still growing. The best thing is, I'm blessed to do these things with the best little girl in the world. She wants to kickbox, play tennis, run, eat broccoli everyday....everyday, she wants to help the less fortunate, she wants to hug trees. Ask me how I transformed and why I transformed, and why I'm continuing my mission and I'll say one name: Kumari. My little Lieutenant in Health is no joke. We must resume our @ckouppereastnyc obsession. #nyrr #teamforkids #runwithpassion #runforacause #runforlove #runbecauseyoucan #runningisagift #halfmarathontraining #nycmarathon #spreadrunning #teammhrc #BEASTMODE #spreadlove #spreadthehealth #forMyLittleGirl #mylittlehealthguru #MyPumpkinSpiceisWatching #shemakesthetracksweet #TrackFabulous #MilesandSmiles #InThisToRunThis #putonefootinfrontoftheother #AttainableMoonshots #ironsharpensiron #clouds #kickboxing #jabcrosskick
Marsha started with kickboxing classes. Within the first few months, she lost 65 pounds and got to a point where she felt comfortable running. "I started running at the Mile High Run Club, which is kind of the SoulCycle of running with music and lights, except it's on treadmills," she says. "Whatever I'd learn in class, I'd come home and show my daughter, who'd then want to go to Central Park and do it all over again. It became a bonding thing for us."
In the following months, Marsha started running four days a week. "I'd go to my running class in the city, go home, pick up my daughter, come back to the city, and run with her again in Central Park," she says. (Here are 11 science-backed reasons running is really good for you.)
Fast-forward to today and Marsha has three half marathons under her belt. And she has signed up to run the SHAPE Women's Half Marathon, which takes place in Central Park on April 15. But what she's looking forward to most is running the New York City Marathon in November. That has been on her bucket list for quite some time.
Someone wise told me to get out of my head. I'm growing in this fitness journey. I was about to let that growth deter me from embarking on being in a new position that would enable me to further that growth...all because of a silly fear of not being as fast or seasoned as everyone else. That fear is why many don't start or continue their journeys. Every master starts out as a beginner and I'm all about that mastery, so let the track work begin!!!!! Train with badasses and become a badass. Starting is the key. How foolish of me to grow this much and almost risk furthering that growth by filling my own head with doubts. It happens to the best of us. The point is to find the reason in smart advice. Thanks to the awesome coach at MHRC who took the time to shed some light on this matter. Growth and community on deck. #mhrc #milehighrunclub #mydimplesarepoppin
While putting herself and her health first took time, Marsha has finally learned to make it a priority. Now, even though she's putting herself through grad school while holding a remote job and homeschooling her daughter, Marsha always finds time to exercise and cook healthy meals.
"It's funny how once you make up your mind to do something, somehow you can make the time for it—somehow the hours in the day start working in your favor when you set the right intention," she says.
So far, Marsha has lost 110 pounds and her daughter Kumari has been her number-one fan, cheering her on along the way. "It's incredible to hear her say she's proud of me and point out how she can actually wrap her arms around me while giving me a hug—that's something she hasn't been able to do her whole life." (Are there people in your life who don't support your healthy habits? Here are a few ways to deal with them.)
Photo: Marsha Parker
Looking ahead, Marsha plans to incorporate more weightlifting into her routine to work on her overall strength, but she mostly wants to help other moms reach their health and wellness goals. "You can't really love your kids and give them what they need without loving yourself, and that's something I think so many moms tend to forget," she says. "So just start somewhere and remember that you can do absolutely anything you put your mind to."