How I’m Helping My Mom Get Her Health and Fitness Back



“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” — Mark Twain

I wanted to help my Mom get her balance, flexibility, and strength back.

She’s getting older, and aside from the wear and tear from aging, she’s been up against some health issues.

I want to reverse that as much as possible.

I don’t want her to be dependent on any prescription drugs, healthcare, or assistance as she gets older so she can live out her years on her terms, as independently and pain-free as possible.

So I went on a quest to find the best things that she could possibly do that would get her strength, agility, and fitness back, while helping her reverse and potentially fix some health issues.

The Solution: Working Out and Food as Medicine

To make this work, I knew my best bet would be to focus on two key things:

  1. Workout routine (to give her energy and momentum for every day)
  2. Eating habits (to use food as medicine)

I figured my best best for giving my Mom her best chances would be to help her get on a workout routine and new eating habits focused on nutritional density.

In all of my experience, the most powerful way to get your energy, strength, and vitality back is to work out.  It helps you build momentum and find the energy to do anything and everything else.  The trick is to find an exercise routine that works for you, that you enjoy, and that gets results so you stick with it.

Exercise programs and workout routines really need to match your lifestyle as well as your goals, and they need to be an expression of your values, or they won’t last and they won’t work.

Part 1: The Work Out Plan

I started with the workout routine, because that would build momentum.  In fact, starting with exercise before trying to change your diet is a strategy recommended in the book Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond.

The big key in all this for me was to find specific behavior changes that would produce the best results for my Mom.  Meanwhile, I had to be super sensitive to what it would take to enable my Mom to adopt the changes in a way that would be fun, empowering, and effective.

Finding the Right Workout for My Mom

On the workout side, here’s the challenge:

  • I needed a program or system that gets real results and has a proven track record
  • I needed something that my Mom could do on her own in her living room
  • I needed something simple to get started
  • I needed something simple enough that my Mom would stick with it
  • I needed something cost effective for the long haul
  • I needed an exercise routine that could be done even with my Mom’s injuries, ailments, and current physical condition

Tai Cheng for the Work Out

I went through a lot of workout programs until I found the one that I believed would be suitable and actually work:   Here’s what I chose:
Tai Cheng DVD Workout – Base Kit, by Dr. Mark Cheng

Tai Cheng is a 13-week program.  It includes Tai Chi techniques, Qi Gong practices, and modern corrective exercise patterns to help improve metabolism, joint function, stress management, and athletic performance.  It also helps give you energy, improve circulation, strengthen posture, open your joints, reduce painful trigger points, and promote balance and flexibility to continuously improve your health as you age.

It’s taught by Dr. Mark Cheng and it’s based on the movements, concepts, and theories of traditional Yang-style Tai Chi.  Dr. Cheng is a physical therapy-based corrective exercise expert with 3 decades of experience in Tai Chi, as well as a background in traditional Chinese medicine.

The success stories included somebody who used Taig Cheng to get relief from their joint pain and avoid knee surgery.  There was also an elderly lady who had broken her hip, but now plays tennis again, and keeps up with her grandchildren.  There was also a guy who improved his golf swing, as well as other people who are now in the best shape of their lives.

Getting Started with Tai Cheng

To get started with Tai Cheng, I knew I had to help my Mom over the humps.  So I got her a standalone DVD player with simple buttons and a larger screen. (My Mon’s not into technical stuff.  She doesn’t have a computer and she didn’t even have a DVD player setup.)

I wanted her startup routine to be as simple as she sticks the DVD in and presses play.

I worked out with my Mom each day for a week.  This way, I could see where she got stuck or felt awkward and I could remind her that’s where we all start, and give her some tips on how to do some of the moves.

I think that both of these steps were crucial.  Making it easy to play the Tai Cheng DVD in her living room, meant no excuses and no friction in the way.  And, giving my Mom some early success with the first workouts helped give her confidence and enough fun to keep going.

I think it was important for my Mom to see that things don’t need to be done perfectly.  I had a hard time using the foam roller that comes with Tai Cheng, but I showed her that I just went at my pace and made it work for me.

Another really important thing I did was I hung the wall calendar for Tai Cheng in her kitchen both as a reminder to keep going and so she could check off her progress to stay motivated.

I’m happy to say that two weeks later, my Mom is still going strong.

The real beauty though is that exercise often leads to other, often unrelated good habits.

Part 2: Food as Medicine

This is truly the hardest part, but more than likely the most important part.  That’s why I started with the exercise routine, to get some quick wins and help build some momentum.

There’s a lot of advice on how to eat better and how to eat well, but there’s also a lot of conflicting advice and confusion.

Health is a scary thing.  Many people can’t afford the best healthcare.  Worse, they don’t even know what’s possible or how to sort fact from fiction.  And a lot of people find out too little, too late, and what they don’t know can hurt them.

Find the Right Eating Habits

On the eating side, here’s the challenge:

  • I needed an approach that was backed with real science and real results.
  • I needed an approach that I could trust by an expert who has a track record in the industry.
  • I wanted an approach that would both prevent as well as reverse various chronic diseases and debilitating conditions.
  • I wanted something that works for real people in the real world.

Eat for Health for Better Eating Habits (Reverse + Prevent Disease)

I sorted through a bunch of ideas until deciding that my best bet would be to go with a health program with a proven track record:

Eat for Health, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Luckily, I was familiar with Dr. Joel Fuhrman and his pioneering work over the past several years.  I knew he has an amazing track record for helping people prevent and reverse disease.  His approach is all about nutritional density and it works.  Dr. Fuhrman has an amazing following of doctors – he is a doctor’s doctor.

Eat for Health is effectively a book version of Dr. Fuhrman’s system for helping people achieve superior health.  It’s based on using superior nutrition to turn your body into a powerful self-healing machine.

Dr. Fuhrman has used Eat for Health to help people avoid heart attacks, strokes, dementia, and reduce or eliminate their need for prescription drugs.  He literally uses food as medicine and to help optimize health and save lives.

Dr. Fuhrman is a doctor who uses nutritional excellence to heal people and he advances “the art of the possible.”  For example, one of his declarations is “Don’t live with your diabetes, don’t simply control your diabetes — get rid of it.”

He’s helped people reverse diabetes and heart disease.  He’s helped people with high blood pressure, allergies, asthma, and autoimmune illnesses (including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis).  He’s also helped people lose weight, including one person who lost 333 pounds. The bottom line is he’s used food as medicine to save lives and create a better quality of life.

What I also like that Dr. Fuhrman does is he levels the playing field by sharing and scaling his expertise broadly through his books and programs.  He’s created an amazing knowledge base with deep dive articles on the web.

Getting Started with Eat for Health

To get started with Eat for Health, I focused on breaking it down into “doable” things.  While I could keep learning a lot about how it works, I mostly wanted to turn the ideas into simple habits.

I figured that at the end of the day, no matter what you know, it still comes down to your choices for the following:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Any snacks throughout the day
  • Any choses of drinks

With that in mind, the beauty of Eat for Health is that Dr. Fuhrman actually turns his ideas into exercises that you can practice.   From a mindset standpoint, he says to think of it like working out.  You need to build the skills to eat healthier.   He treats your health like a skill and puts the power to do so in your hands.

All you have to do is practice.

This is where the rubber meets the road.   His first three exercises come down to this:

  • Exercise 1: Add a 1/2 pound of fruit to your breakfast
  • Exercise 2: Add a 1/2 pound of vegetables spread across lunch and dinner
  • Exercise 3: Chew your vegetables until they are liquid (this exposes more nutrition from the cells of the plants)

There is a lot going on here.   Basically, the idea is to squeeze out lower nutritional foods with higher ones.  Gradually, you’ll increase your nutritional density.   Dr. Fuhrman created an ANDI scoring system that scores foods in terms of their nutritional density.  For example, Kale has a high score.   At this stage, Dr. Fuhrman focuses on variety and volume, combined with nutritional density to help you gradually change your eating habits.

Eat for Health very quickly goes from practicing adding the 1/2 pound of fruits and vegetables to adding a full pound of fruits and a full pound of vegetables.  It’s a progression system so you start slow and gradually improve your nutritional excellence skills and capabilities.

It’s all about empowering you for better health.

Even with all the knowledge this is going to be the hardest part.  It’s a journey.   It means my Mom will need to figure out how to change shopping habits at the grocery store.  It means she’ll need to swap things in and swap things out.   It means she’ll need to change her tastes (this, too, is a skill that Dr. Fuhrman helps you do.)   But, from what I’ve seen from the case studies, success stories, and science, the path of nutritional excellence is the most powerful tool we can possibly use to take control and radically change our health.

It’s a Journey

It really is a journey.   There will be setbacks.   There are a lot of hurdles.  But having the right information from the right sources helps go a long way to get over the humps.

And the collections of case studies and stories of transformation are inspiring.

I’ll continue to feed my Mom ideas and techniques she can use to help her in her journey of personal transformation.

While I’m very much a fan of getting great results, I also know that I have to balance getting results with the journey.   So I’m continuously finding ways to help my Mom enjoy the journey, while making the changes that will gradually unleash and unlock what she’s capable of.

On a good note, my Mom’s back pain that was disrupting her sleep has already started to melt away from just a few days of doing the Tai Cheng routine.

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Image by Benjamin J. DeLong.


  1. This probably isn’t relevant to your mother, she seems to have great support.

    But social isolation is one of the biggest concerns for older people’s health. Loneliness is about as dangerous as smoking.

    • Community and connection really do play a key role to a healthier, longer life.

      In Okinawa they found the “grandmother effect” can add six years to life.

    • I’m actually amazed by what’s available today in terms of health and fitness knowledge.

      Beachbody has a ton of options and Dr. Fuhrman has really nailed what it takes to achieve superior health. I only mentioned his Eat for Health book, but he’s a best-selling author and his other books include Eat to Live, The End of Diabetes, and Super Immunity (all of which are ground-breaking.)

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