A House Divided

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Today I have a guest post from one of my internet buddies, Kellie Hart Davis.  For those who aren’t familiar with Kellie, she’s a natural figure competitor, fitness writer, avid meat eater, has the mouth of a sailor, and lover of all things lifting heavy.

In a lot of ways, she’s the female equivalent of me – except she looks way better in a bikini, and she’s less obsessed with Jedis.

She’s pretty smart, and definitely has a way with words.

To that end, I’ll let her take over from here.  Enjoy!  And please, feel free to share your comments below.

A House Divided

Tony’s blog post titled “Don’t You Think You Look Tiny? A Psychological Look Into the Female Brain (Sorta)” really hit a cord, compelling me to share my own internal battle.

Note from TG:  for those who missed it, click HERE to check out the original blog post.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the external factors of an improved lifestyle—the improved physique, the rounded muscles, the hot ass– that we completely forget what’s going on inside. We also forget how close to home these issues hit until we are forced to deal with them head on.

This meditation stemmed from a series of events in my life. Sadly, I think many will be all-too familiar to some of you.

Every conversation with my mother about her health hinges on a variety of independent clauses strategically placed at the end of her sentences. Each “but” is an excuse explaining away why she refuses to take any action that will lead toward a healthier, more vibrant life.

This past weekend, before we said our good-byes on the phone, she hung her health excuse on, “but no one understands how hard it is to stop eating all of those foods.” Those foods– referring to the ones that are slowly killing her.

Nine years ago, at age 45, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a mastectomy and a bout of chemo that laid her on a deathbed (she was allergic to the meds), she vehemently stamped blame on her diet and lifestyle. There is no history of breast cancer in her family, but she does have a history of choosing a poor diet, leading a stressful life, and neglecting to exercise.

I was convinced by this proclamation that things would change. She turned around to head down the road leading toward greater wellness. But those were just words and she never followed through with actions. That road less traveled had not a single one of her footprints in which she could securely press her heels. It lacked familiarity and reassurance. She opted out of the journey and turned back down the path that led her to cancer in the first place.

Things hit rock bottom this past year due to the recession. Her weight skyrocketed and her health became so poor that even without insurance she was forced to undergo medical testing. An explanation was needed because she had never felt worse. I had the explanation that no doctor would ever give her. He would only root out the symptoms and bandage those for a while. But she didn’t want to hear my lecture.

The results revealed issues with her heart, gall bladder, and liver. When asked, ”Did the cancer come back?” She replied, “I don’t care to know.”

Now in her mid-fifties, my mother admits that she would rather let herself go completely than do anything about it. That very notion forced my fist against the wall. I held my breath waiting for it all to make sense, but it was pointless to suffocate in my own thoughts.

What gets me most is that she’s not the only one. My father has high blood pressure; my uncle went through two triple bypass surgeries. Both my paternal grandparents died of stroke related to heart disease. My maternal grandmother has been on medication for high blood pressure and cholesterol for as long as I can remember, and she is very active.

Both sides of my family have severe depression. My maternal grandfather barely functions when in states of mania. Just this past week my sister-in-law had several polyps removed from her colon. She’s in her thirties.

Why is it so much easier to become a statistic than to beat the odds? Why has beating the odds been reduced to not succumbing to non-communicable disease? As far as I can tell, the odds aren’t stacked against you when avoiding a lifestyle conducive to poor health.

Disease isn’t a part of aging; it’s a force of habit. It’s the inability to take action by putting your quality of life before indulgence, idleness, and insecurity. I can say this with such passion and fervor because I’ve heard every excuse in the book from those I love most. The pain from watching their health decline penetrates my bones so forcefully that I suffer acute paralysis– especially when realizing how weak my voice is against the team of medical experts that spit out incomprehensible advice.

I’ve been called extreme, obsessive, and consumed in regards to nutrition and fitness. There I stood–cornered against the wall where both sides of my familial fence meet– being told to live a little.

I don’t want to live a little. I want to live to the fullest.

I want to wake up every day with the energy of an eight-year old kid. I want my doctor to question why I even get check-ups because I’m in such great health. I want to live agelessly, knowing I’m doing everything in my power to avoid becoming a statistic.

I’d listen to her if I were you

I want that for everyone I love, but I come across as preachy and invasive.

Beauty and strength are only the surface.  The real reason to rub against the grain– to lead this unorthodox lifestyle– is all about what goes on inside.

To nourish your vital organs, to nurture mental health. To secure the joy in your future, as not to wait on death’s doorstep, riddled with pill bottles and uncured illness.

The question remains, “What are we fighting for?” When will two sides meet and collectively agree that we must take our health in our own hands? Eating a diet rich in whole foods and exercising is the only proven practical prevention and treatment for virtually every man-made illness in this country.

Call me extreme, obsessed, and consumed, but I refuse to sign my own death certification.

I find it appropriate to end this manifest with my own independent clause…

…”But, no one understands how easy it is to avoid non-communicable disease.”

Author Byline:

Kellie Davis holds a Bachelor’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University, competes as a natural figure athlete, and works as a professional writer.  She has penned content for personal trainers, strength and conditioning experts, sports supplement companies, online fitness magazine sites, and fitness facilities. Davis is the co-author of Bret Contreras’s female strength training manual titled Strong Curves, which is due to hit stores in the summer of 2012. Follow her at www.motherfitness.com.


Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Comments for This Entry

  • R Smith

    Speechless. Just... Wow! Thanks for sharing such a courageous story, Kellie. RS

    November 17, 2011 at 10:49 am | Reply to this comment

  • Michael Gray

    Simply awesome. As always, nice work Kellie!

    November 17, 2011 at 11:13 am | Reply to this comment

  • Rod

    "Disease isn’t a part of aging; it’s a force of habit. It’s the inability to take action by putting your quality of life before indulgence, idleness, and insecurity." Jeez, there are some many great quotes, truth and everything in between in this post I don't know what to say!!! goodness knows my whole damn family need to read this...

    November 17, 2011 at 11:30 am | Reply to this comment

  • Cort the Sport

    yeah, wow, I am also speechless. Humans are a stubborn, delusional lot. I know because I was too for a lot of years. I can think of so many people I want to show this to, but will I do so? Do I fight for them even when they are not fighting for themselves, or do I give up? Do I risk sounding like I am "nagging"? My mother and husband both smoke and I am constantly torn between fighting and resignation. If I let myself think about it I am filled with anger, sadness, frustration, and more anger.

    November 17, 2011 at 11:47 am | Reply to this comment

    • Kellie

      You and I are both reformed and truly know what it is like sitting on the other side of the fence. It's so true. How do you ever encourage without appearing to stand above everyone else. Just keep leading by example, Cort. You have two incredible boys who think the world of you. Know you are influencing their perspective.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Guest

    In light of Kellie's statement that both sides of her family have severe depression, I'm sure that it has already occurred to her that her mother may also be suffering from severe depression. It sure sounds like it from the description given. For those who have not suffered from depression, the following quote from Dr. Andrew Weil, is a spot on description of depression. "Depression has many forms. Worst among them is the kind characterized by deep, soul-crushing despair, so eloquently described in novelist William Styron's 1992 book, “Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.” "The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it. . . . the grey drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain. ..it is natural that the victim begins to think ceaselessly of oblivion." At 56, I am recovering from severe depression and over the last year have been able to shed 45 unwanted pounds. Until there was some success in treating my depression, however, weight loss and a healthier lifestyle were impossible. Images of people like Kellie, Tony Gentilcore or Eric Cressey were further depressing rather than inspiring. Comments on the need to get fit although intellectually understood, were irrationally ignored. Seeing someone else live a healthier lifestyle irrationally caused me to eat a bag of potato chips for the seeming comfort it provided. I suspect that this might also be true for Kellie's mom. What has saved me is active treatment for the underlying condition as well as finally accepting a recommendation to be physically active. There is a ton of research available that shows that physical activity can help with depression. Initially this involved simply walking. To my surprise, I found that the physical activity worked as well or better than the medication I was taking. Because I could see progress and that I felt better, I progressively did more and more. I am now attempting to follow EC's Show & Go program. The diet changes were also a progressive thing. My basic template was from Body For Life, essentially eating 6 small meals a day involving a protein and carb and vegetable or fruit, the size of your palm. I didn't count calories and have not always been religious about it. Live a little? I hope Kellie's mom might get a handle on what appears to be severe depression and can make some incremental progress with exercise and diet. Success breeds more success. Similarly, as she relates to her mother, I hope Kellie can set aside what may appear to others as a consuming and obsessive attitude and help her mother achieve incremental success. I applaud Kellie for her passion and committment to exercise and a healthy lifestyle. She is a great example for men and women alike.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Kellie

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and proving that hope exists. You are correct in stating that she has depression. I didn't intend for this to be a piece directly about her. It was more to expose how little diet and exercise are prescribe for prevention and treatment. Or when it is, it is the wrong prescription. The fact that medical students do not take a single nutrition class completely boggles me. I have watched depression ravage more family and friends than I care to remember. I was diagnosed a few years back. I exited my doctors office with two things in my hand: a prescription for Wellbutrin and one for Xanax. I struggled with the very idea of taking them over the course of two days. I lost sleep over it. I decided to throw out the pills and take matters in my own hands. I never turned back. So many people have lost hope that they can change. The experience my mom went through with chemo scarred her deeply. It nearly killed her and she is so afraid over every going through anything so traumatic again that she would rather just not do anything. I lived with her during her treatment. I cleaned the drains that hung out of her body, changed bandages that covered her chest, and watched as chemo ate away her life. I don't blame her for giving up. I blame the medical community for not teaching her that changing her lifestyle will change everything. Believe me, no larger advocate for her exists beyond me. I think that's why it pains me so much. I appreciate your candor and encouragement. And please keep us posted on your progress. You are incredible!

      November 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Reply to this comment

  • much needed laughter | dots in flip flops

    [...] a much more serious note, here is a link to an article that I read today that I really enjoyed.  [...]

    November 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Conor

    Awesome! Thank you for this article, Kellie.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Reply to this comment

      • Chrislloyd73

        Whilst it is well intentioned to encourage individuals on a healthy lifestyle, some things are beyond our control.Disease is unfortunately a very strong symptom of ageing, however healthy you have been .To suggest you can avoid it purely by lifestyle is at most ignorant and at worst downright dangerous.The greatest brain at Apple died of bowel cancer that was entirely curable.He however took the advise to "combat" it from diet alone.He is now in a box, when the medical profession could have helped him. Unless you are killed in an accident etc. it is most likely a disease of old age will be what gets you- or do you really think you are somehow invincible and will live eternally ?

        November 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Reply to this comment

        • Anonymous

          Thank you for your comments, Chris. I do see truth in what you say. However, I never portrayed invincibility and am not certain where the ignorance in my candor lies. Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer after attempting to treat it with lifestyle adjustments, yes. He denied a potential life-saving surgery because he was always a skeptic and often a magical thinker. He did not die because he refused drug treatment or anything else. My intention for this piece was to demonstrate how we are rendered powerless by the FDA, the medical community, and anyone in between when it comes to preventable disease. Aging is a symptom of lifestyle, not a life sentence. Caring for our bodies prevents many signs of aging. And you can't tell me that children who suffer obesity, type two diabetes, diet-related heart disease, and all other chronic illness cannot be treated and cured by lifestyle changes. Most things are within our control. Unfortunately we are diagnosed with disease once things have gotten out of hand. Cancer is found years, and even decades after it forms. Insulin resistance often goes undiagnosed because the wrong tests are given or test results are evaluated incorrectly. Treatment for high blood pressure, heart disease, and high cholesterol often force people on an array of drugs and only bandage the problem. If physicians and the medical community were given the tools to treat with diet and lifestyle, then things would be much different. Does this mean cancer would be eradicated or diabetes would disappear? Of course not. But we would have a far less sick society and far more hope for our future. Medicine is controlled by a power far greater than us: to love of money. Until that changes, we must take action to provide ourselves a better life.

          November 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Chris

    Way to go Kellie. It goes beyond physical strength to stick to what you know is right, especially when it seems like the rest of the world is telling you to "relax", "live a little", or what I usually get: "lighten up and be a normal 23 year old". Keep fighting the good fight and know that you're not alone in doing so!

    November 17, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Anonymous

      That is so commendable of you, Chris. Just know that though your peers may find you rigid and regimented, they are admiring you from afar. Mothers can only hope their children are as committed to their future as you.

      November 18, 2011 at 10:11 am | Reply to this comment

  • Brock

    Phenomenal. Awesome article, Kellie.

    November 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Will

    Epic. That's a contender for best post of the year, and is definitely going out to all my clients. Thanks.

    November 17, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Nock

    WOW.....................no disrespect to any of Tony's other guest blog posters but this one was an amazing story Kellie

    November 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Reply to this comment

  • ec

    i am moved beyond measure. There have not been words to affect me on such a profound level in a long time. As i too strive to break the cycle of obesity and poor health in my own family i can find some comfort in knowing that 1. it's possible, and 2. it's absolutely neccessary. Thanks Kellie for sharing such a vulnerable story, and thanks tony for providing your blog as a platform for courageous stories, knowledge bombs, and daily entertainment.

    November 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Alicia

    Kellie, you know how I feel about you and your brave journey toward health and longevity. What I didn't know were the painful details surrounding your mom's health...I just wanna run out to the desert and give you a big ole sisterly hug. In your gutsy admittance that was surely painful to write I find comfort in how I stood up to my own oncologists, demanding more, refusing to be talked to and treated as though my future would be relegated to pill bottles and a diminished lifestyle. I might puke and lose hair and occasionally sob out a curseword but I get up every morning swinging because I have kids to love and raise. Your mom is frozen with panic, it isn't uncommon and no reflection on you. She loves you and if she could rise above the bubble of fear she would move mountains for you and take another round of chemo if it were needed. Fear is an absolute sonofabitch. My dad used to tell me to live my life being strong as stone with a lovely sugar coating (I know, dads...) When I think of that phrase I think of you now. You are a doll that is tough as nails. Hold steady, my dear.

    November 17, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Anonymous

      Alicia, thank you so much for this. I am so glad you see that this is a not a fight against those who are sick, but this who are trusted to care for and educate us so we understand how to heal and prevent. I think of you at least 10 times a day. Maybe more. Probably a lot more. Simply, thank you.

      November 18, 2011 at 10:08 am | Reply to this comment

  • Read this. | Crossfit Southwest

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    November 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Reply to this comment

  • trish

    Thank you Kelly - one step at a time I vow to work on my health. It is so easy to get stuck and feel so helpless, like every single decision is wrong. I'll come back to this over the next few weeks as a begin my journey to a healthy me! Thanks again.

    November 19, 2011 at 12:31 am | Reply to this comment

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    [...] A House Divided (Kellie Davis via Tony Gentilcore) -- Great post about Kellie’s struggle to share fitness with the people she loves. [...]

    November 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Reply to this comment

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    [...] A House Divided – This was a great guest blog by Kellie Hart Davis for Tony Gentilcore’s site.  It homes home for those of us who have certain family members who don’t embrace the healthy lifestyle like we do. [...]

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  • Janice

    I had come to a point in my life where I had given up. I was just waiting to die. Then, at 48, I took charge and with a friend, worked my way to a leaner, healthier place. The freedom was incredible! I became an athlete at 50 years of age, doing things I'd never even dreamed of. But, in the wake of years of poor eating, I had three children who all needed to work on their weight. One by one, I encouraged them. I decided, I could never preach them to a healthier life, so I had to take them on the baby steps I had gone on. One of the most successful things we did was to sign up for holiday 5K's. I would go all out with costumes and we would all walk them. They loved the fanfare, and it got them into an environment of health where they could see that it wasn't so threatening. I trained all summer with my oldest son to do a half marathon. It was a thrilling day when both of us did it for the first time. Then I signed up for the Disney Princess half marathon and bought an entry for my daughter. I gave her a tutu and crown for Christmas, along with the entry. I invited my mom to come watch. The day before the race, they have a family 5k. I gave my mom a tutu and crown and asked her to walk it with my daughter and I so we could have 3 generations cross the finish line. She had always been athletic, but in the years since my dad died, she had stopped exercising. My daughter started training for the half and my mom for the 5K. It was a great weekend filled with lots of pictures. My sister saw the pictures and wanted to join in the fun. So, we chose another half for me to run and my mom and sister donned the tutus and crowns with me the day before for the 5K. My sister was so inspired watching the runners that she went home and started working out every day. Later that year, I did my first marathon. My other son, who didn't have an athletic bone in his body, was at the finish line. I wept as I crossed the finish line and he wept with me. He wanted to feel that thrill. So, he started training for a 5K. This fall, my whole family met for our first official 5K where we all ran. It had been a 3 year journey, but step by step, I've gotten my whole family on board. All this to say, come along side of your mom and find something that she would like to do. Bowling, dancing, walking, swimming, what ever. My mom still rolls her eyes every time I start preaching movement. But, she walks to the grocery store every day.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Reply to this comment

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