A New Woman
Weight loss, health and money management consistently appear as New Year’s resolution themes made by American adults each year. At least 40 percent usually make resolutions, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, but by six months in, less than 50 percent are still sticking with it. Not so for Jan Palmer, but then again, she sees it as more of a process than a point in time.
“My resolution, whether it starts January 1st or it started back in April, was to get healthy for my grandchildren,” Palmer says, “because I want to be around to influence their lives and give them some of the things that I grew up with, some of the values.”
Getting healthy for Palmer began last February when she visited University of Missouri Healthcare to look at their gastric bypass program. At 66, Palmer had tried time and time again to lose weight without much success.
“I was more of a couch potato,” she recalls. “I didn’t do much exercise. I didn’t do anything because I didn’t really feel like doing it.” In April, she underwent gastric bypass surgery; eight months and 100 pounds later, she is a new woman.
While the surgery has been an important aspect of her weight-loss success, Palmer also credits regular exercise as another important component in her regime. “Once the weight started coming off, I started getting a lot more energetic,” she says. “I exercise almost every single day.”
Fitting in those workouts in between seven grandchildren, part-time counseling, volunteering with the Honor Flight program and church, plus her role as president of Senior Services of Boone County keeps her busy.
“I love it, but it’s the kind of busy that you get to choose,” Palmer says. “I don’t have somebody telling me I’ve got to be at work at 8 o’clock.”
Like most people, Palmer has good days and bad days. Facebook and her Fitbit have become her allies when motivation is scarce.
When apathy strikes, she might post something on Facebook. It usually looks something like, “Man, I just can’t get motivated today.” It’s simple and helps keep her accountable; however, it’s her Fitbit that has become her constant companion.
“I’ll [look at my] Fitbit and see I have 1,200 steps, and I really haven’t done that much, but look at all these steps I’ve got,” she says. “Maybe I just need to go walk somewhere or go to the ARC (Activity and Recreation Center).” Walmart is often a destination for walking because as she puts it, “There’s always something I couldn’t live without.”
With the dramatic weight loss she has experienced, her body is getting used to new rhythms. The Fitbit not only tracks her steps, but also helps her keep her heart rate in check. Then, there’s the added bonus of a little friendly competition between her and her grandson, son, ex-husband, daughter-in-law and three or four of her friends.
“She’s really into being competitive with it,” says her son, Russ Palmer, who gets most of his steps in at work or chasing his two young children. “She’s going to the gym just about every day, over to the ARC, and at the beginning of the week if I haven’t started a Fitbit challenge with her, she’s texting me saying ‘Are you going to start a Fitbit challenge this week? I need to be in a challenge.’ So I get on there and do it really quick.”
Within their challenge group, she’s usually right there at the top, he adds and admits, “She beats me a lot more than I beat her, but I don’t get out and exercise like she does.”
Meeting the challenges is something Palmer enjoys, but she has one complaint for the Fitbit company: “Water-resistant” isn’t good enough to go swimming with at the ARC. She’s experimenting with plastic baggies until the manufacturer corrects what to her is an obvious shortcoming.
Even with the tools and support, Palmer still has days that are less than successful, and she lets herself have those days. “Tomorrow’s another day,” she says, sounding a bit Scarlett O’Hara-esque. “I don’t beat myself up about not getting 10,000 steps in or not getting an hour and a half at the gym. It’ s not good, and it doesn’t help anyone.”
On Financial Resolve
For most of Palmer’s younger life, someone else took care of the finances. When she was married, it was her husband, before him, her parents. No one spoke of budgets or money, so when she became a single parent, all of a sudden she couldn’t breathe, she says fluttering her hand on her chest. “It was like, how am I going to raise four kids and take care of myself?” But she managed and got a job at the Missouri Department of Corrections (MODOC) as a counselor and later became a sex offender specialist.
She is still doing that work, albeit part-time and on her terms.
Palmer took early retirement from MODOC four years ago after an auto accident, but she soon realized she needed to be smarter with her retirement funds. After having a financial advisor help her analyze her income and budget, she decided she needed to supplement what she had coming in. “I looked at [my budget] and thought, I need to go back to work!” To augment her budget and retirement fund, she now sets her own schedule working with private clients and as an approved provider for group counseling.
Identifying shortfalls and ways to increase income without sacrificing her volunteering passions is helping Palmer meet short-term needs and realize long-term goals. “When you’re on a fixed income, you’ve got to do it,” she says. “You don’t have to have every single thing that everybody else has.” Her only vice these days is clothing, as she is constantly buying smaller clothes as she loses weight and gets fit. That, and she wants to travel some.
“That’s my newest thing is to get that retirement fund built back up because I have some trips that I want to take,” she says. Israel, Spain, Alaska, Ireland and Germany would be nice.
At this point in her journey, a sense of pride and accomplishment has begun to manifest. Friends on Facebook, her family and her volunteer and work communities take note almost daily of her progress, and her personal sense of achievement is boosted by the pride her grandchildren have in it.
Palmer’s oldest granddaughter had been teased at Grandparent’s Day one year for having a “fat grandma.” ”She wrote me the sweetest little note saying, ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or thin, Grandma. I love you.’ Just tears,” she says motioning to her cheeks. “So this year when I went to Grandparent’s Day, she goes, ‘I can’t wait for my sexy grandma to come into Grandparent’s Day.’ And the kids didn’t know me; they did not know who I was. She was proud. It’s really made a difference for her and the other kids.”
Palmer still has challenges ahead, but she acknowledges, “It’s a process. It’s a process when you go through it. You have to start some place, even if it’s just walking 10 extra steps today. Whatever. You just start.
“It hasn’t been easy, but I feel so much better,” she adds. “I can’t tell you how much better I feel.”