Just Like Your Mother Told You

07 Oct 2016

By Kandace Peterson McGuire

I think, at this point in our lives, we have all realized that our mothers are/were very wise women.

So what did your mother tell you when you were growing up?

  1. Go to bed
  2. Eat your fruits and vegetables
  3. Get outside and run around
  4. Everything in moderation (OK maybe my mom just told me this one, she was extra smart)

When we were children, we listened to our mothers most of the time. So why, as adults, do we think we can discount the wise advice they gave us, especially when we might tell our children the exact same things?  

“I don’t have time!”

“Menopause is coming/has come and it’s a losing battle!”

“I could be reading an article, finishing charts, writing a grant!”

We often don’t realize is that our mothers were 100% right, getting sleep, eating right and exercising are so important. Studies show that doing all the above makes us more effective at our jobs and happier.

The Path to Success:

Be Realistic

You are not going to go run a marathon tomorrow…or maybe ever. Start small and slow. Respect your body and give yourself rest when you need it (at least once a week!). Don’t start a routine with hour -long workouts if that doesn’t fit your schedule. A half an hour of vigorous exercise (whether its cardio or weights) is better than sitting on the couch!

Do Something Fun

Not a huge fan of running? Don’t run! Play soccer with your kids, take a Zumba class, do Crossfit. If you don’t like your workout, you won’t stick with it. The same goes for food. Make small changes incorporating healthier choices into your diet.

Be Accountable

Your colleagues know how many patients you see, how many grants you have, how many papers you publish, how well your practice is doing.  Make sure you crow about taking care of yourself too. Find a Facebook accountability group or workout with a friend. Start eating right with your partner.  Use an online tracker for food intake. You will be amazed by how supportive people are when they are helping you achieve a goal.

Don’t Get on the Scale

This is not about pounds and inches. It’s about feeling better, having more energy and being more effective in everything you do. If Meyers-Briggs has, at any time, told you you have a ‘J’ personality, then you might need some measurable progress. Use whatever matters to you.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Missed a workout? Had a pumpkin spiced latte or a massive slice of chocolate cake? Stayed up until 2 for work (or play)? Who cares? It’s in the past! I have sabotaged myself so many times for stuff like this and let myself jump off the wagon for little bumps in the road. Forgetting about it and moving on has been on of my greatest gifts to myself.

I once heard a really respected surgeon say, “If you’ll wake up at 4am to workout, you can wake up at 4am to write a grant”.  If you’re writing at 4am, and you’ve lost your workout time. If you wake up at 4am to workout, then find another time to write your grant. When you’re 80, that workout will have been so much more important. Now make your mother proud and go outside and run around!


Kandace Peterson McGuire is an Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of North Carolina. She serves as the Surgical Director of the Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Program at the Lineberger Cancer Center. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, Phillip, and 7-year old son, Jackson. She does wake up at 4am to lift weights, kick-box or do high intensity interval training…not to write grants. Her professional interests include research into breast cancer in young women, women’s leadership and promoting healthy lifestyles in patients and providers.

Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.


3 Replies to “Just Like Your Mother Told You”

  1. Well said! Women focus on caring for their families and for their patients. But we also need to care for ourselves. Treat exercise as a non-negotiable on the to do list! It is as important as any work obligation.

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