Kathy Ireland, 46, is a former Sports Illustrated cover model, CEO of Kathy Ireland World Wide (a $1.4 billion design empire), author, mentor to single teen mothers, and a mother of three kids ages 6 to 14. As she explains in her new book, Real Solutions for Busy Moms ($15, Amazon), gaining weight is easy to do when you put every one's needs before your own. Ireland generously took some time to talk to us during her book tour about her struggles with weight and living a balanced life.
When and why did you decide to write this book?
My mind thought that the work on this book began two and a half years ago. The truth is my heart began working on this book the day the eldest of our three children was born. Being a mom is the world’s most difficult, demanding, rewarding, fulfilling, amazing job. All moms work whether they get paid or not. After UCLA honored me as one of the Top Ten Women Health Advocates in America, I realized that I had a greater responsibility to women. I had to go seek information and share it.
What inspired your title?
Moms need real solutions, because we face real problems. Success is living the life you want. It is your own definition. Walking your own path. Success means knowing you can have it all, just not all at the same time, all of the time. Sanity is honoring your own priorities. I write "your guide to success and sanity" because so often moms feel we are losing our grip, at the edge of the cliff and just about ready to jump. Moms need a guide to reconnect with their dreams as we deal with the reality of our lives.
When did you start struggling with your weight? For how long?
I was in such denial about my weight. For years I was able to eat whatever I wanted without gaining a pound. Exercise was not as critical. I got certified years ago as a fitness professional to produce five fitness videos. They were all bestsellers, so I knew that I wasn’t making great choices when I started gaining weight. And, I sometimes felt defensive about it. One pound a year over twenty-five years becomes a twenty-five pound weight gain! Business suits can hide extra pounds with ease. Our company's design and marketing work today has nothing to do with my appearance, so I paid little or no attention to it. The struggle didn’t begin because I wasn’t willing to acknowledge the problem as a struggle, until I met a turning point.
What was the turning point for you?
The turning point was when our son took a photograph of me and our youngest said, "Mom, you look pregnant." When I looked at the picture it wasn’t my appearance or the belly that concerned me. It was that I saw someone who didn’t look healthy. I see the expression in those eyes of a mom who is over stressed, overwhelmed, overweight, over everything!
How did you lose the weight? How long did it take?
I haven’t lost all of the weight. I'm a work in progress. I’m halfway there and I don’t believe in losing more than one or two pounds a week. It took a long time for me to gain this weight. It won’t be gone overnight.
What's your advice to moms who're juggling career and family?
My advice to moms is that we must learn to put on our own oxygen mask first. Whenever you fly, the flight attendant warns you that in order to take care of others you must take care of yourself. If we don’t take care for ourselves, who will be there to take care of our families if we fall? Too often, we as women and especially moms, forget that when we care for our families we have every right and requirement to include ourselves.
What do you struggle with the most as a mother? A partner?
I struggle everyday with the quality and quantity of time spent with our children. My husband has an incredibly busy career. He is an ER physician and a commercial fisherman. I admit that we love our kids so much we could spend every moment with them. When the work takes me away from our kids it’s hard and it hurts. Having children at different ages means each one has different needs. I struggle with the fear on certain days that I’m not up to the task of raising these wonderful young lives. With God’s help and continual prayer and the support of my husband and loved ones, I’m doing my best…In those moments when I wonder if I’m up to it, I have to ask the question, who would do a better job for our kids? As a partner, the struggle of course, is keeping our marriage in line with the priority of the family. The issues we would squabble about when we were younger are not important anymore. There’s just no time. Parenting is a full-time responsibility.
What do you love most about being a mother?
Our three incredible and amazing children! Erik, Lily, and Chloe delight and stun me everyday. It's a privilege to be their mom.
Why did you start a mentoring program for single, teen mothers? Why that demographic in particular?
All moms need help! I can’t imagine anything more difficult than raising a child alone while you are still in the middle of your own childhood. All of my adult life I believed myself to be pro-choice. As I grew in my faith, I began to grow in other areas. I took the time to research and understand the scientific reasons for when life begins. People of faith who have a commitment to life, often have a commitment not to judge. We must do whatever we can, whenever we can to help others. Who could need more help than a single, teenage mom?
How do you plan on celebrating this next chapter in your life?
Everyday is a celebration. I pray that God will grant me many years to compensate for those that I have wasted. There are so many celebrations in this life and the next. I'm grateful for everyday and every experience.
What's the best mothering advice you've ever received?