If I’d had a say in the matter, I would have inherited my mom’s bright blue eyes or her uncanny ability to remember everybody’s birthday. Instead, I got her sweet tooth for chocolate and cautious driving skills—so much so that I was voted “most likely to drive like your mom” by my high school class.
Yes, like it or not, we’ve all wound up with a few traits from our moms.
There are also the things that aren’t in our genes, but still ring in our ears. Those words of wisdom that counsel us when we’re about to reach for the cookie jar—for the 10th time. That logic we need when we’re trying to untangle our hearts from our minds. And that advice we turn to when we’re thinking, do I really have to go to the doctor? (“Yes,” says my mom.)
So in honor of Mother’s Day, I asked friends, colleagues, and the Twitterverse for their best bits of health-related maternal wisdom. From the warm to the witty to the weird, the lessons learned poured in.
Some responses covered the basics.
“Sit up straight” and “keep good posture” were heard in many households, mine included. You can do that by “keeping your stomach sucked in,” Heather Guith’s mom told her. It paid off, she says. “I have great posture, so I thank her for that!” Christina Juan’s mom’s advice, “wear sunblock everyday,” worked for her too. “I definitely do this—winter, spring, summer, and fall,” Juan says. “My mom isn’t big on anything else on her face and I adopted this simple healthy low-maintenance secret.”
Some were funny.
“Only floss the teeth you want to keep” was the mantra in Beth Hill’s household growing up. “If you have chapped lips, put oil on your belly button” is the advice that Anamita Gall, whose mom is Bengali, swears by.
Some responses were puzzling.
“If it itches, it means it’s healing,” Mariel Schwartz’s mom would tell her. That may be true if you’re referring to the scabbing process—as Schwartz said her mom was—but please don’t take that advice out of context. (I can think of a few conditions-that-shall-not-be-named for which an itch means “see a doctor, stat.”)
When it comes to nutrition, moms appear to have it down.
“Always eat fruit and drink milk at breakfast,” @enthusiasticrun’s mom told her. Starting your day with fiber-filled fruits (think oranges or berries) and protein-rich milk (your soy latte counts!) is a great way to stay satisfied all morning long. Then, come lunchtime, “you don’t have to be a member of the clean plate club,” added Hill, who thanks her mom for teaching her that a club devoted to devouring today’s massive portions is neither exclusive nor cool.
While moderation was a common theme, some respondents remembered their moms telling them that it’s OK to splurge, too. After all, no one likes to pamper us quite like mom.
“Every once in a while, go nuts,” @honeybeecap added to her mom’s “Everything in moderation” theory. The important thing is to go nuts guilt-free: “If you’re going to have dessert, enjoy it,” advised @ShannaSCook’s mom. (I couldn’t agree more.)
Then there were responses that had nothing to do with health, but are worth repeating anyway.
“You can never have too many pairs of black shoes,” said Lauren Jones, to which I added: “The same can be said for dresses!” (My mom passed along that gem.)
And then there are those that, no matter how you frame it, can’t be construed as health, or as advice.
“I’ve never seen a dessert I didn’t like” is apparently the motto in one friend’s household. And in another’s, “A man won’t buy the cow if he can get the milk for free” was a hand-me-down phrase. (Her grandparents were farmers, so I’ll let it slide.)
But at the end of the day, all the sayings—from the metaphorical (“Stop burning the candle at both ends,” advised Adrian Granzella Larssen’s mom) to the practical (“Always bring a coat, just in case!” was called after Anna Blackburn for years)—are just more tangible ways of moms telling us they care.
You know the phrase, treat others the way you want to be treated? Well this Mother’s Day, I’ve got a new one to try: Treat yourself the way your mom would want you to be treated. I bet we’d all be healthier for it.