Tag: health and fitness

Learning NOT to love chicken-fried steak

Learning NOT to love chicken-fried steak

Texas minister and wife focus on eating better and exercising more.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

WACO, Texas — When Jordan and Debbie Hubbard married nearly 13 years ago, they shared a love for tasty, high-calorie foods.

Think Texas-sized chicken-fried steaks.

“We were both fat and happy,” said Jordan Hubbard, 42, who at one time weighed close to 320 pounds.

“We ate a lot of good meals together,” agreed Debbie Hubbard, 41, who said she “always was just defined as a ‘big build’ girl.”

But three years ago, the couple — who met when he served as youth minister and she as children’s minister for the Central Church of Christ in Amarillo, Texas — decided something had to change.

The parents of three children — Jenae, 10; Avery, 8; and Jarrett, 5 — committed to eat better, exercise more and pay closer attention to the physical bodies God gave them.

“We were both uncomfortable. We were just at a spot where we said, ‘Let’s do this,’” said Jordan Hubbard, minister of the Word for the 650-member Crestview Church of Christ in Waco — a city of 130,000 about halfway between Dallas and Austin. “For me, I found that the commitment to exercise and diet was really a spiritual discipline as well.”

Read the full story.

Related story: Throw away those gigantic suit jackets (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.): These preachers say they’ve shed pounds for good.

These stories appear in the October 2016 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

No doughnuts on Sunday? Churches confront nutrition, fitness

No doughnuts on Sunday? Churches confront nutrition, fitness

This story appeared on the AP national wire and ran on Page A10 of The Washington Post.

The Associated Press

March 8, 2004, Monday, BC cycle

DIET: No doughnuts on Sunday? Churches confront nutrition, fitness

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: Domestic News

LENGTH: 914 words


Sunday morning worshippers at Fellowship Church used to satisfy their spiritual hunger with God and their growling stomachs with Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Then pastor Ed Young preached a series of sermons on the biblical principle of the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

“People loved the Krispy Kremes, but the more we started thinking about this, we were saying, ‘We can’t talk about this on the one hand and on the other hand have all these doughnuts,”‘ said Young. These days his 18,000-member suburban Dallas church touts healthy eating and physical fitness.

In the Bible Belt, fried-chicken fellowships and potbellied pastors are as much a part of the culture as NASCAR races and sentences that start with “Y’all.” Churches traditionally have not worried much about waistlines.

As Autumn Marshall, a nutritionist at church-affiliated Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., explained, most evangelical Christians don’t drink, smoke, curse or commit adultery.

“So what do we do?” she said. “We eat.”

While the Bible frequently condemns gluttony, Marshall said, “it just appears to be a more acceptable vice.”

A 1998 study by Purdue University sociologist Kenneth Ferraro concluded that church members were more likely to be overweight than other people.

Ferraro analyzed public records and surveys involving more than 3,600 people. Broken down by religious groups, Southern Baptists were heaviest, while Jews, Muslims and Buddhists were less likely to be overweight.

“In many respects, a lot of the Christian religions, especially the fundamentalists, just have not made the connection yet that you can dig a grave with a fork,” Ferraro said.

That’s readily acknowledged in “High Calling, High Anxiety,” a new book by the Rev. O.S. Hawkins. Hawkins heads the board that administers medical and retirement plans for Southern Baptist pastors.

The top two medical claims paid by the denomination’s health insurance program in 2002 were for ailments such as back problems and high blood pressure, often the results of obesity or a sedentary lifestyle.

“It seems the secular community is sounding the alarm over the evils of obesity, but Christian churches do not seem to have heard the message,” Hawkins wrote.

He cited denominational statistics that showed 75 percent of Baptist pastors eat fried foods at least four nights a week and 40 percent snack two or more times a day on cookies, chips or candy.

“We’re pretty good at avoiding alcohol and tobacco, but 25 percent of us drink six or more cups of coffee a day,” Hawkins wrote. “Baptists definitely hold the heavyweight title in ministry.”

The Rev. Byron McWilliams once fit that bill. Two years ago, when he weighed 260 pounds, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Buna, said he didn’t dare address the subject of healthy eating to his South Texas congregation because he would have felt hypocritical.

Then, he turned 40. About the same time, he watched a family in his congregation suffer through the death of a middle-age father from heart disease, and he went to a Baptist meeting where Hawkins talked about the need for pastors to take better care of themselves.

“I realized I was probably more of the problem than the solution,” McWilliams said.

So, the father of three started running and limiting himself to 2,000 calories a day. He shed 50 pounds and 6 inches from his waistline.

“It was pretty amazing as to how quickly the body – the way God has designed it – responds to regular exercise and eating correctly,” he said.

It’s a message McWilliams now freely proclaims – even from the pulpit.

At Fellowship Church, a similar emphasis on God’s role in healthy living persuaded Angela Wicker, 35, to improve her diet and exercise for reasons other than vanity.

Along with changing her own diet, she replaced her children’s fast-food chicken nuggets and fries with turkey sausages and steamed vegetables. Her 12-year-old son Christopher has lost 20 pounds and kept it off, she said.

To help promote physical activity, Fellowship Church offers running and cycling clubs and competitive team sports and even a fitness “boot camp.”

Young, the church’s pastor, said he works out in a gym and runs three or four times a week. His wife, Lisa, joins him at the gym and leads a “walking with weights” program for church members.

As part of his “Body for God” sermon series, his wife cooked on stage, showing how changing a few ingredients in a meal could cut the fat grams.

“We’re not like purists,” Ed Young said. “It’s not bean curd and tree bark and carrot juice every day. But I would say about 95 percent of the meals that we eat at home are healthy. She uses lean meats, fresh vegetables, not a lot of butter.”

Still, the Youngs’ congregation – like churches in general – has a long way to go.

That’s evident to anyone who stops by a restaurant chain near the church after Sunday morning worship.

“You’ll see a group of people who have obviously been to church,” Ed Young said. “And you’ll see them order all this fat-laden food and then they’ll say, ‘Let’s pray together. God, bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies.’

“The deal is they should have prayed before they ordered, ‘God, help me order stuff that will glorify you.’ ”

On the Net:

Fellowship Church: http://www.fellowshipchurch.com

Southern Baptist Convention Annuity Board: http://www.absbc.org

Reach religion beat writer Bobby Ross Jr. at bross(at)ap.org.

DIET: Nation’s food banks put more emphasis on nutrition

DIET: Nation’s food banks put more emphasis on nutrition

This story appeared on the AP national wire and ran on Page A08 of The Washington Post.

February 13, 2004, Friday, BC cycle
DIET: Nation’s food banks put more emphasis on nutrition

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: Domestic News

LENGTH: 749 words

Just five years ago the Greater Boston Food Bank couldn’t give away a carrot.

In fact, in 1999 it handed out no fresh produce at all. Last year, the food bank gave away 3 million pounds of it, nutrition manager Leslie Oliver says.

From Boston to Dallas to Oakland, Calif., food banks for the poor are increasing their stores of fresh and frozen produce and lean meats, and they’re trying to teach their customers how to eat healthier.

Says Oliver, whose operation supplies 750 shelters and food pantries: “We didn’t want to be a snack bank” anymore.

To satisfy their hunger, the poor often rely on grains, sugars and fats, said Matt Longjohn, executive director of the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children.

“That’s opposed to lean meats and fruits and vegetables that you really only find in the middle- and upper-end grocery stores but certainly not in the caged-in grocery stores that are the hallmarks of these communities,” Longjohn said.

In Dallas 15 years ago, Mary Johnson got government cheese, peanut butter and damaged, off-brand canned goods from a local ministry when she was between jobs and needed help feeding her family.

“When you opened it up, it might not be good,” she recalled.

The 56-year-old divorced mother of three grown children sought food assistance again this month after she lost her telemarketing job.

This time, she left North Dallas Shared Ministries – one of 400 nonprofit agencies served by the North Texas Food Bank – with fruits, vegetables, milk and eggs.

“It’s just wonderful,” said Johnson, whose unemployment check barely covers her apartment rent.

In the last 10 years, efforts to improve the product mix at food banks have gained momentum, said Sue Hofer with America’s Second Harvest. The Chicago-based organization works with more than 200 regional food banks.

Corporate grants by companies such as Kraft, ConAgra and Tyson have helped food banks and their affiliate agencies increase their capacity to store and ship refrigerated and frozen foods.

“It didn’t do any good for us to accept a truckload of yogurt with a use-by or sell-by date of next week if we didn’t have anybody who could accept delivery of that,” Hofer said.

In the 2003 fiscal year, America’s Second Harvest distributed more than 83 million pounds of fruits and vegetables. That’s a gigantic leap from 3.8 million pounds in 1995.

“Obviously, there’s still a lot to do, but we have moved produce to No. 1 on the list of products shipped to our food banks,” Hofer said. “It’s a huge stride in just a very few years.”

And it takes food banks beyond the typical household handout.

“What you find a lot of times in donated foods is what somebody has in their pantry,” said Jan Pruitt, executive director of the Dallas food bank. “They say, ‘The kids won’t eat this,’ or, ‘I thought I was going to make fudge, but I didn’t.’ It’s that kind of donation.”

Charity food providers relied primarily on such donations to feed the hungry until a few years ago, when the high rate of obesity among the poor became a concern.

In Oakland, the Alameda County Community Food Bank considered banning soda from its warehouse.

Instead, its managers chose to focus on education, posting health information by the carbonated drinks in storage where clients pick up food – along with a 16-pound bag of sugar designed to help make the point.

“I drink soda,” said Suzan Bateson, the food bank’s executive director. “I don’t drink a lot of it, but I drink it. It’s part of my diet. What I find helpful is getting information about how many I should be drinking, or should I be feeding this to a 2-year-old.”

In Dallas, the North Texas Food Bank decided to make milk, eggs, rice, pinto beans and pasta always available.

“We are raising more and more dollars so we can go out and purchase the food that’s needed,” Pruitt said.

Through a “virtual food drive,” donors can go online and contribute money to buy such items. Such purchases topped 832,000 pounds last year – a figure the Dallas food bank estimates will nearly triple to more than 2.2 million this year.

The goal: making a healthy diet an option for everyone.

“You and I go make our choices standing in a grocery store where there are hundreds of choices,” Pruitt said. “The families that we’re talking about go to a small church somewhere in their neighborhood where the choices may be very small.”

Bush touts health, wellness programs in visit to Dallas YMCA


The Associated Press State & Local Wire

July 18, 2003, Friday, BC cycle

Bush touts health, wellness programs in visit to Dallas YMCA

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: State and Regional

LENGTH: 737 words


In town to fatten his campaign war chest, President Bush stopped at a Dallas YMCA on Friday to call attention to a different kind of fitness.

An avid runner who credits exercise with helping him quit drinking more than 15 years ago, Bush urged Americans to adopt healthier lifestyles as he greeted children at the Lakewest Family YMCA in his former hometown.

The president challenged Americans to exercise at least 30 minutes a day and to consume less grease and eat more fruit and vegetables.

“It’s a health care plan that says if you exercise and eat healthy food you will live longer,” said Bush, who spoke flanked by about 30 children and below a red, white and blue sign that read “Healthy US.”

After arriving in a presidential helicopter, Bush toured the 2-year-old Lakewest Family YMCA. The facility, in the shadow of west Dallas public housing, serves mostly poor, minority children and houses storefronts for the Dallas Police Department and a medical clinic. It’s also home to a Head Start program.

“We were pleased to see little youngsters doing jumping jacks, with enthusiasm I might add,” Bush said.

Eighteen-year-old Dennis Roberson, winner of Lakewest’s youth volunteer of the year award, was chosen to greet Bush and tell him about what the YMCA has to offer.

Joined by members of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Bush touted health and wellness programs like those offered by the nation’s 2,540 YMCAs, which serve nearly 19 million Americans.

NFL Hall of Famer Lynn Swann, chairman of the Council, joined Bush on stage.

“I know it’s probably difficult for people in Dallas to give a former Pittsburgh Steeler a standing ovation,” he joked.

Swann, now a sports broadcaster, launched a new Web site on Friday designed to help Americans build a regular physical routine.

About 9 million young Americans, or about 15 percent of all children, are overweight, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That makes those youths far more likely to develop a host of serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, medical experts say.

Obesity in America cost the nation an estimated $117 billion in medical bills in 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bush said the nation’s number of obese children has doubled since 1980.

“That is a problem and this nation must do something about it for the sake of our future,” Bush said.

Kenneth L. Gladish, YMCA of the USA’s national executive director, praised the president for calling attention to the issue.

“At the YMCA, a full life means having an essential balance of a healthy spirit, mind and body requiring more than just exercise but also learning, adopting and sustaining healthy habits for the rest of one’s life,” Gladish said in a statement.

“We need to find ways to keep kids and families interested in getting physically active,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said in a statement. “By allowing people to chart success and receive awards, we are taking steps to build a healthier U.S.”

Odyssey Ellis, 6, also endorsed Bush’s call for exercise. Odyssey, whom Bush hoisted during his visit, said she enjoys playing “Count down,” a game that involves running in place.

Nine-year-old Stephen Raveneau, who likes picking up cherries, another exercise game, got to shake Bush’s hand. “He has a firm grip,” Stephen said, nodding when asked if that might be attributable to Bush’s exercise routine.

After the YMCA event, Bush was headed to the Wyndham Anatole Hotel to hold a $2,000-per-person re-election campaign fund-raising reception.

A few hundred protesters, some chanting “Bush lies,” lined the street outside the hotel Friday evening as limousines arrived for the fund-raiser.

The rally, organized by the Dallas peace center, featured handwritten signs such as “Regime Change Begins at Home,” “Bush, Weapons of Mass Deception” and “Impeach the Son of a Bush.”

Inside the hotel, Bush traded his casual short-sleeved shirt for a dark suit and tie.

“We love Texas. We love our friends,” Bush, joined by wife Laura, told the crowd of at least 900 supporters that included Gov. Rick Perry and other top state Republicans. “We want to thank our friends for helping us.”

On the Net:

President’s Challenge: http://www.presidentschallenge.org

YMCA: http://www.ymca.net

Family Struggled With Wife, Mom Dying to Be Thin

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
June 8, 1997, Sunday CITY EDITIONFamily Struggled With Wife, Mom Dying to Be Thin

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Staff Writer


LENGTH: 3719 words

Snapshots of two women – one Steve Duty married and one he
buried – rest side by side on the living-room table.

One set of photos shows a beautiful prom date. A picture-perfect
bride. An all-American wife and mom.

The other depicts a frail, 45-pound figure in a wheelchair – a
living skeleton near death after a six-year battle with anorexia

Duty knew both women well.

They were one woman. But in his mind, they never will be.

“This was a woman who apparently had everything – beauty,
perfect shape, a great home, a great family,” Duty said of his
green-eyed high school sweetheart. “She was a sweet, kind, giving

“But as much as she loved her children, as much as she loved me,
she was sucked into this illness and let it control her.”

My mom, Tracey Duty, died at age 33 from anorexia nervosa. This
is a disease where a person starves and exercises themselves to
lose weight. Tracey thought she was fat and wanted to do
something about it. She was never fat. In fact, the most she
ever weighed was 112 pounds and she was 5 feet, 2 inches tall.

– Excerpt from an essay
by Josh Duty, 13

Memories of Tracey Duty fill her family’s thoughts – and their
Warr Acres home – 10 months after her death.

Steve Duty, a tan, fit carpet cleaner who lifts weights and
teaches Sunday school at Council Road Baptist Church, spreads an
inch-thick stack of medical records across the carpet.

The records – and the $ 330,000 in bills that forced the family
into bankruptcy – tell part of the story.

The essay son Josh wrote for his Cooper Middle School English
class tells another part.

At Tracey’s funeral, her husband, son and daughter, Stephanie,
11, pledged to tell her story – to help others.

That’s why they exposed their heartache to The Oklahoman.

“If it helps one person, it will be well worth it,” Steve said.
“Hopefully, it will make people ask questions because anorexia is
almost like a slow suicide.”

Josh, an avid golfer and football player who has shot hoops with
Vince Gill and has a Super Bowl cap autographed by Troy Aikman,
made an A on the essay, titled “The Death of My Mom.”

The small cedar chest that Stephanie holds on her lap tells more
of the story.

Unlocking the chest with a tiny key, the Tulakes Elementary
student pulls out her mother’s glasses and sunglasses, a cassette
tape labeled “Tracey’s Message to Her Children” and other memories.

I would like to tell you that she was the most beautiful mother
in the world, but I can only see her beauty through pictures. My
dad, Steve, realized what she was eating and doing was not
normal. Mom thought what she was doing was eating healthy and
exercising to feel better, and, at first, that was true.

Stephanie wears a necklace with a heart-shaped angel.

“You’re my little angel,” Tracey Duty told her daughter with a
smile when she gave her the necklace.

A year and a half later, Stephanie can recite every detail of
that moment at her mother’s bedside.

“She was just so happy,” said Stephanie, who has taken the
necklace off only once.

In the Dutys’ comfortable brick home, fond images form easily.

Tracey’s husband and children reminisce about the faithful
Christian who watched babies in the church nursery. The friendly
comforter who wiped scraped knees during playground duty at Tulakes
Elementary. The caring mother who made her family dinner and
dessert every night.

They remember the excited traveler who visited Disney World five
times, enjoyed Branson, Mo., and surprised the family with a cruise
to the Bahamas.

They recall a woman who loved her family so much that she risked
her life to give birth.

When she was six-months pregnant with Josh, doctors found she
had a severe heart condition. They encouraged her to abort the
fetus to save her own life. The doctors worried about the increased
weight and pressure on her heart.

“Instead, Tracey became bedfast the remainder of the pregnancy
and was determined that little Josh would one day rest safely in
her arms,” Council Road Baptist Church pastor Mark Hartman said in
Tracey’s eulogy.

It started off for my mom very innocently. She began by not
eating red meat and walking about four miles a day. After a
short time, people began saying how much better she looked,
which made her feel good about herself. She began thinking that
the more weight she lost, the more people would say how great
she looked, and she would feel even better.

As a Putnam City West High School sophomore, Tracey Wyman had
the kind of cover-girl looks that made boys stare and girls

She twirled the baton, cheered with the pep club and excelled on
the softball diamond. She later played infield for the national
champion Oklahoma City Jets.

She met Steve Duty, a Putnam City West junior, in spring 1979.

Love bloomed.

Steve never noticed anything extraordinary about her eating

“She would always just eat the right amount and then stop,” he
said. “It was never a problem. We’d go have steak, hamburgers,

They dated for three years until one day, while they strolled
the Central State University campus, Steve asked her to marry him.
That summer, they exchanged vows at Tulakes Baptist Church in

Steve’s sister Peggy Diefenderfer considered Tracey a close

“If I had to describe her, I would say that she was painfully
shy. She always had a ready smile, but you could never get her to
start a conversation.”

Tracey sat at the guest book at Bob and Peggy Diefenderfer’s

Later, she became the Diefenderfers’ sidekick when Peggy
delivered twin girls.

Peggy didn’t like taking the babies places by herself. But that
wasn’t a problem. Tracey was always there.

“She helped me a lot,” Peggy remembered years later.

After a year, my mother had completely changed her diet. She
then exercised about four to six hours a day. She still thought
she was fat, although she weighed only 95 pounds. At this point,
my family was very worried and concerned. She began seeing
doctors for help, but she was smarter than the doctors and
convinced them that she was fine.

Months after delivering her “miracle baby,” as she called Josh,
Tracey Duty underwent open-heart surgery.

While in the hospital, Tracey celebrated her birthday with a
piece of cake. A doctor scolded her.

Tracey did not develop anorexia until later. Still, her
therapist, Juli Marzuola, points to the cake incident as a critical

“Tracey’s case was very similar to many … in that the person
gets overwhelmed with a health fear and it is magnified
inappropriately,” said Marzuola, a counselor and dietitian whom
Tracey began seeing in 1992. (Steve Duty signed a release allowing
Marzuola to discuss Tracey’s case.)

Tracey’s anorexia was a complicated puzzle, Marzuola said.

Those factors included her upbringing, unresolved conflicts and
the 1993 cancer death of her father. A month after Russ Wyman died,
Stephanie told Steve, “I think Mommy wants to be with her daddy.”

Like many anorexics, Tracey was raised in a home where extreme
order was expected.

“Her room had to be straight,” Steve said. “She wasn’t allowed
to mess up anything. And that carried over here.

“The house was always perfect. … She would walk behind the
children and pick up something before they could learn to do it

Only days before her death did Tracey let Stephanie take out all
her Barbie dolls and play with them.

That perfectionism – combined with Tracey’s shyness and
insecurity – helps explain her anorexia, experts said. Anorexia is
about control, not food or weight, they stress.

“Anorexics have consistently been found to be compliant,
approval seeking, self-doubting, conflict avoidant, excessively
dependent, perfectionist and socially anxious,” said Craig Johnson,
who directs the eating-disorders program at Tulsa’s Laureate
Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital.

After three years, she weighed 73 pounds. We knew time was
running out, so we took her to a hospital called Laureate, which
specializes in eating disorders. They kept her 45 days and sent
her home. I wish they would have kept her longer, because she
was not well when they let her go. Shortly after getting home,
she was back to her old schedule of exercising and dieting.

On Nov. 19, 1995, we took her to the hospital because she was
not making sense. She was confused from lack of food and nutrition.
She weighed 65 pounds. They started her on IVs and feeding tubes
immediately. That was my first Thanksgiving without Mom home. That
scared me to death. I knew for the first time that my mommy could
die from this illness. She assured us that this would never happen
again and that she would start eating and never exercise again.
Unfortunately, this illness was destroying her heart and kidneys.

Tracey Duty believed she was fat and ate too much.

She lied about what she did eat.

A friend would invite her to lunch, and she would order only a
diet soda, claiming she ate beforehand. Her family would take her
to a restaurant, then find her chicken hidden in a napkin.

She hated hospital feeding tubes. When she weighed only 68
pounds, she’d pinch her arms. “What are they doing to me?”

Most often, Tracey munched fat-free, salt-free pretzels and
sucked sugar-free hard candy.

She kept journals of what she claimed she ate. Her entry from
two days before she died:

BREAKFAST – Instant breakfast. 2 lg. bananas. Fruit yogurt.
Coffee. Why so much? I gained weight! To live – yes. I want to, but
so much food!

SNACK – 1 apple. 1/2 banana.

LUNCH – Minestrone Soup (2 cans). Whole pkg. Saltines. Apple
(lg.) Still feel funny cause of gaining weight & yet I should be
proud because I WANT TO LIVE!

DINNER – Vegetable Soup – 2 cans. 1 & 1/2 pkg. crackers. String
cheese. Banana pudding. I should not feel guilty! The Will To Live!

SNACK – 1/2 banana. Midnight until 6 a.m. – 8 crackers, 7-Up.
Why? I hate this, but I still do it!

That day, Steve asked Tracey whether she still thought she was
fat. She hesitated. “Well, I know I’m not, but my stomach still
sticks out.”

Johnson, the Laureate director, said anorexics can reach a
certain lower weight where asking them to eat is like feeding them
rat poison.

“It’s kind of a starvation psychosis and … you’re in trouble
then,” he said. “They’re going to fight the treatment.

“They believe bad things are going to happen to them if their
weight is restored.”

During the early stages of Tracey’s anorexia, Dr. Mary Ann
Bauman prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft. Tracey stopped taking
it because it helped control her compulsion not to eat.

“It’s very frustrating and difficult,” Bauman said of patients
like Tracey. “Here was something that very much helped her, and she
refused to take it.”

In ways, anorexia is like alcoholism, Bauman said.

“People who are not alcoholics wonder how someone can give up
their jobs, their house, their family for that bottle,” she said.

“In the same way, Tracey had gorgeous children, a wonderful
husband – how could she give all this up to starve herself?”

On Feb. 17, 1996, Mom was asleep with her eyes open. We thought
she was dead. We called 911. The police got there, then the fire
department. They worked with her for about 15 minutes before the
ambulance finally arrived.

When the ambulance drove away with my mom, I didn’t know if I
would ever see her again. She stayed in ICU for eight days. She
told us it would never happen again. I had to talk to my mom. I sat
down with her and asked her if she wanted to see me graduate from
high school and if she wanted to see me get married. She started
crying and so did I. She told me she was going to get better. I
really believe that my mother wanted to get better, but her illness
was controlling her. She stayed in the hospital this time for 36

Even in her final days, Tracey Duty maintained a rigid routine.

She made dinner when she could barely stand.

On the night before she died, she fixed chicken, rice, salad, a
fruit bowl and oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies. Then she washed the

“She just used the counters to get around the kitchen,” Steve

When she could rouse the energy, she still tried to exercise.
Weeks before she died, she fell and cut her head on the sidewalk
while walking. Earlier, she tripped on ice and cracked her tailbone.

Often, the family would come home and find Tracey stuck on the
toilet, too weak to move. Or she would stand for hours – it hurt
less than sitting – watching the Food Network.

However, Tracey resisted people who came to check on her. It was
as if they were invading her safe haven.

Josh, meanwhile, feared coming home from school alone.

“I was afraid she’d be laying there … and I wouldn’t know what
to do, if she was dead or in a coma or what.”

Josh didn’t know it, but his aunt often parked down the street,
afraid herself of what the children might find.

When Diefenderfer did call or knock, Tracey often greeted her

“I would leave there and think, Ouch.’ ”

I saw no difference in her eating habits. She always did good
for a while after getting out of the hospital, but would
eventually go back to her old ways. I could see her getting
weaker every day. In April, it all happened again. My hopes
would be so high that she would be all right, and then my hopes
would drop when she was hospitalized again. She always told me
she was going to be fine. But the doctors told us all along that
she was going to die. She went home after 32 days of feedings.

When Tracey Duty’s pastor suggested she make a goodbye tape as a
gift her children could treasure, her friend and neighbor
Stephanie Clark found a tape recorder.

Clark, mother of Josh’s best friend, “Goose” Clark, took the
recorder into Tracey’s hospital room and told her she loved her.

“If something doesn’t happen here, if there aren’t some changes
made, you might not have a chance to tell your children what you
want to tell them,” Clark told her friend.

At first, Tracey became angry .

“Tracey, I can see your teeth through your upper lip,” Clark

The tape Tracey made includes messages for “my two wonderful

Tracey first talks to Josh, telling her “miracle baby” she has
many sweet memories of him. She urges him to be a “godly young man”
and not to put so much pressure on himself to make perfect grades.

“And I just want you to have the most wonderfulest life you can
have. That’s my biggest prayer for you.

“Think how goofy your dad is. See, you’re just like that and you
can have a happy life. Remember some of those vacations we’ve had.
Those are so fun.”

She remembers taking Josh to Six Flags while pregnant with
Stephanie. They watched Bugs Bunny on stage, and Tracey noticed
that her little boy walked just like his father.

“It’s so cute,” she says. “There’s so many wonderful memories.”

Then Tracey talks to Stephanie.

“I love you very, very, very, very much. And I know I refer to
Joshua as a miracle child. And you were too because you weren’t
supposed to happen, but you did. And I’ve told you over and over
how He (God) has blessed you, and He has given you to us.”

She encourages Stephanie to pursue her dream of being a
schoolteacher or a hairdresser. “That’s so cute because that’s the
kinds of things I wanted to do. Kind of neat, huh?”

Tracey recalls Josh playing in the back yard while Stephanie sat
in her high chair “kicking and grinning.”

We thought it would be fun to go somewhere when she got home, so
we went to Branson, Mo. We pushed her around in a wheelchair the
whole time. It was our last vacation together.

On the way home from Branson, my mom started to get confused
again, and she was passing out. I had to give my mom a real Coke
(instead of the Diet Coke she usually drank) to get some sugar into
her body. After about 30 minutes she woke up. We told her later
what had happened, and she was upset with us for giving her the
real Coke. We knew for sure now that she was in bad shape.

Throughout the ordeal, Steve Duty stuck by his wife.

“One thing everyone said about Steve was he always had a smile
on his face,” Diefenderfer said. “You wouldn’t have known he was
dying inside.”

She recalls one time when Steve broke down crying at the kitchen
table. “He said, She hasn’t said a kind word to me in a year and a
half,’ ” Diefenderfer said.

Because of her heart, Tracey could not get health insurance. So
along with the physical and emotional pain of anorexia, her family
dealt with financial stress – and later, bankruptcy.

“The kids were scared we’d lose the house and they wouldn’t have
their neighbors anymore,” Steve said. “Eventually, we found out the
house would be OK.”

When Tracey died, the family sold her car to pay for the funeral.

Before her death, some people urged Steve to divorce his wife,
if only to relieve the financial strain. That way, they said, she
would be single and unemployed, and state or federal agencies might
send help instead of rejection letters.

“He just could not and did not want to leave her when she was so
sick,” Diefenderfer said.

“He amazed and surprised a lot of other people, but I knew what
he was made of.”

Josh and Stephanie, meanwhile, cared for their mother as if they
were the parents. “They had to grow up so much faster than any kids
should have to,” their aunt said.

The family’s faith inspired many.

“Throughout this whole thing, Steve has never lost faith in the
Lord,” said Chris Wall, Council Road Baptist’s youth minister. “He
has always said, God is faithful.’ ”

When we got home from the trip, she had to be hospitalized
again. This time was the worst. Mom was on a respirator for four
days. They told us again she would die. God kept giving her more
time with us. They got Hospice involved at our home to help take
care of her.

My sister, dad and I were the ones who mainly took care of her.
I was going to camp on Aug. 5, 1996. I really didn’t want to leave
Mom, but she wanted me to get away and have some fun before school
started, so I went on to camp. Finally, Friday came, and I was
going home to see Mom.

Tracey Duty nudged her sleeping husband and whispered, “Steve
… Steve.”

Deep in his dreams, Steve Duty still could envision the high
school sweetheart he wed 14 years before. Now, though, Steve felt
Tracey’s bony forefinger poking him.

He wiped his eyes and looked across the bed at what his true
love had become.

She lay awake in socks and a pink sweat suit and occupied just a
sliver of the king-size mattress. The sweat suit hid her sheer
skin, her brittle bones.

Her eyeglasses protruded from her shriveled, sunken face.

“Steve, I’m sorry, I’ve got to go again,” Tracey said softly,
dawn still two hours away, the bathroom farther than her legs would
carry her.

He reached under her knees with one arm and lightly squeezed the
back of her neck with his other hand. He rested her head carefully
against his chest, balancing her like a fragile vase, afraid he
might break her if he grasped her too tightly.

He carried her to the bathroom and sat her down.

When she finished, he leaned over and picked her up again. As he
lifted her, she kissed him three times.

“I love you and I’m sorry,” she told him.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll talk about it tomorrow,” Steve
said, unaware Tracey had just spoken her final words.

The bus stopped suddenly on the highway on Friday, Aug. 9, 1996
– the day I’ll never forget. Chris, my youth minister, called me
up to the front. My heart stopped. I knew it was bad news. He
told me my mom was dying fast. He said, “We’re putting you in a
car and racing you home to be with her.”

Finally we arrived. I ran to my mom’s room. I looked at her,
then grabbed my dad and cried. He told me Mom was hanging on just
to hear my voice. My mom couldn’t talk to me, but she could hear
me, so I told her all about camp. I was able to spend about two
hours with her before she died. When she died, she weighed only 45

On the Duty family’s back porch, on a brisk spring evening,
life seems so simple.

Steve drops steaks and chicken breasts on the grill.

Stephanie grabs the spatula and helps Dad turn the meat. Josh
shakes seasoning salt on his hand and tastes it, while Angel, the
Dutys’ blue heeler, runs through the flowers.

It’s 7 p.m. when they finally sit down to eat. And when they
do, it’s a relaxing time, a chance to talk, joke and share feelings.

Steve has started dating again. He hopes someday to find a
“substitute mother” for Stephanie and Josh.

He knows how to handle Josh – he was a boy once. They enjoy
Oklahoma Sooner football and basketball games and talking sports.

But Steve realized the challenge in raising a daughter alone a
week after the funeral. Lying in bed, Stephanie informed her
father, “Mom told me I could start shaving my legs when I got in
the fifth grade.”

“I told her it would be OK, and I don’t think I’ve told her no
since,” Steve said. “You feel like they’ve been deprived in so many
ways, you don’t want to say no to anything.”

Tracey Duty died 10 months ago Monday. For her widower and
children, an emptiness remains.

The telephone rings, and for an instant, Josh thinks it might be
Mom. Steve hugs a date, and Stephanie asks whether Dad still loves
Mom. Steve awakens and stares at the family photograph in his

Each day, though, the pain seems somehow easier to bear.

“I kind of feel like I did all I could do,” Steve said. “I kind
of have a peace about it.”

The tears flow, but not as long or hard.

“I want you all to go on living and to have everything you ever
wanted,” Tracey Duty told her family. “OK? That would make me so

“And I will always, always, always watch over you.”

The illness was so frustrating to me. It never should have
happened. It started out so innocently. She just wanted to be
healthy. Then it got out of control. Anorexia nervosa is a very
serious illness. I hope no one else has to go through what my
family and I went through.

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of my mom. I will always
miss her, but I know she is in a better place now – heaven.