Moms, Let’s Help Ourselves

We often forget that moms are individuals with a past and identity before having children. That moment when she finds out she’s pregnant, the focus immediately shifts from “me” to “we”, and that feeling only intensifies the older the child becomes. Therefore, in order to truly give something back to the moms in our lives, one must simply let her figure out how best she can renew herself. Everyone is different, the needs of one mom vary from one to another. One mom might need a night out with girlfriends, another a long hot bath and a good novel. The cure for what ails is bio-individual, but the need is undeniably there.

When I first became a mother, I was overwhelmed by the realization of that responsibility. Breastfeeding, tummy time, around the clock feedings and diaper changes all contributed to a culture shock I had mentally prepared for but not emotionally connected to yet. I felt extremely tired and the weight of responsibility was leveling. I had always been strong, but this new life as a mom required a higher, more intense level of resiliency I hadn’t acquired yet. I had to adapt, and I wasn’t sure how to do it. I was a fighting a losing battle against the tide, and I felt myself being pulled under.

It wasn’t until I had healed enough from giving birth and could workout, that I saw my first respite from the pull of the metaphorical undertow. The road became a lifeline to my former self to pull out of the constant drudgery of mundane daily tasks that motherhood requires. In the 30-60 minutes I was out on the pavement I felt lighter and lighter. Each step was a reclamation of my former self, and I breathed in the freedom I felt had escaped me. When I returned home, tired and exhilarated at the same time, I was at peace with my life again, and happy to dive into diaper changes, cuddling and even teething meltdowns.

Running and eventually yoga, weight lifting, and meditation, were the outlets I needed to be whole again–another mother may have a completely different set of requirements. I use myself as an example because it’s what I know for sure. What I also know without doubt is that as women, we are intrinsically selfless creatures. Sometimes we give so much of ourselves that the cup becomes empty, and that is where it becomes a matter of health.

Health is more than what is on our plates. It’s found in our relationships, our career, our connection with a higher power, and of course nutrition and exercise. It takes going inward to find out how we as mothers are doing in each of these categories, and then making the appropriate changes to make ourselves healthy and happy.

It may sound extreme at first for her to take 30-60 minutes for herself every single day, but if you think of the mother as the center of the home, it makes perfect sense to nurture her. The health and happiness of a home is almost always directly related to the sense of wellbeing of the mother. But no one can help a mother, she has to do the work and find what she needs to help herself. So mothers, do the internal work, and families support her. The result is a scenario where everyone wins, and the potential of every family member can be fully realized

How to Transition Away from Processed Foods and Regain Alignment with a Weekend Juice Cleanse

It’s no secret that addiction to processed foods is a reality in this country. Unfortunately, that means skyrocketing rates of obesity and inflammation in children and adults, and all the heath problems that accompany those maladies. No one wants to feel sick and out of control, but so many simply don’t know how to combat it. It’s a systemic problem, but happily, it is also one that can be remedied with intentional action.

Though I don’t suffer from any health problems, I am acutely aware when my poor food choices negatively affect the way my body and mind feel. When I start feeling lethargic and unmotivated, and I know that my diet of processed foods is to blame. I follow a vegan diet, but even with that, there are still plenty of opportunities to eat poorly and feel unwell. Faced with this realization, I know the best way to regain mental, physical, and spiritual alignment is to eliminate food altogether and engage in the age-old process of a fast. Fasts are great for jump starting weight loss, healing the liver and gut, skyrocketing energy levels, and focusing the mind.

Rather than engage in a super strict water-only regime, I typically choose to do a simple weekend juice cleanse–sticking to mainly raw organic fruits and veggies. It’s incredibly important to drink copious amounts of water while fasting. I start each morning with a liter of filtered water, and this practice is especially important during a fast when you are cleansing out your system. It also helps subdue hunger pangs. I also don’t abstain from drinking black organic coffee. Fasting purists would say that one must forego all caffeine during a cleanse, but there is so much evidence showing the benefits of coffee on the liver and gut, so I choose to consume in moderation. Lastly, exercise and meditation are two crucial components of a fast. Without them, the effects are not as formative, and the results don’t last as long. Fasting, gentle exercise, and meditation is the trifecta of actions that create a substative shift and bring one back into alignment and true health.

Before I begin a fast, I make sure to stock my fridge with plenty of organic fruit and veggies. If you’re going to be consuming only liquid nutrients, you don’t want them to be sprayed with pesticides. Also, you are more likely to stick with the cleanse if you have everything you need, and don’t have to run to the store. Each day will consist of three to six 8oz juices, depending on how much you need and want, so stocking up beforehand is paramount. Lastly, I ensure that my family is aware I intend to fast so that everyone knows to be supportive.

I have found that as early as the first day with the first juice I feel a surge of energy, my mind is sharp and my mood is euphoric. I typically make extra so that I have the next batch ready and I limit the amount of times I have to clean the juicer. In addition to nutrition, gentle exercise is highly recommended to aid in the cleansing process. A 15 minute HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout and some gentle yoga is a great way to eliminate toxins and purge the digestive system. I typically don’t feel any different during the HIIT portion than I normally would while not fasting, and my yoga practice always feels great and restorative. I concentrate on moves that focus on my back and abdomen (spinal twists, bridge pose, cat/cow, etc.) to encourage the cleansing process along even more.

It’s after working out, that I’m usually greeted by my first real hunger pangs. I reconcile this discomfort with remembering why I chose to cleanse in the first place and taking some deep meditative breathes. Studies show that cravings tend to last around 30 seconds, so if I make it past that point, I know I will survive–resolve intact. A meditation practice that focuses on cleansing, refocusing, and realignment is the perfect accompaniment to a fast, and makes a longer lasting impact after completion.

As the hours pass I notice how sharp I feel–sounds and smells are heightened and yet my mind is relaxed. I can see why so many people from around the world use fasts as religious and spiritual aides: it doesn’t just clarify the body, but the mind as well.

The second day of the fast is usually harder than the first. The excitement has diminished slightly, hunger is ever-present, but you will wake feeling lighter, more rested, and assuredly alive. Typically by day two there is a weight loss of 1-4 pounds. Seeing this quantifiable change is often the motivation I need to reach the finish line.

Day two’s workout should consist of some gentle walking and/or yoga and meditation. These types of activities will help curb hunger tremendously, create a sense of well-being, and restore focus for the week ahead.

By the end of the fast, ( I usually eat a light dinner Sunday night) I have increased my energy levels, gained a stronger sense of self-control and focus, crushed prior addictions to processed foods (i.e. sugar and salt), and feel completely at peace. Fasting is truly an amazing tool for encouraging self-discipline and eliminating spiritual, mental, and physical misalignment.

 

Moms, Stop the Self-Shaming and Be Selfish.

How does a parent (especially a mother) justify taking time away from their family to do something completely indulgent and self-aggrandizing like working out, reading a book in one sitting, or just being alone? Why is taking space for oneself considered abhorrent and selfish in this society? It may be due to unattainable expectations put on parents-both moms and dads, and the shame that goes along with failing to live up to what we erroneously think is the standard. Author Brene Brown described this situation perfectly when she said, “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”

This is how I lived for a long time when I first became a mother. I remember feeling this overwhelming weight of responsibility and it terrified me. How would I ever be enough for this little person? How could I show him the way when I barely knew what I was doing? These feelings of shame came to a head one night as I was giving my son a bath, and I just started to cry. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, or being enough for him. I couldn’t understand why he had cried for four hours that day, or refused to eat everything I offered him. I was failing. It was a false story playing over and over in my head, brought on by fear and shame.

Fortunately, the best way to break the perpetual cycle of outlandish expectations and subsequent self-shaming is to bring it into the light. I started talking to my husband, fellow moms, and co-workers about how I was feeling. I hated being vulnerable and showing weakness, but I couldn’t carry the burden of my critical thoughts alone anymore. It was a sink or swim moment, and I had to survive. I was amazed at the response I received. More often than not, the moms mirrored exactly how I was feeling. They told me about situations where they had felt “less than” or had messed up, and it enabled us to laugh and revel in the mutual suffering of early motherhood. In hearing their stories and sharing my experience, I realized I wasn’t alone. Everyone had these feelings, especially the new mothers. Through those simple, albeit vulnerable, conversations, I had been thrown a lifeline and I realized I had been thinking about my role and responsibility as a mother all wrong.

Once I realized that my experience wasn’t unique, I could relax. I started to make self-care a priority in my life. I realized how damaging my casual relationship with exercise and healthy food had been since having my son, and I made a conscious decision to make health and self-respect the priority. Now I tell all my friends who are expecting, and even those who aren’t, that when you have children it is even more important to take care of yourself. The emphasis you place on your own physical, mental, and spiritual well-being directly impacts your children. As parents we are the first example of how a healthy, happy, human being should exist in the world, and owe it to them and ourselves, to be an example of self-love so that they can embody that mindset too.

Five years after that first tearful session with my son looking up at me from the bath, healthy habits have developed into a mindset and way of being. I realized how important my health and sanity was for my family, and I was never going back to that role of martyr and self-doubter. I was going to be selfish and carve out time for myself to workout, read, meditate, and just be without feeling guilty or shameful about it. Then I would return to the fold, rejuvenated, reenergized, and truly present. I brought the breath of fresh air I had just received into every action and conversation with the boys, and my happiness was contagious. They benefited directly from the space I had taken for myself, and learned that it was normal for mom to not always be immediately available for every need they had. My relationship with my husband has grown even stronger too, as I rely on him to help provide me the ability to take care of myself, while not having to worry about the boys. And I do the same for him when he needs space. His choices for self-care include ice hockey, cooking unobstructed, or sometimes just listening to music.

It may seem like a tall order at first to make the switch, but I have found that if you are consistent in your healthy habits, you really will become what you practice. My husband loves to say that personal growth is the hardest things anyone can do–and I agree. To truly change and elevate yourself to a higher level, it takes a breach from hardwired, second-nature tendencies and such a deviation takes serious dedication. But if you see, as I did, that your selfishness is for the good of the entire family, and you are consistent in your efforts of self-care–positive life changes can and will happen, and your family will thank you.

 

No Time To Workout? Try a Micro-Workout.

How many times have you said the words, “I just don’t have enough time to workout today” or “I’m just too tired to drive to the gym after working all day”? If you’re anything like me, chances are relatively high that you’ve talked yourself out of exercising due to time constraints or dwindling energy levels. Fortunately, you do not have to workout for an hour to maintain or even increase your fitness level. Micro-workouts are a great way to incorporate movement and strength training into your day without any real commitment.

Micro-workouts are ten minutes or less, and can be done with little or no equipment. If you’re not worried about scaring your co-workers, micro-workouts can be done deskside or in the stairwell. I choose to do my micro-workout first thing in the morning, as a way to loosen up, raise my metabolism for the day, and to encourage myself to drink at least a glass of water before I jump in the shower. I typically do a variation of push-ups, jump squats, core work, or quick spurt lateral movements. My favorite resource for these types of workouts is healthination.com. It has countless videos, most of which are in the ten minute range. I literally wake up, go downstairs, and go hard for ten minutes. I don’t even put shoes on–it’s really that easy.

Mirco-workouts are a great way to get your blood flowing and build strength. Researcher Eric Freese, Ph.D states, “It’s possible for an athlete to maintain or even increase fitness using shorts bursts of energy.” Freese ran subjects through four 30-second bursts of all-out cycling sprints three days a week over a six-week period, starting at four sets and gradually increasing to eight sets. “We saw improvements across the board,” Freese said. “Lowered triglyceride levels, increased mental energy, and improved overall mood as well.” You shouldn’t rely entirely on micro-workouts to stay in shape, but if you have a sedentary job, busy kids, or a long commute, these will help keep you happier, healthier, and more fit every single day.

These days being busy has become a badge of honor, but you owe it to yourself to make your health the number one priority in your life. Without it, you can’t perform at work, take care of your kids, or be an effective partner. Mirco-workouts provide a doorway into a life of better health that you can absolutely start right now. No excuses!

Want To Make Your Workouts More Efficient?

 

 

If your goal is efficiency, then adding weights to your routine is paramount. Using body resistance is fine, but the results you want will take longer to appear. I work fulltime so my lunchtime workouts have to be fast, but I don’t want to waste my time either.

In order to get the most out of my short break I forgo the treadmill and hit the weights. I train opposing muscle groups, also known as agonist-antagonist  training, which means if I work on hamstrings, I also do quads. Balance is key in all things, and that certainly applies to weight training.

I train opposing muscle groups every other day, but I focus on my core every single day. Your core is crucial for assisting in all other exercises, not to mention everyday activities. Using a 15-20 lbs dumbbell or kettlebell will skyrocket your core strength, and you will immediately notice how much better you feel sitting at your desk, bending over to pick something up, or even walking down the street. So make sure you’re adding weights into your workouts–even 5 lbs will make a difference, and enjoy the changes to come.

 

The Case for Working Out While Sick

Ever since I became a parent, I have been more frequently sick than I ever was before. And with the addition of children, any real downtime to recover, even with a helpful partner, is significantly diminished.

Far from anguishing in this new reality of my life, it actually has shown me that I am stronger than I realized and can push past momentary feelings of weakness and accomplish everything I need to do–to include exercising. Obviously if you are seriously ill this does not apply, but if you have a head cold, as I did this past week/weekend, read on.

Using the above-the-neck rule (i.e. stuffy nose, headache, sore throat) you can absolutely incorporate some moderate exercise while sick. If you are coughing heavily, or have ebola, you should probably rest and/or seek immediate medical attention. Deathly illnesses aside, moderate workouts while sick will immediately benefit you in three ways:

  1. Boost your mood: You feel terrible but you just worked out! You’re a bad ass, and now you have a rush of endorphins to carry you through the rest of the day.
  2. Detoxify: Sweating and drinking water while working out aids in more quickly expelling whatever is taking unwelcome residence in your system.
  3. Increase immunity: Moderate exercise while sick has been shown to stimulate the immune system and speed recovery. Plus, chronic resistance training has been shown to strengthen the innate immune system (nonspecific defense mechanisms that come into play immediately or within hours of an antigen’s appearance in the body. These mechanisms include physical barriers such as skin, chemicals in the blood, and immune system cells that attack foreign cells in the body.)

I personally feel better when I can move my body in some way when I’m sick, even at a reduced level. Furthermore, the training I did over the past weekend ensures that I don’t lose any momentum for the week ahead. Ultimately, you need to listen to your body, but take into consideration how beneficial a little activity can be the next time you’re feeling under the weather.

 

Fudge Brownie Protein Bars

Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet. It’s responsible for building and repairing tissue, and making enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicalsProtein aids in building bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. And children need an even greater percentage of protein compared to adults as they are constantly growing. 

Protein also serves as an important part of weight management. One study showed that eating approximately one daily serving of beans, chickpeas, lentils or peas can increase fullness, which may lead to better weight management and weight loss. (Li SS, Kendall CW, de Souza RJ, Jayalath VH, Cozma AI, Ha V, Mirrahimi A, Chiavaroli L, Augustin LS, Blanco Mejia S, Leiter LA, Beyene J, Jenkins DJ, Sievenpiper JL. Dietary pulses, satiety and food intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis of acute feeding trials. Obesity, 2014. Aug;22(8):1773-80.)

As a busy mom, I’m always on the lookout for healthy snack options for my family. I have tried to be like the French and not feed my kids (or myself) snacks inbetween meals, but that lasted all of thirty minutes before a revolution of another sort happened en route to Costco. In light of these harsh realities, I place a priority on finding snacks that won’t make my children resemble deranged chimpanzees five minutes after consuming them. Enter, the Fudge Brownie Protein Bar. 

Ingredients:

Bars

1 can of black beans

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

7 Tbsp chocolate protein powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup honey

3 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Topping

Sprinkle sliced almonds and PBFit powder

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350

Puree the beans and mix in all the ingredients until smooth

Grease a glass pan and spread mix evenly

Sprinkle the almonds and PBFit on top

Bake for 20-25 mins

Once cooled, store in the fridge

 Enjoy!