Getting Started With Self-Care: A Mom’s Survival Guide

Getting Started With Self-Care: A Mom’s Survival Guide

*This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means that, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission)  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

Getting Started With Self-Care: A Mom’s Survival Guide

“Take time off…the world will not fall apart without you.”  (Malebo Sephodi)

As moms, we often put ourselves last on our list of priorities. With all the balls we juggle daily, we are afraid that if we spend even a little time on ourselves, all the balls will drop and we will fail spectacularly at this whole mothering thing. And even if we do manage to do something for ourselves–like take a nice bath or go out with friends–we often end up feeling guilty about it.

But let’s be honest here: taking care of ourselves is not a privilege we must earn. It’s a human need. And more than that, it’s 100% necessary if we want to be the best moms we can be. We are better equipped to take care of our children, families, and countless duties when we are taking excellent care of ourselves. We don’t need to “earn” self-care. It’s a necessary part of taking care of our bodies, minds, and souls.

Getting Started With Self-Care: A Mom's Survival Guide

Self-care means leaving survival mode behind.

I’ll be honest: I am naturally wired to burn the candle at both ends. I have to work really hard to plan and execute proper self care. But in doing so, I have seen a massive difference in my life and family. I’m a better mom. I’m more patient. My body is healthier and I feel more balanced. And I’m so much better prepared to handle the stress and difficult situations that naturally arise in my day.

Self-care isn’t a one time deal.

It’s something we need to do regularly to reap the benefits. You can’t go to Target by yourself, read a good book and call it good in the self-care department for the year. It needs to be built into your routines so that you are regularly replenishing yourself.

“How Can I Fit This is My Crazy Life????”

Tell me if this sounds vaguely familiar: You’re exhausted, but you are working through your kid’s bedtime routine regardless. You can just smell the freedom that comes when the last snuggles and kisses are exchanged. Though you have a long list of stuff to get done, instead you wander to the couch, snack in hand, and proceed to binge-watch something until you zombie walk to your bed and snag a few hours of sleep.

Then, you wake up fare before you’re ready to a child who needs to be fed/clothed/etc. So you tear yourself from the bed and groggily trudge through your morning.

Been there. Done that. And let me tell ya: there is a better way

Rejuvenating Mornings & Evenings

First off, self care will look different for every mom. It all comes down to what rejuvenates YOU physically, mentally, and spiritually. But as our mom days are often packed with non-stop chaos (or is that just me?), I finds mornings and evenings to be the optimal times for quality self-care. Changing my evenings and mornings has quite literally changed my life. 

Before my kids are up, I almost always read uplifting books, exercise, shower and get ready for the day (hair up, clothes on, and perhaps some mascara). I often meditate and I sometimes write in a journal. These practices nourish my mind, body, and soul and set me up to be a happy, patient mom ready to tackle the crazy that will inevitably come my way.

In the evening, after I put my 4 small kids to bed, I wind down first by unplugging from technology. This is when my husband and I can finally talk and really connect. Almost without fail, I take a hot bath with epsom salt (this is my absolute favorite) and essential oils while I read and relax my mind and body. I breath deeply (this method is pretty fantastic) and will sometimes meditate if I am still having trouble shutting off my brain.  

But that’s me. These practices renew me daily, help me sleep well, and feed my mind, body, and soul.

Self-Care will look different for each of us.

To create your self-care routine, you’ll need to reflect what activities bring YOU peace and relaxation. When can you find time in your day to spend some time on yourself? Before you can do that, there are a few steps you need to take to make room for self-care in your life. 

THREE STEPS TO GETTING STARTED WITH SELF-CARE

Step 1: Create Your “White Space”

Imagine a white piece of paper with writing on it. There are margins on all sides and spaces between the paragraphs. There is clear organization and flow. The white space provide direction and organization.

Okay, now Imagine another piece of paper with crammed writing covering the entire surface. Overwhelming, huh? Not sure where to start or end and there are no white spaces to be found.

Which paper best resembles your life? The one with rests and white spaces? Or the one that is so full it’s impossible to make heads or tails of what is going on?

As moms, we are so busy and maybe even feel overwhelmed from time to time. How can we fit in self care as well? Well, maybe we need to cut out some activities that aren’t important. We need to find white space in our lives. While much of what we do is extremely important, we also fill our lives up with a lot of non essentials.

To say yes to self care and better mental and physical health, you may need to say no to other things.

Step back an evaluate what you spend your time on. What should you cut out? Don’t let good things get in the way of doing THE BEST things. Don’t worry about fulfilling anyone’s expectations for you or what other people are doing. Evaluate what will be best for you and your family. And don’t be afraid to cut out things that are no longer in your best interest.

For me, this meant saying “no” to a lot of outside demands. It also meant not trying to fit in work after my kids went to bed. I used to stay up super late grading papers, cleaning, and working on a host of other things that I could never get to during the day. To get better sleep and make the most of my mornings, I needed to completely change my evening routine.

Step 2: Guard the “White Space” in Your Life

If you’ve cut out the non-essentials from your life, you’ve made room for the white space. If you are anything like me, your natural inclination is to look at that white space and want to fill it all up.

Instead, guard that white space with ferocity. That white space equals balance and your sanity. That white space allows you to fit in the much needed self-care activities that will improve your mental, physical, and spiritual health. 

You may find that this white space actually allows you to accomplish more everyday. The 7th habit in Stephen R. Covey’s super-famous Seven Habits For Highly-Effective People is “Sharpen the Saw.” Which means taking care of yourself and feeling renewed so that you can operate at max efficiency. So if you want to be a “highly effective person,” guard your white space and try some self-care (and read his book–it is UH-MAZING).

Step 3: Build Your Self-Care Routine

Again, your self care routine may look very different from mine. But you want to make sure that you are including activities from the 3 core areas: physical, mental, and spiritual. Below are just a few ideas to get you started. Pick a few of the following and try them out this week.

Body/Physical

  • Exercise regularly
  • Go for a walk or hike
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat nutritious food
  • Take a relaxing bath
  • Have a dance party with your kids
  • Ask your partner for a massage
  • Get 15 minutes of sun (with sunscreen)
  • Snuggle with your spouse or children
  • Take a nap
  • Take a hot bath with epsom salts and/or relaxing essential oils
  • Spend time in nature
  • Smell you favorite things

Mind

  • Declutter a problem area
  • Journal
  • Start a file on your computer writing favorite memories of your kids
  • Read
  • Go outside and be in nature
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Go somewhere by yourself
  • Laugh–watch a funny youtube video, read a comic
  • Complete a task that’s been nagging at you
  • Start a book club

Spirit

  • Read something uplifting
  • Go on a date with your husband
  • Try a new type of food
  • Cut out negative people on social media
  • Call/email an old friend you haven’t talked to in ages
  • Unplug from all electronics
  • Meditate
  • Recite Affirmations

Most important: Get started

Mamas, you are so important. So much rides on your capable shoulders. Make sure you give them a break (even it’s a small one) everyday.

In the comments, I’d love to hear from you. What rejuvenates you? Am I missing anything on my lists? What are your obstacles to self-care?

Getting Started With Self-Care: A Mom's Survival Guide

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10 Strategies for Moms to Get Dramatically Better Sleep

10 Strategies for Moms to Get Dramatically Better Sleep

*This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means that, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission)  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

10 Strategies for Moms to Get Dramatically Better Sleep

Sleep impacts every area of ours lives, yet few people truly make it a genuine priority. Most moms I know are not getting quality sleep. Why? You are balancing children, a home, endless responsibilities and maybe even a job! And what comes last? Your needs.

But sleep deprivation is literally killing people through the associated health problems that come with it. And like the oxygen masks on an airplane, if you want to help other people (your kids) you need to make sure your mask is on.

Simply put: You need better sleep.

Duh, you say. All moms want more sleep. And we make it a contest with other moms to compare who is the most sleep deprived. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sure, motherhood may affect our sleep. But are you making it an actual priority? Are you making intentional choices to improve your sleep? Making just a few changes can dramatically increase the quality of your sleep–and your life.

10 strategies for moms to get better sleep.

Moms aren’t wired for great sleep.

Like many people, my sleep quality went down the tubes when I became a mom. Even when I wasn’t up with the baby, I would be laying on my bed entirely exhausted, but unable to sleep. I would hear phantom cries constantly. Knowing that any moment, my child might need me made it soooo hard to actually relax and sleep well. Even when my baby slept through the night, my sleep quality was still pretty crummy.

Like Batman perched on a building waiting to fight crime, as a mom you are poised 24/7 to deal with the tears, stomach aches, nose bleeds, bad dreams, or whatever comes with having children. Even if during the day a miracle occurs and you have time to take a nap, you have a really hard time relaxing enough to fall asleep.

Having to wake up to feed a baby is an obvious and unavoidable sleep disruption. But even with the sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn, these tips will still be incredibly helpful in improving the sleep you are getting.

Benefits of Quality Sleep For Moms

There are endless benefits to improving your sleep quality. You are also more likely to have a healthy weight and have more energy. I can tell you that losing weight is much easier when you are getting enough sleep. Your body will function better, your hormones are more likely to be regulated. You’ll basically have much better overall health. Research shows that your kids may even sleep better.

8 Strategies for Moms to Get Dramatically Better Sleep

1) Schedule enough sleep every night

Adults needs no fewer than 7 hours of sleep a night. While some will proclaim that you can function perfectly well off something like 4 hours of sleep a night, it is complete baloney. Sleep experts are adamant that adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Failure to get enough sleep can be disasterous. For example, chronic sleep deprivation in the US Navy has resulted in increased deadly crashes.

And I know that this is so hard for us moms. You’ve put the kids to bed and after a long day you finally have a few seconds to yourself. You want to catch up on your show or spend time with your spouse. You’re completely exhausted, but you’re not ready to call it a day yet.

Or you wake up with a baby several times a night.

Whatever the case, figure out when you need to go to sleep at night to make sure that you are getting enough sleep. For me, this means that once my children are in bed, I start my relaxing nighttime routine.

2) Avoid screen a few hours before bedtime

Screen are everywhere. In our digital age, this takes serious planning and willpower to make this happen. But you can do it. The research is pretty convincing: Screens are destroying your sleep.

Have a screen cut off time at least 2 hours before you plan to go to sleep. If you can, keep your phone and other screen out of your room entirely.  

I’ll admit, this one was a struggle for me at first. My husband and I used to have this nightly ritual of watching an episode (or five) of Forensic Files. It was our time to spend together and, let’s face it, it is an addicting show. Just hearing the cheesy opening music gets me so excited. But is wasn’t great for my sleep.

Simply not looking at computer, TV, or phone screens in the couple hours before bedtime will probably have a huge impact on your sleep quality.

3) Stop eating a couple hours before bedtime

Eating heavy foods before bed will sabotage your sleep. Think about the last time you tried to fall asleep with an overly full belly. You probably had a hard time getting comfortable.

Personally, going to sleep on a slightly empty stomach (3 or so hours after eating) is best for my sleep quality.

4) Stop caffeine after mid-afternoon

This one is pretty obvious. Caffeine is a stimulant and it will make it hard to fall alseep. If you rely heavily on caffeine to get through your day, then your body is literally begging you to make sleep a priority. Better sleep will reduce your dependence on caffeine. Stop the caffeine after the afternoon and then get to bed early!

5) Make your bedroom a sanctuary  

Do you find your bedroom relaxing? Is it a reprieve from stress? If not, making some changes will drastically change your sleep and even your mood. You can invite amazing sleep into your bedroom by creating a bedroom sanctuary (check out my post here).This means eliminating distractions, lights, screens, mess–whatever will make it hard to shut off your brain and keep quality sleep at bay.

6) Exercise

Research shows that exercise significantly helps people to sleep better. If you aren’t a regular exerciser, it’s best to start out easy. Vigorous exercise might zap you of your energy during the day. For ideas on how to fit in exercise, check out my post 6 Gym-Free Ways For Busy Moms to Fit in a Quick Workout.

7) Mediate

Do you have trouble relaxing and shutting off your brain? Even if you’re exhausted, is is a struggle to quiet your busy mind? Then try mediation. It’s great at any time of the day, but it’s especially helpful for relaxing and preparing for sleep. There are so many great guided meditations for sleep on the internet. Headspace is a fabulous app that can get your started. I personally love the UCLA guided meditations. Here’s one for sleep.

8) Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday

Research shows that creating a reliable body clock where you go to bed and rise at the same times each day improves sleep quality. Your circadian rhythm (the body’s 24 hour internal clock) works best when you have regular sleep habits.

As a mom, this takes planning and willpower. I have found that moving my “me time” to the mornings as opposed to after the kids are in bed has had a really positive result. For tips on maximizing your mornings, check out my post here.

9) Create a relaxing bedtime routine

Just like creating bedtime routines for your kids helps them fall asleep, relaxing bedtime routine will help you fall asleep and sleep soundly. Some examples of nightly rituals include:

  • Take a relaxing hot bath: When you get out of the bath, your body’s rapid temperature drop naturally relaxes you and will help you sleep deeper.
  • Read a book: Reading can be relaxing and put you right to sleep.
  • Lay out your clothes: preparing for the day can help calm your mind
  • Sexy time: Studies show that sex before bed will help you sleep more soundly.  

10) Keep room nice and cold

Love to keep your bedroom freezing and pile on the blankets? Well, you’re in luck! It’s actually good for you. Sleeping in a cold room helps you sleep better and is actually better for your overall health!

Test it out

If you want better sleep, try a few (or all) of these strategies for a week and see what happens to your sleep.

What would you like to try?                  

Recommended Resources

If you are looking for more on sleep, here are a few fantastic resources to get you started.

9 Tips to Make Waking Up a Breeze

9 Tips to Make Waking Up a Breeze

*This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means that, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission)  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

9 Tips to Make Waking up a Breeze

Waking up early and accomplishing a lot before breakfast is a well-know productivity hack. Moms especially benefit from having personal time before the kids wake up. Maximizing your mornings can be completely life changing (check out my post about making over your mornings). But despite wanting to wake up early, many of us find the task incredibly difficult. As a very unnatural morning person, I’ve had to research and get every hack possible to actually get out of bed without hitting snooze a gazillion times. 

Tips to wake up early

The tips are divided into 2 categories: preparation and once the alarm goes off in the morning. If waking up is a struggle, it’s never going to change without preparing the night before.

9 tips to make waking up early easy

PART I: The Preparation

1) Go to bed early

This is essential since you don’t want to be operating on a sleep deficit. Sleep deprivation basically leads to a host of health issues (including weight gain) and, ultimately, a shorter lifespan. Most adults need at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night. Decide what time you want to wake up, subtract 8 and you’ve got your bedtime!

2) Make sure you are getting quality sleep

Quality sleep is essential to feeling well-rested, yet it’s not always easy to come by. Check out my post 10 Strategies For Moms to Get Dramatically Better Sleep.

3) Have everything set out in the morning

Have everything you can possibly think of ready to go (check out to help develop your own awesome morning routine). I work out every morning, so I lay out everything: socks, shoes, clothes, sports bra, and headphones. If I’m going for a run, I leave out my house key lanyard. I even have a big glass of water ready and waiting by my bathroom sink (see step 8).

4) Set your intentions for the morning the night before

To make you morning happen, you need to mentally prepare yourself to pop out of bed when your alarm goes off. This can take many forms–you do what will work best for you.

  • Visualization: This is a powerful strategy that I use. I visualize myself smiling and popping out of bed and going through my morning routine step by step. This was especially helpful in changing my morning outlook. I trained myself to jump out of bed with a smile when my alarm goes off. 
  • Plan: Create a written plan with what time you will get up and each thing you plan to accomplish in the order you plan to do them.
  • Use an accountability partner: If you want to wake up to exercise in the mornings, get a partner to do it with of that will help you pop out of bed. You could also just tell your spouse what you will be doing the next morning. Letting someone else know of your plans makes you more likely to keep them.

5) Have the right alarm situation

Making sure you have an alarm set that you will not snooze is essential. Like so many things, there are a lot of options–you pick what works best for you.

  • Alarm across the room: This serves 2 purposes–it gets lights and technology away from you when you’re trying to sleep (thereby imporving sleep quality) and it makes you actually get up and out of bed to turn it off. This was a game changer for me.
  • Alarm across the room AND alarm on phone by your bed: This is my preferred way to wake up. I keep a really soft alarm on my phone by my bed that gently wakes me up. My alarm across the room is set for 3 minutes later. Since I don’t want to disturb my husband, I get up easily with my gentle alarm, turn off the oter alarm before it even goes off and get on with my morning.
  • Use Step Out app: This app is completely genius. If you can hit snooze a million times without even thinking, this is the app for you. You can set it up so that in order to turn off the alarm, you actually have to take 10 or 20 steps. ANd by that point, you are awake! It’s awesome.

BTW: Try and get an alarm that isn’t horribly annoying. If the sound is too grating, it’ll put you in a bad mood the minute you hear it.

PART 2: The Morning

So you’ve done everything that you need to do the night before to prepare. Clothes are laid out. Alarms are set. You’ve visualized your morning and you have some accountability set up. You slept a solid 8 hours and the alarm goes off.

6) Smile first thing

I know it sounds cheesy, but smiling and telling yourself how excited you are to wake up really works. It actually will help make you happy and excited to wake up. Fake it til you make it, baby!  

7) Pop out of bed, turn off the alarm, and beeline straight to your bathroom.

Don’t even let yourself think about getting back into bed. You had to get up to turn off your alarm. Make it second nature to then head straight to the bathroom without even giving it a thought. You’re only partially awake at this point so you will rely on muscle memory. Make going straight to the bathroom part of your muscle memory. 

8) Drink a glass of water and brush your teeth right away

This is going to start to really wake you up and get into your morning routine. The water starts getting your systemes revved up and will give you more energy. Brushing your teeth not only gives you something to do as you wake up, it wakes up your mouth. By this point, you are at least halfway woken up.

9) Put on your exercise clothes/clothes and get busy with your morning!

You’re still probably waking up, but getting dressed and physically preparing for the day is going to really help you keep waking up. To make the most of your day, I HIGHLY recommend working out first thing and getting it out of the way.
For more one making the most of your mornings, check out my post here

You can do it!

Trust me, if I can train myself to be a morning person, absolutely ANYONE can! You’ve got this.

What is your biggest struggle in the morning? What tips are you going to try?

7 Healthy & Delicious Make-Ahead Breakfasts That Will Change Your Morning

7 Healthy & Delicious Make-Ahead Breakfasts That Will Change Your Morning

*This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means that, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission)  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

7 Healthy & Delicious Make Ahead Breakfasts That Will Change Your Morning

 

No matter how you slice it, mornings are especially crazy if you have a young family. With kids and babies demanding to be fed, it’s all too easy to turn to processed foods like eggo waffles, sugar-laden cereals, or perhaps slip through a drive thru before you head to the school drop off line.

 

If you want healthy, simple, budget friendly alternatives make ahead breakfasts will absolutely change your life. Make ahead breakfasts can be prepared in bulk and will alleviate much of the stress of crazy mornings by providing healthy, filling, food for the whole family.

 

Honestly, I couldn’t survive 4 kids 5 and under without preparing breakfasts in advance. My 4 small children always seem to need me at once and let me tell you, they are crabby before they have been fed.

 

Once they wake up, I’ve got to get food in their little bodies or we are barrelling down the road to disaster.

 

However, it’s really important to me that my family eats healthy food. So I try to avoid the processed junk, but there is no way I could make a nice healthy breakfast every morning without losing my mind.

 

So these recipes literally start my day off on the right foot. We get to start the day will fantastic healthy breakfasts that have been prepared ahead of time.

 

These recipes can all be prepared quickly in bulk, and frozen or stored in the fridge. My whole family loves them and they can even double as a snack during the day!

 

Crazy mornings with no time for a healthy and quick breakfast? These will save the day! These are 7 super yummy AND healthy breakfasts recipes that you can make ahead and eat in the days and weeks to come.

 

7 Healthy and Simple Make Ahead Meals

 

From A Sassy Spoon

 

1) Protein Banana muffins — A Sassy Spoon

 

Holy smokes, we love these guys. Not only does every member of my family love them, they always disappear very quickly at potlucks. I quadruple the recipe and put them in gallon freezer bags. In the morning, it just takes 30 seconds in the microwave and–boom–delicious breakfast! 

Since I legit make breakfast muffins A LOT, I started using these amazing silicone muffin tins and no more scrubbing metal baking pans. Wahoo!!!

 

Tip: Prepare the muffins according to directions, but don’t add the choco chips. Instead sprinkly a few on the top before baking. This limits the chocolate and really helps with equal choco distribution (I found that they tend to pool in the bottom) 

 

From Clean Food Crush

 

2) Green smoothie prep packs — Clean Food Crush  

 

Green smoothies are a great way to start your day with a blast of plant-based vitamins. This is a fantastic recipe to start you out with freezer smoothie packs. And you can take the concept and literally put in any smoothie ingredients that you want. Before blending, I also love to add various seeds and nuts to add a bit of protein. 

 

From Real Mom Nutrition

 

3) Whole Wheat Freezer waffles — Real Mom Nutrition

 

As easy to prep as eggs waffles, but sooo much healthier! I pop them in the toaster and top with PB and a little bit of maple syrup. Kids love them!

 

From Organize Yourself Skinny

 

4) Blueberry Coconut Almond Overnight Oats — Organize Yourself Skinny

 

Oh my gosh, these oats in mason jars are genius. She has loads of different recipes at her site (I also seriously love her mason jar salad recipes) and I’ve yet to try one I didn’t like. My husband and I really love this particular recipe and it’s just so stinkin’ easy. Just throw some ingredients into a mason jar, mix, and stick in the fridge overnight. You eat these oats cold and they last for up to 5 days.  I love to add chia seeds and substitute steel cut oats (I just add a bit more almond milk).

 

From Eat Yourself Skinny

 

5) Healthy Veggie Egg Muffins — Eat Yourself Skinny

 

Oh my gosh, I love these! These are great veggie-filled egg muffins. Protein and fiber for the win! I like to use spinach (since that is a staple I always have) and sharp cheddar cheese along with plenty of zucchini. Again, these silicone muffin trays are heaven sent–scrubbing eggs off metal pans is no fun. 

 

from Thriving Home Blog

 

6) Protein blueberry muffins — Thriving Home Blog

 

Another muffin favorite at our house. These blueberry muffins are packed with fiber and flavor! Freeze in gallon freezer bags. Microwave for 30 seconds and you’re good to go! I also love them as quick snacks during the day.

 

from Thriving Home Blog

 

7) Whole Wheat Pumpkin Freezer pancakes — Thriving Home Blog

 

My kids are obsessed with these pancakes right now. They are so tasty! The pumpkin adds a tasty alternative to plain pancakes. I freeze them in gallon bags between sheets of parchment paper so they separate easily.  Microwave or toast for a quick breakfast! We top ours with PB and maple syrup. So yummy.

 

Which recipes look best to you?

 

So which one are your going to try out the week?Try one and let me know what you think!

 

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Loving My Post-Pregnancy Body

Loving My Post-Pregnancy Body

Loving My Post-Pregnancy Body

 

I was right in the middle of running a 10K turkey trot on Thanksgiving Day 2015 when it happened—when the way I looked at my body completely changed and I truly loved my post-pregnancy body for what it was. I had just given birth via c-section a few months earlier to my third child in just 3 years. While I had a full marathon and about 7 half-marathons under my belt, I hadn’t raced since before having children. I was just trying to finish without walking or having a major medical event. My body was easily carrying 30+ extra pounds from the last few years of perpetual pregnancy.

And like many with the postpartum “mom bod,” I was not particularly thrilled with what I saw when I looked in the mirror. And like many women, I put qualifications on when I could love my body. I would say and think things like: I’ll be happy with my body when I lose 30 lbs. Or 40 lbs. Or when I fit into a size 6 again.

loving my post preg body

The Race

 

When I began the race that crisp Thanksgiving morning, just praying that I could finish, I did not feel comfortable in my skin. But there I was, lumbering along at about mile 3 when to my surprise, I realized that I was actually passing people—people who looked far more fit than me. People who were not carrying around all this extra baggage.

That shocking realization sent a flurry of thoughts racing through my mind and I began contemplating this body of mine. My body had gone through 3 pregnancies and 3 c-sections in 3 years. It miraculously provided food and comfort for my babies and kept up with 3 small kids. My body could pump milk while making dinner and keeping a 2 year old occupied. It could (and often did) snuggle 3 kids at once.

 

A New Light

 

With these thoughts, I began to see my body in a new light. My body was not terrible. My body was amazing. It was incredibly resiliant and capable. It was strong and more useful than a Swiss army knife.

I was 4 months post partum and running a 10k, for Pete’s sake! Like a jolt, I was filled with an overwhelming gratitude for this body of mine that was doing so much for me. I was immensely proud of my body for what it was doing for me.

That’s when it REALLY hit me:

How could I have anything but love for my body that did so much for me and for my family? I was immediately ashamed of the past feelings of discontent with my body and I was struck by how unfair and short-sighted  I had been. Running alongside others in the Turkey Trot, I was fighting back tears of both gratitude for my amazing machine of a body and regret for not loving my body in every state as I should have.

 

So why don’t we love our bodies in every state they are in?

 

There’s a growing movement to accept our bodies in every state. I’ll admit, I used to think those in the fat-acceptance movement were delusional at best and dangerous at worst. But you are morbidly obese, I’d think. You are not healthy. How can you be happy with yourselves? You should want to change. Perhaps it was jealousy that these people could love their bodies when I couldn’t love mine. (An interesting read by Lindy West about fat-acceptance and her experience that I recommend.)

But now, I am so ashamed of that line of thinking.

Because no one is saying that fat = healthy. What they are saying is fat/skinny/whatever = deserve to be loved by myself and others. Having a body that is not idolized by the media does not mean one is deserving of public ridicule and self loathing. No matter what unrealistic expectations for society says, our body size and our worth have literally nothing to do with one another. 

And why shouldn’t everyone love themselves? What good does hating your body serve anyway? When I see people fighting back against fat-acceptance, I get so frustrated. Think about it: how does hating our bodies help us in any way?

Hating your body will not be a gateway to greater health. But loving your body as it is, I can attest, is certainly a gateway to better health, both mental and physical.

 

Why We Should Love Our Bodies, No Matter What

 

But what can loving our bodies do? It can improve our mental health and happiness. I love my post-pregnancy body, stretch marks and all. And folks, that’s 4 whole pregnancies in 4 years which did not leave this body unscathed.

To be honest, before when I would hear or read about mothers who “loved their stretch marks” after their pregnancies I thought they were absolutely full of it. How can a person love stretch marks? But there I was, in a street full of panting runners, and I finally got it: my body bears scars of love. My c-section scar, my stretch marks, my loose soft skin, all bear the signs of carrying the greatest joys in my life: my children. I would never want to erase the signs my body bears from such beautiful experiences.

Sure, I want to be healthier. I want to be trim and run faster and have firm shapely muscles. But I love myself as I am now. I love and respect the miracle that is my body.

 

3 Steps to Loving Our Bodies as They Are

If you struggle with this, here are just a few ways that you can start to see your postpartum body in a new light.

 

1) Recognize all your body does for you

Get a piece of paper, a pen, and somnversation to be depressie mental juices and start listing. Don’t focus on what it looks like, focus on what it does. Think about all your daily tasks over a 24 hours period. Think of what your body means to and does for the different members of your family. When one truly considers how amazing our bodies are and all they do, it’s hard not to be grateful for them.

 

2) Stop Negative Thoughts About Your Body

When negative thoughts creep into you head about your body, dismiss them and instead think about something from your list of all your body does for you. We can’t always keep thoughts from popping in our heads, but do not lay our the welcome mat and invite them for coffee. Send them packing and focus on positive thoughts.

 

3) Change How You Talk About Your Body

How you talk about your body effects how you feel about yourself and how others feel about themselves. If you start complaining about your body in a group of people, you are inviting the conversation to go down Depression Avenue. You may even invite others to subconsciously start being more del-critical of themselves. It’s not an uplifting subject. Instead, change that discussion into discussing something you are excited about for improving your healthy. As always, be very careful how you talk about your body around kids.

National Eating Disorders Association has an extensive guide of more ways to love your body.

 

We All Deserve to Love Ourselves

 

Remember, our bodies are complex and amazing miracles and we do ourselves a great disservice when we don’t love and respect them. Your body, literal warts and all, is a gift. Learning to truly love my body has not only brought me so much peace and gratitude, but it’s also helped me to make better health decisions. Instead of a blight I want to change, my body is a miracle I want to honor and respect by taking care of it.

What has your body acceptance journey looked like? What does your body do for you? Let me know in the comments!

-Erin

 

Intermittent Fasting & Breastfeeding: My Experience

Intermittent Fasting & Breastfeeding: My Experience

Intermittent Fasting & Breastfeeding: My Experience

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional nor am I advocating Intermittent fasting and breastfeeding without your doctor and pediatrician’s consent and support. Everyone’s situation, needs, and health are different. I am simply sharing my experience while I was under the guidance of a doctor.* 

I have a really hard time losing weight while breastfeeding. Like instead of losing weight, I gain it. While other women waste away while breastfeeding, I’m voraciously downing the last cupcake. One thing that helped turn this around was practicing intermittent fasting (IF) following my 4th pregnancy and birth. Honestly, it was perfect for me. No I didn’t lose a ton of weight quickly (because that would not be healthy or easy to maintain), but I reversed the trend of all my previous pregnancies and have slowly and continuously lost weight.

My Struggle

After each birth, I would try to lose weight, but I always had trouble losing while breastfeeding. Since breastfeeding is amazing and I love it, I refused to let my weight interfere with what was best for my baby (check out my post for tips on setting yourself up for breastfeeding success). Once I stopped nursing, losing weight was a lot easier, but then I’d get pregnant within about 5 minutes (I had 4 girls in under 5 years). After the birth of my 4th and last child Dec 2016, I was bound and determined to do it. I was going to finally overcome my inability to lose weight while breastfeeding. After getting the okay from my doctor, I had joined a gym, hired a personal trainer, tried to eat healthy, and worked my butt off for weeks and weeks. But my weight did not budge. It was so depressing.

Then, I came across intermittent fasting while researching healthy eating, which was my main struggle. It was a revelation. There are so many health benefits to IF, it’s unreal (e.g. fat loss, increased lifespan, lower ideas risk etc). I wanted to do it, but couldn’t find anything substantial about intermittent fasting AND breastfeeding. I didn’t want to risk my milk supply or quality, but I didn’t want to wait a year to lose weight. But then I thought: women throughout history have successfully breastfed with limited food supply and in various circumstances. How could a couple extra hours of fasting a day impact my milk supply? intermittent fasting and breastfeeding

Talking to the Doctor

At my baby’s 3-month visit, I decided to ask the pediatrician about it. My milk supply was well established and my baby and I were in a great routine. My pediatrician has always been very involved in my nutrition when I am breastfeeding, making sure I am getting all the vitamins and nutrients I need so my babies get what they need. She is very current on research and very concerned with healthy living. She was the perfect one for me to talk to. I honestly figured that she would say no out of extreme caution. But she was really supportive of my plan to fast daily for 16 hours (mostly while sleeping). I was going to eat between noon and 8:00pm each day while focusing on drinking lots of water and eating healthy. I started the very next day.

Managing Intermittent Fasting and Breastfeeding

I woke up around 7:00am and got busy taking care of my kids. I wasn’t going to eat until noon, so I tried to stay busy. Honestly, that’s not hard as a mom, amirite? After the morning routine, we went to the gym. By the time I got my kids checked into the kid’s center, worked out, ruined my children’s lives by making them stop playing with their friends, and drove home it was almost noon! I was definitely ready to eat and prepared a nice big meal. Then I ate 3 meals between noon and 7 and made sure to be done eating at 8:00pm.  I continued this and by about day 4, it was no big deal waiting til noon to eat. It was really easy to adjust to IF. Eating during an 8 hour window is so doable!

THE RESULTS

My Milk Supply

To my pleasant surprise, my milk supply was unaffected by the fasting. I had plenty of milk and I noticed no change in nursing whatsoever. My baby didn’t seem affected one bit. At times when I’ve lost weight more quickly–months after beginning IF–I have noticed a slight drop in supply, but that seems unrelated to IF. As of right now, I have a very healthy 100% breastfed 11 month old.

Weight Loss

The weight immediately began to come off at about a pound a week, which is perfect. I have lost 25 lbs so far and consistently lose about 1/2 – 1 lb a week. And I wasn’t necessarily drastically changing what I was eating right off the bat. But it helped me get in control of my eating–which was key for me on my weight loss journey. Since beginning, I have changed my eating habits a lot. But it’s been a really natural and gradual progression which means that it’s a change that is easy to maintain.

Changing Habits

I never struggled to exercise–I love it. But breastfeeding makes me feel like I am starving ALL THE TIME. It was hard to control my eating because I want to eat everything in my sight. With intermittent fasting, I felt like I took back control of my eating habits. It became easier to start making better food choices. Now I rarely eat sugary foods when before I ate them daily. It’s been a really natural transition into healthy eating habits.

A few months in, I started waking up at 4:00am and immediately exercising, which totally threw off the schedule since I couldn’t very well wait to noon to eat. I stopped intermittent fasting for a time while I adjusted to my new schedule. But I am back I mostly eating between 7:00am and 5:00pm. Often, I stop eating at 3:00pm. Overall, intermittent fasting is easy and has been a great way for me to build healthy eating habits. It was an important early step for me in taking back my health. If it interests you and you are breastfeeding, by sure to consult with your doctor first. Good luck!

-Erin SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave

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