I used to love Valentine's Day as a kid. My dad would give both my younger brother and me a heart shaped box filled with chocolates, one for each of us. It is hard for me now to see those heart shaped boxes in the store. I have hated this holiday for many years but now I want to change my focus.
My dad died on Valentine's Day when I was 8 years old and left me confused, devastated, and angry. I really loved him and I didn't understand why he was taken from me so this time of year always brings up painful emotions, even though it was so long ago. He died of a heart attack at such a young age; he was 38. When his heart stopped, mine broke.
Through all the pain and confusion our now family of 3 took to prioritizing food choices and physical activity. Not surprisingly, as I grew up, I became interested in nutrition and exercise science and the older I get the more curious I am about the body's processes and what influences those systems.
I am so passionate about working with women who are becoming new moms because of how influential (both short and long term) their dietary selections and activity patterns are on their baby. With rising obesity rates (children being the fastest growing subgroup in the United States), that undoubtedly leads to a myriad of very scary health problems, I can see a clear path that I want to take in helping women change the fate of their family.
Instead of feeling sorrow and loss around this holiday, I want to focus on making it about strengthening hearts and creating more health, which ultimately brings families more love because of the priceless time they get to spend with each other.
The health and weight loss industry is a huge money maker and most adults who invest in it are left with poor results, feelings of defeat, and generally revert back to their conditioned patterns. Statistics show us that starting a healthy lifestyle practice at a young age is significantly more promising and lasting than attempting to force changes later in life. Pregnancy presents a special advantage to women who know they want to create a different experience for their child because many moms to be are highly motivated to do all they can to create a healthy pregnancy.
With the right guidance, healthy practices established in pregnancy not only give your child a giant advantage but are more likely to stay with you, as you have experienced how truly beneficial (both emotionally and physically) and life changing they can be.
A few of my clients were surprised by my answer when they asked me what my resolutions were this year. I replied that I have only one and it is a VERY small one. My 2020 resolution is to meditate just 2 minutes per day. Most might wonder what is the point but now that we are a few weeks into January I am delighted to announce that I have been able to keep my resolution thus far, am enjoying the practice, and frequently do more meditation than the required 2 minutes.
As expected, I witnessed many friends proclaim a list of soaring goals on social media and wanted so badly to say, "you know, you would probably have a LOT more success if you broke those goals down and/or focus on one thing at a time".
Part of the reason why I chose such a manageable goal is that I wanted to test to see if a small task really was easier to keep up as time passes, but also to notice if it would prompt me to explore meditation further. As someone who experiences anxiety, sitting still and being exclusively with the present moment is almost painful for me because of how difficult I perceive it to be. But my reasons for choosing this goal are because of health benefits and because I have read that meditation helps people achieve lucidity while dreaming and that is definitely on my wish list.
Whether it is the start of a new year or just time for a change, the first question to honestly answer is "why"; why you want to achieve something. It has to really mean something to you and be so important that you will stay with it during the highs and lows. Don't be fooled though, a strong "why" is often not enough to get lasting results. This is because we are all conditioned to behave a certain way, which makes it all too easy to slip back into our usual patterns of behavior (especially when triggered by something in our environment).
Once your reason for making a resolution is crystal clear and highly desirable, the next step is to make it so easy to succeed that even a kid could do it. This isn't to make you feel incapable or childlike, but to set yourself up for a constant stream of wins. Without this, most of us will gradually discontinue the practice which leads to feelings of defeat, or even worse that we are incapable or inadequate. This misperception can be emotionally devastating especially if repeated year after year.
You might think that small methods lead to small results but I would argue the opposite. None of us really knows all that we are capable of until the ball starts rolling and even then we don't always know. One thing for sure is that all of us can get great results from persistence and patience. Whether you want to lose weight, gain strength, climb a mountain, or any other goal, know that only you have the authority to decide whether you succeed. The key is to make it so doable that you have no choice but to win!
As someone who has worked with many new moms, I see how guilt and obligation creep into the minds of these women, take over, and haunt them. I have heard it all, such as, "I feel guilty leaving the house" (even if it is just for an hour to take some much needed time for herself), "I need to have another baby so my first baby isn't an only child", and "I feel like a bad mom because of ...". Fill in the blank; the list of reasons is endless.
Most of us fear judgement in various situations, but that fear seems heightened in motherhood and dictates a lot of the chatter that takes place in the minds of new moms. Its influence is so strong that it controls behavior. Isn't that so interesting, the idea that thoughts about reality (which exist only in the mind) have enormous power to determine behavior? How can that be?
This isn't to say that judgment is not real; it definitely is and we judge each other constantly and ruthlessly. But this is where most of us stop, at the pain of the judgement instead of questioning what that means and/or why avoiding that judgment is so important to us. We are taught to hold our heads high and rise above it but in a sense, that is just encouraging further repression of something that must, sooner or later, be faced. And, let's be real, that tactic doesn't really work anyway. It's just something we do because we don't really know what else to do in the face of embarrassment and shame.
Here is an interesting concept a coach of mine taught me many moons ago and is something I continue to remind myself and my clients of regularly. From a very young age children are taught that certain ways of being are either accepted or unaccepted. The preferred traits/behaviors become part of our persona (how we act; what we show to the world) and the unacceptable ones are locked in a dark corner of the mind, a place where their existence can always be denied (they are unconscious to us because we have repressed them).
Funny enough, we see those unacceptable traits in others and are, of course, bothered by them so we judge the other person. This is called projection. If I judge someone for something they are doing or not doing, you can bet that I am judging them because I share that quality, but am disgusted by it and therefore, have put in my "dark closet" (unconsciously of course). Otherwise I wouldn't care and wouldn't have needed to judge. Projection is a defense mechanism in order to avoid facing the "dark" parts of ourselves.
Now knowing this, my challenge for every woman who is struggling with mom guilt is to ask yourself the next time you are judging yourself or you feel judged by others the following (Hint: write it out. Information will jump out at you on paper):
1) Describe yourself in a few words in this specific instance of judgement.
2) Answer the question: what will happen to me if I stay this way? what is the worst that can happen?
3) Dig a little deeper. Keep asking yourself, what's so bad about that?
An example might look like this: "That woman just gave me the stink eye in the grocery store. I know I look like crap. I haven't bathed, I'm tired, my back hurts, I don't have time; I know she is thinking I'm a lazy mom who doesn't have her shit together."
My descriptive words are lazy and don't have my shit together. If I stay lazy and lack organization I will be the poster example of the worst mom. And what is so bad about that is I'll be the laughing stock of the town, no other parents will want their child near me or my child, which means my child will grow up with no friends and will be an outcast. If this happens I will never be able to live with myself because my child will be unhappy and alone...
As you can see, the story doesn't stop at the surface description of lazy and disorganized; the fear of being lazy and disorganized will always point to something deeper. Eventually, something will catch your attention; it might feel like an aha. You will discover that there is an underlying fear of being X (fill in the blank). This fear has been ruling you and has immense power over you. Once revealed in its raw and true state, that fear can no longer control you because it is now conscious and you will no longer have to use energy to deny and repress it.
While this technique may not be your idea of a great time, doing it can set you free. Of course, in life there are tons of triggers, so it's a good idea to get comfortable doing this little exercise. You may feel that it's necessary to have a coach help you dig a little deeper and that's perfectly fine, as usually the coach can offer a perspective that you weren't able to see in the midst of the chaos.
As we roll into a new decade, begin allowing yourself to be human; a human who is kind to herself. My wish for all moms is to have compassion for themselves; compassion that their children will witness and offer the same to themselves and others on their journey too.
A healthy diet is important for long-term health. Nothing you didn't know already, but what if you hate the way most healthy food tastes? Should you force-feed yourself? No, but you can "trick" yourself into incorporating more wholesome foods.
While you may be fed up with how you look and feel, making health related changes is uncomfortable and usually comes with a big side of resistance. You likely have an idea about what it will take to achieve "health" and it is often something that feels like a punishment. No wonder most resolutions fall flat within a few weeks or less.
So much of creating a healthy lifestyle is about honoring your preferences while making small shifts, as opposed to force feeding yourself someone else's agenda at an unrealistic pace. Yet, this approach is almost too simplistic that it's easily overlooked while searching for that "magic pill/program/diet".
If you grew up eating fast food and hate the way most vegetables taste, it makes sense that it would feel like torture starting a new healthy diet. These next simple tactics are so mild that they may easily be overlooked if not carefully considered.
1.) Cook with different spices, rubs, marinades; add vegetables to a dish you love that wouldn't ordinarily call for them. A great example of this is, say you love buffalo chicken wings. Try doing a buffalo chicken Brussels sprout dish or throw in some extra organic vegetables into your favorite spaghetti dish. It is important to experiment and not get discouraged if the first thing you try tastes less than amazing.
2.) Blend/hide vegetables in smoothies. There are so many healthy smoothie recipes floating around. Take your favorite one and add a small amount of any healthy food you want to incorporate more of into your diet. You will be surprised by how easy it is to mask flavors with different blending techniques.
3.) Order prepared food from an organic chef. This is perhaps my favorite trick. A great example of this is a company called NULA foods; the chef (who happens to be a friend of mine and an amazing chef) brilliantly opened her business when her own needs demanded that she eat a healthier diet. She cooks gluten free, dairy free, organic, etc. foods, takes custom orders, and delivers to her customers. Find a local chef who prepares these types of foods. You will be amazed at how good healthy food can taste and how easy it is to eat more of.
Beyond these simple, yet effective strategies, remember that taste buds change with repeated exposure to varying foods/drinks, which explains why maybe you didn't like beer, for instance, the first time you tried it (or any other food/beverage). You don't have to make any changes you don't feel comfortable with; this period of experimentation should be slow and focused on checking in regularly with how you feel about changes you make.
Perhaps you want to start a family, feel better during day to day activities, sleep soundly, have more energy. The reason doesn't matter, the willingness to step outside your comfort bubble does. If upgrading your heath and fitness is a priority and you are ready to act, Mind-to-Size is offering a giant bonus December 15th through January 5th! All primary packages sold during this period come with nutrition coaching at no added cost. This is huge because nutrition coaching is usually reserved for VIP clients only. Take advantage of this great offer while you can. Look good, feel good, move good!
You have likely tried diets and exercise programs that haven't worked well for you. Maybe initially you lost some poundage, but not long after you put it all back on; maybe even more than what you started with. This is defeating and makes it easy to tune out preaching professionals concerning healthy lifestyle choices.
What if you were trying to cram a square into a round hole? What if it didn't work because you didn't truly understand what was best for YOUR body? It is easy, and admittedly tempting, to jump on the latest and greatest diet/fitness fad wagon. While they may produce results for some, it may not work for others and worse, might cause health issues.
Additionally, it is exciting to dive into something that might make you feel and look amazing but many times we take on WAY TOO MUCH all at one time. It is almost as if we have it in our heads that losing weight and improving fitness is achieved much like ripping off a band-aid. We want it so badly to be one-n-done but it doesn't work that way.
Here's the thing though, while that last statement might sound like bad news, it doesn't mean that your health and fitness approach needs to be this arduous, grueling torture you must put yourself through. I believe it is a disservice to promote popular crash diets and extreme fitness programs to the general public as a solution to their health and fitness concerns. You can and should take a day by day approach to improving your health and fitness without doing things you cannot or do not want to do. If the one size fits all method hasn't worked for you, it is worth exploring and experimenting with other tactics to find what does.
Finding a good coach who listens and takes into account what your specific needs and lifestyle values are is imperative for YOUR success. A good coach is someone who is understanding and designs your specific program around you. The more specific your program is to you, the more success you will reap. This is primarily why blanket meal plans and extreme fitness protocols don't work; they have nothing to do with your preferences.
We, collectively, are so conditioned to believe a healthy lifestyle means punishment and withholding of what we most want. Training and nutrition coaching online makes it enjoyable, affordable, and sustainable. Training online gives you much more flexibility to exercise at a time that feels ideal for you and gives you the freedom to break up your exercise sessions throughout the day if that feels best for you. There are no cancellation fees if you need to switch up your regular exercise time. Nutrition coaching online allows you to have access to your coach so that you can check in regularly with questions or concerns. Perhaps the most fun part about online nutrition coaching is that it works around your values and doesn't ever push you into a specific diet that you will end up hating.
Mind-to-Size is very excited to announce that on December 4th, 2019, all nutrition coaching packages come with an app that you are able to download on your phone, log all of your related personal information, allows you direct and daily access to me (your coach), shows your progress, and gives you daily reminders. No more depleted energy; no more unsustainable expectations, no more hating yourself for another failed attempt.
Mind-to-Size nutrition coaching and fitness programs allow you to work at your own pace. If you want to lose weight quickly, you can. If you face lots of resistance and want to work at a slower pace, that's fine too. The point is, you will make health and fitness gains and that will leave you feeling wonderful.
The pelvic floor is a hot topic for pregnant women and women who have recently delivered but the fact is all women should understand and care about their pelvic floor. A dysfunctional pelvic floor can cause pain, discomfort, and embarrassment and can be either prevented or addressed and cured.
In the United States alone, nearly 4 million babies are born each year. Across the world, the majority of women will have children at some point in their lives. Pelvic floor dysfunction is so common that many women are left thinking that nothing can be done about it. This leaves many women suffering is silence even many years after they have had children. Although any woman may have some degree of pelvic floor dysfunction, women who have had children have higher instances of pelvic floor issues. Why is this?
To start out, we must understand what the pelvic floor is. It is a group of muscles that spans the width of the pelvis, stretching from the pubic bone to the tail bone, also attaching to the hip/sitting bones. This group of muscles provides support for organs such as, the bladder, uterus, and bowel. Functions directly impacted by these muscles are urinary control, continence, and sexual function. Interestingly, men have a pelvic floor too and can also encounter weaknesses.
A weakened pelvic floor experienced after childbirth or otherwise could mean that internal organs aren't being properly supported and may cause issues with the release of gas, feces, or urine. Everyone is able to contract the pelvic floor muscles on demand, much like bending your arm to pick something up, and therefore can be strengthened.
During pregnancy and delivery, the pelvic floor experiences more stress than typical, everyday demands. For one thing, it is supporting the weight of the growing baby and is therefore stretched and requires strength. Another factor that may determine the degree to which it has been affected is the shape and size of the individual woman carrying the baby. As we all can easily recognize, no two bodies are identical, so it comes as no surprise that circumstances of pelvic floor function depend on the shape and musculature of the individual woman, plus other, outside influencing factors.
Fitness professionals are constantly reminding pregnant women to do their kegels and practice overall strengthening exercises. This is mostly because we understand that the strength and flexibility of those muscles (including the surrounding connective tissue) directly impacts the return to normal function, as well as provides proper support during pregnancy.
Additionally, a woman carrying a heavier, larger baby will have more weight and stress placed upon those muscles throughout the entire pregnancy. Although gradual, that is a long period of time to hold a heavy weight. This, in itself, is a great incentive for pregnant women to exercise and make wise food choices during pregnancy. Dr. James Clapp illustrated in his book, Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, that women who exercise produce lighter, leaner babies.
Some other factors that influence postnatal pelvic function is the delivery process. Was the baby delivered vaginally or by c-section (women who have delivered via c-section can still have pelvic flood dysfunction)? Did the doctor use tools (such as forceps) to deliver the baby? Did any perineal tears happen? How long was the woman dilated and in labor?
As we can see, there are multiple influences that might contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction but this fact doesn't mean women have to suffer in silence. The important takeaway from all of this is, ALL WOMEN must know that there are professionals who have built their whole career around helping treat and cure this common issue. Pelvic health physiotherapists, some doctors, and fitness professionals are often great resources. Don't let anything stand in the way of you feeling great and strong!
The majority of women will end up giving birth during their lifetime. Because becoming pregnant and delivering are so common, they aren't often thought of as extraordinary experiences. The fact is though, pregnancy and delivery are unique to each woman and are a monument in the life of a woman.
There are topics surrounding pregnancy that may be uncomfortable or less exciting for new moms but knowing the facts, based on studying the anatomy and changing body of pre and postnatal women, can be a significant game changer for new moms.
Giving birth is a major physical event for a woman, not to mention the emotional and hormonal components. With this awesome experience comes challenges and changes. The extent of these challenges and changes are directly impacted by the woman's lifestyle choices and self care. After delivering your baby there is a period of recovery that should include rest and strengthening of stretched and damaged muscles and connective tissue.
If a new mom neglects caring for her body (although easily argued that she can't or doesn't have time), this can create muscle imbalances, issues with incontinence, weakness, compensation patterns, pain, and other issues.
You may be surprised to learn that once a woman has given birth to a child, she is forever considered postnatal. This is not merely to throw a label on her, but instead illustrates the physical impact having a baby plays on her physiology. It is no secret that many women feel they can't and probably won't ever have their pre-baby body back but, to me, that is laying down and surrendering to an idea that has been perpetuated through generations based on a lack of information surrounding pregnant women and recovery from child birth.
There is no doubt that a woman sacrifices a lot for her child, but her body doesn't have to be one of those things. Through strengthening exercises, good nutrition, stress management, and adequate sleep during and after pregnancy, a woman has more control over her immediate and long term recovery. Passively waiting and hoping is not an effective strategy and often can increase instances and severity of postpartum depression as well as physical complications.
Many women are unaware that they may begin doing light exercises immediately after delivering their baby. By this, I do not mean traditional gym exercises. Kegels, for instance, are exercises you can do in your hospital bed without anyone even knowing you're doing them. Increasing blood circulation to those traumatized muscles of the pelvic floor can help reduce swelling.
Slowly, you can and should increase your level of activity. With that said, if you experience pain, incontinence, bleeding, or pelvic organ prolapse, know that while common, this is not normal. The good news is that many of these symptoms can be treated and cured so speaking with a trusted professional is advised.
Women no longer have to suffer is silence. Make your postnatal physique your ideal body; one you feel great in. Maintaining your fitness throughout your pregnancy and postnatal period also is a wonderful way to prepare for any subsequent pregnancies and can help motivate you in staying the course. Knowing you have a choice is empowering and exciting for all women regardless of whether you chose to have a baby or not.
Julia Broome is passionate about health, nutrition and exercise. She is most excited about educating women on the short and long term impact of exercise and proper nutrition on pregnant women and their baby.