It’s something that I went through, and it blows. But I wasn’t sure if it was just me.
So I recently asked my friends what they thought it was.
“It’s when you’ve hit the maximum capacity as a human being caring for everyone but yourself.”
She’s lost herself in becoming a mom and she feels like she is constantly on the back burner. She feels like she doesn’t have time for herself/selfcare/hobbies, she can’t disconnect from her role as a mom or the mental load of carrying the family “admin” and all that comes with it.
She’s also working full time on top of that. Usually a top performer at work, but has felt “off her game” since coming back from maternity leave and keeps wondering “What is wrong with me? My brain just isn’t working right anymore!!”
She has so much mom guilt that even if she got a tiny bit of time to herself, she feels like she should be spending it with her kids because “they’re only little for so long” and “babies don’t keep” and “enjoy those times because they go so fast” or whatever other cliche she hears all the time. [It’s like paralysis to do anything she thinks would help make her feel better.]
And finally, she feels like a stranger in her own body. She’s exhausted, feeling flabby and bleh “like I’m not pregnant anymore, now I’m just fat.” Hormonal swings are awful and sometimes even scary (“Who WAS that person???”). She dreads having to look in the mirror, is terrified of having to spend a ton of money on a new wardrobe, and just wants a piece of pre pregnancy clothing to fit and look flattering again.
Any of that sound familiar? I could see myself in all of it. So the good thing is that I wasn’t alone in my experience.
The sad thing is that this is the experience for so many of us. And we are all trying to claw our way out of it. We’re all being told that if we were just a little better at this self care thing, we’d be better everywhere else.
But then comes the weird paralysis to do anything that we think would make us feel better, because of the time it takes away from everything else.
What if I told you that the ultimate form of self care actually doesn’t require an additional second spent? It doesn’t have to be something that is hard or extra.
I’ve talked about it before on many a podcast or interview: the ultimate form of self care is the food we put into our bodies.
Our biology requires a certain level of nutrition to function correctly. But we live in a society that is overfed and undernourished. So we go through life in a constant state of too many calories and too few nutrients, setting ourselves up for extra pounds, exhaustion, and overwhelm.
When we take the care to make sure the food we are fueling our days with is packed full of nutrition, we are giving ourselves the ultimate form of self care.
We already have to eat. Food preparation and eating is time that will always be spent. So let’s make sure we choose food that gives us more than it takes.
When we start to focus on nutritious foods, our bodies begin to replenish nutrients that were depleted in pregnancy, breastfeeding, and via the general stress of life. They begin to function better. And with the better function, we begin to be able to show up in the way we want to in life.
Bodies that are nourished can run around after crazy toddlers without feeling slow and winded. Bodies that are nourished can be infinitely more patient with our kids’ emotions, because keeping our own in check isn’t a struggle. Bodies that are nourished can begin to release extra fat stores, because the biological process to burn that off has the right elements to do so.
And none of this has to be hard. Like I said, we have to eat anyway. It’s a myth that nutritious food takes longer to make than pre-packaged crap. You can grab an apple, a cutie, or a banana in the same amount of time it takes to grab a sugary energy bar.
So if you’re there in the trenches of Post Baby Burnout, start with food. It is the fastest way out.
Alright, let’s talk about nutrition that can stay on a shelf. Healthy shelf stable essentials.
With many grocery stores having empty meat, produce, and dairy sections (and even frozen foods!) it’s easy to think that you have to revert to eating a diet that’s high in refined carbs and low in veggies.
And let’s be real: you know a few weeks without a lot of fiber or micronutrients can leave us feeling shitty. Not to bash mac&cheese, but there’s better options than that and ramen noodles available.
So what can you get that’s both shelf stable and good for you?
Here are a few of my favorites healthy shelf stable essentials.
Brown Rice:This contains carbohydrates (the good ones) for energy and fiber to help your digestion. It’s also packed with essential vitamins: B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and selenium. All are needed for proper biological functioning (meaning, you need this stuff to feel good!)
Black Beans (or your favorite kind): A great source of fiber, they also provide protein and vitamins like folate and vitamin K. Canned beans are fine. But if you find that you are sensitive to them (i.e. gassy), you may want to buy bulk dried beans instead. If you prepare them by soaking and then using a pressure cooker, the lectins in the beans break down, which makes them much easier to digest. Added bonus: dried beans are super affordable!
Sardines: My favorite shelf stable protein option! These little guys are packed with protein, healthy omega 3 fats, calcium, AND they have the lowest mercury content for fish. I highly encourage you to give them a try. They are super similar to canned tuna in flavor. You can prepare them just the same!
Greens Powder: Yes, I’m a strong advocate for eating actual food. Sometimes, that’s not possible and here’s where greens powders like the two pictured here come in. These are packed with phytonutrients that go missing when we aren’t eating a large amount (and variety) of veggies. Get a scoop per day to help offset that.
Honorable mentions for healthy shelf stable foods are: canned and jarred veggies that still taste great like diced tomatoes, artichoke hearts, pumpkin, and corn; olives and olive oils; avocado oil; nuts and seeds like chia, hemp, almonds, walnuts; and coconut.
Let’s not forget about snacks! Check out my list healthy snack suggestions here.
What are some of your favorite pantry items? Comment here to let me know!
You ever get a salad to try and be “healthy” and look at it and think to yourself, “Well this sucks…”
That’s probably because it did suck. It was probably a shitty little salad. Some iceberg lettuce, a tomato slice, a cucumber slice, and ranch dressing. Maybe a crouton or two.
But salads DON’T HAVE TO SUCK. Just look at this masterpiece right here ?
So here are the 3 Steps to Making a Non-Sucky Salad:
Vary your lettuce:
Plain old iceberg or romaine alone is boring. Make your salad base a mixture of different lettuces, baby greens, and maybe even some shredded cabbage, brussels sprouts, or carrots. You want variety and texture here!
Add a ton of fresh veggies:
ANY veggie can go on a salad, so add as much as you can. Love jicama? Salad topper. Bell peppers? Salad topper. Beets? Salad Topper. And if you can, dice the veggies into smaller pieces before adding. This helps you to make sure every bite has a little of everything. Can we say flavor explosion?
Add some weight:
Salads that include a good protein source or whole grain (chicken, beans, legumes, tofu, quinoa, farro, etc) not only taste better; they keep you full. So pick 1-3 of these “heavier” items and top you salad with those.
Voila! You have a much better salad: tasty and full of nutrients your body needs to function.
If you’ve been following for a while, you’ve heard me talk about That #PrimaryFoodThing on the blog before. Primary Food is one the the main health premises taught at IIN (where I went to school for nutrition coaching). This premise is: you could eat all the kale in the world, or any other extra healthy diet, but if your relationships are awful or abusive, your job is something that you dread going back to on Monday, or you’re completely out of touch with yourself and your spirituality, you will not be able to thrive. And if you are mired in all these things, you won’t be healthy overall.
Primary Food is divided into 4 main categories: Career, Relationships, Spirituality, and Physical Activity. Every now and then, it’s a good idea to pause and think about how you would rate each of these areas in your life, so you can adjust where you would like to spend your focus to keep everything balanced. (If you’re interested in assessing your own Primary Food needs, you can use this tool.) I’ve been working on the Career area for the last year and a half, so when I took a moment to think about where I was with my own Primary Food at the end of last year, I realized that it was time to shift my focus to building (and maintaining) stronger relationships in my life. And voila! 2019: The Year of the Relationship was born.
One of the first things I wanted to do in this area was to build a stronger relationship with the hubs. I’m sure many of you can relate to the ships-passing-in-the-night feeling that we get when our kids, toddlers, and babies are young. At first, we’re in survival mode. After that, it morphs into juggling 2 full-time jobs, kids extra curricular activities, the groceries, the errands, household chores, and all of that. If we don’t intentionally create the time to reconnect as a couple without all that noise, we can go months with out really knowing how our other half is doing.
I always see the suggestion to schedule a date night once a month. Great idea! BUT when like us, you don’t have grandparents or other family and friends who can help out with the kids, a once a month date night can be cost prohibitive. The next suggestion is “ok, schedule your date night at home after the kids are asleep.” Also a great idea! We went with this route, but then found that sitting together on the couch in front of a movie wasn’t exactly giving us the opportunity to reconnect. And we found that we often skipped these dates due to being flat-out exhausted.
This year, my word is intention, and that is exactly how we needed to be with these monthly dates, more intentional. In December, I began to work on planning out 12 dates for us to do each month of 2019. And of course, work and life got in the way and I wasn’t making much progress, especially since I wanted these to be really fun but also be AT HOME as much as possible (and you can only play board games so many times, amirite?) Then I stumbled across Date Night In, a monthly subscription box to create dates for us at home. You mean, I didn’t have to plan it all myself? I could be just as surprised as hubs when we went on our date? Perfect.â€¬
I bought a subscription for Christmas, and we got our first box in the mail Friday. Each moth has a theme for the date and I nearly died laughing because the theme for this month was engineering, and hubs and I are both engineers. This made the box a perfect “ice breaker” for us since the topic wasn’t too far out of our comfort zone. We had our Date Night In date last night. The short story is that it was actually really fun!
The booklet gives you recipes for a nice dinner, activities, and talking points to go over. We made the mixed drink (which is one we would have never tried but both ended up liking a lot) and the appetizer since we already ate a light dinner with the kids earlier.
The relationship questions and talking points provided were actually really great as well (I was worried they would be cheesy). They were the kind of deeper questions that you may not normally ask or discuss with your partner, especially when you are caught up in the business of day-to-day life with young kids. They led us to some good conversation tangents, working out a few issues (WOW), and laughing.
The activities were all fun to do, especially for us as engineers. We built a candle holder/lantern out of popsicle sticks, a truss/platform out of toothpicks and jelly beans, and the “tallest tower possible” out of straws (really, we didn’t go as high as we could because it was late by then and we were like – meh, we know we could make this higher but we wanna go to bed). Each of the activities had discussion that related back to the intro questions we had talked about at the beginning. So it kept our focus on the date theme: Why having a strong foundation is important, which was great.
Overall, it was fun and a great way to spend time together actually doing something to make our relationship stronger. I’m looking forward to the box coming next month! If you are thinking about working on the relationship area of your Primary Food, I highly recommend you try it out. It seems like the perfect fit for us in this stage of life.
Ahhh snacks. We generally love them. But these little things have the ability to either make or break our healthy eating journey. When you are eating the right type of snacks, the type that fuel your body rather than tax it, they are great! But too often, snacks are made up of “not food” – highly processed or nutrient lacking stuff that can set us up for failure for the rest of the day. When you snack on refined, processed “food-like substances” you end up triggering blood sugar spikes (and subsequent drops), which wreaks havoc on your hormones. This sets you up for cravings and for overeating at meal times, not to mention the hungry feeling you get when your blood sugar drops rapidly.
So if we want to be only eating “good” snacks, what the heck are those then? First, we want our snack to be as close to the whole food as possible (think whole apple is better than apple sauce is better than apple flavored cereal). We also want our snack to be a balance of fat, protein, and carbs. You want at least two of the macronutrients represented in your snack. So instead of just an apple, pair an apple with nut butter (carb and fat). This is what helps to keep our blood sugar stable and what allows us to feel full for longer. Here are some examples of what good snacks look like:
Apple slices and nut butters
Apple and cheese slices (remember to go for the organic and full fat cheese)
Veggie sticks and hummus (favorite veggies at our house are baby carrots, sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, bell pepper slices, mini sweet peppers, zucchini sticks, cucumber slices – there is a ton of variety possible here!)
Any of the veggies above and guacamole
Banana and peanut butter on a sprouted grain bread
A handful of nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc)
Dates stuffed with nut butter or goat cheese
Aaand now I’m hungry…
Hopefully the examples above help to show how your are pairing a quicker burning carbohydrate (the fruit or veggie) with a fat or protein source to get the most bang for your buck out of your snack. After all, you are taking time out of your (extra busy) day to eat, so let’s make that food work FOR you instead of against you!
Now to talk about all the other stuff that is constantly marketed as snack food to us. Much like Voldemort is HeWhoShallNotBeNamed, these should actually be called ThingsThatAreNotReallyFood. In this category, I am talking about stuff that is highly processed, high in sugar and refined carbs, and low in nutrients. The list includes stuff like chips, pretzels, goldfish (yeah, I went there), GoGurts or those sugary low-fat Yoplait things, granola, candy bars (actually, in the long run snickers do NOT satisfy), 98% of the “health” food bars on the market, cookies, little debbie anything, breakfast bars, pop tarts, the 100 calorie packages of XYZ junk food, fruit snacks, cereal, and the list goes on.
Maybe some of you are annoyed that I listed some of your go-to items on the list. But here is the #truthbomb: these foods are not doing anything for your overall health and wellness. They aren’t helping you to fuel your body and your day so that you have the energy you need to live your life. They may taste good for a minute, but there is mountains of evidence that they are damaging to your health in the long run. They make it harder for you to eat healthily later in the day, they recondition your tastes to make you crave more junk, and with that reconditioning, they take the enjoyment out of actual good nutritious food. This is an area where I say moderation is NOT a thing, you really don’t want to eat this type of junk at all. If your honest with yourself, you probably already know this deep down. #sorrynotsorry
And now that I’ve lost half my readers, lets talk about the secret weapon to staying on track with your health and nutrition goals: the emergency #snackstash
If you have been working on your nutrition overall, you know how frustrating it is when you are caught late at work, or traffic hits, or errands with the littles take 1000x longer than expects and you are out of the house and STARVING. It’s even worse when you also have ultra hungry kids with you. So you go looking for something to eat NOW and you try to make the best selection from what is available, but only have bad options. Or what’s even worse is when you are so hungry, you can’t even care anymore about what you eat as long as you eat it. This situation is incredibly frustrating and I know that I’ve often felt pretty crappy afterwards, not only because the food isn’t the greatest, but also because I “messed up” or “slipped up” or had no “willpower” to resist.
To prevent this from happening, we want to keep a set of “emergency” snacks with you at all times. I accomplish this in two ways: I have a special snack drawer at work that I keep stocked with a bunch of shelf stable options and I have a set of go-to items that I always keep in the diaper bag (or my work bag if I’m out without the kids). Here’s a picture of my snack drawer at work and some of the options I keep with me when running around with the kids.
When developing your emergency #snackstash you want to keep a couple things in mind. If you are getting shelf stable options, you want to find things that are as unprocessed as possible (like the Rx bars, the probiotic beef sticks, and the olives). Finding a high quality protein powder “meal replacement” mix can also be a good idea for work, especially if you work in an unpredictable environment like I do (where if something breaks at 4pm, you may have to stay until 9).
The second, and probably more important thing to realize when creating the #snackstash is that a LOT of whole food items that we refrigerate actually do not need to be refrigerated continuously. Things like small apples, cuties, and bananas can be taken around in a bag and survive easily due to their exterior skiing. Fresh veggies like snap peas, baby carrots, and grape tomatoes will be 100% fine unrefrigerated for 24 hours (or longer), so you can tote those with you. The baby bell cheeses (the ones with the wax coating) are good for up to 8 hours outside of the fridge (which is one of the reasons they are so popular with hikers). You can also get a mini insulated container for stuff like hard boiled eggs. You can also bring along individually sized packets of hummus, guacamole, and nut butters to complete your snacks on the go!
One more note on the #snackstash – as busy moms, we are probably pretty used to carrying around snacks for our kids. I want to encourage you to look at those snacks as well and change them out if they fall into the unhealthy category. To be blunt: if the snack isn’t healthy enough for you to be eating, it’s not healthy enough for the kiddos either. My go-to options for our girls (ages 5 and 2) are fruit and veggie blend pouches, Rx bars, the probiotic beef sticks, and baby bell cheese. With kids, you don’t necessarily have to change out all of their snacks at once (although sometimes that rip-the-band-aid-off approach is the least stressful). You can introduce a new healthy option every few days to see what they will like. As you are introducing new options, use up whatever the unhealthy option is and when it’s gone it becomes “Sorry, we are out of XYZ. What would you like instead?” #juststopbuyingit
Whew, that was a LOT of information in one post. I hope you found it helpful! Please comment below and let me know what you think. And once you have created your emergency healthy snack stash, take a picture and post it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc and tag me so I can see your hard work! Use #snackstash and #nutritiondoula so I can find it – good luck and have fun!