Health & Wellness, New Mom, nutrition

Burned Out as a New Mom? It’s a thing.

New Mom Burnout. 

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.

Want to learn exactly how to do it?

Contact me and I’ll show you.

Health & Wellness, Healthy Kids, nutrition

Healthy Shelf Stable Essentials

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?

Shelf Stable Essentials

Here are a few of my favorites healthy shelf stable essentials.

  1. 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!)
  2. 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!
  3. 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!
  4. 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!

Health & Wellness, Healthy Kids, nutrition

How to make snacks work for you instead of against you

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
  • Probiotic beef sticks with baby bell cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs (alone or with guacamole)
  • Sardine or tuna salad with whole grain crackers
  • Tomato slices and mozzarella
  • Full-fat, plain organic greek yogurt with berries
  • 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.

img_0544

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!

Fitness and Nutrition, Goal Setting, Health & Wellness, nutrition, Uncategorized

8 Weeks to Wellness

It’s that time of year again: the time where the New Year New Me thing happens. I love the energy that is created by the communal hope and goal-setting this time of year, it makes me feel like anything is possible!

But this energy fades, our motivation fizzles out, we finish our 21 Day Reset or Dry January and then what? We can often feel left to figure it out from there and with the first stressful day at work, condescending phone call from a parent, or fight with our spouse, we find ourselves “unstressing” with whatever “treat” is our favorite. By March we have reverted to so many of our old habits and these habits keep us stuck where we don’t want to be.

So how do we make sure that 2019 is different from every other false start that we may have had over the years? How do we hold ourselves accountable when motivation fades? How do we learn to recognize and more importantly break the patterns that are holding us back? How do we IMPLEMENT a goal instead of picking one?

… Enter Nutrition Coaching! Individualized coaching is the secret weapon that gives you the edge to make sustainable change. It will provide you with a plan that works for you to get to where you want to be. It is dynamic and adapts to your circumstances as they change. It gives you access to a trained coach who can help you cut through all the noise and confusion thrown out there by the diet industry.

This year, I am launching an online Nutrition Coaching Course: 8 Weeks to Wellness, and I couldn’t be more excited about it! This program is revolutionary in the way it helps women make and create sustainable changes for their health and nutrition. It doesn’t rely on products or quick fixes, in fact, the program is 8 weeks long specifically because this allows for enough time to implement lasting change. It also doesn’t require you to turn your life upside down – all of the shifts in the program are designed to integrate seamlessly with your lifestyle.

Over the last 8 weeks of 2018, I ran a group of volunteers through the program (that’s right, these ladies decided to invest in their health over the holidays) and they had incredible results:

“Before starting, I was hesitant about a couple things….a) that everything would be too much of a change for me to be able to keep it up and b) that I’d have to completely change my approach and way I grocery shop, start going to health food stores (which I’ve never done), and spend a lot more each week on food… both concerns which weren’t a reality.”

“Overall I’m eating way more veggies and drinking way more water, eating way less sugar and processed food.”

“I’m down inches, up energy, and still down pounds overall over the holidays!”

“Best part was simple, but thorough lessons… Plus your quick responses to questions.”

“I’ve seen an increase in my energy levels, I’m eating foods that give me more nutrition with less quantities (more bang for my buck), I’ve expanded my horizons in terms of trying new veggies, and I’m more able to make conscious choices about what I consume.”

“Alasen is friendly, non-judgemental, supportive, helpful, engaged, and wanting everyone to be at their best!”

“I’ve told so many people about my ‘program’ and how simple it is to follow. I would love to join a second round now that the holidays are over!”

If you are ready to finally make a sustainable change for your health and nutrition, the next 8 Weeks to Wellness course begins on January 20, 2019. Enroll in the course and personally see how powerful Nutrition Coaching can be! I can’t wait to get started. My reason for entering this field was to help as many moms as possible to cut through the diet hype and create affordable, sustainable, natural health for themselves and their families. 8 Weeks to Wellness is your key to accomplishing this.

To sign up, click here.

To read through some FAQ, click here.

If you have any additional questions, or would like to chat with me directly about the program to see if it is right for you, please contact me!

Elimination Diet, Health & Wellness, New Mom, nutrition, Uncategorized

An Elimination Diet Hack

One of the most powerful tools in an Integrative Nutrition Coach’s kit is the elimination diet. This diagnostic tool helps us to determine which foods (if any) are adversely effecting our clients and which foods are not. This allows a client to learn how to tailor their lives towards foods that help them thrive, rather than just get by.

While it is relatively rare for someone to have a severe allergic reaction to foods (think the typical anaphylactic reaction we see in the movies), general immune responses to foods are becoming increasingly common. Because symptoms of a reaction can vary and can also be delayed by hours to a few days, it can also be difficult for someone to realize that every time they eat dairy or gluten or whatever problem food, they get xyz reaction 2 days later. This is why an elimination diet is needed: to help you identify what foods, if any are triggers. If you knew that the root of a particular nagging health complaint (like insomnia or muscle soreness) was actually caused by a food you were eating, you’d want to stop eating it, right?

An elimination diet is a temporary restriction of the types of foods that commonly cause immune reactions. If you are staring an elimination diet, you record in detail how you are feeling prior to the diet. Once common problem foods have been eliminated from the diet for about 4 weeks, they are reintroduced one at a time to see if a reaction occurs. You would journal how you feel again while reintroducing foods to see if you can find a pattern between the foods you eliminated and any symptoms. If you’ve ever heard of the Whole30 program, this is an elimination diet.

While elimination diets are extremely helpful in improving your health and nutrition overall, they can also be pretty hard to implement. During the elimination period, your food choices are extremely strict. This requires a lot of planning, cooking/preparing all of your meals at home (so you aren’t accidentally eating a food that is on the no list), support from your family and friends, and sheer willpower at times to be successful. The entire process can also take up to 3 months to complete!

If you are considering going on an elimination diet, I would highly recommend the Whole30 program to get started. This program is great because it gives you a very clear set of rules, a ton of recipe resources, and a large support community to get you through the full 30 days. It will still take commitment and planning on your part, as well as the local support of your friends, family, and coworkers, but it is by far the best elimination program that I have worked with.

But what happened when you are the mom of 3 kids under 3, who is also working full time while still waking 3x a night with your youngest and barely making through the day? Getting through 30 days to 3 months of additional effort and willpower may just be the straw the breaks the camel’s back. If you want to be able to target problem foods more immediately, you can take a IgG blood test to determine some of your triggers. If you take a food allergen test, you provide a blood sample, and a report comes back showing which IgG antibodies you have in your system. If you have antibodies to a food, then this is a food causing a reaction and it should be avoided. Often having a more targeted list of foods to start with is exactly what someone needs to take the first step towards better health.

You can work with your doctor to order a food allergen test, or you can go through an online service. I recently tested out this Food Allergen Test from EverlyWell and was completely impressed with the results. Their website is easy to navigate and ordering the test is simple. Everything you need comes in the mail, taking the test takes practically no time at all, and it comes with prepaid return shipping to the lab processing the results. I mailed my test off on Friday and had my results by Wednesday.

Here is what the kit looks like when it arrives.

When you open it up, there are detailed instructions inside and all the materials that you need to provide your sample. When taking the test you want to be hydrated. You’ll relax your arm and hang it at your side for a minute or so, so that your blood flows to your finger tips. I’m a total chicken when it comes to needles, but the lancets they provided were not bad at all! Then you just dab your card in 6 spots, put on your bandaid, and wait for the sample to dry. Then dump everything into the prepaid envelope to ship back for analysis. The entire process took about 30 minutes, with me pausing to take pictures.

 

As I said above, I mailed my results on a Friday and had them by Wednesday of next week. You will get a general and a detailed report of your results (the detailed report is to share with your physician). Here’s a few screenshots of what I got back.

 

When you tap on any of the foods, it give you additional detail about how severe your reaction to that food is and additional information about sources of the food (in case it is in ingredient like gluten, for example). I can tell you, while my issues with gluten and dairy have been pretty obvious, I would not have figured out that I was having issues with green beans easily!

I’m hoping that learning about this EverlyWell test will be able to help any moms out there who need to start feeling better right away but who are worried about the implementation of a full elimination diet. If you decide to try an elimination diet or one of these tests and want help with how to navigate life while avoiding your food intolerances, feel free to contact me. It’s my job to help my clients figure these things out!