Health & Wellness, New Mom

How to Have as Much Energy as a Toddler (and then some)

Want enough energy to keep up with your toddler all day and still get your grown up shit done after bedtime?

One of the biggest complaints I hear from new moms when it comes to their health is this: They. Are. Exhausted.

Yeah, we all expected to be a little sleep deprived with a newborn in the house. But as the days drag on and your baby isn’t much of a newborn anymore, that exhaustion doesn’t seem to quit.

In fact, it gets worse.

It seeps into your bones, into every fiber of your being.

You begin to dream of a week in a hotel room, where you can sleep to your heart’s content, get room service, and a nice long shower. (And then the #momguilt sets in because of course you don’t want to escape your kids!)

And your baby is getting older, sleeping better. But you still feel like there aren’t enough pots of coffee to get through the day.

Waking up in the morning feeling like you could sleep another 8 hours sucks. Going through life as a #mombie sucks. And this level of exhaustion feeds into Post Baby Burnout, which also sucks.

So let’s fix that, shall we?

There can be several surprising reasons why you’re dragging ass every day.

Here are the most common (and what you can do about them).

Stress is Wearing You Out

When we are in the thick of birthing and raising babies, it is really easy for chronic stress to kick in. I describe Post Baby Burnout in detail here and here, but you probably already know what it is. 

Once we are chronically stressed, exhaustion easily sets in. Our bodies are constantly pumping out the hormones cortisol (which is the one that wakes us up in the mornings) and adrenaline (the one that makes our heart pump fast). Raising your heart rate, increasing your breathing, and pumping extra blood into your muscles. And all this constant biological activity uses up a lot of energy. Which in turn, makes you feel tired.

Finding a way to permanently lower your stress levels is the best answer here. But we know that can take a lot of habit and lifestyle changes. So in the meantime, you can lower your stress levels by taking a 15 minute walk outside, taking 2 minutes to deep breathe like this, or spending 5 minutes meditating.

You’re Overfed and Undernourished

We live in a society where food is abounding, but the actual nutrients in most of that food are limited. This means that unless we are intentional with what we eat, we often consume too many calories but not enough nutrients.

This combo makes us tired (and messes with our waistline). We use energy to store the extra calories, while we don’t have enough nutrients to fuel our biology. Our bodies respond by trying to adapt, which can mean lowering our overall energy output to match the nutrition that is coming in. It also further increases our stress levels! 

So how do we fix this? Begin to look at food as something you need to function well throughout the day. Look for foods that pack in as many vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients per bite as you can. When we switch to measuring food by the amount of nutrition each bit contains (rather than some other calorie measurement), we begin to give ourselves the gas we need to get through our high demand days.

Don’t fill your tank with the cheap dirty gas girl. You were built for premium.

Your Sleep Quality is Crappy

There are only so many hours in a day, and with a newborn or even a toddler around, it can be hard to get a lot of sleep. But when the few hours of shut-eye that you do get are not restorative, then it’s a double whammy for exhaustion.

Yes, the quality of your sleep matters as much as the quantity. 

Most people don’t realize they are not getting good quality sleep. We assume that if we don’t wake up or have nightmares, we’re fine. But there is plenty of evidence that shows we can have poor sleep cycles even without waking up a lot. Things like the light from our phones, the temperature of the room, and how much wine we had all can cause us to sleep poorly.

So what can you do? The simplest is to avoid any screens after sunset (or at least an hour before bed). And yes, that includes not scrolling on your phone if you have to wake up to feed the baby in the middle of the night. The light emitted by screens causes our “wake up” hormones to surge and our sleep hormones to drop off, which means you won’t get the deep sleep you need to feel rested.

You’re on a Diet

We already talked about why the quality of your food matters so much, but the quantity also has an effect on your energy levels. If you’ve been on a restrictive diet for a while, this may be the cause of your exhaustion.

When we restrict calories, our bodies think we are living in a time of famine and respond in a way to keep us alive for as long as possible. Our brain and thyroid work together to lower the energy output of our biological functions.

What’s that mean in everyday speak? Our hormones make us tired, so we expend less energy.  

And if you’ve been on a low carb diet for a while, the effect can be amplified (especially if you are still breastfeeding). 

Changing to a higher nutrient and more balanced diet will do amazing things for your energy levels in this case. And there’s an added bonus: you will often begin to lose weight again once you add better calories back in!

These are the most common reasons why my clients have been feeling more tired than they should, and some of the ways we have worked together to get them their energy back. There can be other reasons behind your exhaustion, of course, so if you want additional help figuring out what steps to take to get your energy back, let me know! I’m happy to chat with you about it.

I know that exhaustion is often a new mom badge of honor. But staying tired is preventing you from functioning at your best. So let’s say screw the badges and use the list above to get ourselves out of the tiredness cycle. Deal?

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.

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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!

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!

Health & Wellness, Healthy Kids, Uncategorized

My Favorite #momhacks for Breakfast

It’s no secret that breakfast can be a struggle with new moms. (Heck, its a struggle for MOST people.) In pregnancy, you may be dealing with morning sickness. When the baby is finally here, you may be so sleep deprived that you can’t remember if you ate or not. You only have one hand to make something with anyway, since the other arm is home to a new (and totally adorable) little resident. So maybe you grab something prepackaged to eat with one had (pop tarts anyone?) or maybe you get a few sips of (now cold) coffee down.

Once the baby turns into a little human, aka toddler, you’re trying to keep them from dumping out the cat food while rushing around getting yourself ready and packing their bag. Or maybe you’re making them whatever they loved yesterday, only to watch it end up on the floor because clearly they wanted the thing they hated yesterday instead. ::cue tantrum::

Although we “know” that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (because they keep saying it, right?) all of the stress in a busy morning combined with not enough sleep (there will come a day when night waking is in the past, but today is not that day) causes us to either skip it entirely or rely on whatever we can grab from the pantry (hello GoGurt and cookies) or the drive through (come to me you beautiful venti caramel macchiato). Breakfast for a new mom is often an afterthought. And by letting it stay this way, we are setting ourselves up for a day of hunger, cravings, mood swings, and the like thanks to imbalanced blood sugar.

The thing is, you don’t have to go from eating a stale doughnut from the break room at work on the regular to organic, pasture raised egg frittatas with a side of heritage pork sausage (nitrate free, of course) over night. There are plenty of small and sustainable changes you can make wherever you are along the spectrum to make breakfast a better meal for you overall. Once you’ve mastered one change (swap out that doughnut for a greek yogurt), you move on to the next step (swap the yogurt for eggs). Through step wise implementation like this, you will be able to make long and lasting changes.

Even with a minor swap, you can begin to feel the benefits of a good breakfast right away. Getting great nutrients into your body for your first meal sets up your body chemistry to either support you or fight against you for the remainder of the day. Solid nutritional breakfasts can help you control cravings all day long, prevent that 2pm slump, and even help you get to sleep better at bedtime. With that in mind, here are the top 3 things to be working towards for a great breakfast:

  • Eliminate (or greatly reduce) added sugar in breakfast
  • Choose foods that are nutrient dense
  • Make sure there is a balance of protein and fat in the meal

If you are going to be reducing sugar in any place in your life, breakfast is the place where you will get the most “bang for your buck” When you have a lot of sugar at breakfast, you start the day off pumping a ton of insulin into your body to metabolize all the sugar you just ate. This creates a chain reaction where you have blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day. This also stops you from burning any stored fat for energy and can mess with the hormones that tell you if you are hungry or full.

Here are examples of typical grab-and-go items that are often used for breakfast that have a ton of extra sugar in them: nonfat flavored yogurt, granola, granola bars, cereal with nonfat milk, instant oatmeal packets (flavored), premade meal replacement drinks (think carnation instant breakfast or slim fast), a special k bar or similar, etc.

Do not feel bad if these are your staples! But do try one or two of the healthier options on this list: full fat greek yogurt (vanilla if you need a flavor), plain full fat yogurt (better choice than flavored, add frozen berries), plain instant oatmeal (again add berries), Kind bars (the ones that are 5g of sugar or less per bar), a protein shake, a green smoothie, hard boiled eggs, and/or a piece of whole fruit.

 

Once you have swapped to the healthier items above or if you are ready to take your breakfast nutrition even further try some of my favorite #momlife breakfasts listed below. These all meet my personal breakfast criteria: they can be made in advance in a batch for the week or can be made in less than 5 minutes (including dish cleanup), they can be eaten with one hand, they are a great balance of nutritionally dense food and will keep you full, they taste amazing, and they have no added sugar.

So go ahead and try some (or one) or these for a week (or day). Pay attention to how you feel after a few days. Do you have fewer cravings? Are you full for longer? Do you have more energy? If you experiment let me know how it goes!

*to make the Paleo Protien Pancakes, we use this pancake mix and add one scoop of this protein powder. You get 10g of protien per pancake, and they are delicious! I like to make a large batch on Sundays so I can give the kids 2 cakes (no syrup) during the week for an easy breakfast for all of us.