Do Busy Moms Really Need to Work Out?

baby“I carry a 15-pound baby around all day while I chase after a toddler. I’m physically exhausted at the end of the day…do I really need to exercise?”

My answer is: YES!

Parenting a small child is a more physically demanding job than I ever imagined. It’s tempting to think that playing chase, carrying a baby, and wrestling on the floor can count as our daily exercise. However, we may have gotten too used the modern sedentary lifestyle we had pre-baby.

Our bodies benefit from moving all day, and from additional targeted, intentional physical activity. As parents, we’re involved in many repetitive activities that can throw our body off balance over time.

We need to promote balance and strength. Here’s some more explanation for why you need to exercise:

Balance, Alignment and Restoration

Picture someone pushing a stroller, nursing a baby, vacuuming, changing a diaper, doing dishes, and holding a baby. As a mom, these are probably the activities you’re doing for the majority of the day.

What do they all have in common? A stooped forward position with rounded shoulders or a pushing motion.

Our body is meant to move in every direction, using every muscle group. When we spend too much time sitting or involved in repetitive motions, our body will lose its ideal natural alignment. Certain muscles will become weak and overstretched, while others will become tight. This can result in chronic aches and pains and a higher potential for injury.

Exercise can be medicine for moms with aches and pains:

  • Move your body through it’s complete range of motion
  • Stretch all muscle groups and open up areas of the body that are tight
  • Strengthen muscles groups that are underused

Walking with your baby in a carrier or stroller may be your only option for exercise as a mom. However, this can exacerbate some of the already existing imbalances in your body and posture.

Walking is a great form of exercise that I highly encourage, but be sure you stretch well and don’t neglect strength training to build up the areas of your body that are weak.

Expanding Your Capacity

Maybe it’s hard to exercise because you already feel completely physically depleted…but what if this could change? Some of the proven benefits of exercise are better quality sleep, decreased stress, and more energy.

Rather than merely surviving your daily obligations and collapsing into bed, train your body and expand your capacity. The right kind of exercise will make you stronger and improve your endurance and stamina.

Physical and mental wellbeing are linked. Being physically stronger and more easily able to complete your daily to-dos will translate to a more enjoyable day and peace of mind.

Busting a Weight Loss Plateau

Some of the pregnancy weight will naturally fall off when you give birth. But you might relate to what I experienced with my first pregnancy. After the first two months, my weight was stuck in the same spot, which happened to be 20 pounds more my pre-pregnancy weight.

What did I do? I faced the fact I could not sit around watching TV and eating Twizzlers and the weight to magically fall off. Nursing a baby was not enough to counterbalance bad habits!

Fortunately, it may not take a lot – just a change to your current routine. It may simply be adding 15 minutes of strength training or cardio a few times a week.

Remember that to achieve a new state, you need to change your current activities and habits. You can’t simply do what’s most comfortable or convenient. You need to work on the weak areas, and push a little further.

An Important Tip

Start small and don’t overdo it! It’s important not to take on too much too quickly or you may get:

  • Injured
  • Even more fatigued/burned out
  • Overwhelmed with the commitment and more likely to quit

You ARE a very busy and physically active mom, this article isn’t meant to discount that fact. A small amount of targeted effort can have big results. Exercise should be used to enhance what you’re already doing, restoring balance and increasing strength.

Start out with short bouts of yoga, strength training, dance, etc. a few times a week. It’s not going to take an Ironman training program to achieve the benefits and results discussed in this article.

You are already a Super Woman!

What is your current exercise routine? What is your biggest struggle? Please share in comments below:

What Should I Eat? Three Keys for Long-Term Success

What Should I EatThe questions and comments I most commonly hear from people involve what foods they should or should not eat.

Surely you’ve noticed there’s constantly new advice, a new diet plan, or new research findings. Have you ever heard or tried to follow any of the advice below?

  • Eat less fat
  • Limit your carbs
  • Consume fewer calories
  • Control your portion sizes
  • Don’t eat after 7pm
  • Eat every 2 hours
  • Eat more protein, or don’t eat meat etc…

People have lost weight and maintained a healthy weight on a wide variety of eating plans and following completely different “rules”. So how do you find out what will work for you?

Although it may seem easier to have someone “just tell me what to eat”, this usually isn’t a long-term solution. Everyone’s body is different. There actually is some trial and error involved in determining what you can and can’t eat to successfully maintain your weight and energy level.

After looking at many diets, here are three keys I find in common for long-term success. And I mean your diet is what you eat, not a temporary plan to lose weight.

1. Eat whole, natural foods

I know there have been people who have lost weight on fast food and junk food diets, but the common denominator to the majority of healthy eating plans is that they cut out the processed, packaged foods and rely on whole, natural foods.

In my opinion, the key is not necessarily counting calories or cutting out sugar or fat. The key is to get rid of the chips, crackers, desserts, packaged stuff…everything you know isn’t good for you. I would also caution you not to eat too much of even seemingly healthy packaged foods, like the bars that supposedly have antioxidants, fiber, and every trendy supplement crammed into them.

It’s true what they say: we’re a nation that is overfed and undernourished. It’s not just about calories or fat grams, we need the nutrition that natural food provides in order to fuel our bodies.

You’ve heard it before: shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and meats and low-fat dairy  – and I personally very much believe in eating organic, grass-fed, free-range animal products.

2. Eat moderately and mindfully

When you eat too much, even of healthy foods, it will eventually disrupt your body’s natural signaling mechanisms and hormonal balance. We also create bad habits when we shovel our food down while multitasking or in response to stress or habit.

Stop eating in front of the TV or computer. Really pay attention to what you’re eating, how it looks, how it tastes, how your body feels, and stop before you get too full.

I’ll be honest with you, I eat some type of unhealthy sweet (usually candy or cookie) almost every day. But I don’t eat the whole bag, and everything else I eat is pretty healthy. This brings us the final point…

3. Balance, Attitude, and Consistency

Here’s what you should eat: oatmeal and scrambled eggs for breakfast, salad for lunch, fish and vegetables for dinner, fruits/veggies/nuts for snack. It’s a good plan, the hard part is doing it consistently. What about your upcoming dinner out? Or your birthday? Or you’re bored sick of salmon?

The key is balance and overall consistency. It won’t kill you to eat some “junk” as long as the majority of your diet is consistently healthy and you’re consistently active and exercising. Balance.

Your attitude towards food and your body and how you cope with stress are some of the most important components to your long-term success. You’re sabotaging yourself if you

  • Feel your diet has to be all or nothing (you have to wait to eat nutritious foods until you “start a diet” and the second you eat a cookie, you give up everything for fast food)
  • Feel guilt or shame about what you eat, or are overly proud of yourself for strictly controlling your diet
  • Constantly jump from one diet plan/book to another, and try to overhaul your diet based on every article you read in a magazine

Final Thoughts

We all have a comfort zone for eating. Rather than try and completely conform to someone else’s plan or advice, try to incorporate one new change each week. Some ideas:

  • Find one new healthy dinner recipe to cook each week
  • Buy a new fruit or vegetable, or one you haven’t eaten in a long time
  • Replace one healthier item or habit: ice water instead of soda in the afternoon, fruit instead of ice cream after dinner, eating without the TV

Focus on positive changes, what you can live with for a lifetime, and being consistently healthy overall. Be balanced and fill yourself up with the right things. As much as we should work to eat healthy, remember that, Life is more than food (Luke 12:23).

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life. John 6:27-35

Make Your Own Baby Food Purees – Bellina Magazine

Making Baby Food PureesI am honored that one of my articles has been featured in the premier issue of Bellina magazine, a local Austin publication. You can view the magazine online: Bellina. My article, “Making Your Own Baby Food Purees” is on pages 16-19.

You can find many healthy, organic commercial options for baby food, but they are NOT cheap. Making your own baby food purees can be better for:

  • Your budget – you’ll typically spend $1 or more on each serving of baby food
  • Quality control – knowing exactly what your baby is eating, and that it’s nutritious
  • The environment – creating less waste and trash from individual packaging

You don’t need to buy any special baby-specific equipment, simply use a blender or food processor. Although the process may initially take some trial and error, you will find your rhythm and foods your baby enjoys. Then, you can save time by making large batches of purees and freezing for up to three months.

Please check out the magazine article to read more about:

  • Cooking and preparing baby purees
  • Food storage and safety
  • Ideas for food pairings
  • Recipes
  • Advantages to making your own purees

Quinoa Whole Grain Salad – Quick and Easy Meals

IMG_2020Have you found that rice, quinoa, couscous and other grains can seem a little bland when served alone?

And  we can all admit, sometimes it’s hard to eat as many veggies as we should.

A quick, easy, and delicious solution is making a whole grain salad. These can be served warm or cold and work well as a side dish or a complete meal. You can add sautéed or grilled chicken, beef, tofu or fish for additional protein.

I’d like to share a few recipes from other sites, but also give you some simple steps you can experiment with to suit your own tastes.

4 Step Basic Whole Grain Salad

  1. Cook grain according to package directions and chill if serving cold
  2. Chop and add veggies
  3. Add herbs, spices, and seasonings (personally, I prefer to season lightly vs coating with a heavy dressing)
  4. Top with toasted nuts, seeds, or dry fruit (optional)

5 Variations to Try

  1. Greek – Add tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, olives, and feta cheese. Flavor with lemon juice and olive oil. Try Mediterranean Quinoa Salad.
  2. Asian – Add finely pea pods, carrots, and edamame. Flavor with lime juice, soy sauce and top with toasted peanuts. Try Asian Inspired Tabouli Salad.
  3. Italian – Add tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, and garlic. Flavor with an olive oil & balsamic vinaigrette. Try Caprese Couscous Salad.
  4. Garden Medley – Add finely chopped broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, red onion and other fresh veggies. Try Summer Barley Salad.
  5. Curry – Add bell peppers, cilantro, and dried cranberries. Flavor with curry powder, lime juice and top with toasted almonds. Try Cranberry and Cilantro Quinoa Salad.

Quinoa Whole Grain SaladWant Even More Recipes?

If you have a favorite recipe for Whole Grain Salad, please share below:

Finding Time for Your New Year’s Resolution

Have you set your New Year’s resolutions for 2013? Whether you’ve been successful with past resolutions or not, there’s a drive in all of us for self improvement. At this time of year, we all get the bug to set some goals.

What’s kept you from consistently achieving past resolutions? Probably finding the time. If you’re like most moms, your schedule is already packed. You aren’t twiddling your thumbs looking for another commitment or activity to fill your time.

So how can you get some extra time to successfully achieve your New Year’s resolution?

Some of the resolutions that could apply to the three strategies for “finding time” listed below include exercising, meal planning, reading the bible, getting organized, meditation/prayer, and others.

1. Replace Another Activity

You’ve heard this advice before; watch one less TV show, spend an hour less on Facebook and voila: you’ve made time for your resolution. Why is this so much easier said than done? We’re tired! It’s easier to just zone out in front of a screen. Break your inertia and get some momentum going with these three tips:

  • 15-Minute Timer. If you are too tired or too busy, set a 15-minute timer for your resolution. You can do anything for 15 minutes a day, and it adds up to almost 2 hours a week and over 91 hours a year dedicated to your resolution.
  • Just Do It. Did you think about whether or not you will brush your teeth today…whether you feel like it, have time for it, want to do it? No! You brush your teeth every day. Don’t stop and think about whether you “feel like it”, just do it.
  • Fire alarm. What will motivate you to jump up and get going? Is it enough to put a calendar reminder on your phone? Do you need an accountability partner – personal or professional – to check up on you? Find the alarm, be it a carrot or a stick, that will prod you to action.

2. Multitask

You may have heard multitasking doesn’t work because your brain can only do one thing at a time, but you can get more bang for your buck by combining tasks and using your “dead time” wisely.

  • Make it a social activity. You can spend quality time with your loved ones or friends while exercising, cooking, or participating in a new hobby.
  • Listen while you work. Use your headphones to listen to your book, bible, or podcast while doing an activity like driving, cleaning, or working out.
  • Enlist the kids. Have you resolved to get organized, cook at home more, or exercise? Find an age appropriate way to involve your kids and they will learn invaluable lessons in the process.

With a toddler, I often feel like I have to wait until he’s sleeping to get anything done, but that’s not always enough time. For exercise, I take him for walks in his stroller and let him play beside me while I do a quick strength workout. We “clean” the house together, making it a fun exploration time. The greatest joy and most satisfying days are when I find ways to do things with him!

3. Buy Time

We all have 24 hours in a day, but maybe you can “buy time” by outsourcing or delegating tasks. Sometimes there truly isn’t any way for you to get it all done by yourself. If this is the case, consider hiring someone to clean, get groceries delivered, or babysit. Evaluate your budget to assess whether this is an option for you. The benefits you would gain from reaching your resolution may outweigh the financial cost.

Have you successfully completed past New Year’s resolutions? What tips can you share for dedicating time in your day to get them done?

12 Resources For Quality Sleep For Weight Loss and Wellbeing

Healthy Sleep“Get Quality Sleep” is the first tip on the Basics page. It may seem boring, basic, obvious…or maybe not that important, but I believe sleep is an often neglected but essential first step to health and wellness.

I love to sleep. I jokingly say I’m neither a night owl nor an early bird – I’m a bear, I like to hibernate! I would love to sleep about 10pm-7am plus take an afternoon nap every day.

Unfortunately, that’s hard to do with a toddler and everything else life brings. When I don’t get enough sleep, it has a terrible effect on my physical and mental energy and wellbeing. When I’m feeling off, the first thing I try to do is get my sleep schedule back on track.

I’m not a sleep expert, so I’ve included a list of resources below to help convince you (if your skeptical) about the benefits of sleep and also help you form good habits and deal with sleep disturbances. Here are a few quick reasons why quality sleep is important:

Sleep for Weight Loss

Sleep deprivation can sabotage your weight loss goals in a variety of ways including:

  • Increased cravings (especially sugar) and eating to compensate for lack of energy
  • Fatigue interferes with your ability to make good decisions and have the willpower to follow through
  • Lack of energy for effective workouts

Sleep for Health

  • Sleep is vital for our body to rest, repair, and grow
  • Inadequate sleep can increase your risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • Insufficient sleep can negatively impact memory, judgment, and mood

Sleep Basics

  • Most adults need 7-8 hours a night, but needs vary and can be affected by poor quality sleep or accumulated sleep debt
  • Be consistent with your daily routines, including sleep time, wake time, and bedtime routine
  • Decrease stimulation as you approach bedtime, including exercise, caffeine, alcohol, technology & artificial lighting

Sleep Resources

  1. Harvard Medical School: Get Sleep
  2. National Sleep Foundation
  3. Mayo Clinic: Sleep
  4. Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine: Tips for Good Sleep 
  5. Discovery Health: Sleep Basics
  6. National Institutes of Health: National Center on Sleep Disorders Research 
  7. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Sleep
  8. Yoga Journal: Yoga Poses for Insomnia
  9. How to Sleep Better Naturally 
  10. Michael Hyatt: 5 Reasons Why You Should Take a Nap Everyday and Podcast The Secret Power of Naps
  11. Zen Habits: 10 Benefits of Rising Early, and How to Do It
  12. Dr. Marc Weissbluth: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (this was my #1 resource for getting my baby on a good sleep schedule, and also great for educating about sleep patterns in general)

What tips do you have for getting a good night’s sleep?

Pregnancy and Exercise: What’s Safe?

Safe Exercise During PregnancyWhen I became pregnant with my first son, I was working in a gym, running regularly, and teaching 4-5 group fitness classes a week. I couldn’t wait for my first doctor’s appointment to find out if this was ok, so I called the office to speak with a nurse.

I explained my current workout routine, “Is this safe?”

Her answer, “Keep doing what you’re doing, and if the next day you feel like you did too much, you probably did…so cut back next time.”

That’s it? No guidelines on minutes, heart rate, or activities?!? Although I felt hesitant, in the end I realized that my personal instinct, listening to my body, is the best guide

Here are some of the changes that can affect your workouts during pregnancy: Continue reading