For years I have found myself in a see-saw of wondering what is right for my body – it is all “diet”? Is it vegan, paleo, pescetarian, etc? Is it all working out and how much time I’m willing to commit to exercise? The bottom line conclusion I’ve landed on is truly simple: eat whole foods, move your body, and be mindful of stress-management.
It truly does all begin in the mind: with nutrition being at the forefront of this. Often times, eating healthy feels incredibly hard because it requires a detour from our usual habits, and often what we know as “comfort”. This is often a lie we feed ourselves because the most comforting gift we can ever give our bodies is through proper nourishment of our bodies and minds. Healthy eating is the first step in the right direction.
Since becoming a mom, I’ve found more often then not it’s easy to scrape up the leftovers on my kid’s plate, eat while standing like a horse over its trough, and run out the door without snacks/meals prepped and accounted for. It’s also easy to neglect myself and feel so tired by the end of the day that a workout sounds just awful. By nature, I consider myself highly spontaneous (see: disorganized), and I dealt with quite a bit of resistance within my own heart as I felt the need to start cleaning up my eating and lifestyle habits years ago. I felt rebellious like it would trap me, but what I found was exactly the opposite: it gave me all the freedom in the world because I started to FEEL better. My energy increased, my headspace cleared out, my body gained strength and toned, and I craved the rich flavors of REAL food. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way to help get me to a place of feeling my best :
1.) Plan your meals/snacks
I know, I know. I am truly the last person I thought would ever plan out meals. But let me tell you – knowing your own fridge and pantry inventory, as I like to call it, is so important. Not only do you not waste food, but you know and see what you have available. When we get to that state of hangery and nothing is prepped and ready to go, we often make poor choices. Don’t let yourself get to this point! Over the weekend I tend to chop up a ton of fresh and raw veggies to have with hummus, boil some eggs, etc…whatever makes the meals available and ready to grab will keep you from cruising through the drive-thru. This scatter-brained mama swells with pride each time I step back from my fridge and see that our bellies will be taken care of thanks to just a little bit of time carved out to get organized and ready for the week.
2.) Balance your meals
I cannot express enough the importance of giving your body the trifecta of what it needs each time you sit down to eat: fat, fiber, and protein. I learned about the art of food combining from my favorite nutritionist and health expert, Christa Orrechio of The Whole Journey
. If I skip any of the 3 categories above, I leave the table unsatisfied and looking for the next thing to munch on within minutes. For fats, I look to things like avocado, tahini, nut-butters, coconut butter, or ghee.For fiber, I love to have a hearty veggie or fruit like Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, or green apples. For protein, pair your items with pasture-raised eggs, hemp or flax seeds
, or organic grass-fed meats. Food combining is everything as far as leaving a meal feeling like you’ve nourished your body well. P.S. DO NOT be scared of fats!
Fats do not make you fat! I incorporate them every single day (in appropriate amounts: which for me is usually 1-2T per meal). They satiate and give love to our hormones, stabilize mood, and curb cravings.
3.) Move your body first thing in the morning
There is such power in this. I strive for at least 30 minutes of workout-related activity every single day. Not that working out in the afternoon or night is a bad thing, but I find there’s extra power in the morning for me. It’s like I’m telling my body first thing “I’m trying to get you started on the right foot today.” It is a message to myself to show that I’m motivated and committed to taking care of myself. Workouts are not one-size-fits-all: they can be low intensity (think walking, yoga, pilates) or high intensity (HIIT, kettlebell, weights) – and I listen to what my body wants.There have been seasons of life where my brain and muscles have craved a slower pace and yoga is wonderful for that, and seasons of life where I have felt I needed a faster pace to get all the pent-up energy out! Your body will let you know. Just start somewhere and know that everyone begins as a beginner. It’s really about leaving the ego at the door and knowing that even a small step is still a step forward and that is to be praised and celebrated.
4.) It’s not about depravity, it’s about nourishment
I can promise you that switching to eating whole foods and cutting out sugar/processed foods will only feel bad at first. This is because your body is hooked on the high of sugar and it misses the instant gratification of that spike. Once you start switching over, it no longer feels like work, It feels like reward and satisfaction. Eating from the earth will leave you feeling strong and less foggy. Before you know it, your body will begin craving the things it should and sugar will have lost its luster.
5.) Eat mindfully
Now I cannot write this in all honesty from a place of success. This is an uphill battle in our day and age of addiction to input. I am always working on this one myself. As a mom, I rarely sit down to eat and it’s even rarer that I take time to chew my food. I’m usually eating it cold and fast and furious before the next demand hits. It’s also common to have our phones within reach, ready to be at the beck and call of any needs or general web browsing. This is NOT the practice of mindful eating. The dangerous thing here is once we’ve finished our plate, we have no clue what we’ve ever eaten because our brain was not engaged, so it’s no wonder you can feel hungry a few minutes later and then left overeating/feeling stuffed.There’s something to be said for sitting down with a properly-portioned plate, taking a few long slow breaths to give thanks for the food in front of you, and then enjoying each bite. The act of chewing actually releases enzymes into the stomach that help you digest your food, which is very important! Practice chewing your food at least 20 times with each bite when you sit down to eat.
6.) Hydration Station
I will admit I get bored of water sometimes. One way around this is to drink herbal teas (I skip the constant drip of caffeine), as they give your body healing herbs and your water flavor. I also am a big proponent of trying to drink smaller amounts with your meals and the bulk of your liquids outside of meals. Still tired of water? Try coconut water! It is nature’s Gatorade and packed with flavor. I make sure to buy it without anything added (many brands sneak sugar and artificial flavors in) and I try to drink at least a glass a day. If you’re not sure how much water you should be drinking per day, take your weight and divide it in half: that number, in ounces, will give you’re your necessary water intake.
There is an entirely positive movement right now towards eating whole foods and becoming our own health advocate. Support is not hard to find – grab a friend in the office and welcome them into a hydration challenge for the week, ask your partner to help you chop veggies for meal prep, have your kids count chews with you! There are endless ways to make transitioning into a healthy lifestyle fun and an activity that builds community without simply having to focus on fat loss diets. I have met countless friends along my path that have become my own cheerleaders and I am able to extend this same gift to them. Just remember that each step you take toward building a life of health counts – no matter how small it may feel. We are forever students and I find it thrilling to think that each day we are here on earth, we are always learning and growing.
I would love to support you any way I can. You can find me sharing my own journey (with all the transparency I can muster!) over on Instagram @natureplusnurture
. For now, I will leave you with one of my favorite snacks/ breakfast: carrot cake bars! It combines the trifecta we discussed in tip #2.
CARROT CAKE BREAKFAST BARS
1.5 c almond flour
1 T coconut flour
1/4 c coconut sugar
1/3 c shredded carrot
1/4 c chopped pumpkin seeds (or sub walnuts!)
1/4 c raisins
2 t vanilla extract
1 t cinnamon
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
small pinch of pink salt
4 T coconut butter of choice (melted)
2 T raw honey
Preheat oven to 350. Combine all the dry ingredients and set aside in a bowl. Use a food processor or cheese grater to shred and chop the carrots. Slowly combine the rest of the ingredients (saving the raisins for stirring in at the end). Add the dry ingredients into the wet.Line an 8×8 glass dish with parchment paper and pour in the mixture. Bake for 20 minutes and let sit for 10 (if you can wait!)