fitness, motherhood, nutrition, Self Care

How I Revolutionized my Diet to Lose Weight and Love my Body

I’m a woman. I’ve always been tall (I was 5’6″ in 6th grade, at 12 years old), I have broad shoulders and wide hips. I take up space. I always have, I always will.

I haven’t always been okay with it.

I spent a lot of my adolescence wanting to be smaller. I was never the girl who could be at the top of the cheerleading pyramid, or the one the boys would pick up and spin around, because I was big. My bigness came with strength, I was always the one doing the lifting or carrying, at the bottom of the pyramid, the backbone of the red rover team. As a young girl, I felt self-conscious about this. Girls are ‘supposed’ to be weak, and tiny and need big strong boys to take care of them.

I was also lucky to have parent’s who didn’t care about what girls are ‘supposed’ to be. My dad taught me to chop wood, and fish and hunt. My brothers and I almost always had the same expectations when it came to chores and helping out. At home, my bigness was never an issue, my strength was something to be proud of. I never once felt like my parents or extended family judged me in that way, and for that I am thankful.

But I didn’t live in a vacuum, I saw society’s expectations, I felt the burden of being bullied. I was reminded regularly that being big and being a woman is a problem. I tried a few diets here and there, but honestly I love food too much to ‘stick’ to anything. I went through a phase of following a hit-diet that emphasized no carbs, and cheat days, and very fucked up views on food. (the diet actually suggested increasing the number of bowel movements on ‘cheat days’ to minimize the number of calories absorbed – um, pretty sure that’s a version of bulimia). I lost a reasonable amount of weight, for me. I remember my mom asking me if I was eating. She was worried. I felt proud. Hey, everyone was noticing how ‘small’ I was, that had never happened to me before!

Looking back on that time, I cringe. I thought I was doing things ‘right’. After all, people are praised and put on pedestals when they ‘stick to’ their diets and lose a significant amount of weight. We don’t talk about how obsessed with food they are, or if they can function outside of planning their meals, or if they can enjoy day-to-day things because it may or may not be ‘on plan’.

So what changed?

I had a baby. I had a newborn to take care of, I had to recover from pregnancy and childbirth, and all on broken sleep. I was exhausted (who isn’t in that stage) and I could feel my emotions so much worse some days than others. There were days when I could feel myself getting frustrated with Nugget so much easier, and I started to analyze why. Yes, sleep was a factor, but that was mostly out of my control. I started realizing when I ate poorly, I felt awful. My patience was thinner, and I was quick to snap on my husband. And it wasn’t like I was eating fast food everyday or ordering pizza, it was just whenever I was out of balance, I felt it.

So I started paying even closer attention to how each food I ate made me feel. Too much bread? Made me so bloated and uncomfortable. Lots of green veggies? So much energy and my digestion felt like it was humming along. Not enough protein? I would get hungry and cranky within hours of eating. I started getting more in tune with my body’s needs. I started craving ‘healthy’ foods. My daily choices started balancing out.

I used to forbid my husband from purchasing any ‘bad’ foods because if it was in the house, I would eat it, and I would eat it all. I would think ‘oh man, I can’t have that, I should eat it all so it’s gone so I don’t have to worry about it anymore’. But now? I know I can have chocolate, or cookies, or ice cream whenever I want, and I do! But I don’t feel the need to polish off 10 servings, because I know that it’s always there whenever I feel like it. I don’t feel deprived, therefore I don’t need to binge. I try to live in an abundance mindset. All the foods are there all of the time whenever I want. There are no ‘bad foods’, nothing is ‘off limits’. There are some foods that make me feel crappy, so I don’t eat them as often, because I don’t like to feel like crap. There are some foods that make me feel great, so I choose those more often.

It’s as complicated and as simple as that.

So I bet you’re reading this and thinking, well shit if I ‘ate whatever I want’ I’d eat the entire pantry and gain 500lbs. Listen, I thought that too. And to be honest, when you start shifting your mindset, it’s totally normal to swing the pendulum to the opposite end of the spectrum and go overboard for a while. Your body will be so used to being deprived perpetually, that it will take some time to re-calibrate your thinking to eat without eating all the things, all the time.

The key is to eat mindfully. Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after you eat. Before – are you eating because you’re hungry? Bored? Sad? All perfectly okay, just acknowledge it and sit with it. During – are you enjoying what you are eating? Is it making you feel good? Are you full? Do you actually want that next bite, or are you just eating because there is some left? That last one is hard for me, I feel guilty leaving a bite or two behind, but one of my role models (Jennifer Campbell) said in a group we’re members of (I’m paraphrasing) ‘If you eat something, because you feel bad throwing it away, you’re just making yourself the garbage can.” That resonated with me. If I am eating something that I don’t want or need, then how is that any different than throwing it in the garbage? It’s not. And After – an hour or two later, are you feeling stuffed? Bloated and gross? Tired and lazy? or energized and happy? These are all things to help you guide your choices.

Now, this isn’t to say you must always, only eat foods that make you feel perfect, all of the time. No. That’s not the point. The point is balance. So you go to a birthday party, and there’s cake, and you want a piece. You like cake, you want to participate in the event, and it looks tasty. So have a piece! Acknowledge that maybe the cake might make you feel not so great later, so maybe only have one piece. But, consider while you’re eating the cake – is it good? Are you enjoying the cake? Does the serving size feel okay? Are you satisfied after 3 bites? Then stop. If the cake is bloody delicious, and you’re still feeling okay after you finish – then have another piece!

Like I said, complicated, but simple.

Your body is this funny thing. It has these cues that are there for a reason. Hunger, fullness, bloating, energy levels, constipation etc. They all work together to help you decide what to eat.

And you know what? The funny thing is, 14 months after having my first baby, I weigh the same as I did when I was doing that ‘crazy diet’ a few years ago. Except I am so much healthier. I have more muscle, more energy, and most important of all, I don’t obsess about food, like, at all and I love the way my body looks, but I also love the way it feels.

And the best part? I get to eat hot dogs with my son, who absolutely loves hot dogs, every week. And I don’t feel one single ounce of guilt over it, because I am balanced.

How

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nutrition, Self Care

What to do About that Dreaded Winter Cold or Flu

Here in YYC, the weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing, there’s a nip in the air. As much as we’d like to deny it for a few more weeks months, winter is coming.

[cue Game of Thrones reference]

I live in Canada. There is absolutely no question we get full blown, many feet of snow, frigid cold, arctic quality, winter.

I actually love winter.

I know, I know. I’m crazy. But the truth is I just love the changing of the seasons, I love all of them. The short period of each allows me to appreciate the next. If I were to live somewhere where it was always hot, I would probably get depressed because I would not be able to snuggle up in a cozy blanket by the fire and sip on hot cocoa and watch Christmas movies. That would make me sad.

What do I not love about winter?

Flu season. Cold season. General increase in communicable illness in the whole of the population.

Not fun.

You know what’s even less fun? Being sick when pregnant – you can’t take anything! You know what’s even LESS fun than that? Being sick while caring for a newborn! Downright awful! Add onto that the stress and worry that your tiny human will also get sick. It’s the literal worst.

But there are things you can do that can help you stay on the healthier side of things and give your body the best shot at avoiding, or in the very least minimizing the sniffles, sore throat, cough, body aches and general crappy feelings that go along with viral infections.

Now if you ask your friends and family, ‘how do I prevent/get rid of a cold’ you’ll probably be greeted with a myriad of ridiculous sounding suggestions, for example:

‘take a shot of whisky and wear a toque to bed’
‘rub your feet with vicks and wear socks to bed’
‘gargle salt water’
‘take garlic pills’
‘drink a hot toddy – with extra toddy’
My personal favourite – ‘put wet socks in the fridge, then before bed, put them on then cover with wool socks’ – supposedly called ‘warming socks’… Oh Lord… *eyeroll*

I mean, I’m not complaining about the fact that the majority of the suggestions involve alcohol and sleep. But they probably aren’t doing much to support your immune system (well except maybe the sleep, but we’ll get to that).

Most of these claims are based on anecdotal evidence. “Well my mom used to always do XYZ and I always felt better within a few days” or “I always take ABC supplements and I never get sick”.

Let’s look at the first one – most colds last 5-10 days. Usually most people are in denial of their illness within the first day or two, then they acknowledge it, but don’t feel too bad, then they feel worse and finally start looking for a ‘cure’, they try XYZ and miraculously they feel better! Well did XYZ cure them, or did they just happen to try XYZ right before their virus was due to run its course?

Ya, think about that one.

So what can you do to help with the cold or flu?

What does science say?

  1. Take Probiotics
    There’s a lot of information out there about probiotics and the human microbiome right now.There’s been a recent shift in thinking to ‘germs are bad’ to ‘too many of the wrong kind of germs are bad’. You see our entire body is covered and filled with germs, and the majority of those germs live within your digestive tract, and help our bodies break down the food we eat. Recent research has found that a good balance of bacteria within the body can even help support our immune system. A 2014 study showed that taking probiotics allowed participants to decrease the frequency and duration of viral illnesses. The participants reported that although they still felt sick, when they got sick, it lasted a shorter period of time, and they reported illnesses less frequently than the group that did not receive probiotic therapy.
    Now I personally take a probiotic supplement daily, and give a baby version to Nugget, there are also many dietary sources to get beneficial bacteria through the food you eat. Things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut (make sure it’s fermented) kimchi and, little known, honey (make sure it’s unpasteurized)!
  2. Don’t fight the fever*
    Ever wonder why we get a fever when we get sick? Well it’s not what you think. The most commonly held belief is that it helps basically ‘cook’ the virus or bacteria that is causing the infection, and this is not true. If that were the case, you wouldn’t have to cook your food to kill bacteria! Fever and increased body temperature actually improve your body’s immune response buy allowing certain types of your white blood cells to become more efficient at attacking the infection. Hyperthermia, while it doesn’t kill the viruses, does inhibit their replication, or ‘viral shedding’, which can help limit the duration of the cold or flu symptoms.So while it’s perfectly reasonable to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve symptoms like aches or pains, it’s not necessary to bring down a fever just for the sake of it. Mayo Clinic suggests that a fever less than 39.5C (103F) is not worrisome in an adult, so if you’re temperature is less than that, leave it alone!

    *The exception to this is if you are pregnant – fever in pregnancy can potentially harm the developing fetus – please treat the fever with acetaminophen and speak with your care provider!
  3. Eat chicken soup
    You probably thought this one was filed up there with the ‘old wives tales’, but there is actually science behind it! One study showed that the combination of ingredients in chicken soup limited the inflammatory response of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell), which is responsible for most of the unpleasant symptoms of a cold or flu. Also, inhaling the warm vapours and drinking the warm fluids associated with chicken soup help loosen mucous in the nose and chest, making them easier to clear (which is why your nose runs when you eat soup).
  4. Eat nutrient dense foods
    It’s no surprise that our bodies require nutrients to function. Our nutrition needs to consist of more than just fats, carbohydrates and proteins. There is a plethora of micronutrients that our bodies require in order to function properly, like vitamins and minerals. The best source for these is through the food we eat, fruits and vegetables, no or low processed foods. The more a food is processed, the less nutrition it contains.
  5. Sleep
    Sleep is how our body recouperates. It kind of seems obvious that it would be even more important when our body is fighting off an infection that sleep would be even more important. Animal studies have shown that all animals engage in more sleep when they are ill, it is the natural thing to do. Sleep also helps reduce stress, which contributes to improved immune system function. So rest up!

So now you know. When you are feeling ill, and someone suggests you put on cold wet socks (still laughing about that one), you can retort with science. The actual facts about what to do when you are feeling ill, and how to minimize the likelihood that you will become sick in the first place!

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nutrition, Uncategorized

Nutrition Schmootrition

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a dietitian or nutritionist. These are just ideas that have worked well for me and should you choose to implement them, that is up to you. In my previous post I mention that I think that nutrition is the most important thing to worry about postpartum when it comes to your mood, energy and general well being. Well a lot of moms ask how? How can I eat and feed my family nutritiously? I usually hear things like its too much work, it’s too expensive, I don’t have time. Well I’ll share strategies I use to help myself keep on track.

  1. Be Boring
    Sounds boring right? Well it is. But I bet if you look at your daily meals, you’re probably eating the same things over and over again. You might switch it up every month or so, then eat the same meal for another month. For example, lately I’ve been eating oatmeal for breakfast, greek yogurt with nuts and berries for meal 2, a large smoothie with lots of greens for meal 3 and whatever I have meal planned for dinner. Occasionally I’ll switch out meal 2 or 3 for leftovers from a dinner earlier in the week, but rarely do I actually make a completely different meal.
  2. Pay Attention to How you Feel
    Not everyone is the same when it comes to nutrition. Some people can eat bread daily and feel great and energised, but if I do it makes me feel bloated and sluggish. For some people this is dairy or beans or cabbage. Take a few days or a week or so and make a food diary, whether it’s on paper or using an app like MyFitnessPal, keep track. Then pay close attention to how you feel. Did you struggle to get out of bed this morning, and ate pizza last night? Do you feel gross and bloated in the evening after a bowl of pasta? Are you crampy and uncomfortable after eating baked beans? These are the things you need to think about. The last time hubs and I ordered pizza delivery, I was a miserable bitch the next day, and let’s just say his digestion wasn’t in peak form. Needless to say we’re a lot less likely to order pizza again.
  3. Find Something you Love
    If I tell you to eat oatmeal every day, but you hate oatmeal. You might do it once, or twice, but then you’ll gradually stop until you can’t remember the last time you ate oatmeal. You have to find healthy foods that you enjoy. If you love salad, find a way to make a quick easy salad. If you love chicken wraps, make chicken wraps!
  4. Cook Your Own Food
    Now this is a hard one to get into if you don’t already. I love cooking. It’s like meditation for me, but I can see how some people hate it. I think a lot of what people hate about it is they have no idea what they’re doing! Finding good recipes is key. This is why I love Pinterest. Whenever I feel like I’m in a rut or I want a new idea I go there. There are tonnes of healthy, quick & easy recipes on there for you to choose from!
  5. Choose Real Food
    Your best bet for healthy food is to buy things that don’t require an ingredients list. Like fruits, veggies & meats. There will always be times when you need packaged foods, and I’m not saying they’re all bad. But pay close attention, some greek yogurts are loaded with sugar, or frozen fruits can be sweetened. I personally love frozen veggies. I cannot be bothered to cut up and steam veggies most days at dinner, but dumping a bunch of frozen beans in a bowl and tossing them in the microwave is totally my style.
  6. Choose Healthier Options
    Almost all packaged foods out there have healthier versions available. However, do not be tricked by the ‘low fat’ movement! Most ‘low-fat’ or ‘fat-free’ products are loaded with sugar so they don’t taste like cardboard. You have to read labels. In the ingredients, they are listed based on quantity, so if sugar is the first or second ingredient, then the product is most sugar. Try to find foods with whole ingredients and little fillers or added sugar. Don’t be fooled by hidden sugar like ‘fruit juice concentrate’ or ‘evaporated cane juice’. Sugar is sugar is sugar. Unless it is in the actual whole fresh fruit or veg, with accompanying fibre and nutrients, it’s just sugar.
  7. Meal Plan
    When my husband and I started meal planning we cut our grocery bill by probably 25-50%. How many times do you go grocery shopping because ‘there’s nothing to eat’ yet your fridge is full? This was us. Until we started meal planning! Now at the end of the week, we are down to bare bones, we go and stock up only what we need. Here is the Meal Plan Template I developed and we use weekly. It’s simple, easy to follow and helps you develop your grocery list for the week.
  8. Make Your Unhealthy Favourites Healthy
    This is one of my favourite things. I love being able to make something healthy and delicious! Now, it doesn’t always work, but don’t get discouraged. Keep trying! My favourite recipes that I’ve made healthier are lasagna with eggplant instead of pasta, meatloaf with oatmeal and lean ground beef, shepherds pie with cauliflower instead of potatoes. Honestly, 75% of my ‘healthy’ meals are made from lean ground beef, but you could substitute ground chicken or turkey if you prefer!

Hopefully these tips will help you get on the right track to eating better! I know since I started paying closer attention to my own nutrition it has been like night and day with the way I feel and how I interact with my family, and I hope you have the same experience!