It’s January, and according to research conducted by Statistadieting, exercising and losing weight are amongst the top three New Year’s resolutions for Americans in 2022. The New York Times has even come out with an Eat Well Challenge for its readers. If I surveyed my parent-friends, I think these three goals would make up their top goals on any given day.
Here’s the thing though, as parents and moms, dieting, exercising and losing weight take on different meanings which we must be aware of in order to meet another common New Years’ resolution, work on our mental health.
Our Nutrition can directly impact our mood, patience and compassion.These are skills we are always working towards and being hungry (or hangry) do us no favors. Poor nutrition also impacts our hormones, which pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding (or the lack thereof) can often result in a hormone imbalance. And of course, dieting and what we eat, can impact our breastfeeding journeys.
Exercise can be welcomed break from full-time parenting and a chance for some alone time. At the same time, it can also be a source of frustration. Our bodies have changed, where do we find the time and evaluate the considerations to ease back into exercise postpartum? This involves giving ourselves grace as we regain our strength, seek efficient workout routines, ie. 10 or 20 minutes, or learn new forms of exercise that better suit us at this time of our lives.
Given the effect that diet and exercise can have on us as parents, it’s no wonder that the third goal, losing weight, becomes a little more difficult, at least short term. So we’ve teamed up with our friends from Nouri, to bring you our top tips and tricks to set you up for success - for proper nutrition and staying healthy this New Year.
Feeling at ease
Restrictive diets don’t work. Now before alarms go off inside our brains, remember dieting does not mean we are giving up on healthy habits, we are changing the way we approach ‘healthy eating’.
Mindful eating is about being in tune with our bodies and understanding our needs and how food can help us satiate our physical and emotional needs. It’s not about demonizing entire food groups, but rather recognizing your body’s cues so we can give our bodies what they need.
Some useful tips to start eating mindfully are:
Eat slowly. This gives your body a chance to savor food and notice when you are full so you can stop eating. Try chewing anything you eat at least 20 times. Its not easy but it is good practice and helpful for digestion!
Listen to your body and start to recognize whether you are truly hungry, bored or anxious. Acknowledging these feelings will help you recognize why you want to eat and decide if it’ll really make you feel better.
Make time to sit down to eat and pay attention to your food. I know this one is hard for parents, but a steady diet of leftovers on the go, will leave you feeling empty and may affect later cravings and mood. Engaging your senses fully while eating will help your brain feel like you have eaten and satiate your hunger. Set the table, turn off the tv, don’t scroll instagram or read a book, actually enjoy your meal.
Make note of the effects food has on you, both mentally and physically. If you are breastfeeding and pumping, notice the effects certain foods have on both you and your baby. Food affects mood, notice if combine healthy fats, proteins, carbs and fiber at every meal, how this balance will allow you feel satiated with more energy throughout the day. Compared to a bag of chips or one cookie - make each meal count!
Feeling at ease
We have to set realistic goals for ourselves and feel at ease with our new normal.
As new parents we must adjust to caring and navigating life with a baby that relies entirely on us, as well as taking proper care of ourselves while our bodies heal. Though everyone’s journey is different, your body may not “bounce back” after giving birth and even when you start feeling like yourself again, your body may not be exactly as it was before being pregnant and giving birth. Honor your postpartum body and its needs.
Finding a balance of diet and exercise that work for you and make you feel at ease is of utter importance for your overall health. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself or set unrealistic goals that’ll make you feel guilty and unaccomplished (when there is nothing further from the truth).
Some useful tips to find an exercise routine that feels right for you are:
Always ask your doctor when and if it’s right for you to start an exercise program. You may be mentally ready, but your body might not be.
Watch for pain and discomfort, if something doesn’t feel right stop and ask your doctor for advice. Seek other helpful practitioners like pelvic floor therapists or acupuncturists to aid in your postpartum transition.
Try at home workout programs, there are great apps out there and even free youtube videos with workouts of varying difficulty and length, so you can plan around your baby’s schedule and exercise when you can rather than on a fixed schedule.
Give yourself grace. Your body just created a human, and if you are exclusively breastfeeding and pumping, it’ may be another 6 months before your body stops being the sole provider of nourishment for your baby, so give yourself grace.
Body positivity is all about embracing your body as it is, instead of fighting it to fit into a specific societal construct of beauty. “The body positive movement was created by and for people in marginalized bodies, particularly fat, Black, queer, and disabled bodies,” explains Chelsea Kronengold for Refinery29. But it is especially important for parents, as well.
Pregnancy and childbirth will change our bodies, sometimes in unexpected ways, and we must appreciate them for all that they do for us despite their sometimes unwelcome changes. Many moms are surprised to learn that you may return to your pre-pregnancy weight, but not to your pre-pregnancy size or shape.
Aside from our bodies becoming softer, gaining stretch marks or cellulite (or both), our bodies can start storing fat differently. My arms are more toned due to lifting and carrying all the things and my hair still hasn’t fully grown back in. For breastfeeding and pumping moms these changes are particularly noticeable in our breasts (mine vary in size and shape), which change continuously during pregnancy and throughout our breastfeeding journeys.
Accepting these changes, can be challenging as we can put so much emphasis on how we look and on looking a certain way. it makes it so much more important to accept our bodies and understand that they are beautiful no matter their shape or size. It’s not about giving up on being “beautiful” or “healthy”, but rather about finding our own definition of beauty and health.
The concept of body neutrality is centered on the idea that we should focus on all that our body does for us on a daily basis. Rather than thinking about our bodies in a positive or negative light, the body is a body and we should be grateful for all it does. As parents we know just how much it can do and it is amazing.
Rather than fight your body:
Love your body.
Accept your body.
Thank your body for all it has been able to do for you, your children and your family.
This article was written in collaboration with Jennifer Jolorte Doro, the Nutritionist and Co-founder of Nouri. Jennifer is a mother of a 3 year old toddler with another on the way. Her background includes an M.S. in Nutrition, Certified in Pre/Postnatal Yoga and is a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor. Nouri is a stage-specific meal program to help expecting mothers improve fertility, manage pregnancy symptoms and provide the best for their baby by fusing proven Ancient Eastern therapeutic ingredients with Western Nutrition. Meals are OB-GYN recommended, nutritionist & chef curated, and delivered ready-to-eat in NYC. Learn more about Nouri and follow their delicious meals on instagram @nouri.mama
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