It’s been quite sometime since I last blogged and a lot has happened! I’m 4 months into #momming for the first time. I had a bit of writer’s block trying to come up with something to write about for my blog because so little of my life has been health and fitness related, but this is what I came up with: a few lessons and strategies I’ve learned along the way that can definitely apply to the health and fitness realm as well!
Try to have 1-3 big priorities each month and build on those
I’m the worst when it comes to saying no and my constant struggle has always been having too many irons in the fire. I didn’t realize how bad it really was until I committed to taking time off from everything I was working on once Sarita came along. My priorities the past few months have been Sarita, eating 3 meals a day/cooking for the hubs, and completing one task per day. Yes I’m sleep deprived (though at this point it’s much better) and taking care of a baby has it’s own set of challenges, but I can’t believe how much more relaxed I feel. I know that prioritization looks different for everyone, so your version might be a lot different from mine.
This is how it came about… with a little one at home, very little of your time is your own. Yes she naps, but those naps are unpredictable. Some days are 45 min, some days are 2 hours. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be to get things done. So for now, I set out to complete only ONE task per day, it might be sending an email, it could be cleaning a bathroom, but I consider my day to be successful if I’ve spent as much time as possible with Sarita, I’ve nourished my own body and fed my husband (I know it sounds a bit silly, but there are days when we resort to take-out or he eats PB and J!!) and I completed my one task. Today happens to be a 2 hour nap day so I was able to finish a few loads of laundry AND complete this email, but those extra loads of laundry are a bonus.
Where are the workouts you might be thinking!?! That’s right, they’re not there. Some days they show up as a task or they end up being a bonus activity, but right now it’s not one of my big 3. Also, when I say workout, it’s far from what my workouts used to be. I’m taking my progressions slow and steady and listening to my body. Of course this could and hopefully will change next month, but for now I’m not going to sweat it. Once I nail down these 3, it will be onto the next 3.
In a sense I’ve lowered my expectations for myself, but I go to bed feeling accomplished and ready to start fresh the next day. The Mom-Guilt is real people and it’s easy to “should” all over yourself about the things that didn’t get done, but I challenge you to start a little smaller and see what happens!
How does this fit with fitness? Maybe you’re just getting started on your health and fitness journey, recovering from an injury, or you’ve hit a plateau. Giving yourself 1-3 things to focus on could be just what you need to level up your game. So yours might look something like this: incorporate veggies into one of my snacks, go for a bike ride 2x/week, aim to lift 2-3lbs heavier on all upper body exercises, add one additional strength workout to my week, eat 20g of protein at breakfast.
Some way, somehow I try to get movement in throughout my day. I wouldn’t consider this exercise, it’s more just making sure I stay active. I’m amazed at how much time I spend sitting just for the simple fact that I’m feeding Sarita on a regular basis and when she plays, it’s always on the floor. So I make a point of moving as often as possible.
I do deep squats to set her down and pick her up off the floor or lunge down onto one knee. I practice my squatting technique getting in and out of the rocking chair (no hands!!!). It’s not much, but it does help to keep my legs somewhat active!
Once I was cleared to do more than 2 sets per day of stairs, I committed myself to feeding and changing Sarita’s diapers upstairs in the nursery. Stairs are a great way to build strength in your legs and I’ve been able to do a set every 2 hours.
I take Sarita on little tours of the house 2-3x/day. I carry her and we walk through all the rooms, look in mirrors, look out windows. I do my best to switch her from side to side so I’m not always carrying her on one side and I always work to keep my core engaged. Moms, Grandmas and Aunties …. When carrying your babies it’s so easy to sit back on your hunches so your back arches, your pelvis presses forward and your tummy sticks out but trust me, you are doing so many favors for your pelvic floor and core if you can just lengthen through your spine and pull that belly button inward, just enough to feel the slightest tightening of your core muscles. Voila, you’ve improved your core function! As your little one gets bigger and bigger, this clearly gets to be more of a challenge! These are also great tips to keep in mind when carrying anything, including weights in your workout. I can’t emphasize enough how this will help to reduce pelvic floor issues, low back and hip pain.
Leisure walks. Though the first few of these pushing the stroller with my deconditioned body hardly felt leisurely! I would love to say I get out for a walk every day, but that’s not reality. Reality is probably every other day with the stroller but it’s a start!
Again, these are little things and not necessarily what I would call a workout, but they are simple ways I try to move my body every day because in these early months I don’t feel like I have time to get full workouts in yet. For me, right now it works and my body feels good doing it. Maybe you’re going through a busy time in your life and are having a hard time fitting your workouts in…well…something is better than nothing and maybe you can incorporate some of these things into your day!
Clean up after yourself
Babies cause clutter, they just do. Or the things they need cause clutter, however you want to look at it. But not only that, they cause you to create clutter. In the first few weeks I suddenly started to notice little piles and groves of “things” on the counters, on the floor, on the table. Some things were out simply because I was using them on a regular basis, but a lot of the things I was leaving out as a reminder to get to it later. I learned in a hurry that this strategy was NOT working for me. Anytime I had a spare minute to put my feet up, those piles and groves would be staring right back at me.
I would be lying if I said I’ve perfected this strategy, but I’m working on it. It’s simple. I put things away or clean things, right after I use them. My new reality is that I might not have time to get to that little mess for hours or sometimes days so it has to be done. If it needs to be done later (like folding laundry) I find a place to put it, out of sight and out of mind. It will get done later, when Sarita sleeps, after I sleep, whenever, BUT the clutter is reduced.
This whole thing might sound a little silly to you, but this was/is a real struggle for me! I was leaving all these 5-10min tasks saying I’ll just do it when she goes to bed, or I’ll do this when she naps. All of a sudden I would have an hour or more of little tasks to complete at the end of the day or during her nap (or if she didn’t nap) when really, all I wanted to do was go to sleep!
Doing these little tasks one at a time for 10min or less rather than leaving them until later has opened up larger windows of time for me. MY time. I can fold that bin of laundry, I can take a nap or do a mini-workout…or do nothing. This is where the fitness part comes into play. How hard is it to do a workout in your living room where you might have plain view of a stack of dirty dishes on your counter? As women, it’s freaking hard to block that out! Maybe you go to a class at the end of the day, it’s a lot harder to commit to that class when you look around at everything you still need to do that evening.
Routine and rituals have been game changers for me and they can be for you too! Right now they don’t revolve much around my fitness, but I will get there, 3 emails ago I talked about my big 3 and that’s not part of it…yet.
As many of you know, babies don’t really follow a very predictable routine in their first few months of life. I’m told this is coming in the next few months lol. So for now, I’ve tried to ritualize the best I can with what works for Sarita and for our little family.
I was having a hard time getting breakfast in me before 11am (#momming) which was the trigger for getting a morning ritual. Ever experience hangry? not cool! Sarita’s last feed is usually around 4am or 5am…for this mama, this is still “night time” and I’ve made it a priority to teach this to her. So back to bed we go right after the feed and wake up for the day around 7am or 8am…much more do-able! Of course when she wakes up I need to feed/change/wash her first, but I’ve learned that once she’s fed I have a window of contentment! After getting her dressed, it’s my turn! I have a solid 15min (a lot of time in Mom-minutes) to wash up, freshen up, get dressed and be ready for the day. By the time we head downstairs I can get at my breakfast while playing with her on the floor (we also don’t eat at our table often anymore!). It’s not perfect, but all of this happens before 9:30am…a win-win!!!
In the evenings, I clean the kitchen and make Kofi’s lunch, once that’s done I consider myself free and clear for the evening. As per the last email, if I’ve been on the ball with keeping things tidied up it literally is a free and clear evening.
Fat’s where it’s at – at least that’s what my Dad says when he hears the word come up, especially when it comes to complaints about weight loss or being too heavy. My Dad is a man of few words, but when he does speak it’s usually something unexpectedly funny. However on the serious side of things, he’s actually right! Fats are a really important part of a healthy diet, weight loss, satiation, metabolism and of course, making the food we eat taste delicious!
Though for this blog I’m focusing on fats, it’s worth noting that food, especially GOOD food is essential to our health and affects our health in four main ways:
- It provides energy
- It fuels our metabolism
- It becomes a part of our body structures and,
- It influences hormones and neurotransmitters necessary for our body’s to perform their daily functions
Many people are unaware that the types of fats you consume not only affect your body’s composition (how much fat you have compared to muscle and water) but they even affect your individual cells and how they function. Aside from the facts that some fats will indeed make you fat when overconsumed over time, some fats will also cause your cells to function poorly.
The border of your cells (plasma membrane) is made up of a fatty layer of phospholipids – they have fatty tails and phosphate heads (imagine little tadpoles). One part of the tadpole loves water, the other does not and this is what helps to regulate what substances can move in and out of the cell. In order for our bodies to function, there are hormones and neurotransmitters coming in and out of our cells all the time. The types of things moving in and out and the rate they move drastically affect our metabolism and your body’s ability to function in general. Naturally, if these cell borders are made of fats, the type of fats we consume will drastically affect how our cells function.
There are two main types of fats:
- Saturated Fats
- Generally solid at room temperature
- Animal fats, palm and coconut oil are natural sources
- Polyunsaturated Fats
- Generally liquid at room temperature
- Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
- Found in fish, walnuts, flaxseed, canola oil, soybeans, to name a few
While there are many positive and negative effects of fat consumption, in this blog I want to look specifically at how they affect our cells.
A diet high in saturated fats will actually cause your cell’s borders to become more rigid and a diet high in polyunsaturated fats will do the opposite. Ideally, your body needs those borders to be fluid and flexible to make it easy for your cells to communicate. When they are so tightly packed together, it can be extremely difficult for the passage of hormones – insulin resistance is a great example of this. It occurs when those little tadpoles are packed so closely together that it becomes difficult for insulin to enter the cells. This leaves excess insulin floating around in your blood stream which increases your risk of type II diabetes.
Another area of the cell that is greatly impacted by fats are the peroxisomes. The WHAT? You don’t need to remember the name! BUT…what you do need to remember is that these little organelles work hard all day long to break down fats consumed in our diet. When peroxisomes break down fat, they actually produce a lot more heat than actual energy compared to what other areas of the cell can produce. They are specialists when it comes to breaking down omega-3 fats, however they need a lot of fat in order to produce a significant amount of energy in your body. This is GREAT news for those of us consuming omega-3’s on a regular basis because peroxisomes will burn MORE omega-3’s fats to produce the same amount of energy required by your body to do work as other areas of the cell.
While this is great news for fat consumption, it certainly doesn’t mean we need to rush out and start eating fish and consuming omega-3’s like the ocean is about to dry up. It’s super important to stick to your recommended daily intake of omega-3, more is not necessarily better. According to the dietitians of Canada, adult women should be consuming 1.1g/day and adult men 1.6g/day. For the average person, you could easily achieve this by eating 2 servings of fish per week.
Consuming a diet low in saturated fats and high in polyunsaturated fats is critical not only to fat loss, but also to maintain a healthy bodily functions! I think most of us know this by now as the media has drilled it time and time again, but often the science behind it is isn’t explained. Hopefully this gives you some insight…and perhaps extra motivation to watch those saturated fats!
“since I realized I’m not nearly good enough to win (the contest), I need to do things that are good for ME, not good for winning the contest”
“I ‘gave up’ some points by not doing a boot camp and just ran. But the run was so good for my soul, I was in a great mood after and I ran for an hour straight!”