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The Top 3 Exercises that Directly Apply to #momlife

You’ve said it. I’ve said it. We’ve heard our other mom friends say it.

“Chasing after my toddler all day is my exercise!”

Isn’t that the truth? Those little rascals are always on the move and they’re quick! And Jack is no exception. He is on the move constantly, never content to just sit in one place for too long. He’s always doing laps around our apartment, one item in each hand, never coming back with the same two things he was holding before. Let’s just say I stopped putting stuff away during the day. 🙂

While keeping an eye on him and preventing him from getting into imminent danger is exercise indeed, I can’t help but reflect during my gym workouts how much of what I do directly applies to the physical activity that I do everyday with him.

By now you know that I LOVE lifting weights. It is one of my favorite forms of movement. It’s my therapy and I love the way that it makes me feel. Being strong on the outside helps me feel strong on the inside. And this is something that we see with a lot of our mama clients as well.

The way that we program for our mamas is intentional and specific. We want them to have fit and healthy pregnancies and strong and successful postpartum recoveries. One of the ways that we do this is with strength training and doing exercises that will help you be active, strong and have as little discomfort in your body as possible. (Side note: we just expanded our class schedule to include evening classes! Check out our class schedule here.)

Here are three exercises that you can do right now that directly apply to #momlife:

  1. The Deadlift.

Have you ever picked something up off of the ground? Okay. I’ll wait for you stop laughing. #momlife can feel an awful lot like being the person with the shovel behind a horse in a parade, amirite? If your answer is yes, which it most likely is, then you deadlift everyday!

The deadlift, when performed correctly, is actually a full body exercise. It engages the glutes, hips, hamstrings, back, core and even your forearms and grip. I like to think of this as the powerhouse of all exercises. Not only is it something that we do everyday, it’s a fundamental total body exercise that builds strength, power and a beautiful booty. And of course, it’ll give you super pick-up-everything-that-your-baby-throws-everywhere power.

There are many variations of the deadlift, but the kettlebell deadlift seems to be a good place for most people to start.

How to do it:

Stand tall directly over the kettlebell, with feet about hip width apart. Breaking at the hips, push your butt back and slightly bend your knees. With both hands on the kettlebell, pretend to “break” the handle in half (this is to set the shoulders in a good position). Pick up the kettlebell with both hands and stand tall, squeezing your butt in the top position.

Trainer tip: If you’re not sure how much or how little to bend your knees, try this dowel hip hinge drill.

  1. The farmer’s carry.

We have a term around here for the developing strength you get from carrying a child around all of the time. We call it working on your “biceps of love.” I’ve been absolutely floored by how much I can carry at one time (see: baby in a car seat, diaper bag, purse, water bottle, and sometimes more). Luckily, there’s an exercise that can help me do this efficiently without compensating with other muscles or my posture. Enter: the farmer’s carry.

How to do it:

Stand with your feet about hip width apart with one kettlebell in each hand. Maintaining a neutral spine, brace with your core and walk 10 steps forward and 10 steps backward.

Trainer tip: Don’t let the weight make your body lean to one side more than that other. If that’s happening, start with lighter weights.

  1.  The off-loaded squat.

Squats are another natural movement that we’ve been doing since we were babies. Squats improve strength, mobility and stability all at the same time. Not to mention that they’re another way to get a great booty.

I chose the off-loaded squat because how often do we squat down while we’re also holding onto our children? I can’t be the only one right??

How to do it:

Stand with your feet about hip width apart with a kettlebell in one hand in the rack position (as seen in video). Push your butt back and pull your knees apart as you squat down with control and push through the heels to come back up, squeezing your butt at the top.

Trainer tip: If you’re feeling unstable, practice the exercise without the weight first. When you’re feeling ready for a challenge, add the weight back in.

PLEASE NOTE: These are all exercises that we give our mama clients in our Fit Mom Foundations program and our in-person training sessions, but we don’t necessarily start here. During and after pregnancy, your body goes through A TON of changes, and those changes need to be respected by practicing good alignment as well as core and pelvic floor restoration exercises. The changes that we experience don’t just go away with time. It improves with intentional and specific training.

Want more guidance with your workouts? Well, that’s what we do! We offer a variety of services including one-on-one training, small group training, nutrition coaching, online group training and more. You can check out the full list of services here

If you’re interested in trying out a class, the first week is on us. Email us at info@movementduets.com to get started or contact us here.

Jill

P.S. For more workout tips, recipe ideas, mindset advice and embarrassing parenting stories, make sure you join our tribe by joining our weekly newsletter list. You can get on the list here.

Cara’s Paleo Cinnamon Rolls

When I was pregnant with Oliver I had serious cravings for cinnamon rolls! It was a hankering harkening back to my teenage years. When I was a kid I used to eat a Cinnabon before every cross country race I ran. It’s amazing I survived!

20161204_093559These days I don’t really tolerate wheat or gluten that well so I’ve had to get creative.

Cooking with alternative flours can get tricky…because, let’s face it…they don’t always hit the same spot as our old favorites. But, this recipe is different. The first time I tried these I thought that I had made a mistake and accidentally baked these bad boys with real flour!

In a word…they are amazing. And they get the kid approval. 20161204_093514

Here’s what you need:

Dough

1 Cup Coconut Oil

1 Cup Water

1 Teaspoon Salt

4 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

2 Cups Tapioca Flour

1 Tablespoon Cinnamon

1 Cup Coconut Flour

2 Large Eggs

Filling

1/2 Cup Raisins

1/2 Cup Dates

3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

1 Tablespoon Cinnamon

1-2 Tablespoons Water

Directions20161204_092102

Preheat the oven to 350

In a  large pot bring the coconut oil, water, salt and maple syrup to a boil. Remove from heat immediately and slowly stir in the tapioca flour. Stir until sticky. Add the cinnamon, coconut flour and eggs. Set dough aside to cool.

Put all the filling ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Roll dough out on parchment paper until about 1/2 inch thick. Spread on the filling. Carefully roll into a log. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool and set. Cut into rolls. Bake on parchment paper for 30-35 minutes.

While still hot I like to melt a pat of butter on top of the rolls as “frosting.” If you want the real thing just blend coconut cream, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla.

*my rolls did not turn out pretty because I couldn’t wait the ten minutes to let them cool. Patience is not a virtue of mine! But they still tasted amazing!

Paleo Lactation “Oatmeal” Raisin Cookie Recipe

When I was pregnant I always heard about how amazing and natural breastfeeding was. I heard stories from other mothers of how their babies latched right away. I read thread comments and complaints in online mommy groups about the pain of engorgement. I was even told by my doctor that my milk “would drop” within a few days after my son was born.

Imagine my surprise when none of these things happened to me.

When Jack was first born, I struggled with my milk supply A LOT. Breastfeeding did not come naturally to me. Upon the advice of lactation support and his pediatrician I was stuck in the grueling cycle of feed, pump and supplement every 2-3 hours for months.

Instead of looking forward to these special times with my newborn I began dreading them. I would cry right along with him when it was time to breastfeed again. And I felt so incredibly guilty. I felt like an inadequate mother.

No one ever talked to me about this part of breastfeeding. I never heard stories about how challenging it can be. And that’s one reason why I’m sharing my story with you. To let you know that if your experience was anything like mine that you’re not alone.

Luckily, I had a lot of great support in how to turn the situation around. I saw a lactation specialist and got all kinds of great ideas for how to boost supply like drinking Mother’s Milk Tea, using fenugreek, making sure that I’m plenty hydrated and eating lactation cookies! Let me tell you, any plan that involves eating cookies, I am so on board with.

Because I’m on the Paleo train, finding a grain-free recipe for lactation cookies was a bit of a challenge (oatmeal and brewer’s yeast are two ingredients famously known for increasing milk supply). Fortunately, I was able to put together a recipe that not only boosts my supply, but doesn’t wreak havoc on my system.

Paleo Lactation “Oatmeal” Raisin Cookie Recipe

128934f0-7b0d-4c7e-a4ff-00179b519e24Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon ground anise seed
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed or flaxseed meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup of Enjoy Life Semi Sweet Chocolate Mega Chunks
  • Optional: 2 tsp ground fenugreek seed*

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together honey and coconut oil. Add eggs, one at a time. Add in anise, vanilla and fenugreek (if using).

In a separate bowl combine almond flour, flaxseed and baking soda.

Using a mixer, add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, a little at a time until well combined.

Fold in pecans, raisins, dates and chocolate.

Scoop one tablespoon of batter at a time onto a lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

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*Fenugreek is a plant from the Fabaceae (legume) family, which means that were it to be used in the recipe, is not actually Paleo, since the Paleo diet excludes legumes. Fenugreek is a commonly used herb to increase milk supply, and it really seemed to help me, so that’s why I included it. However, almonds, oils and fats are other foods that can improve milk supply as well, so if you need to exclude the fenugreek, this recipe can still help!

Aside from the benefit of the boost to milk supply, these cookies are just flat out delicious. And as a breastfeeding mama, this is a great one handed snack that can help soothe your raging appetite.

If you’re like me and struggle with milk supply, please know that you’re not alone. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. You are not any less of a mother than one with milk overflowing. Do what you think is best for you and your baby, and don’t worry about anything else.

If you’re willing to give this recipe a try, I’d love to hear how you liked them. Now go brew yourself a tea, grab a few cookies and relax!

Jill

P.S. If you want more recipe ideas, workout tips, mindset advice and someone to bond over the adventures of motherhood with, make sure to get on our weekly newsletter list. This is where we give out all of our best information. Not on the list yet? Join the tribe here.

Our Favorite Exercises for Optimal Fetal Positioning

If you were to ask me why I do what I do, one of the first things I’d say is that I want you to have the information I wish I had when I had my babies.

Seriously…the more I learn, the more I understand about my births and the more strongly I feel about educating other women.

full-3It’s not that I had horrible births–I think of my first birth experience as my “starter” birth. I was so afraid of birth as a whole that I completely gave my power away and ended up with a cesarean when it may not have been necessary. Prior to my second birth, I educated myself and felt truly inspired and empowered. I felt the power of knowledge and it sent me on the journey that you find me on today. Everyday I learn more–I’ve become a birth junkie! I love a good birth story and I can’t read enough about birth and pregnancy in general!

In fact, not long ago I stumbled across some information about fetal positioning that I wish I had known more about when I was pregnant. You see, Oliver was breech. I had my heart set on a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and at 34 weeks my little guy flipped out of his optimal position. When he spun it sent me into a spin! I was desperate to get him to flip back! I wanted my natural birth dammit!

In my opinion, 90% of your birth experience is due to how you prepare yourself for birth and the decisions that you make. But that other 10% is up to your baby. And sometimes that little 10% makes a HUGE difference. Sometimes we don’t get to decide how our babies are born, but we sure can plan for the best. Our birth plans should not just be focused on outcomes, because, sometimes, we don’t get the outcome that we wanted. But, when we focus on how we feel during our birth experience, that leaves us with a greater perspective.

20160218_173832Eventually, I had to relinquish control of Oliver’s birth. I had to let go of my expectations of how I wanted it to end up. Despite my strong desire for a VBAC, I ended up having to have another cesearean.You can read more about my experience with that here.

In the United States today about 3-4% of babies are breech at full term. which means they’re in position to exit the uterus feet or butt first rather than head first. In the past (before the 1960’s) virtually all breech babies were safely delivered vaginally,  Today, most are born by cesarean section.

Beginning in the 1960s, more and more obstetricians began to deliver breech babies by cesarean presumably because they preferred the predictability. But not every doctor jumped on the c-section wagon immediately; many continued favoring vaginal breech births.6

Enter the Hannah Term Breech Trial (TBT) published in 2000.5 The TBT followed 2,083 breech babies in 26 countries, randomly assigned to either vaginal or planned C-section delivery. Early data suggested fewer newborn deaths and injuries occurred in the C-section group. According to Heather Weldon, M.D., an OB-GYN at Southwest Medical Group OB/GYN Associates in Vancouver, Wash. “Within months, breech C-sections went from 50 percent to 80 percent and, by 2006, 90 percent. Then, we found out the study was flawed.”6

Almost immediately after its publication critics began poking holes in the study. First off, the researchers did not factor in the risks of cesareans when they did the study. Some poor outcomes that were attributed to vaginal delivery occurred in birth centers that used unskilled birth attendants or substandard techniques. Some babies had genetic defects or were premature. In short, many weren’t injured because they were delivered vaginally, but because of other factors. When looked at objectively, what the data seems to actually suggest is that vaginal births are better in some scenarios and cesareans better in others. It just depends on the situation.1

But, for the most part, the damage had already been done. Most hospitals do not allow breech babies to be born vaginally and many obstetricians are not even taught how to deliver a breech baby vaginally anymore.4

20160218_173353So, for many mothers like myself who were hoping to have a natural birth, hearing that your baby has gone breech can feel like a blow! It is normal for your baby to flip many times throughout pregnancy, but if you reach 37 weeks and your baby is still breech, many healthcare professionals will assume that you have run out of time and will encourage you to schedule a cesarean.9

However, one of the things that I found heartbreaking (because I found out too late) and incredibly hopeful (because I can pass it on to you) is that there are a lot of things that we can do to optimize our chances for a natural birth. The key is to understand WHY our babies go breech in the first place.

There are many factors that come into play here that we have no control over. There are genetic reasons. It can be because of the amount of amniotic fluid, a shorter umbilical cord or the amount of weight a woman gains during pregnancy. But there are several other factors that we CAN do something about.

Posture and Alignment

We talk a lot about the importance of posture and proper alignment in terms of how it helps the core functions. You can read more about that here. However, there is now even one more reason that good posture and alignment is important. According to Gail Tully, creator and developer of www.spinningbabies.com, when we slouch it pulls our sacrum under, changing the position of our uterus. Some ligaments get overstretched. Some get too tight. This changes the position of our pelvis and offsets the balance that we need for a head down baby. Slouching or sitting for long periods of time in recliners can push our uterus up in our pelvis, reducing the space for baby in the lower part of our uterus and sometimes forcing baby to change positions.2

Repetitive Activities

2013_Walk_For_Hope_0165Another thing that can cause your baby to go breech is a “twisted uterus” caused by repetitive actions. A twisted uterus is most common in chiropractors, massage therapists and anyone who has an active job with repetitive motions. During both of my pregnancies, I kept very busy doing assisted stretching. This is a type of stretching where I am pulling on limbs, hoisting legs over my shoulders and using my body to leverage the traction and pull of my clients joints. It is hard work…and it’s repetitive. It makes sense that Oliver would end up out of position towards the end of his gestation.

Stress

Sometimes babies cannot maintain or find optimal position because one side of the pelvic floor is tighter than the other. This often happens as an outcome of stress and poor breathing mechanics. How we breathe determines how we function. Breathing seems like the most natural thing in the world. We rarely even think about it despite the fact that we do it 14 times every minute. When we are stressed we start to breathe up and down through our shoulders and neck instead of in and out through our diaphragm. This causes the diaphragm to contract and expand in an asymmetrical way. The diaphragm mirrors the pelvic floor. If the diaphragm is off, the pelvic floor is off.

So, what does this asymmetry mean for us? It affects our ability to take a true deep breath. When we lose our ability to use our diaphragm the way it was designed, we lose much of our core stability. And we are more likely to lose the balance that we need throughout our pelvis for our babies to maintain the proper position.

But Cara, you might be saying, I can’t just quit my job or stop worrying about how to pay my mortgage once I’m pregnant! How can I prevent stress, repetitive motions and poor posture during pregnancy?

I’m glad you asked! You can’t alway prevent a breech, but you can optimize your chances of having a vaginal birth by doing the exercises below. These exercises do not use gravity to change baby’s position, they help to balance the pelvis, making more room in the lower uterus for baby.8 So, they will NOT flip a head down baby.

Walking

Walking is something that almost everyone can do! Walking helps to lengthen the psoas muscles and strengthens the low back while moving the pelvis. Walking helps to balance the pelvis and can also help to lower stress.

Lunging

Lunges help build muscles around the hips and legs. But they also help balance the pelvis. The sacroilliac joint is substantially supported by the pelvic floor. Lunges help strengthen the glutes and hamstrings, while lengthening the psoas. This helps the pelvis as a whole function better and as a result, helps the pelvic floor function better.

How to: Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Step forward with one foot. Bend both knees and lower yourself down towards the floor. Inhale and relax the pelvic floor on the way down. Exhale and kegel as you straighten your legs and come back up.

Squatting

Many midwives believe that our bipedal bodies were made to birth in the squatting position because gravity assists the descent of the baby in the birthing canal and the act of squatting itself has been shown to increase the dimensions of the pelvis.3, 7

How to: Stand with your feet hip distance apart. You can use a chair or a countertop for support if you need to. Inhale and relax the pelvic floor as you squat down. Go as deep as you can while keeping your heels on the floor. Exhale and draw the pelvic floor up on the way up.

Inversions

The forward leaning inversion helps release the utero-sacral ligament, giving the baby extra room to move around, optimizing your chances of baby being in a good position for labor.

How to: Kneel on the edge of the couch. Carefully crawl forward with your hands until you can lower yourself down on your forearms. Tuck your chin, don’t let your head touch the floor. Keep your belly loose and your shoulders strong and breath deeply for 5 breaths. You can also tuck and untuck your bum to make more room for baby.

Crawling

Crawling puts you on your hands and knees and allows your belly to be a hammock for your baby. This helps relax and release the tendons around the uterus. Crawling also helps coordinate the core muscles. By working contralateral limbs you are balancing your body.

How to: Get on the floor on all fours. Align your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Pick up the left hand and the right knee and move forward. Try and put your hand and knee down at the same time. Then switch to the other side.

Half-Kneeling Hover

This exercise helps to stretch the psoas and the inner thigh muscles while also building strength in the glutes and encouraging good posture. It is the “motherload” of pregnancy exercises! Tight psoas muscles keep the baby high and we want to encourage that little guy (or gal) to drop! A supple psoas will help the baby engage towards the end of pregnancy.

How to: Get into a half kneeling position. Swing the front leg out to the side until you feel a gentle stretch in the inner thigh. “Get tall” by reaching your head towards the ceiling and squeeze your butt. Sit  your hips back towards your heel then come back up.

We don’t always get the birth experience that we planned for. Sometimes this is due to circumstances that are beyond our control. But, other times, it’s because we didn’t have all of the information that we needed. Our mission is to get as much information out as possible to as many women as possible so that you can prepare for the best birth experience possible. That’s why we created our FREE 3 week training Labor of Love, the ULTIMATE guide to having an empowered birth experience. Build strength and a birth story that you love! Pregnancy and birth are two of the most amazing things that we do on this earth! Guilt and shame should not be synonymous with giving birth and becoming a mother.

Too many women feel shame about their birth experiences, their pregnant and postpartum bodies and the choices that they make during this transitional time.

But we choose EMPOWERMENT! And we believe that the key to feeling empowered during pregnancy and postpartum is fitness.

Ready to sign up? Join here—> http://bit.ly/mdlaboroflove

References

  1. Berhan, Y., & Haileamlak, A. (2016, January). The Risks of Planned Vaginal Breech Delivery Versus Planned Caesarean Section for Term Breech Birth. Obstetric Anesthesia Digest, 36(4), 215. doi:10.1097/01.aoa.0000504747.17851.8d
  1. Bowman, K. (2012, April 25). Katy Says…. Retrieved December 01, 2016, from https://nutritiousmovement.com/atootightpelvicfloor/
  1. Carvalho, D. E., Soave, D., Ross, K., & Callaghan, J. P. (2010). Lumbar Spine and Pelvic Posture Between Standing and Sitting: A Radiologic Investigation Including Reliability and Repeatability of the Lumbar Lordosis Measure. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 33(1), 48-55. doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2009.11.008
  1. Gregory, K. D., Korst, L. M., Krychman, M., Cane, P., & Platt, L. D. (2001, March). Variation in Vaginal Breech Delivery Rates by Hospital Type. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 97(3), 385-390. doi:10.1097/00006250-200103000-00012
  1. Hannah, M., & Hannah, W. (2000). Term breech trial (TBT): A randomised controlled trial (RCT) of planned caesarean section (CS) vs planned vaginal birth (VB) for breech at term. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 70. doi:10.1016/s0020-7292(00)82630-2
  1. Hehir, M. P. (2015). Trends in vaginal breech delivery. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 69(12), 1237-1239. doi:10.1136/jech-2015-205592
  1. Lilford, R. J., Glanville, J. N., Gupta, J. K., Shrestha, R., & Johnson, N. (1989). The action of squatting in the early postnatal period marginally increases pelvic dimensions. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 96(8), 964-966. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.1989.tb03355.x
  1. G. T. (2002). The Three Principals in Pregnancy. Retrieved December 01, 2016, from http://spinningbabies.com/start/in-pregnancy/the-3-principles-in-pregnancy/
  1. Tully, G. (2013, June). Identifying and Resolving Obstructed Breech Birth: When to Touch and When to Be Hands-Free. Midwifery Today, (106).

Paleo “Green Bean” Casserole

paleo-green-bean-casseroleOne of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is the abundance of comfort foods. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Turkey. Stuffing. Rolls. Pumpkin pie. And, of course, green bean casserole!

I went Paleo over 4 years ago. It’s been one of the best things that I have ever done for my health, inside and out. But, what this means at holiday dinners is that there are many things served that don’t quite sit well with my stomach anymore. It’s not that I can’t have these things, and sometimes I do, but certain foods come with a price (sometimes one that others around me have to pay. Just ask my husband and Cara.)

Instead of lamenting missing out on foods that don’t make me feel my best, I get creative! I Paleo my plate. This is where we take traditional foods and substitute different ingredients to make it Paleo-friendly. Now, full disclosure, if you’ve been following us on Movement Duets for awhile, you know that I don’t cook (although, I love to bake). It’s not that I don’t know how to cook, but I just really don’t like to. Fortunately, I got super lucky and married a man who loves cooking and is really good at it. So, the recipe that I’m sharing with you today is Sam’s creation.

Here is a great take on a traditional Thanksgiving classic, Paleo “Green Bean Casserole.”

What you need:

2 lbs Asparagus, chopped

1 container of Imagine Organic Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup

1/2 lb Mushroom (Crimini work well here), chopped

1 Onion sliced thin

1 Egg, beaten

1 cup Fine Almond Meal

1/3 cup Coconut Oil

What you do:

Put the coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Swirl the sliced onion in a bowl with the beaten egg until evenly coated, then toss the onions in a cup of fine almond meal. Fry the now battered onions in the coconut oil until browned lightly. In a separate skillet, with a little bit of coconut oil, saute the chopped asparagus and mushrooms until a little soft (not done all the way) and place them in a greased (again, using coconut oil) 9″ x 13″ glass casserole. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour the soup over the asparagus and mushrooms, and stir in half of the fried onions. Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover, and top the casserole with the other half of the onions, and bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are crispy (we have learned to check frequently, as the onions can go from crispy to blackened pretty easily).

Give it a try and let us know what you think! And if you need help with Paleoing your plate, let us know. We love coming up with new recipes. 🙂

Jill

P.S. For more recipe ideas, workout tips and mindset advice, make sure you get on our weekly newsletter list. This is where give out our best information. Join the tribe here.

My Barefoot Fetish

img_20140706_184701_355At the end of almost every day my husband and I have a moment. We look at each other in a way that can only say “I’m so glad that I’m done parenting” and we collapse onto the couch like a collective and knowing exhale. He looks at me and pats his lap and I extend my legs, putting my feet in his welcoming hands. Some days this is the extent of our ritual, but other days it is most definitely foreplay!

And it got me thinking…good foot health is really good for your sex life!

You see, when our feet function the way they are supposed to the rest of our body does, too. But, we don’t seem to really care about the muscles in our feet. Most of us can’t imagine going without shoes throughout the day. Many gyms will not allow you to lift barefoot. Barefoot running has come under attack. And, most of us wear shoes most of the time.

This can be crippling. The foot is the part of our body that helps us communicate with our surroundings. Our feet are made to tell us about our environment. They give us feedback. They adapt. They are responsible for a lot of our posture. But we don’t allow our feet to work the way that they are supposed to.

Shoes limit what our feet can do. They limit the movement of our feet. They limit our ability to feel with our feet. They limit the strength of our foot muscles. Many shoes also have an elevated heel which throws us out of proper alignment and encourages us to either tuck our bums under or hinge forward at the hip. Imagine if we did this with our hands. What if, when we were born, our parents put us in mittens. And we went through most of our life wearing these mittens. Think of how hard it would become for us to navigate our world with that limited range of motion and ability to feel. Seriously…imagine just trying to make a cup of coffee in the morning with those mittens on!

This likely sounds contrary to most of the things that you have known about shoes your entire life. The best shoes have the most support and cushion, right? Shoes are designed to protect our feet and our joints from impact. And our dainty, weak, coddled feet might really need it. But, when was the last time that you met a runner who didn’t suffer from some kind of chronic pain or injury? Runners probably sustain the most impact because of their sport. And even with the best science many runners end up with impact injuries.

526-104If you look around the world at the few running cultures left you will see a lot of barefoot running and little to no injury. The bushmen of the Kalahari run regularly with little to no foot protection. They run long and hard. They literally run their prey to death (exhaustion). Monks in Japan run while meditating. The “running people” of Mexico run in nothing but Huarachas, a leather sole with straps, for footwear. Westerners spend $100+ on streamlined, supported, high-tech running shoes, only to either stop running, get injured, or wear them out prematurely. The people in running cultures, on the other hand, have been running for hundreds of years, millions of miles between them all, and have developed the most efficient design for a “shoe” – a single leather slab.

What would happen if we started to slowly build up the muscles in our feet? Would we still be so injury prone? Could we learn a little by shedding our shoes?

But, Cara, what does this have to do with my sex life???

Here’s the thing. When we wear shoes, we basically put our feet in casts. The muscles in our feet grow weak. And when this happens, our posture suffers. Our calves get tight. Our hamstrings get tight. And this pulls our pelvis out of alignment. When we are out of alignment our pelvic floor cannot contract properly. And if our pelvic floor can’t contract properly we could start experiencing a whole host of unsexy problems ranging from joint pain to incontinence to painful sex.

While it is unrealistic to ditch shoes altogether, here are a few changes that you can start to make right now to increase the feeling, mobility and strength in your feet.

Go Barefoot More

We are a barefoot house. When we are home we almost always are barefoot. This started as a comfort thing…and maybe to encourage my husband to give more foot rubs…but once I learned how good being barefoot was for the rest of the body, I made it a personal rule. Because once you know better you do better, right?

Buy Minimalist Shoes

When I’m not barefoot I am in minimalist shoes. A good pair of minimalist shoes have zero heel lift. They have a soft, flexible sole. And they are also wide enough to let your feet move around freely. My favorite brand is Vivobarefoot. They have lots of options from workout shoes to stylish boots.

Stimulate Your Feet Often

118408_tree-rock-matGive your feet the opportunity to feel a variety of surfaces. This can be challenging in our modern world. Hitting the pavement barefoot doesn’t exactly sound inviting. Going barefoot around the house, in the yard and when you workout (if you can) helps with this, as does getting regular foot massages, if you are so lucky! There are also rock mats that you can buy to stand on when you are cooking or even to put in your shower to stimulate your feet a little more.

Foot Exercises

If you are like me and have been wearing shoes most of your life you might benefit from a few foot exercises to start getting your feet moving again and building strength slowly. Below are two that I use with clients to get started.

The Big Toe High Four

Stand naturally with your feet about hip distance apart. Lift the big toe on your left foot without lifting any of the other toes. Try it on the right. Then try and lift the other four toes on the left foot while leaving the big toe down. Try it on the right. This might not come naturally at first but remember, your toes have been laying dormant most of your life. Give them a chance to get back in the game slowly.

 

Pick Up

Place a washcloth (or baby burp cloth like I have) on the floor. Try and pick it up with each foot. See if you can fold it or move it around. Get creative. You can also do this with a pencil or other objects.

 

When your bare foot hits the floor it benefits your other floor! Who knew that my husband’s foot fetish could improve my pelvic floor health and ultimately my sex life! Give your feet a chance…your lady parts will thank you!

 

XOXO

 

Cara

Why Moms Need a Social Life

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Our first outing with Jack when he was 10 days old.

I remember our first outing with Jack. He was 10 days old. Sam and I were invited by Cara and her family to go out to a pumpkin patch with them. I said, “Sure,” but I was terrified. I had to leave the house? With a baby? But….how??

The day went pretty much as expected. Jack needed to nurse about 20 minutes after we got there. Not knowing where to go, I plopped down on the closest bale of hay that I could find and fed my son.

A woman walked by and asked, “Did you know that there’s a mommy and baby tent here where you can do that?” Obviously not. Unless I really enjoy hay needles poking into my butt and my exposed low back while being surrounded by the booming noises of live music and the bustle of the food court. She wasn’t the only one to stop and tell me about this.

After Jack was done nursing we walked around aimlessly in vain hopes that he would fall asleep. I don’t have to tell you that that didn’t happen. This pumpkin patch was filled with people. Sam and I were able to manage to get food for ourselves, but not too long after that, guess who was hungry again? This time I found the mommy and baby tent. A small step up from the hay bale.

Since we weren’t able to get much past the entrance and baby Jack wasn’t too thrilled with this experience, we decided to head out. We made the long trek back to the car where I ended up nursing him again for the third time since we got there.

It wasn’t exactly the best outing ever. But, you know what? We did it. We got some fresh air and we were around other humans for awhile. I’d call the day a success.

We’ve all heard that having kids means kissing your social life goodbye. Maybe you’ve even experienced this. But, becoming a mom doesn’t sentence you to a life of being a hermit and always turning down offers to go spend time with friends. Having a social life isn’t just something that’s good for us, it’s something that’s ingrained in us.

In an article for UCLA Newsroom, UCLA professor Matthew Lieberman discusses his book “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.” Lieberman says, “the need to connect socially with others is as basic as our need for water and shelter. Being socially connected is our brain’s lifelong passion. Mammals are more socially connected than reptiles, primates more than other mammals, and humans more than other primates. What this suggests is that becoming more socially connected is essential to our survival.”

And in the world of motherhood**, this statement could not be any truer. Motherhood can be really, really lonely, and having a social life outside of our parenting responsibilities can be the life jacket that we need in this sea of life changes. Not only do we need to know that there is someone we can turn to when the waters get rough, we also need reminders every once in awhile that we are human. That we have a life outside of parenthood. That before wife, partner and mom, we were just us. Woman.

Facing Your Fears

The first feeling I had before we had our first day out of the house with Jack was fear. I didn’t know how to socialize with a child. How could I enjoy my surroundings while tending to my little guys’ every need? What if he throws a fit and it makes everyone around us miserable? Was I going to be able to shoulder the irritated stares? What if he gets hungry? What if I have to change his diaper on the cold ground? What if, what if, what if….

If this also sounds like you, please know that this is totally normal. Fear of the unknown is to be expected. But, we can’t let our fears paralyze us and keep us shut off from the world. This isn’t good for us or the baby. All we can do is be as prepared as possible, focusing on the game plan and solutions for our “what ifs” instead of letting them keep us from interacting with the outside world.

Having a social life with a baby can seem like a daunting task, but it is possible. And, mama, believe me, it’s necessary. Is your social life going to look different? Absolutely. But, is it over? Well, that’s up to you! I bet we all have friends or family who disappeared after they got married and/or had a baby, but this doesn’t mean that you have to lose out on spending time outside of the home and with other people.13876198_10154503385933395_3246368595251886550_n

Lean on Other Moms for Support

There isn’t any other support system quite like other moms. Another mom gets it. She knows how exhausting parenting can be within the first half hour of the kids being awake. She knows how lonely and isolating this whole parenting thing can be. She understands all of the changes that you’re going through. And, most of all, she desires the company of other people, too.

So, call up another mama friend. She doesn’t care how long it’s been since you’ve called or texted. She gets it. Join forces and chat while you watch the kids play.

Your Kids Don’t Need to be the Center of the Universe

I read a lot of parenting books before Jack was born, one of them being “On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep.” Off topic, but before I go much further let me just say that the methods in this book gave me a lot of hope, but they did not work for me. One thing that I did get from this book that has stuck with me is when the authors talked about welcoming your baby into your family, instead of changing the entire family system to be solely focusing on your baby.

Yes, there is a period of time where baby rules all. That just comes with the territory of having an infant. Yes, your child is beautiful, unique and amazing, but they don’t necessarily need to be the center of the universe.

What I mean by this is instead of always going out of your way to do “kid things” that you know they like or will like, try involving your kids in things that you enjoy. Take them to a concert. Take them to a museum. Take them to a baseball game. You never know, you might just pass on a taste for something or a hobby that you can enjoy together for years to come.

Show Your Kids What a Social Life Looks Like

If you never take your kids out with you, they’ll never learn what’s expected of them in public spaces and different social settings. Having family time is great (and also recommended), but going out, with or without the kids, gives us parents the opportunity to lead by example. We can show them through cultivating healthy friendships and having an active social life how to value relationships outside of the immediate family and how rewarding it can be.

Know Your Kids’ Limits

Every child is different. Knowing your kids’ limits and respecting their individuality will help you determine what can you do with whom. If your little one falls asleep easily and anywhere, then you can probably get away with taking him or her along for a dinner out with friends. If you have a baby that gets overwhelmed in louder settings, then maybe hiring a sitter is best.

Socializing with the kids and setting limits often times will lead to more freedom. If we don’t set limits, we allow the possibility for a total disaster to happen (imagine kids running around restaurants with forks in their hands and their pants on their heads.) But, if we set the example of how to behave in public by first starting in the home, then we have a greater opportunity of actually enjoying our time out with the kids.

This may take some trial and error. Every situation is different. Some will work well, and some won’t. And, of course, always be prepared for something not to go well that has gone well before. Your baby who can sleep anywhere….if he or she gets fussy at dinner, what’s the worst that can happen? All of your soothing techniques and distractions don’t work, so you take off. It’ll all good.

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“Gilmore Girls”, anyone?

Me Time

So far we’ve talked about how to have a social life with kids….but, what about “me time?”

Yes, we’ve all heard that “me time” as a mother is BS. We’ve all felt or have been told that me time is selfish. But, in reality, me time is absolutely essential and should be non-negotiable. If we don’t take the time to take care of ourselves and tune into our own needs, we won’t be as capable of taking care of others.

Me time can look like a lot of things:

  • Doing your workout at the gym.
  • Reading a book in a cafe.
  • Going out to dinner with a friend.
  • Kicking the family out and catching up on your favorite TV show.
  • Getting a pedicure.
  • Going on a date with your husband.
  • Finally taking your friend up on that line dancing class she suggested.

These things will require someone else to watch the baby. This is okay! There are other people qualified to watch your children besides you. Switch off afternoons with your partner. Build the cost of hiring a babysitter into your budget. Find a willing relative. Whatever it takes! Me time is our opportunity to really get centered a take a break from being mom for awhile.

Challenging, But Not Impossible

There are many reasons that just staying at home with the kids is easier. There are logistics and then more logistics to consider. Having a social life with kids is challenging, but it’s not impossible. And, we as mothers and human beings need connection with other people. It’s in our ancestral genes.

Connecting with our environment and other people is invigorating, helps us celebrate who we are as individuals and it’s just flat out nice to be called by my actual name. And you know what? It makes us better parents, too.

Jill

P.S. If you’re on the search for a tribe of women who like to workout and lift one another up, then come check out our small group training sessions! First week is on us ===> Click here to get started.

**Dads, we know all of this applies to you, too, but we’re just talking to the mamas here today.

6 Ways to Get Your Workout in with a Toddler Around

Putting mimg_0438y phone, remote and keys as high as possible? Check.

Bumps and bruises? Check.

Crying when I take away the waffle iron that he just broke into small pieces and tried eating? Check.

Mashed potatoes going everywhere on his body besides his mouth? Check.

Yep. It’s been confirmed. We have arrived to toddler land.

Gone are the days of just laying my sweet little bundle of joy on a blanket and watching in awe and wonder. Jack is on two feet, on the move and on a mission. And that means that working out at home just got a little more interesting.

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“Doing a glute bridge, Mom? Oh, good. I can help!”

Over the last several weeks, I decided that in order to have some “me” time and get a good sweat on that I would start doing my workouts at the gym again (I’m lucky, my husband is also a trainer and I get to go to his gym for free). And it’s been really enjoyable! But, sometimes, like last week when I had two sick boys at home–my husband and Jack, –getting to the gym just wasn’t happening.

Working out at home is super convenient and more affordable than a gym membership and a lot of our mama clients do their workouts at home. That’s why Cara and I have programmed workouts for our Fit Mom Foundations ladies that can be done with minimal equipment.

However, working out at home does come with its share of challenges, especially once your little one gets mobile. “How am I supposed to get my workout done with the kids around?!”

Mama, take heart. I feel you. And I have some tips. Here are six ways to get your workout done with a toddler around:

  1. Redefine what a workout is to you.

Time to face the music. Your workouts aren’t going to look the way they used to. Gone are the days of the hour+ solo sweat sesh. You won’t always do your workouts at the same time everyday, or even the time of day that you had planned. You might get interrupted by crying and poopy diapers. You might not even get to do everything that you had planned for you workout.

Breathe. It’s going to be okay.

Redefining your workouts means ditching the all-or-nothing mentality – something that I struggled with for a long time. Just because you get interrupted or things don’t go as planned, it doesn’t mean that you have to ditch your workout altogether and call it a wash. You might have to break your workout up throughout the day, only do part of it or find another physical activity to do. It’s okay – some exercise is ALWAYS better than no exercise. Just do what you can and look for opportunities to move throughout the day.

  1. Get a kettlebell.

934042_994016197303655_6573498489558924997_nIf you’ve been following Movement Duets for awhile this recommendation should come as no surprise. 🙂 I LOVE kettlebells**. Besides the fact that they’re just fun (that’s not just me, is it?), if you own 1-2 kettlebells, you’ve got yourself a universal gym. There are a lot of awesome benefits to kettlebell training, but I’ll save that for another article. Suffice it to say that you can get a total body strength and conditioning workout with one single implement.

So, how does getting a kettlebell tie into working out with a toddler around? Kettlebells take up very little space and are portable. Often times what my kettlebell workouts look like at home with Jack is moving it around the room from space to space to get my exercise in before he reaches me once again — extra cardio, anybody? And when I’m in between sets or I’m doing a bodyweight exercise, I tip the kettlebell over onto the ground so that he doesn’t knock it over on himself.

Some sporting goods stores carry kettlebells, but my favorite brand is from Rogue Fitness. You can check out their selection and shipping rates here. Usually an 8kg or 12kg is a good starting weight. I have an 12kg, 16kg and 20kg at home which have proven to be a really great investment for me.

**Kettlebell training can be really intimidating, and just like any weight training program, require proper instruction to get the maximum amount of benefit and to avoid injury. If you are new to kettlebells, I highly recommend that you get in touch with a qualified trainer (I know a couple… 🙂 ) to help you get started.**

  1. Take advantage of nap time.

I think a lot of us can agree that “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” is great advice in theory, but it usually doesn’t end up that way. This is normally when we get stuff done, right? I call this the “Nap Time Hustle.”

Believe me, I know that the to-do list is insurmountable, but being dressed in your workout gear early in the day (let’s be real, I wear mine all the time) and being ready to go whenever nap time comes can really help put your workout time near the top of that list. In fact, getting your workout in for the day can help you have more energy and efficiency for getting the other things on your to-do list done.

  1. Find another mom to partner up with.

Sometimes this parenting thing is easier when we’re around other people, amiright? Finding a workout partner who also has small children can make getting your workout in a little easier.

Cara and I do this all of the time. Getting together for our home workouts puts two sets of eyes on the kids and gives us someone to swap out parenting duties with if one or both babies get unruly. It’s not uncommon for us to do an “I go, you, go” style of workout where one person does the exercise while the other watches the kids, then switch.

Having someone to shoulder parenting responsibilities with makes managing a toddler during workouts a bit easier, plus working out with somebody else is just more fun!

  1. Include them.

While workouts can be the perfect recipe for a little “me” time, it can also create the perfect opportunity for you to show your little ones that exercise is a priority. And sometimes, there’s no getting around it. Baby is losing it so you’ve got to include him or your workout just isn’t going to happen.

I’ve used Jack as my “weight” for many of my workouts. I’ll squat with him, lunge with him, press him overhead, I’ve even rowed him before. There’s an endless combination of moves that you can do with baby so that mama gets her workout and baby stays happy. Plus, your “weight” is always getting heavier, right? 😉

  1. Get outside.

When all else fails, get outside!

There is something about getting out into the fresh air and connecting yourself to nature. This isn’t just true for adults, it’s true for kids, too. When Jack is fussy he will calm down as soon as we get outside….sometimes he’ll even fall asleep!

So, talk a walk in the park, sprint hills, use the playground equipment to do your workout, get creative! Toddlers have so many more possibilities outdoors. I’ve been known to sneak a light kettlebell to the park, too. 😉

New Chapter, New Challenges

Making time for exercise is one of mom’s #1 fitness struggles. Believe me, I get it. This first year of Jack’s life has brought on many changes, and my schedule has had to adjust. But, getting your workouts in with small children IS possible.You only have to decide that you are worth the time it takes and find strategies to make yourself and your workouts a priority. And believe me, mama. You ARE worth the time it takes.

Jill

P.S. If you need help navigating ways to fit workouts back into your life, make sure to get on our weekly newsletter list. This is where we give out our best information about workouts, meal planning, mindset advice and maybe an embarrassing parenting story or two (or three or four). Not in our tribe yet? You can do so here.

Could Our Pregnant Bodies Take Down the Diet Industry?

SweatA few weeks ago something miraculous happened.  

As a trainer working with mainly women, I spend a LOT of time talking with women about loving their bodies. I routinely talk women down off the ledge of self-flagellation through starvation and over-exercising. I’ve made it my mission to empower women to love their bodies.

But a few weeks ago, I was in for a pleasant surprise. Not once…not twice…but three times. And I believe that if something happens three times it is a sign that I should definitely pay attention to it!

The surprise was this: three pregnant women told me how since becoming pregnant they have never felt so good about their bodies.

In a society that constantly tells women that they are flawed, too big, too small, too fat, not enough, too bumpy, too muscular, not muscular enough…you get the picture, this kind of radical vanity is rare.

I experienced this kind of body love in my own pregnancies, too. As soon as that bump started to pop out I started to relax a bit about my body. I surrendered to the pregnancy. I surrendered to my own feelings that I was powerful and beautiful and miraculous. I was building a human and that was a magnificent, sexy, amazing thing!

I was so intrigued by this phenomenon that I reached out to my mommy groups online, I asked all my friends, I scheduled interviews to talk about it. I asked, “How did you feel about your body during pregnancy?” What I found, was against all odds, most women felt amazing about their bodies during their pregnancies. Despite the swelling and the puking. The back pain and the waddling. The sleepless nights and the varicose veins.

It got me thinking, could we harness this confidence that women have in their bodies during pregnancy and use it to empower them the rest of their lives? Could our pregnant bodies take down the diet industry?

The Diet Industry and Women

In our culture, women start getting the message at a very young age that they will never be good enough. Everywhere we turn we’re told our bodies need fixing. Someone is always is hawking a product or program. Magazine covers tease us with headlines about quick and easy (or super-secret) diets and workouts, and images that show us what we should be striving to look like. The underlying message is always the same: you need to change. You’re not ____ enough as you are.

Tone your tummy. Slim your thighs. Lose 20 pounds in 10 days with this detox. Wear make-up. Get

Closeup of a sexy young lady checking her fats against isolated white background

plastic surgery. Be curvy…but not too curvy.  Be skinny…but not too skinny. Muscles are sexy… but be careful you don’t start looking manly.

We can never really arrive. We never seem to get “there” because the “there” is constantly changing, leaving us forever chasing this elusive ideal.  

I can tell you that in my 15 years as a trainer I have never seen someone sustain long-term weight loss when it came as a result of punishment or shame. True, lasting change seems to only happen when people make the journey out of love and appreciation for themselves. In my book, self love is a necessity for weight loss.

Fat Shaming Scientifically Proven Not to Work

One of the things about the diet industry that annoys me the most is that it uses shame to motivate women to buy their products.

Your body is flawed, so buy our product!

And the thing about shame is that is really doesn’t work to motivate people. In fact, it does the opposite. The more the diet industry shames us for the size of our bodies, the more we doubt our bodies. The more we doubt our bodies, the less capable we are of making decisions based on health and not appearance. The more we doubt ourselves, the more we hate our bodies…resent our bodies for being flawed. This causes us to develop unhealthy relationships with food and exercise.

Somewhere along the way, our perception of food and exercise has morphed into something negative. We feel guilty about the food we eat and use exercise as a way to work it off. Even in the fitness industry we use this model. Everything is often measured in calories. We talk about “in vs. out” scenarios. If we spend an hour on the treadmill we can burn off enough calories to justify that slice of cake we ate last night. If we want to lose a pound each week we we need to work off 3500 excess calories (which we now know doesn’t perfectly translate from theory to practice in every instance). In this way, exercise becomes an atonement for food, a punishment for our “bad” behavior.

Doesn’t this seem kind of backward?

The body is not programmed for this double negative. Our ancestors usually moved in order to find and prepare food. Movement was hunting and gathering. It was chasing, digging, butchering, peeling, smashing, climbing. Food was a means to an end and that end was survival. And while this scenario was not necessarily easy, both movement and food are positives. Movement was inextricably married to nourishment and life.

With today’s abundance of food and atonement through exercise, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that our bodies were made for the privilege of movement. We have forgotten that nourishment comes from the ground and from the wild, not grocery stores and vending machines. Our relationship with food and movement is unnatural. We have developed a disconnect.

And the diet industry has capitalized on that disconnect. The problem is…fat shaming doesn’t work. This isn’t just something that I believe, it is a scientific fact. Researcher Eric Robinson found in his study of over 14,000 adults in the US and the UK that perceiving yourself as overweight does not incentivize you to lose weight.2 In fact, it does the opposite! Researchers found that people in the study who perceived themselves as overweight were more likely to overeat. This seems to be in line with the stress that many stigmatized groups feel.

If this is true, the entire approach of the diet industry is flawed. The years women have spent feeling embarrassed about the size of their thighs was actually making the problem worse!

So now we know. And when we know better, we must do better. But where do we start? Habits can’t be broken overnight. It takes practice.

 

Making Body Love a Practice

FeaturedPost1Let’s come back to our proud belly-bumping pregnant women. What if we capitalized on this time of body positive feelings. What if, instead of feeling nervous about bouncing back or feeling guilty about “letting yourself go” during pregnancy, we continued the practice of self-love?

Our bodies are miraculous things. And that’s not just limited to our ability to grow, birth and nourish children. They are miraculous in their own rights. They take us places that we want to go. They allow us to ravish pleasures from ice cream to orgasms. They connect us to one another through verbal and nonverbal communication.

When we are pregnant we are more likely to let go of the pressure to diet and restrict because deep down we know that it’s not right and we suddenly have another human to be responsible for. As my step-mom once said about her pregnancies: “I just couldn’t pull my regular bullshit.”

Old habits are hard to break. According to a recent report by Common Sense Media more than half of the girls in the study, at age 6, thought that they should be smaller than they were.1 Many of us have been feeling bad about our bodies for a long time.

I believe that it all starts with self-love. Could we start making self-love a habit while we are pregnant and already feeling quite proud?

Could we nourish as a form of self-love?

Could we move and exercise as a form of self-love?

Could we make decisions that honor all parts of ourselves?

I believe that it is possible to change the conversation about diet and exercise and it starts with our daily practice. Instead of agonizing over diet after diet, we can seek out ways to feed ourselves that satisfies our tastes and our hunger. We can stop punishing ourselves with exercise and find ways of movement that we really enjoy. And we can find something outrageously beautiful about ourselves each day to celebrate and enjoy. And we can find out just how powerful we can be when we are not constantly cowed by the incessant nagging of the diet industry.

 

References

  1. Pai, S., & Schryver, K. (2015, January 15). Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image | Common Sense Media. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/children-teens-media-and-body-image
  2. Robinson, E., Boyland, E., Christiansen, P., Harrold, J., & Kirkham, T. (2014). Stigmatization and obesity: Unexpected consequences with public health relevance. International Journal of Obesity. From :http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v38/n11/full/ijo201443a.html.

7 Lessons from My 1st Year of Motherhood

IMG_1346One year ago today at 1:22 a.m., my son Jack came into the world. (Still a favorite time of day for him, unfortunately.)

When I look back at the last year of his life I relive a lot of joy.

The warmth that filled my chest when he smiled for the first time.

Singing the foot song that I made up over and over and over again just to hear him laugh one more time.

The excitement of seeing him army crawl his way across the floor to grab a piece of paper that he had hoped to eat. (Still likes to eat paper…)

The first time we played “I’m gonna get you,” chasing him as he peeled off on his hands and knees, and boy does he go fast!

How much I laughed at the confused and funny face he made when he tried pureed carrots for the first time.

Seeing him get a little braver each time he pulls himself up to standing, contemplating what it might be like to let go….

Watching his personality blossom a little more each day and loving him immensely.

His 1st birthday will be celebrated. There is a lot of life in my little boy. I am so incredibly thankful for him, and I want to show it. I’d be lying if I said that part of me didn’t want to throw him the Pinterest party of my dreams, but in reality, we’re hosting a small family get together with cake and presents. Get ready to see pictures from multiple angles of Jack’s cake face, because they’re coming. It will be a fun party. But, can I tell you a secret?

I kind of want the party to be for me.

You guys….I kept a tiny human alive for a WHOLE YEAR and didn’t completely lose it! And, can I be honest? I’m really super freakin’ proud of myself.

Having Jack at the age of 34, I was the last of my friends to get pregnant. I have spent a lot of time around kids of various ages. In fact, my younger siblings are 8 and 11 years younger than me, so I’ve been around small children for most of my life. I took the classes. I read the books. I got advice (whether I asked for it or not). I Googled the crap out of what to expect.

But, honestly, there was nothing that could have prepared me for what was to come. As much as I wanted to empathize with my friends and family who were parents, I just couldn’t until I became a parent myself.

While I’ve experienced a lot of joy as a parent, I’ve also experienced a lot of pain, heartache and frustration. Being a parent is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, and I’m just getting started. I have never learned so much about myself as I have this past year.

Here are 7 things that I’ve learned during my first year of motherhood:

1. I am more resilient than I ever realized.

The first few months of motherhood were not easy for me. Going from “me” to “we” was a HUGE adjustment. I’d been living for myself, doing everything that I wanted to do when I wanted to do it,IMG_1402 for 34 years. That’s a hard thing to let go of. I cried everyday at least once a day (probably more) for at least an entire month. I loved my newborn babe fiercely, but I really missed, well…me.

I remember sitting on my couch one night, looking out the the window at the trees blowing in the wind and rain thinking to myself, “When will I ever be able to do anything ever again?” But, somehow, I have.

Somehow, even in the midst of changing diapers, endless walks up and down the hallway with a crying baby, feedings, nap time fake outs, financial hardship, job changes, nurturing a budding online business and sleep deprivation, I’ve come out on the other side. Well, sort of, anyway.

The other side isn’t returning to my old life. That’s in the past. Life will never be the same again, and that’s mostly a good thing! The other side is adjusting to my new normal, feeling like my old (new) self again and finding ways to take the time that I need to nurture my own needs as well as my family’s.

2. Adjust expectations.

I’ve spent most of my life battling perfectionism. After my baby arrived, it didn’t take long to see that this way of life wasn’t going to work anymore. (It never did, really.)

I thrive on productivity. I am not one to sit still for long, even though at times it sounds very nice. I’m always working on something, always have a to-do list going, am always looking ahead to the next project….let me just say this: Jack has little regard for my daily plans. 🙂

I found myself taking on too much at once, then feeling guilty when I couldn’t get everything that I had planned done. I found myself apologizing for things that were beyond my control. Sometimes, baby trumps whatever else is going on….and that’s okay!

Life as a mother is a constant ebb and flow of taking time for yourself, doing things that you need to do and nurturing your relationship with your spouse, children and friends, just to name a few. The time and attention that’s devoted to all of those things will vary from day to day. My days will not always look the same.

So, instead of piling everything into one big, insurmountable to-do list, I adjust based on what I think is realistic versus what can be saved for tomorrow. And, even then, staying flexible about what each day brings.

3. When it comes to parenting advice, take what you want and leave the rest.

c9b4a85d55Unsolicited parenting advice starts even before your baby exits the womb. I’ve experienced all kinds of “words of wisdom” ever since my birth announcement. What I should eat. What I shouldn’t eat. How long I should breastfeed for. How to put my baby to sleep. How to start disciplining.

And then there’s the parenting advice that is veiled as innocent questions, “What if you just lay him down when he’s drowsy and close the door?” “What would happen if you just {fill in the blank}?” Yeah. I’m on to you, too.

I honestly believe that parenting advice comes from a well meaning place, I really do. And, sometimes we need it and ask for it. I’d be willing to bet that parents are the most frequent users of the Google search engine. But, fellow parents (and even sometimes people without children) can’t seem to resist sharing what they would do or have done with their own children, whether we asked or not.

I’m inclined to believe that one of the reasons this happens is because being a parent is really, really hard and when we have success…..we want to tell someone about it! And if sharing our successes might help someone else who is travelling down this bumpy road of parenthood, then is that really such a bad thing?*

So, instead of secretly resenting people when they give me unsolicited parenting advice, I turn a kind ear and listen. If you were able to lay your baby down when she was drowsy and she fell asleep on her own, high five to you! That doesn’t work for me. But, I’ll listen and politely and secretly let it go in one ear and out the other.

(*Of course, there are exceptions. If someone is crossing your boundaries in any way, an intervention of some sort is definitely needed.)

4. Accept and ask for help.

“Let me know if you need anything!”

I heard this a lot after Jack was first born, and for some reason, it took bending until I broke to actually take people up on that offer.

It is really hard for me to ask for help. I take a lot of pride in being independent, and honestly, not being able to “do it all” made me feel guilty. Like I wasn’t a natural at motherhood and a failure at not achieving Supermom status. Or even worse, if I admitted that I was having a hard time that it meant that I didn’t love my child enough (is that not ridiculous?).

When my husband went back to work full-time, I knew that I needed to be more proactive about asking for help. No one was going to ride their white horse into my world and save me. I mean, after all, how was anybody going to know that I needed help if I didn’t express my need for it?

Asking for help doesn’t make me weak, it actually reveals strength. It takes courage to show vulnerability. It creates opportunities for others to shine and show their strengths as well. Asking for and accepting help empowers everyone involved, and when it comes to raising children, asking for and accepting help is a necessity. I no longer hide out. I reach out.   

5. Get out of the house.

img_0382This simple task has been a big deal for me. It seemed so impossible to go anywhere when Jack was first born. I often found myself saying, “It’s just easier if I stay home.” But, what I’ve actually found is that when Jack is crying and I’m pulling my hair out, getting outside does WONDERS.

Outside time is not just good for older children and adults. It’s good for baby, too. Connecting with nature by feeling the sun on my back, the wind in my face, hearing birds chirping and smelling fresh grass always makes me feel better….and it makes Jack feel better, too.

If he’s fussy, he’ll often calm down or even fall asleep when I take him out on a walk. Instead of telling myself, “It’s just easier if I stay home,” more often I’m telling myself, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” Now instead of making outside time a last resort, it’s a priority.

6. Make time and space for your spouse.

img_1886I consider myself one of the lucky ones. My husband is really freaking awesome. He does a lot for me and our son, unasked. I feel super blessed with his love and support. But, with the everyday busyness of our family life, it can be really easy for me to take him for granted.

Besides the obvious date night every so often, there are other things that I do everyday to make sure that our relationship is destined to continue to thrive:

  • I say “thank you.” A lot.
  • I make sure to send him off with a hug and kiss everyday when he leaves for work.
  • I put my phone down and look him in the eye when we’re talking.
  • I acknowledge the little things that he does toward the upkeep of our household.
  • I make sure that I am as attentive to his needs as he is to mine.
  • I communicate needs, wants and expectations often.
  • When he wants to talk about his own needs, wants and expectations, I don’t interrupt with thoughts on my own.
  • I say, “I love you,” often, and mean it.

Kids take a serious toll on relationships. But, taking the time to prioritize my relationship with my husband in the midst of parenthood’s joys and challenges has resulted in a deeper bond between us. I’m still learning this.

7. Self care is important. Really freaking important.

I recently saw a blog post proclaiming that “me” time as a mother is BS. I respectfully disagree. Me time is an absolute necessity.

Babies are really demanding. They require a lot of our time and attention. Things that used to take an half hour to do now take 2-3. Between feedings, diaper changes, meltdowns, singing silly songs and playing, the days go by in a flash, and by the end of the night when your head hits your pillow, you feel absolutely depleted.image1

The problem for me is that without taking breaks for self care, this hectic thing we call parenting leaves me feeling empty and broken. Not to say that my son doesn’t bring me absolute bliss or that I don’t enjoy being a mother, but I’m not just a mother.

Before I was a mother or a wife, I was just woman. I was me. And I’m still in here! In order to be the greatest parent and wife I can be, I need to take care of myself. I need naps. I need pedicures. I need a night out with friends. I need to just be alone.”Me” time as a mom is only BS if I don’t make it a priority, and I’ve decided that I’m worth the time it takes.

While my day-to-day life hasn’t always reflected it, this last year has gone by really fast. I’ve learned so much about myself already, but I know there will be so much more. I am so grateful for my sweet boy and everything that he has brought to our lives. I can’t wait to see what else he will teach me.

I love you, sweet boy. Happy 1st Birthday. 

Jill

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