A Well-Nourished Life From the Perspective of a Women’s Health Physical Therapist

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What does a well-nourished life look like for you as a wife, mom and Women’s Health Physical Therapist? 

Wow, this is such an important question, Jen. I think the answer to this changes for each of us depending on the season and stage of life we are currently experiencing. Right now, I’m a mom to three young girls (ages 3 and 16 month old twins), a wife to an entrepreneur, and have just opened a Physical Therapy practice dedicated to Women’s Health (oh, and we have an adorable dog that I try to remember to feed). To be well nourished, is to be well in our whole body: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As a Physical Therapist, I’ll speak to the need to nourish our physical bodies: our muscles, joints, nerves, and blood flow through daily movement of some form, even if that just looks like sitting on the floor and stretching your body as you play with your children. We need to nourish our respiratory system and respiratory diaphragm by practicing deep diaphragmatic breathing. In my physical therapy practice, I incorporate a lot of training around breathing and how that can effect other areas of our body, especially our pelvic floor. Diaphragmatic breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which can reduce stress, anxiety, and inflammation. A win-win just for breathing.

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I am a firm believer in nourishing our bodies through food. Our food choices directly impact our whole-body health. To make our everyday life around food simple, I make sure to only stock food in the house that myself and my children can have free-range over. It’s exhausting to be constantly fighting with our children over food. Our house rule is: If you see it in the house, and I don’t have to cook it….you can eat it! Sometimes this means my daughter decides to open the freezer and eat a popsicle for dinner (homemade from veggies, fruit, coconut milk & grassfed collagen protein power). My husband’s business, ButcherBox, speaks to our family’s love of food and also keeps our freezer well stocked with grassfed beef, organic chicken, and pastured heritage pork. I believe we are all, in very different ways, on our own journeys towards nourishing our lives.

From your perspective, what is one thing busy moms can do to increase a sense of health and happiness?

One thing I’ve been trying to do, Jen, is be intentional about my space during nap time. I’m lucky enough that all three of my girls still take an afternoon nap. In the past, I would find myself cleaning/cooking/laundry/etc during nap time and promised myself some self-care time once all those tasks were finished. Rare was the day the girls were still sleeping and I had time left over for myself after my chores were complete. More often I would find myself angry when the first child woke and I still hadn’t had my self care time. In this new season, I’m trying something new. Once the girls are asleep for a nap or for the evening, I will start the timer on my watch. I get super busy doing all the most important chores that need to be done (this usually includes a quick kitchen cleanup and meal prep for the next meal, and maybe a load of laundry). Since I know it’s only 30 mins, it gives me the motivation to move quick. Once my timer hits 30 mins, I stop what I’m doing and take the next 30 mins for self-care time. For me, this is yoga in my pantry (the only space in my house that doesn’t have toys all over the floor!). I focus on breathing and being present and try to wipe away the thoughts of my to-do list.

Some days this gets pushed aside, but on days that I manage to stick to this plan, I find I am more patient, less irritable, have more energy, and am more joyful overall.

Do you have a favorite recipe you would be willing to share?

Banana Pancakes
My oldest daughter, Marley, eats these every single morning. Nothing is better than a recipe with 4 ingredients.
Ingredients:
1 ripe banana
2 eggs
Coconut oil
Cinnamon (optional)
Mash the banana and then whisk in the 2 eggs (with hand whisk or fork). Add a sprinkle of cinnamon if you wish. Melt coconut oil in a cast iron pan. Pour in banana/egg mixture and cover, cooking for 3-5 minutes. Don’t leave to go to the bathroom, let the dog out, clean up the box of crayons that were just dumped onto the floor, etc. If you leave, the pancake will definitely burn. Trust me. Flip the pancake with a metal spatula and cook on the second side for another 3-5 minutes
My daughter requests maple syrup on top.
Enjoy!

A Well-Nourished Life from the Perspective of a Professional Organizer

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What does a well-nourished life look like for you as a wife, mom and professional organizer?

For me, a well-nourished life means having enough gas in my tank to patiently deal with whatever challenges my day is handing me. But to be honest, I only feel well-nourished about half of the time. You might think that because I’m an organizer, I’ve organized my life into perfect working order. I wish!  While I do have organized closets and somewhere to put my Tupperware lids, there are parts of my life that regularly feel chaotic. I’m often managing some general angst about my children, growing my business, my faith and my relationships.  But I have learned a few things about myself over the past decade that I repeatedly come back to when I need to refocus myself towards nourishment.   

      No comparing, no judgment, no guilt. I steer away from books, Facebook groups, articles and conversations that keep the bar really high for perfect parenting, perfect kids, perfect diets, and perfect houses. I truly believe my kids are going to be fine if I don’t have amazing craft projects planned and if they eat a lot of hotdogs. I keep the comparisons and self-judgment and mom-guilt to a minimum because I’ve found they don’t motivate me at all.

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      Exercise and sleep. I love sleep and try to prioritize it. When I’m feeling cranky and irritable, I often just need a nap – not so unlike my 2 year old! And I make time for exercise at least once or twice a week. It’s not always easy to make myself go but the benefits are huge – I need it for my mental and emotional health.

      Having a plan but being flexible. I am a serious list maker so I’ve always got multiple lists going – my immediate to do list, house project to do list, work to do list, books to read list, etc. It helps me keep things from swirling in my head. I typically have a general outline of what my week is going to look like. I plan for three dinner meals during the week and I wing it the other two nights. My husband does most of the cooking on weekends or we eat out. I like a plan to give me structure when I need it, but I’m also really good at throwing the plan out the window when we need a little spontaneity to breathe life into a rough day.

      Having someone to talk things through with. I need to talk things out to help me process them. For most of my adult life, I’ve had a therapist. I currently have a life coach and a few good friends that I can check in with when I really need to process something out loud.

      Time for myself. So much of my life is giving outwards – to my kids, my husband, my friends, my clients. But I’m actually an introvert in that I need alone time to recharge. So on the weekends, my husband and I trade off so that we each get a few hours of free time to recharge in whatever way we need.

      Checking in on what I need this week and making room for it. It’s not always the same. Sometimes I need to connect with my husband. Sometimes I need a drink out with a girlfriend. Sometimes I need two hours alone at the bookstore. Sometimes I need to wander around an art museum. And sometimes I just need a nap.

From your perspective, what is one thing busy moms can do to increase a sense of health and happiness?

Lower the bar, check in with your priorities and remember what you like to do for fun. That’s three things!

Do you have a favorite recipe you would be willing to share?

Sloppy Joe’s

I got this recipe (originally called Turkey Sloppy Janes) from my sister probably 8 years ago. I sometimes make it weekly and at least twice a month. I always use a pound of ground beef instead of turkey and we don’t even eat it on buns anymore. I like to make a chili lime corn side dish that is just a bag of frozen corn cooked and then mixed with lime juice, olive oil and chili powder. My whole family loves this meal!

Ingredients:

  •    1 yellow onion, chopped
  •    1 green bell pepper, chopped
  •    3 tablespoons no-salt-added tomato paste
  •    1 cup grated carrots (from 1 large carrot)
  •    3/4 pound ground turkey breast
  •    1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  •    1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
  •    4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  •    5 teaspoons yellow mustard

Method:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper and cook until starting to stick and lightly brown, stirring frequently, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, carrots and 2 tablespoons water and cook until carrots are tender, stirring occasionally and scraping any browned bits from the surface of the pan, about 2 minutes. Add turkey and cook until turkey is no longer pink, stirring to break it up as it cooks, about 3 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, dates, vinegar, mustard and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes to blend flavors.

Nutritional Info:

Per Serving: 270 calories (60 from fat), 7g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 60mg cholesterol, 190mgsodium, 33g carbohydrates, (6 g dietary fiber, 21g sugar), 19g protein.

A close runner up would be this Charlie Bird Farro Salad.

Filling Your Emotional Tank: 3 Ways to Prevent Mama Burnout

Filling Your emotional tank

I walked aimlessly, not sure where to go. All I knew was that I had to get out of my house, away from my screaming child. My husband was late coming home for our date and I was done. Beyond done, actually. Thank God for my-mother-in law and her willingness to take over. I hastily threw a hotdog on my son’s plate for dinner and I was out the door, walking away. I didn’t care that my husband had our car. All I knew was I had to get out of there. I couldn’t take it anymore… What was wrong with me? 

That was this past summer, when I found myself in a very low place. The demands of moving into a new home, pregnancy, caring for my preschooler and husband as he balanced work and school… all these things piled together left me in a very dry place where I could barely put one foot in front of the other. Most of us have been there at one point or another in our lives.

It was around this time that a dear friend brought me out to visit her in CA. Prior to being a mom, I would never have appreciated a full day of solo travel, sitting scrunched up in a small seat on a plane with limited access to meals and the comforts of home. Post motherhood, I was in heaven.

I got to SIT down for hours at a time!

Someone served ME drinks and snacks!

The only interruptions were reminders to buckle my seat belt and travel related updates!

It was amazing, I tell you. Absolutely heavenly.

Over the course of this trip I was treated to a spa day, slept nearly 12 hours straight, read two books and enjoyed some amazing food. I got time to myself, time with my friends and time for spiritual renewal. My emotional gas tank was full again! I was starting to feel like my old self.

When I returned home, I was so happy to see my son and husband. After a few days away I had missed them and was eager to get back to the business of enjoying life with them. On the plane ride home I had made a list of what I hoped would be different: I was going to try some new parenting strategies with my son, I was going to be more deliberate in appreciating my husband, I was going to take care of myself, I was going to take care of myself, I was going to take care of myself….

And then I didn’t take care of myself. And it didn’t take long before I was operating once again from an empty tank, barely getting by. I was reminded of my college days when, as a poor and penniless student I would often scrape together change and put a few bucks worth of gas in my car at a time – just enough to get me to where I needed to go. My tank was constantly hovering on empty. That’s how I felt emotionally – like I was constantly hovering on empty.

A couple of crash and burn sessions later, I realized I wasn’t doing anyone any favors by not taking time for emotional and spiritual nourishment. As moms we so desperately need this! If we are consistently operating from an empty tank, everyone suffers – our kids, our spouses, friends, extended family, co-workers…For mamas, nourishing the soul is something that is often overlooked in the barrage of the more pressing concrete needs of our families. We’re great at putting our kids’ and family’s needs ahead of our own, which is noble, but can also backfire (as I have been reminded of far more than I care to admit).

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Since my experience this summer, I have taken a few intentional steps in the emotional nourishment department.  I share these with you in hopes that they might serve as ideas for your own “tank filling” in what my friend, Dee, calls “the most precious, amazing and soul sucking season of life” (being at home full time with young kids).

1. Mom’s Time Out/once week

I’ve started taking one night out each week for myself. NOT a night where my husband takes the kids and I catch up on housework. NOT a night where I go to Panera and work on our finances. NOT a night where I grocery shop in peace. A night for ME, doing something that feeds my soul. Most often this looks like me getting together with friends for emotional/spiritual/moral support. Sometimes this looks like me enjoying a hot cup of something lovely at nearby coffee shop, with my computer, doing something I want to do. It’s truly glorious.

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2. “Don’t Mom Alone”

Whoever came up with this phrase is bloody brilliant. The sweet support of other mamas who are in the trenches with you is a healing balm to the soul. Seriously. I am beyond grateful for the women that surround me in this season of life. Join a Mom’s Group, phone a friend, force yourself to go to the park and smile at other moms until someone responds and strikes up a conversation. Do WHATEVER you have to do to connect with other mamas. There is no substitute for this priceless support.

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3. Yoga/Exercise

I started taking a weekly yoga class, led by my dear friend Mary from InjoyYoga. Mary has an amazing way of intertwining the spiritual and physical in her yoga class in a way that feeds the body and soul. I always walk away feeling lighter and more free. While I am unable to take classes with her in this season, I am grateful for her awesome InjoyYoga Bites series, which provides a much needed outlet for incorporating yoga into one’s daily routine in small “bite sized” chunks. (Added Bonus: Yoga helps so much with mindfulness and being PRESENT/breathing through child rearing challenges!)

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At other points in my mom life I have incorporated exercise through Stroller Strides (If you live in the North Shore area of MA, this is a great group!), regular walks/jogs with friends, working out on my own time/schedule or (my current go-to) the YMCA, many of which offer two hours of childcare each day! I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge exercise person; the healthy eating thing comes a little more naturally for me. However, I do notice a difference in my body and spirit when I exercise on a regular basis. It definitely helps nourish my soul!

What about you? What fills your emotional tank? I’d love to hear from you! Please take a moment to comment below.

This post is kicking off a new series on my blog: A Well-Nourished Life. I will be featuring moms from a variety of vocational backgrounds offering their unique perspective on what a well-nourished life looks like for them. Want in? Take a moment to fill out this quick-ish survey. Thanks!

Staying Healthy This Winter

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My dear friend Mary, from Injoy Yogarecently queried some amazing mamas in our group of friends and developed this EXCELLENT list of tips for staying healthy over Cold/Flu season. I couldn’t help but share the wealth with my Nourishing Foundations readers(with permission, of course). Special thanks to Mary Reynolds, Angel Jackson, Karlene Salguero, Holly Hutchinson and Rachel Ivers for their input.

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​It goes without saying that none of this should be taken as medical advice. It is, rather, a compilation of go-to methods that we have found helpful in keeping ourselves and our families healthy over the years. Enjoy!

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