Being a new parent comes with quite the life changing challenges...
"Being a new parent comes with quite the life-changing challenges. You're completely blissed out over this new bundle of life you're now responsible for and at the same time, your time is entirely absorbed for anything other than self-care. A lot of new moms feel the pressure to get back into shape quickly (I was one of them), but there are a few things one should know to make this time productive and simple. We don't have hours and hours to spend in the gym and the body is still in recovery mode for months after delivery. Plus, it's not just done with a quickie diet or cleanse to get rid of a few excess pounds. Read my interview with Roma Van der Walt, a kickass fellow German, who is in the process of setting up a center for new parents to get what they need to feel like themselves: massages, talks and self-care help in all the amazing ways. So, Brooklynites, look out for this one!"
I was recently interviewed by Open Haus in which we discussed self care for new moms.
Open Haus is a parent collective. A space that empowers, celebrates and uplifts all of you during this transition to a new chapter in your life. I ENCOURAGE YOU TO JOIN THEIR NEWSLETTER
here's the interview...
You are the mama to a young boy and a working mom, could you tell us how you implement self care?
I struggled with self care the first few months after his birth because i thought it was taking time away from the baby and also because I was very tired from the sleep deprivation. Then, I realized it was my expectations that had to change about what I can do to feel my best with so little time.
Self care for me is all about having energy to run after a little man all day and feeling good in my skin, so I've found ways to incorporate it into our time together. I can do short and intense 5- minute strength workout using my own body weight and resistance bands while he plays next to me. I lift heavy weights in the gym twice a week - about 35 minutes each time when my husband is home at night. Every morning I take my son Luca and our dog Remi for a Central Park walk for at least 1.5 hours and that clears my head and gets my brain going.
I've stopped doing things that to me are a waste of time to mew now, such as getting manicures and my eyelashes done. The most important thing is my sleep. I get a good 8 hours every night with the occasional disruption from the little man, but it's the #1 thing I do for self care. And, of course I eat a very good diet with lots of veggie protein smoothies, roasted veggies and lean proteins, which is the foundation of my good energy, digestion and balanced mood.
Women in particular want to know how to get back on track with their feel good weight and nutrition after baby, any advice?
The information out there is quite confusing. I see so many programs being offered to get your body back in 21 days and new moms flaunting their 6-pack on Instagram a few weeks after delivery, making it seem like it's only natural. However, what I don't see is proper education on what happens after birth.
Here are my top tips to get back to feeling like the superwoman you are:
Hormone regulation: During pregnancy, there's a surge of progesterone and estrogen, which makes us more resistant to stress and also less sensitive to carbs (meaning, if you eat more, you're not as likely to store them as fat). After birth and while breastfeeding, estrogen and progesterone drop to levels almost similar to those of menopausal women. That hormonal shift makes you more stress sensitive (so, lack of sleep is going to affect you worse now and intense exercise will create an intense stress effect) and more carb sensitive (meaning, eating more sugar and starches produces fat storage faster now than during pregnancy).
Nutrition Fix: These hormonal shifts mean that you want to keep your diet focused on carbohydrates from vegetables and move away from sugary and starchy carbs, except for squash and some sweet potato. It's also important to eat regular meals with protein (fish, chicken, eggs, turkey, lean beef) to balance the blood sugar (translates directly into energy, mood, appetite control and proper calories for milk production). Adequate fat intake is important too - just a little at every meal is enough (avocado, olive oil, coconut oil).
Stress management: Being a new mom is quite the life-changing event. Your sleep is disrupted, your time is not your own, you have to create a new routine and time for yourself is out the window for a while. Given these major changes, the stress effect can be intense and that translates into increased cravings and appetite, disrupted sleep (not just from the baby) and possible other stress effects, such as thyroid changes, digestion changes, mood changes (anxiety, depression, feeling mentally wired), and immune system disruptions. It is important to sleep enough, take the time to nap when baby naps and do less in the first few months after delivery.
Choose your workouts well: As for the workouts, a new mom will have much better results lifting weights or doing body weight exercises and going for long, relaxed walks than starting running again or spin classes. The latter have a stress-inducing effect (even if you feel mentally 'de-stressed afterwards) and result in a spike of cortisol and adrenaline, two stress hormones. These hormones can make you more tired, hungrier, craving sugar and trigger fat storage/weight gain, especially around the belly, upper back, and lower body. Once she no longer breastfeeds, hormones normalize and a return to a more intense workout schedule can then be considered.
What do you recommend for when cravings hit during pregnancy for both partners?
The single best thing to kill sugar or chocolate cravings is dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 85%. Lindt is my favorite and I recommend it to my clients as the best way to fix the cravings, but without taking im sugar. Two to three squares have less than 5 grams of sugar, but the brain perceives this treat as an indulgence because it tastes sweet and contains fat, which is what makes the brain happiest and triggers a surge of dopamine and serotonin, your happy neurotransmitters. You can also use dark cocoa powder to make a hot cocoa. I like the Trader Joe's dark cocoa powder mixed into hot unsweetened vanilla almond milk with a little stevia for sweetness. You take in zero sugar, but your cravings will be gone afterwards.
Cravings are triggered by many factors and should be addressed differently based on what triggers them:
I'm pregnant, so I can eat what I want: I've met a lot of women in my practice, who had that mindset during pregnancy and used it as an excuse to go overboard with food and gain excessive weight. If you find yourself jumping into this mindset and going for any craving that strikes, I suggest you not only think of how you can satisfy your cravings in that very moment, but also whether your choice will actually make things better later. Is it going to satisfy the craving or make it worse? Is it going to help your energy stay balanced or are you going to crash afterwards? Have you indulged in several treats this week already or is this a rare indulgence?
Just because you crave something, doesn't mean you have to act on it every time. Cravings don't last long. If you do act on them constantly, you'll have to be ok with the consequences too. The more often you reward your brain's cravings, the more you strengthen that craving. However, if you act on cravings only here and then, you'll not only feel in charge of your health and body (and whether you develop gestational diabetes or not...), but you'll also feel your best after giving birth and to me that's the most important time to feel good because someone else will demand all your energy and attention.
If your cravings are related to low blood sugar, eat more regularly - every 3-4 hours - and ensure you pair protein with veggies for best blood sugar control.
If your cravings are due to the hormonal changes happening and the added calorie needs in the 3rd trimester, choose smart indulgences that fix your cravings, but also allow you to feel good.
Mindset: Most importantly, nothing is off limits and that allows me to eat foods that make me feel good. For example, I used to love pizza, but it leaves me bloated, tired and puffy and therefore I no longer want it, crave it or connect the same 'love' to it. For me it's more punishment food than an indulgence and that's why it's easy to say 'no' when it's in front of me.
Lastly, nutrition can't be rigid. It has to evolve with what's going on. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, hormonal changes, exercise and stress all require shifts in nutrition to address the hormonal changes that happen, so I stay flexible and listen to my body for signs.
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Could you give our readers a few tips from the program?
This program is geared towards the typical Type-A New Yorker who tends to burn the candle on both ends. The program starts with a thorough assessment of the client's health, blood work, and symptoms to assess the severity of the metabolic and adrenal issues. Education is a big part of what I do, so once my clients understand the triggers for metabolic breakdown, they can implement the steps with more ease, such as nutrition changes, proper workouts, supplements and restoration of a healthy nervous system response to stress.
My approach centers around customizing an approach that works with my clients' lifestyle, mindset, health issues and helps them get to their goals in the most effective way possible and it always includes bespoke nutrition, the right kind of workout for your type and hormonal situation, proper supplementation to address deficiencies and to stimulate healing, and of course the mindset that contributed to the issues in the first place.
In this 15-minute video (password: metabolism) I explain how the metabolism gets damaged and can create a slew of health issues, fat storage and mood changes. You'll also learn about the steps that get you out of it.