Spring is my favourite season of the year “ i've always loved the warm spring days but not so much the summer. Its not the hot, sweltering days that make for my long term dislike of summer “ i've just never really looked forward to it, because the hot weather meant much less fabric for me to hide behind. And that meant the frustration of struggling to find dresses and skirts that helped to offset my pear shape. No fun. But this year, I decided that I was sick of dreading summer “ it was time to do something about it.
Some months ago I set out on a health kick to shed some post baby kilos, and I am proud to say that I have lost 9 kilos in as many weeks without having to hit the gym or going jogging. I've even had some ‘special' days where its been a birthday, anniversary, holiday or other event, yet I have not put it back on. You can read about my weight loss journey here where I was a motivating mum over at Lose Baby Weight.
As much as we should always be appreciative and loving of our bodies, a healthy body is so important too. With a healthier body we have more energy, a stronger immune system, a happier and more carefree mood, improved confidence and self esteem, we can expect a longer life span, and we sleep better “ which is all important for busy mummies! Its not about your shape “ but all about how you feel.
Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Diet
If you're growing a bubba, its very important that you do not go on a diet without medical advice or with the intention to lose weight, because gaining weight is the sign of a healthy pregnancy. The suggestions in this article offer healthier alternatives to current ways of doing things, which will provide a great deal of benefits to your health. But please let me make myself clear “ pregnancy is no time to lose weight or diet unless you have been medically advised. You need more calories than a non-pregnant woman (around 300 more per day according to MedlinePlus) and you need good nutrition.
If you're breastfeeding, its also important to provide great nutrition to your body, so you can provide more for your baby. As far as weight loss goes, its a personal decision as to when you start that journey, but just make sure you're absolutely ready and that you realise you will need extra calories (approx 300-500 more) compared to a non-breastfeeding woman, if you want to keep breastfeeding. Too few calories is harmful for breastmilk production. Slow and steady wins the race when you're trying to lose weight after your baby. If you can accept that it will be a gradual weight loss so your baby can continue to breastfeed, you'll feel more at ease “ you want to aim to lose around 500g-1kg a week and no more.
Too Many Calories Is Usually The Cause Behind Weight Gain
Many of us are guilty of consuming far too many calories each day than our body can burn off “ and often these calories come in the form of unhealthy foods, which also makes us more prone to illness, fatigue and disease. As many experts will say, a huge percent of weight loss is diet “ around 70 to 80%. So you can lose a great deal of weight through what you eat, and you'll tone up through exercise and movement. A huge part of my weight loss success was education “ especially as women, everywhere we look there are messages and reminders to lose weight and to buy this product or do this or that. But so many weight loss products are fads, unhealthy or not sustainable long term. My weight loss journey has reinforced a great deal of what I already knew, but put it in a format that made it easy to follow and get my head around.
The thing I love most about the way I eat now is that I didn't realise that there were so many delicious alternatives, and I just didn't know how to put it all together. But now, I don't really miss what I used to eat, especially when you see the great results, its almost all of the motivation you need “ you just don't want to go back. Eating healthier doesn't mean compromising on taste, it gets even better. Even the kids haven't seemed to have noticed a great deal of changes we've made, or the love the new ways of eating, even asking for some of them. They're eating so much better too. Double win!
So with all that in mind, here are my top 13 tips that I used to easily lose weight, find more energy, feel more alert and helped me to get healthier “ it just took guidelines and commitment. To make things easier, for breakfast (and some lunches), I would have the Healthy Mummy smoothies which are designed with breastfeeding mothers in mind “ they have breastmilk boosting ingredients included in the mix (which wont cause a problem if you're not breastfeeding) and if I felt I needed a breastmilk boost I would add other foods like oats into the smoothies. But I highly recommend them for breastfeeding or non breastfeeding mothers. The support and community is great and having so many recipe suggestions available, it makes it so easy for you.
If you're ready to kick some kilos and or get more healthy (right in time for the summer weather like me!) Its not too late “ just make sure you get started!
Ready For Summer Tip #1 “ Get Rid Of The WHITES!
White flour, white potato, white pasta and white rice “ get rid of them or significantly reduce them. When you consume these ‘whites', your blood sugar levels dramatically spike, like throwing fuel on a fire before dousing it with a tonne of icy cold water (thats where you crash!). It causes inflammation in your body too, even your brain. This is not good for your body, nor your mood “ a crappy diet that includes a bit of wheat and sugar can make you tired, grumpy and even feeling depressed.
Make the switch to wholemeal flour, sweet potato, wholemeal pasta and brown rice “ these things offer a much higher nutritional value and they taste great! A gluten free alternative to pasta that I enjoy is rice noodles.
I have also replaced normal wraps or sandwiches with wholemeal mountain bread “ so yummy.
On the weekends for breakfast, my partner started making some delicious curried egg wraps for me, so I don't feel like I am missing out on a cooked breakfast which I love so dearly! I have a mountain bread wrap, boiled egg with a little curry, with baby spinach leaves, mushrooms (cooked in coconut oil “ yum!) and tomato.
For lunch I usually make one of three main things:
- Chicken or ham mountain bread wraps packed with salad and some mustard
- Tuna, salmon or chicken baby spinach leaf salad with tomatoes, avocado and lots of seeds (chia and sesame seeds) or better still;
- Homemade pizzas
I have invented a heap of delicious homemade pizzas which I think tastes way better than store brought pizzas which have highly processed toppings and are full of gluten and wheat.
I fold a sheet of mountain bread in half, cover it with tomato paste, add a teaspoon of garlic and herbs and smoosh it around. Then I go crazy with a range of toppings that I mix and match, including:
- Baby spinach leaves
- Feta (not safe while pregnant)
- Left over roast sweet potato or pumpkin
- Left over roast lamb/pork/beef diced up
- Sometimes a light sprinkle of cheese
Its up to your imagination and tastes as to what you want to include, but think of wholesome veggies and flavours that don't involve processing to make. As the saying goes (well, something like this anyway!), you should only eat what you can catch, hunt or harvest.
Ready For Summer Tip #2 “ Switch Your Fats
The only two oils I have in my house are extra virgin olive oil and extra virgin coconut oil. I prefer coconut oil for all my cooking needs “ while some may say it should be avoided due to calories, its actually a super healthy oil, being anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral “ I can't get enough of it. Its great for your immune system, metabolism, helps to regulate blood sugar levels, works wonders for your skin and so much more.
A study has even shown that coconut oil can help women to lose belly fat. It concludes: It appears that dietetic supplementation with coconut oil does not cause dyslipidemia and seems to promote a reduction in abdominal obesity. Coconut oil is brilliant if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, as your baby will receive the benefits too.
As for cooking, coconut oil is a very stable oil, which is more resistant to heat damage than many of the other common oils. Even extra virgin olive oil can be prone to oxidative damage when used in cooking and exposed to oxygen (opening and closing the bottle all the time for example). Another problem with most commercially produced oils is that they are already rancid. Hard to believe, yes, but the best way to choose your oils is by the most recently harvested date, which most brands don't state on packaging. Avoid buying oil in bulk, which leaves it more susceptible to going off, and the more unhealthy it will be in your body.
If you have any other vegetable oils in your house, like canola oil “ get rid of it. Its even worse for your health, being highly refined and quick to go rancid. If its deoderised, it can be converted into trans fats. A great deal of canola is also genetically modified. Enough said.
Make sure you are eating lots of healthy fats from avocado, fish and healthy nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts).
Ready For Summer Tip #3 “ Up Your Water, Cut Back Other Sugary Drinks
Our body contains a huge percent of water “ if you don't drink enough of it, it can rob you of energy, concentration, your metabolism running as efficiently as it could as well as general health problems. Every single cell in our body requires water, so you can imagine what happens around your whole body when you're dehydrated. Remember, when you're thirsty, you're already on the way there.
It can be a challenge to drink more water, so here are some tips:
- Keep a drink bottle on hand everywhere you go and sip “ you don't need to down a heap of water at once for it to be effective. Try and sip every 15 minutes, all day if its easier.
- Set an alarm/alert on your phone every hour to drink some water. I have a small glass on my window sill in the kitchen, so it doesn't look like a huge challenge to drink every hour.
- Pop a slice of lemon, lime or some other fruit to give it a tang! Lemon is particularly good for your body.
Any drink containing caffeine has a dehydrating/diuretic effect which is not great during pregnancy or breastfeeding. When you drink a coffee, you can end up more dehydrated than the amount of water that was in it. Green tea actually contains caffeine in most brands, so do your research before drinking green tea, because it is actually a great drink that has been proven to help with weight loss. Check out our article about the safety of caffeine in pregnancy.
They say you are what you eat, but you are what you digest. For better digestion, try to drink 30 minutes before meals, or at least 10 minutes after. If you find you're particularly thirsty when eating, you need to increase your intake of water rich foods in your meals.
Even with cows milk, some great alternatives are almond or oat milk. I love chocolate almond milk “ it tastes amazing! But I use this in my chocolate smoothies only, not as a snack as nutrition is important with snacks. Otherwise I keep my dairy to a minimum.
Ready For Summer Tip #4 “ Forget Sugar!
Refined sugar does absolutely NOTHING good for you “ all it does is provide a very high number of calories that offers zero nutrition. This means that you can eat a heap of it without even feeling full, which is a dangerous thing. Sugar is hidden in so many foods that we consume, in an attempt by food manufacturers to get us hooked on their food and drinks. However, sugar is also the cause of many diseases and health problems that we have as a society today, not to mention how addictive it is. Many health experts are seeing an increase in patients addicted to sugar, which can leave you feeling way more tired, grumpy, and fatigued than usual. Sugar is so bad for the health of your body, mind and teeth, the least you consume, the better.
Majorly cutting back or banning sugar in your diet will result in a better mood with less mood swings, having much more energy, you'll lose weight and you'll eventually crave it less. Its surprising how quickly you start to notice the natural sweetness in fruit and other foods after you've cut out all processed sugar, even for just a week. Its like they take over control of your taste buds, sending them astray!
If you're thinking about using artificial sweeteners, think again. They have been linked to many nasty side effects and you may even end up craving more sugar as a result. If you must have some sort of sweetener, look for natural options.
Ready For Summer Tip #5 “ Don't Keep It In Your House!
Don't buy things that aren't going to help you with your health kick. You'll end up eating it.
I tend to notice that whenever there is a birthday, cake gets left in the fridge for days, and it gets eaten every day until its gone “ just because its there! What you don't have in your house, you wont be tempted to eat. If you're wanting to lose a few kilos, ban ice-cream, chocolate or whatever else your diet weakness is. Fill your home with healthy snacks and you'll see how easy it is to eat healthier when its not there, otherwise in a moment of weakness you can find yourself making a beeline for those junk food packets.
Ready For Summer Tip #6 “ You CAN Manage At Least 20 or 30 Minutes A Day!
A brisk walk for at least 20 minutes a day (30 is better and 45 is fantastic!) will do your body and mind a huge favour “ and 20 minutes is nothing in the big scheme of your day. Whats important is you just get started, and make it an everyday part of your life.
Look at it this way “ if you get walking for ten minutes in one direction, you're ready to head back home already! You may even end up surprised when you plan to walk for 20 minutes but end up walking for even longer. Often when you get outside and the happy hormones kick in within minutes, you feel so much better and you'll want to keep going! With the sun shining brightly on these beautiful spring days, its just glorious being outside. Vitamin D from the sun is also brilliant for your immune system and mood “ the walk is so worth the vitamin D hit alone, especially if you're feeling crappy.
Having trouble getting motivated to get out the door? Go put your runners on “ it can have a surprisingly motivating effect. Put on some groovy, pumping music, get your dance on and don't think, just do it! Get out the door. I would get myself in a state of being mindful and present, and direct myself out the door, without engaging my mind in my huge to-do list I should be working on, which is the main thing that stops me from getting exercise. You only get one body and one lifetime, and having a healthy one means a happy one. Your to-do list is so much more easier to smash when you have more energy and happiness.
When I get walking, I immerse myself in music I love and engage in visualisation “ any successful person in any area of life will tell you that visualisation was key to their success. You need to see things in life as they are, as well as better than they are. Many of us get stuck on seeing things worse than they are. So I visualise how I am going to look and how I am going to feel reaching my goal weight. I imagine being on a beach, not giving an iota of care as to how I look or feeling concious of other people looking at me. Actually loving being at the beach. The feel good rush that you get makes you want to walk even faster.
If you have an anti-pram baby or if its too hard to wear your baby out while you walk, dance at home, commit to 30 minutes of housework or finding ways to get off your bum. This is the biggest thing I struggle with working on a computer all day “ you tend to get so drawn in to technology and work it can end up sapping your day (and energy).
You burn more calories standing than sitting, so if you cant get out, find something to do around the home or garden. If you don't use it, you'll lose it! Move your way to a sexier bum!
Ready For Summer Tip #7 “ Use Some Great FREE Apps That Work!
I use two brilliant apps that help to keep me motivated and managing my calories.
RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal are health and fitness trackers which make losing weight so easy. Firstly, I set up a profile on MyFitnessPal which calculated how many calories per day I needed to reach the healthy goal weight I wanted to achieve. Each day I need to add in 500 extra calories under cardiovascular exercise for breastfeeding (please do the same if you are breastfeeding, if you don't eat enough calories, your milk supply could suffer or disappear). The way it works is that you add foods into the daily diary and you can see how many calories you have consumed and what you have left to consume. Its not as complicated as it sounds, it has a massive database of brands, foods and how many calories are in those foods, so its nice and easy. There's nothing I haven't been able to find in there and you can always add in new ones.
I used RunKeeper (even though I don't run yet) to track my fitness and calories burned, which I would enter into MyFitnessPal. Its amazing how easy it is when you see it all in front of you! RunKeeper also sends reminders to work out and you can link up both apps with your friends to motivate one another!
Understanding calories has been another key thing to help with understanding how I need to lose weight. You can also calculate your BMI & BMR on Lose Baby Weight with a handy little tool.
Ready For Summer Tip #8 “ Sort Out Your Stress
Stress can be your enemy when trying to get healthy and is even a risk factor for cancers. Many of us, especially women, tend to look for chocolate, ice-cream or other junk when stressed. People may also use other crutches when stressed “ alcohol, drugs, smoking or even sex, which doesn't fix the root cause, only introduces a plethora of health risks.
If you're having work, money or relationship problems, its time to find some solutions to turn your life around. Get professional help where you can, because progress “ forward steps “ makes people happy. Feeling stuck or going backwards makes us feel rotten. I highly recommend NLP which is great for fears, phobias or retraining the ‘monkey mind'. But in any case, taking that first step and getting help is what is important. Learning about mindfulness and meditation can also be very helpful for managing stress and anxiety.
Ready For Summer Tip #9 “ Get Better Sleep (Where You Can!)
I know this is pretty tough for many mothers, but a better nights sleep will help your metabolism, immune system, energy levels and mood. When we sleep, so many important functions take place, including immune system repair. When we're tired we tend to want to hit the junk food and caffeine pretty hard, and therefore feel less motivated to exercise.
I've started forcing myself to nap during the day with my baby when she's had a particularly bad night, because it helps me to have a more energetic afternoon with more focus and clarity, and it more often than not helps me to get out for a walk later that day. If you do exercise, doing it late at night can wind you up “ you can get a better sleep if you exercise earlier in the day.
Avoid caffeine at night (if you're breastfeeding, caffeine could be making your baby irritable at night too) and spend the last hour before bed away from screens, work and computers, which helps your brain switch off. A nice bath, shower, reading a book or connection time with your partner is a much better option.
Ready For Summer Tip #10 “ Get Into Juicing
Juicing fresh, raw vegetable and fruits packs a punch “ it provides your body with stacks of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and water. The benefits are huge for your skin, metabolism, immune system, energy and sense of wellbeing.
For more information on juicing, the many health benefits as well as loads of great recipes to help with all sorts of conditions and ailments, check out The Juice Lady's (Cherie Calbom) books which include The Juice Lady's Guide to Juicing for Health: Unleashing the Healing Power of Whole Fruits and Vegetables.
Ready For Summer Tip #11 “ Get Your Salad On
Salads can be so filling and yummy.
And no, they don't need to be boring! By including leafy greens in your diet, you can help to boost your iron levels too “ skip the lettuce and try baby spinach leaves or other leafy dark greens “ the greener the better.
I love these things in my salad: baby spinach leaves, tomato, avocado, tuna, roast chicken, diced roast sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, cooked brown rice, mushrooms cooked in coconut oil, boiled egg, sesame seeds and feta (not in pregnancy). For a dressing, I pop in a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar “ yum yum yum!
You can create so many delicious salads which are a much better alternative to processed carbohydrate laden lunches or even dinner, and actually look forward to them.
Ready For Summer Tip #12 “ Snack It Right
By having a healthy snack between main meals, it helps to give your metabolism a boost, as well as staving off any hunger pangs (resulting in scoffing down the main meal and still being hungry!).
Especially when pregnant and breastfeeding, you want to make sure that the snacks you eat are nutritious, filling snacks. Some of my favourite, nutritious snacks include:
- Ryvita topped with either avocado or low fat cream cheese with slices of tomato
- A boiled egg (great on/in a wholemeal mini pita) “ it can be surprisingly filling being protein
- A tub of probiotic yoghurt (look out for yoghurt sweetened with artificial sweetener), fruit, raw veggies (e.g. carrot sticks with a low fat dip), a slice of my fave low fat banana bread “ the list is endless!
- A small handful of almonds
- Carrot sticks and tzatziki
Aim for snacks of around 100-200 calories, remembering to account for extra calories if your breastfeeding or pregnant.
Ready For Summer Tip #13 “ Take Some Time To Connect
Every human “ and especially women “ naturally crave focused communication and connection, because its what we are wired for “ relationships. Great ones make us very happy, and when they're not very going well, it can really effect us, day and night. If women don't get the chance to have some quality time to connect with their partners, especially after a long and stressful day, it can start to effect their mood. This is what may resort in seeking other ways of soothing their feminine needs “ enter tub of ice-cream, potato chips or other!
David Deida talks about this in his book, Intimate Communion: If her feminine energy has nowhere to express itself, it may take the form of a deviance: she overeats and attacks her man's weaknesses, through silence or fury.
You'd be surprised how much quality connection time with your partner can have an impact on your health. As per an earlier point, if your relationship needs some help, it may be wise to seek some help, or source some great relationship books.
A Final Word
Weight loss is a huge emotional journey as it is a physical one.
Many of us have carried weight for years and resort to unhealthy or too much foods and drinks in times of stress, pain or when we're wounded. The clip I have posted below shows a massive transformation one woman made after addressing her buried psychological issues, which were driving her to the fridge. Its very moving and as a result, she lost a great deal of weight.
I hope it helps you understand the importance of psychology behind not only weight loss but other addictions too. Its long, but well worth it!