Standing at the Rugby sideline last saturday watching our under 7’s slam themselves around in the mud while they played rugby, us Mothers who had all been running or training that morning began to moan again of hunger, body aches and confusion.
"I just don't know what I should eat for breakfast", "I'm just not hungry at first, and then I'll miss the window and I'm starving", "I wish someone would just tell me what I should eat to make all of this training worth it!" , were amongst some of the 'cries' for help.
Having now trained, 'trial and errored’ my way through years of fitness, strength training, yoga and nourishment, I had some stories to share and some suggestions for my over worked, over trained, under fed and under paid Mother colleagues! So that they could train the way they wanted too AND still have the energy to play, laugh, parent and run with their kids.
There were many comments about how confused they were. About how they had been to see certain physicians or self diagnosed and cut gluten entirely from their diets, some were trying the Paleo diet (in their own very unique manners), some were binging out on carbs and fuelling themselves with whatever they wanted (as they felt the deserved it after training so hard) and some were purely starving themselves into the brink of collapse or exhaustion. This was not cool! There was just no education or information being given out by the professionals to these Mums who were admittedly exercise addicts who just wanted some nutrition advice.
There’s just not a lot of time in there for soaking chia seeds and making Kombucha scoby’s is there? There is however, time for injury, stress and malnutrition… leading to more stress, injury and illness.
Being one of these Mothers who needs her fitness fix daily – yet wants to put her family first (therefore wakes up at ridiculous starry skied hours to hit the pavement or the gym) I really felt there was a need to offer suggestions to many of you out there who are doing the same thing. As I give you a brief rundown of the lessons I have learned please remember all of these ideas are based on my studies and my own research, essentially I have treated myself as a bit of a guinea pig for years, trialling new suggestions, all in the aim of finding out what will actually happen, I guess that is how us "health geeks" really learn! Please feel free to comment with any suggestions or lessons you have learnt in your own pursuit of energy satisfaction.
Since becoming a Mum (7 years down) I have always exercised. Hard. I remember waking up super early to pump (breast milk) so that I could run without being in agony. I did that with both my children – don’t recommend it.
I recommend sleeping more. That would have most likely helped me out more. Sleeping and then taking a nice walk in the daytime with bubs. Not a run, and a walk, and no sleep (my poor adrenal glands were headed for a crash).
Nutritionally; I guess I have always been monitoring in some way what I was eating. Trying to be healthy - but most probably just starving myself when I needed food most! At times I have tried to just relax and eat whatever my body craved – sure that was great for creating milk, but not so good for my jeans situation. Plus, eating sugar creates the horrible cycle of craving more and more sugar, then feeling guilty, then feeling depressed and hating everything about yourself... not a good way to roll.
I’ve tried starving myself, which also doesn’t work, sure; you're thin, but you are a shell of the person you want to be, you injure yourself VERY easily and you inevitably reach breaking point because you are trying to be an amazing Mum (and everything else) yet you need fuel to function – so you end up ripping into the muffins or the chocolate milk. You become slightly deranged as your poor brain can't keep up with the demands of everyday Motherhood. Sure, you are there in person... but that's about it.
I’ve tried the Southbeach diet, the Atkins diet, calorie counting and all inevitably take me to the same place. I loose the baby weight and then my body stays reasonably the same BUT my head becomes so confused and I begin focusing on all the silly things that don’t matter, rather than just enjoying REAL food and my family!
Last year I even tried the Paleo diet (this is where you essentially eliminate all refined sugars, grains, anything processed from your diet) basically I ate grass fed meat and vegetables for every meal, with a few nuts and bananas in between. This worked out well for my body’s sake but I became slightly angry and lost, and I’m sure that was based on the theory that “you are what you eat” I was totally stuck in the mindset of a cow/deer/chicken. I believe I started to take on some of the traits of these animals. I was lifting heavy weights and eating many cooked meals, I was grounded and focused, yet slightly aggressive and forceful (yes - I took a lot of 'selfies', but it was all in the aid of research. I am truly baffled by what you can achieve, and how when you get there... a million other problems arise and your head wants to explode)
The entire YANG side of my balance circle was full up – but there was no YIN involved at all. I had NO balance... and no energy for my babes.
Then I decided to flip the coin completely and became vegetarian, which seemed to be more my calling as meat never settled well in my stomach, but I didn’t know entirely what I was doing and was not monitoring my iron or B12 and other mineral levels correctly. I stayed off gluten and have never really eaten dairy. I started to feel light headed a lot, I was spacey and scattered, I wasn't sleeping well and seemed to loose interest in everyday activities. I was light and happy-ish but I couldn’t lift weights like I was used to, or run as fast, or for as long as I knew I could. More injuries and more scatterbrained decisions. There was no way I could be a good Mum, wife or friend like this! I was tired and lethargic and not really present in mind for anything.
My YIN side was weighing heavily... Again, I needed to find the balance.
I needed a slap in the fact by this point! Luckily I had started studying to become a Health Coach by then, and started to see the world and food in a new light. I kept eating whole grains and complex carbohydrates. I brought grass fed ‘happy’ meat and fish back into my diet when I felt like eating it and I introduced more Yoga and less weight training, focusing more on body weight training and endurance. I found I was a lot more balanced and my body didn’t change a whole heap – I lost some of the muscles in my arms and shoulders, and re-gained a little bit of my booty but that was a it really. I found I had a lot more happiness in my brain from the small amount of complex carbohydrate... AND get this, my family had me back again. I was present, energetic and ready to JUST BE!
Without turning this into a novel. I should tell you that now I’m now, NOT starving, not lethargic, not suffering from menstrual cramps and headaches or bloating and have the energy to keep going without crashing and burning. I am involved in HIIT training, tabata training, running, walking, yoga and chillaxing and do you know what? I feel awesome! I'm not the skinniest I can be, but I'm not the largest either... I'm just me! I'm eating healthy and I am focusing on longevity of life. I'm a Mum, who's reasonably fit, trying to take on the world in my own special ways and thriving on natural energy and natural fuel sourcing for my body.
Moral of the story: I’m simply eating REAL food. Meaning – it grew in the ground, it fell off a tree, it was raised and fed grass. I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. If I am hungry in between, I eat too.
Now, I'm not saying I know it all, but what I am saying, is that once you let go of that mental state where you are fighting your poor body, and begin to embrace it and what it has given you... you too will have the energy for life again. Half the time the weight will start falling off as well, as your cortisol levels drop due to stress reduction (stress that was wasted on food choices).
If I have done some weight training I might have a whey based protein powder blended with some wheatgrass and milk, water, or coconut water (for restoration of my muscles) I will eat eggs and spinach, mushrooms, onions, brocolli (whatever vegetables we have!) for breakfast, or a superfood blend (chia seeds, oats, flaxseed, cinnamon, sunflower and pumpkin seeds etc) and the day continues on like this:
If I am hungry I will eat. REAL FOOD.
Starving yourself doesn’t help at all. You’re poor body just wants to hold on to everything, all the fat, because it thinks it’s headed for starvation.
If you want the energy to be as super-of-a-Supermum as you can then focus on filling your body with the right energy, so that you can participate and be your best. You're going to look great no matter what, because you are eating real food so your body will settle where it’s meant to. If you want to train like the best of them, please please realise you NEED to fuel it properly or it will go Kaput. Food is to be enjoyed, with friends and family, to nourish your body and your soul.
Make sure you have some form of real protein (grass-fed meat, free range eggs, oats, chia seeds, quinoa, whole dairy) in each meal and then a massive amount of vegetables and some complex carbohydrates: meaning, non processed, non refined carbohydrate or whole grains.
If you need a snack grab some fruit – as that is filled with fructose (good sugar) and put smear some nut butter on it. A current favourite is a banana or apple with almond/ cashew/ sunflower/ pumpkin seed butter on top. Alternatively a handful of nuts (unsalted and preferably non roasted) Or grab a tub (again preferably make your own) of hummus and as many vegetables as you require.
And last but by no means least FAT – you need some saturated fat in your diet, the good fat that is. I’m talking coconut oil (organic and fair trade to save the palm trees) organic grass-fed butter, nut butters, nuts (non salted!) avocado, you catch my gist. Saturated fat WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT, it will help improve your bone strength, liver, lung and brain health and your immune system. It will also satiate you - meaning you wont crave that sugar you normally do. It will slowly release into your system giving you the energy and fuel you need to be amazing.
Jump off the wagon of stressing about food. Just eat the REAL stuff. The FOOD FOR HUMANS. Fuel yourself properly for the day ahead. Don’t feel bad for eating if you are hungry, your body needs it to function properly (just make sure you are fueling it with real food, it really is that simple). You can't be everything to everyone if you are starving yourself.