Top Two Tips For A Guilt Free Thanksgiving

So here we are again, huh? 

The Holidays. 

The dreaded food-everywhere-sugar-frenzy-packed-schedule holiday season. Also known as the guiltiest time of the year. 

From pie to cookies, to stuffing and green bean casserole, the upcoming six weeks can be a nightmare of temptation for dieters, riddled with guilt and “shouldn’t”. 

If you ask me though, the holidays are already packed with too much other stuff to be filled with guilt too. With all of the parties, get togethers, family time, gift shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, etc, how does anyone even have time to feel guilty? So here’s a thought: just don’t. 

My top two tips for a guilt free Thanksgiving? 

1. Eat what you really want. 

2. Don’t feel guilty. 

I know, it sounds like I’m being a jerk, because we all know it’s not that easy. And you’re right– it’s not always easy! But making a conscious decision to enjoy the food choices you make, eating them mindfully, and letting yourself actually enjoy them will go a long way towards your holiday sanity. 

What do I mean when I say to eat that pie or stuffing mindfully? It really comes down to 3 things: 

1. Note the flavors, textures, etc. The reasons that you love this food are exactly what you should focus on. 

2. Acknowledge the emotional or mental component. Does this apple pie have a nostalgic pull for you because you used to make it with your grandmother when you were young? That’s ok. Food is often connected to memories both good and bad, and I think it’s important to acknowledge and embrace this rather than shut it out. Whether we like it or not, food has an emotional sider that can add to your enjoyment of it, but it can also take that enjoyment away. Make sure that this food does the former, honor that feeling, so that suppressing it doesn’t lead to over indulging or binging later on. 

3. Make sure every bite still tastes good. You know when you eat too much of a good thing and it just doesn’t taste as good after a while? Even your favorite foods can fall victim to this tastebud paralasys as I like to call it. Stop before you get to that point– what’s the point in eating something if you’re not going to enjoy it? At first, this will take practice. But over time, you’ll begin to recognize this point without even thinking about it. 

And what about this not feeling guilty? How are we supposed to do that after all of the goodies that we come across at each and every holiday event? 

This one also takes practice. It takes patience and self love, and careful thoughtfulness when it comes to the three steps listed above. It’s ok if you eat pie and cookies…and stuffing and candied yams…and a second helping of mashed potatoes. Even if you do go a little bit overboard (let’s face it, most of us will), it’s one day. One meal. One tiny percentage of your time when your focus should be on family and love and laughter, not on the calories on your plate.

The food you eat on one day will not completely derail you from your goals. If you are trying to reach certain body goals though, be aware that going all out for the entire holiday season will probably set you back a bit. If you’re ok with that, own it, and drop the guilt. If you’re not, pick the times/parties/foods that you will indulge with, do so mindfully, and free up some brain space for creating new amazing memories with your family and friends– not calorie guilt. The bottom line is that this time of year doesn’t have to be stressful when it comes to food. This is just another day, another week, another month on your journey. You’ve got this! 

Repeat after me: There is no room for guilt at the Thanksgiving table. 

Especially this year– the political turmoil will take up enough space as it is. And after that awkward family argument, you’re gonna need that pie. Just enjoy it, ok? 

C-Section Recovery: Postpartum Fitness 

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I ended up having an emergency cesarean with Isabelle. And unfortunately, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t read anything about cesarean recovery ahead of time. I spent so much time preparing for everything else– but a c-section? Complications? Those things only happened to other people, right?

Wrong. The truth is, when it comes to labor and delivery, you never know what is going to happen, no matter how much you plan. And as I found out quickly, recovery after surgery was no walk in the park. Everything hurt, everything was swollen, and it seemed like nothing worked quite right.

The first time the nurse tried to get me up to walk a few steps in my room? Let’s just say my body wasn’t having it. But now, at 6 weeks post op, I’m feeling great, I’m active, and things are mostly back to (fairly) normal. So how did I get from point A to point B?

Week One:

This was the tough part. This was the part where I was counting steps until I had too much pain, I needed help with the most basic movements/tasks, and just changing position in bed was a significant challenge. Add in caring for and getting to know my new daughter, and things were a little bit difficult.  It was during these days where fitness was the last thing on my mind, and all I needed to know was when the nurse was coming with my next dose of Motrin.

By about 3-4 days out though, while I still couldn’t walk much farther than the bathroom, I did want to use my muscles as much as I could. Lying in bed all day drives me nuts, even if it’s necessary! At this time I started doing basic movements like standing calf raises, standing leg raises (I’m talking inches off the ground here), and isometric contractions of my lower body muscle groups while in bed.

We were in the hospital for 5 days, so lying in bed for that length of time was out of the question. Never mind the fact that it’s better for you to move around as tolerated after a c-section– it helps with healing and comfort, which is important when you now have a little one to worry about! These small recovery exercises helped my sanity and my restless legs, and they helped me to feel like I was making progress, even if it was just baby steps.

Weeks Two-Three

A couple of days after we got home from the hospital, we went for our first family walk. And when I say walk, I mean a snails pace for about 200 yards before I had to turn back. I knew not to push too much too soon, but it felt so nice just to be outside and moving, I didn’t care how brief it was. Throughout that week, walks got gradually longer each day, depending on how I was feeling. The first time I attempted a hill near us, I made it about 1/4 of the way before realizing it was too much for that day and turning back.

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Each day I made it a little bit farther though, and was able to pick up my pace as well, slowing again if pain increased. I began adding in our neighborhood hills, and when Isabelle was two weeks old, we took her on our first family hike. Again — this was a short, slow, easy hike on a local trail– certainly not a real mountain, but it made me feel like I had accomplished something, and that was priceless at that point. Also, getting out into nature was good not only for me, but for Isabelle too!

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Around week 3, I started adding in some very basic core rehab exercises, as well as body weight glute work. The point of this was not to work out, or break a sweat, or burn calories. The point of these exercises was simply to keep my muscles engaged and to start to re-train my core how to function after major surgery. These exercises at first included pelvic tilts, cat/cow stretches, glute bridges, and clam shells. All of these were done to pain tolerance, once or twice per day.

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Weeks Four – Five

Around this time I started adding in some more dedicated core and glute specific rehab exercises to my daily routine, as well as walking farther and faster. The rehab exercises would take just a few minutes daily, but I firmly believe that this has been helpful to my fairly quick recovery with only mild pain. Along with continuing the above exercises, I added in a resistance band for my glute bridges, single leg bridges, dead bugs, and mini single leg squats. This was in combination of daily walks and a short hike once or twice per week (wearing baby for all walks/hikes). My daily walks were anywhere from 2-4 miles at this point, including plenty of hills on days when I felt good.

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Around 4 weeks I noticed that I really didn’t have pain anymore at my incision site, save for a few specific movements or forceful movements like an unexpected sneeze (seriously– sneezing/coughing/laughing after a cesarean is no joke!). So I pushed my walks as much as I could, walking hill repeats some days, and upping the mileage. By 5 weeks, I was walking 3-5 miles daily.

Present

At this point, I’m far from the types of workouts I would love to be doing. I am just getting back into a structured workout routine– as structured as it can be with a new baby at home. Everything for now will be done at home with resistance bands, kettle bells,and other equipment that we have, and I’m unsure as of now when I’ll make it back to an actual gym. I am looking forward to the time when I can do some barbell work again, but I’m also fully aware that that might be a while!

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The movements and exercises that I will be focusing on in the near future will continue to be core and glute heavy. I have begun adding in weighted squats, RDLs, Turkish Get Ups, lunges, stair work, and some upper body work. Since I had been doing elevated push ups and upper body band work up until I delivered, my upper body hasn’t taken as much of a hit as I was worried about, so I’m not focusing on that quite as much at this time. My goals right now are not to get into killer shape, or to “get my body back”. My main goal is just to feel healthy and strong, and to build my way back into a program gradually. I am well aware that this will be a process and won’t be easy, but I’m ready for the challenge!

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One of the most important exercises for my core stability — the Turkish Get Up. I’m doing them with just body weight here, and will soon add in a light kettlebell. 

Not only do I want to start to build my strength base again, but I also want to be a good role model for my littlest lady. Even if she has no idea what I’m doing right now, or will never remember these days, the earlier I can provide her with a positive influence of strength and empowerment, the better. This is not all about me anymore, and I can only do my best to ensure that she grows up seeing her body in a positive light, not as something she has to fix.

Disclaimer: I was not cleared to work out until 6 weeks post op. I created the plan that I followed based on my medical and rehabilitation knowledge due to my line of work. I do not recommend that anyone else follow this or any other plan post op, until given direct and clear clearance by their physician.

True Life: This is Post Partum

You’ve all seen it before: the celebrity who walks the red carpet 2 weeks after baby and looks perfect– glowing and radiant even. The fitness blogger who shows off her new-mommy 6-pack abs and asks “what’s your excuse?” making every other new mom out there feel less-than, at the very least.

But you know what? While those are real people, and yes, real results, they do not represent the norm. And they certainly don’t represent a standard of where you “should” be, 2, 4, or 6 weeks post partum.

I will tell you to start out that I had an unexpected c-section with Isabelle. Some things occurred to make this medically necessary for the safety of all involved. And while it broke my heart in the moment, I did what I had to do to bring this beautiful baby into the world. That being said, my journey is going to look a little different than another mama no matter what her birth story looked like. So on that note, this post is in no way a “what to expect” or a list of things you should feel after baby, because the truth is that we’re all going to experience this a little bit differently.

The goal today is just to give you a real life, un-glammed, imperfect glimpse into my story, with the hopes that it can help out other moms who are lost in a sea of “shoulds” and perfect post partum abs.

Showering is a luxury.

There are many days now where I have to strategically find time to shower quickly, and many days where I don’t even get to shower at all. Life just after baby is anything but glamorous, and you’d be surprised how much little time you actually have to get anything done. All newborns do is eat, sleep, and poop, right? So there’s plenty of time during the day to get lots of things done and even relax? Nope, not so much. All of those things happen with such frequency, never mind the new mom challenge of figuring breast feeding out, and you’ve got a literally 24/7 job on your hands. I firmly believe that’s the reason babies are so cute and smell so good– so we don’t mind the constant hard work! Case in point: it took me two weeks to write this very blog post. Time is not on my side these days.

Everything was swollen.

I don’t think I looked in a mirror for a full day after my surgery. But by the time I did, I was shocked by how swollen I still was. From my face down to my toes, not only did I still look pregnant, but I looked like I had been pumped full of fluid and air. Pants that were loose on me at 40 weeks pregnant were now tight, and you can imagine what a trip that is mentally when you’re kind of expecting to get your body back once the baby makes their exit. The swelling went down in about a week, but I’ll admit I was a little bit nervous that it might hang around forever (irrational sleep deprived thoughts).

The scale has dropped quickly, but things are a far cry from my “normal”.

I’m going to write a bigger post just on this topic, but here’s the overview: at two weeks post partum, I was already down to just 7 lb over my pre-baby weight. I’m not sure exactly where I am now since we don’t have a scale, but I’d say I’m somewhere in that 5-7 lb range. Yay, right? Well, not so fast. It’s actually a perfect example of how the scale doesn’t mean a whole lot, because my body is much different than those 7 lb will tell you.

Although I kept up a very active fitness routine while pregnant, lifting weights right up to the end, I still lost a significant amount of muscle mass over those 9 months. And add in recovery from surgery, and you’ve got full body atrophy at a maximum. Of course Isabelle is well worth it, but this body, although only 7 lb away from my before-baby body, is drastically different, and will take lots of hard work in the months to come.

Healing is frustrating.

Along that same train of thought, healing from a major surgery is not something I expected. After my remarkably easy pregnancy, I naively thought I would go into labor, waltz into the hospital, and pop out a baby a few hours later. Not so much. Complications led to surgery, and then all of a sudden there I was, recovering from a major surgery I never even bothered to read about ahead of time. Being told that I can’t work out for 6 weeks is tough, and feeling completely incapacitated was not part of my game plan. Lesson learned:when it comes to child birth, a birthing plan is ok, but be prepared for everything, and take nothing for granted.

That being said though, although Im not cleared to work out for a couple more weeks, that doesn’t mean I’ve been just laying around not moving at all. I have been doing everything I can safely do to keep my muscles engaged and functioning– daily walks and some glute and core rehab exercises. I will outline all of this in a later post, but suffice it to say that in all aspects of life, fitness is relative. I may not be anywhere near my fitness prime but I am doing everything possible to take care of myself and set myself up for future success.

No sleep is really, really hard.

Getting by on a few hours of sleep every once in a while is rough. Going an entire month with 2-3 hours of sleep per night (and sometimes less), is unthinkable. But here I am, in this club with all new parents, who find out that our bodies can adapt to some pretty crazy things in order to take care of these little bundles. Sleep deprivation is a form of serious torture,and here we are in the thick of it, day in and day out– and still expected to function like normal adults! So next time you see a friend with a new baby, and you jokingly ask about how much they’re sleeping, know that the truth is worse than you can imagine. And cut them some slack.

The emotional overload is something I never could have imagined.

Now, this might sound like I’m complaining, or that everything is all bad, but the truth is, there is nothing to compare to the amazing and gut wrenching amount of love that erupts from you when this baby comes into the world. There really are no words that can describe what it feels like to look at her, to smell her, to snuggle with this little tiny bundle of warmth. I stare at her endlessly, wanting to breathe her in, wanting to preserve this newborn stage forever. Sure, some things are really tough right now, but I know that this is such a fleeting time in our lives, one that seems stressful yet magical and wonderous all at once. The strength of emotions has been surprising to me, and as cliche as it sounds, you can never really imagine it until you’re going through it.

Along with all of that love and wonderment though, there have also been plenty of tears, and thats ok. After child birth, a woman is basically a raging inferno of hormones– hormones that cause emotional swings so strong its almost laughable. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t cried, haven’t already felt mom guilt, or haven’t doubted my ability to do this. But the truth is, that’s all a normal part of this process, one that I wish were talked about more openly. So cry it out, mamas, and find support where you need it. It truly takes a village!

After all this, the long and short of it is that the immediate weeks post partum are both wonderful and difficult, and everything in between. It’s the start of a new life, a new you, and probably one of the most amazing things that I’ll never truly be able to describe.

Other moms (and dads), what were your first few weeks like? What did you find most challenging in the early days of parenthood?

 

 

 

 

Announcement Time!

Well, you have probably guessed already due to my absolute silence around here but…

There is a new addition to the I Train Therefore I Eat family!

Isabelle Mae joined us on October 6 at 2:15 pm, checking in at a healthy 8 lb 12 oz!

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She had an eventful entrance into this world, which I won’t get into here, but we are all doing well and adjusting to being this new (and sleepless) family of 3. She’s a beautiful little girl who changed my entire world the instant I met her, and I’m overwhelmed with the amount of emotions that come with this new part of our life. She’s perfect in every way, even when she’s wearing her cranky pants, and I’m excited to see how things will continue to evolve, both in life and here on the blog!

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Things will probably be pretty slow around here for the next few weeks as I adjust to my new life as a mom, but I’m going to try to get back in the blogging groove soon, I promise! For now it’s all diapers, nursing, and finding a few minutes of sleep where I can get it in, but most importantly, baby snuggles.

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For now, here are a few pictures of life with Isabelle so far.

There have been lots of snuggles…

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daily walks…

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and let’s be real here– some tears along the way.

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Life will never be the same around here, but it’s a world of change we’re so excited for!

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Welcome, Miss Isabelle Mae!

Coming soon:  a real life look into my post partum experience, and all the ups and downs that have come with it.

Workout Wednesday: Pregnancy Safe Circuits

So, yep, you guessed it… still no baby!

I’m now 5 days beyond my due date, which is pretty normal for a first time mama, but I’m getting a little impatient nonetheless! I can’t wait to meet this little lady and to start to learn all about her quirks, her personality, and who she’s going to turn into.

If you read my post a couple of weeks ago about my workout progression throughout pregnancy, you should remember that I’ve remained pretty active this whole time. I started out doing pretty much everything I was pre-pregnancy, minus the extremely heavy, max-0ut lifts on my bigger compound lifts. That worked for me for a while, until my body started to tell me to slow down and take it down a few notches. Slowly, this has gotten me to where I am today — long walks (but not too long, this bladder being crushed by a baby’s head can only take so much!), and some light circuits at home. Yes, I’m still getting in some near daily exercise, but it certainly is a far cry from my normal routine. For instance, I went out for a slow but steady hike on Monday, and didn’t crank it up the inclines like I normally would.

I find that I feel better overall if I move though — walks are crucial to keeping my legs and hips from feeling too tight, and light circuits just help me to feel more energized during this time when my body is literally sustaining a full sized baby!

I thought I’d share a couple of quick at home circuits that are safe for pregnancy, in case there are any other soon-to-be-mamas out there who can’t quite figure out a routine. But the great thing is that these can be used by anyone — they are great circuits for beginners, and the intensity can be ramped up for anyone looking for a quick at-home workout when they don’t have time for the gym.

My staples throughout the end of this pregnancy have been goblet squats and incline push ups. I’m trying to keep these arms as strong as possible, and trying to maintain what muscle I can in my lower body without doing too much or causing pain. My ability to do single leg exercises for lower body differs by the day, and really just depends on the amount of SI joint (where the pelvis meets the lower part of your spine) pain I’m having at any given time.

Also, you’ll note that I do include glute bridges here, which require me to lay on my back. It is a common rule for pregnant women to avoid laying on their back for extended periods of time, but has been found to be safe for a few minutes as long as you feel ok doing it. If your doctor has given you a strict “no”, or if you don’t feel comfortable doing these, please substitute a different exercise such as fire hydrant kicks on all fours to attack those glutes.

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Circuit #1:

Equipment Needed: Kettlebell and/or set of medium dumbbells, chair or bench

Exercises:

Goblet Squat: Holding the KB or one dumbbell directly in front of and against your chest, feet about shoulder width apart and feet turned slightly out. Squat down between hips, keeping core engaged and back flat.

Incline push up: Push up on bench or chair, heights suitable to your fitness level.

OHP: Overhead Press. Stand with core engaged and a dumbbell in each hand, or KB in one hand. If using dumbbells, alternate pressing overhead with palms facing away from you. If using KB, finish reps on one side before moving to other side.

Feet Elevated Glute Bridge: Lie on your back with both feet up on chair or bench, scoot your butt close to the bench. Driving your heels down into the bench, squeeze your glutes and lift hips up so that you form a straight line from knees to shoulders.

Donkey Kicks: Starting on all fours, alternate kicking each leg straight back, squeezing each glute with kick. Make sure to keep core engaged and back flat.

Circuit #2

Equipment Needed: Resistance band loop and/or resistance band mini loop

Exercises: 

Band Squats: If using mini band, place band around ankles. If using full size band loop, hold one end, and loop the remaining band around the outsides of your feet, so that you are standing inside loop, hands by your waist. Squat to your normal position.

Side Kick Outs: Keeping band or mini band in the same position, start with both knees slightly bent. Alternate kicking each leg out to the side against the resistance of the band.

Band Shuffles: Keeping band or mini band in same position, bend to about a quarter squat position. Shuffle sideways for 10 steps, then back in the opposite direction for 10 steps.

Band Pull Aparts: Grasp band in both hands, directly in front of chest with arms outstretched. Keeping arms straight, bring hands away from each other to the sides, essentially pulling band across your chest. Squeeze the muscles between your shoulder blades at the end of the motion.

Band Split Squats: Split Squat with resistance band under front foot. Grasp band near knee, calf, or ankle; holding the band lower for more resistance.

Band Rows: If using full band loop, stand on band with both feet. Keeping back flat, hinge at hips and bend forward. Grasp band low, and complete bent over row with both arms. If using mini band, start in lunge position with band under front foot. Grasp band with opposite hand and perform single arm rows for all reps before switching foot/hand.

Again, these can be great little at home circuits for anyone, beginner, pregnant, or just someone looking for a quick session on a busy day!

Enjoy, and hopefully I’ll be back with some news for you very soon!

 

 

Wellness vs. Fitness: What’s The Difference?

A couple months ago when I completed my Health Coaching certification, I had quite a few questions about what that meant. What is a health/wellness coach? Is that like a personal trainer? Is it a nutritionist? Is it a life coach?

Well, the answer is none of the above, but parts of all of the above. A wellness coach is someone who helps their clients to find optimal mind and body wellness, often helping them with and focusing on inner behavior change. This can differ from a personal trainer or nutritionist who may just “prescribe” a workout or nutrition plan, with change coming from a strictly external source (the plan) rather than being driven by the client (changes in motivation, etc.)

And the truth is, neither of these are better or worse, but one method or the other does tend to work better for different people. Some have no trouble with the motivation or desire to modify their lifestyle, and for those people, a simple plan may be the best bet. But for those who also need a little bit of help finding their motivation, finding their drive towards making those behavior changes, and realizing that all of this lies within themselves, a wellness or health coach could be a wonderful fit.

Another question I get a lot is: So what does wellness mean anyway? Isn’t that just the same thing as fitness? To me, fitness is purely physical. It is the number of reps you can do, the speed at which you can finish a particular distance, or the number of pounds you can lift off the floor. It has to do with specific markers based on your size, gender, body type, training style, and training age. Fitness helps us to compare ourselves and others objectively, with hard numbers and data to back up those comparisons (whether we should be comparing at all is a completely different blog post!).

On the other hand, wellness encompasses so much more than the statistics and numbers that are utilized in fitness. Wellness incorporates certain things within yourself that can’t necessarily be measured in hard numbers or compared objectively to someone else. Your motivation, your past experiences with weight/fat loss, your attitude toward your ability to achieve your goals, your belief in your ability to stick with lifestyle changes in the future, and so on. There is so much that goes into wellness, beyond just how many pounds you can lift or how fast you can run hill repeats. When we’re talking wellness, your mind and your body are not mutually exclusive of each other. Instead, they work together, balancing each other on those inevitable days when you’ll have set backs or less than stellar performances.

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So as you can see, while I do have my own answer to the wellness vs. fitness question, I also often turn it around on the question-asker. And that’s what I’m going to do today. What I want to know from all of you is what does wellness mean to you? And how does it differ from fitness (if you indeed see a difference?)

I will be taking a short break from all of my offerings on the blog (individual programs, personal training, wellness coaching) since I’m 40+ weeks pregnant at this point, but soon all of these services will be back in action! And during this time, aside from being a sleep deprived mommy monster, I want to reevaluate exactly what you all want to get out of this blog and coaching if you’re so inclined.

So please, in the comments below, let me know!

What does wellness mean to you and how does this differ from fitness exclusively?

What road blocks do you see in reaching optimal wellness for yourself?

What aspect of wellness do you find most difficult?

What aspect of wellness do you find most rewarding in your life?

Thanks so much for taking the time, and enjoy your day everyone!