Category Archives: Motherhood

Where Does Obesity Start?

I can’t believe that my perspective on obesity in America has shifted so dramatically in the last six or so months. I’ve been in the fitness industry for over a decade and have taken countless courses on metabolic diseases, health and wellness. I thought I knew most of what I needed to know…until I realized that I didn’t. One lesser-known fact that I recently learned has changed everything for me. I couldn’t believe it when I found out. It made my jaw hit the ground and simultaneously made me want to cry. This one simple statistic changes the ballgame for all of us. Big time.

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While conducting research for a manuscript I’ve been working on for the past year, I came across data about the prevalence of children who are overweight and obese in America. I was curious to read the stats but paused before getting to them. The age range taken into evaluation for childhood obesity is what struck me first. I always wrongly assumed that data on children who are overweight and/or obese referred to school-age children only. Kids get a little wiggle room to grow out of their baby fat, right? But no, the age range that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assesses starts at the tender age of TWO! I was floored. For me, this changes everything. Here’s why…

The fact that the age range evaluated for being overweight or obese is from 2-19 years old reflects the fact that obesity starts way before we are irresponsible teenagers guzzling down chips and soda or even school-age children being served controversial, less-nutritious lunches in elementary school cafeterias. Being overweight or obese literally starts when children are adored for having chubby cheeks and pudge. That got me thinking, how can you tell “healthy fat” tots from “unhealthy and overweight” ones? I dug a little deeper and found that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that parents shouldn’t worry about the weight of children younger than 2-years old, citing that there is no current and relevant information supporting the notion that children who are heavy as babies are going to be overweight later in life. But just one second…

Today, 30% of American youth are overweight or obese (17% obese, according to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2014 data), with the prevalence of overweight 2 to 3-year olds being 40% higher than it was in 1994! What’s more is that overweight 2-year olds are apparently twice as likely to become obese as an adult. The older a child gets without outgrowing their extra layer of insulation, the greater the risk goes up. Obese 6-year olds have a 50% risk of obesity at 35 years old and obese 10-year olds have up to a 80% risk! Anyone starting to feel a little uncomfortable about these numbers yet? So, going back to the toddlers…how exactly does a 2-year old hit their second birthday and magically go from being considered healthy to overweight? That’s just not fair to the little ones! Obviously, there are things happening in the FIRST TWO YEARS OF LIFE that have the power to set us up as a society for a host of challenges in our childhood onwards into adulthood.

This brings me to my next question: What is happening in the first two years that sets a child up for certain “healthy” vs “unhealthy” habits that are perpetuated throughout their youth? Moreover, what can we do as ADULTS to prevent this? After all, the first two years of life have very little to do with what a child chooses for their nutrition and physical activity and a whole lot to do with what we offer them to eat and how we help them engage (or not) with the world around them. Our attitude towards wellness very directly impacts theirs.

These are my opinions as a health professional so take them for whatever they are worth to you. These are what I see as some of the potential root causes for their unhealthy habits and compromised gut health, and the implications for us as responsible adults.

 

3 Things that Impact Health in the First 2 Years of Life: 

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I. Breastfeeding vs. Formula

I’m a big proponent of breastfeeding but I understand that sometimes formula is medically indicated or otherwise chosen by moms who want or need it for convenience. I will spare you my opinions on women’s rights for maternity leave and the necessity to have both time and a place to pump at work, but certainly those factor into maternal nutrition decisions. I digress. When we compare breastmilk and formula side-by-side, we see a couple of differences in potential nutrition and how some babies are fed.

Breastmilk has been fine-tuned by evolution over the course of nearly 200,000 years and its complexities are only just beginning to be understood. Formula, on the other hand, was first developed on a grand scale in the early 1950s and was heavily marketed as an “ideal food” for babies. Yes, formula can adequately nourish babies. That has been proven, otherwise babies being fed formula would fail to gain weight and survive. But, the debate on whether or not it’s “ideal” is certainly a heated one, with proponents on both sides. Here is where I see formula falling short and having the *potential* to impact long-term health (albeit formula is a miracle for babies who have no other options – it was made to save lives – and is in no way, shape or form the only predictor of health outcomes):

Taste changes in milk

Just like unborn babies can taste their mother’s broccoli or potato chips via the amniotic fluid they swallow, nursing babies experience the diverse flavors of mom’s diet via changes in breastmilk flavor. There are breastfeeding advocates out there who would argue that this helps a baby embrace healthy foods later on during the introduction of solids (assuming mommy eats healthy in the first place, of course!).

Ability to digest

Just as there are experts who have brought light to the fact that one-a-day multivitamins are difficult for the body to digest, others have made us aware that formula is also difficult on a baby’s digestive system due to higher caesin content in the milk compared to breastmilk. Although parents get longer breaks between baby’s feedings while his tummy sorts everything out, this lends me to believe that a baby’s system is taxed by its food source and may not absorb all of it.  For this same reason, some formula manufacturers continue to attempt to make it with less curd to better simulate digestive processes aligned with breastmilk.

Antibodies and gut health 

Antibodies help build up our immune systems and healthy gut bacteria. Breastmilk is full of antibodies that respond and change daily to the specific needs of the baby. Baby gets sick with a cold and mama’s milk provides the medicine for healing. The healthier our gut microbiota, the healthier children (and adults) are in general. Studies are increasingly showing that gut health, inflammation and metabolic diseases (such as obesity) are scientifically linked. This means that protecting our children’s gut health needs to be a fundamental goal of any parent, and breastfeeding is just one way we can do that (and arguably the best way, for children under one-year old).

Bottle mentality

Bottle-fed babies are sometimes subject to parents and caregivers encouraging them to finish the entire portion of milk in the bottle. Babies have varying metabolisms and milk requirements so while it may be completely appropriate for one baby to guzzle down eight ounces of milk in one slug, this may be overfeeding another child. Milk requirements may also vary day by day. In this way, babies and children are not all that different from adults. We all have different needs and overeating can become a vicious and repetitive cycle thanks to our biological tendency to hoard fat when given the opportunity (I’m telling ya…our bodies still think we are getting chased down by bears). It’s important to practice baby-led bottle feeding.

What this means to us (the adults): If you are a mother or have friends, family or coworkers with a baby, try to be as supportive as possible of the breastfeeding relationship. Don’t give women snarky looks when they are nursing in public or a hard time if they are late to a meeting because they had to finish pumping. For women who choose formula out of necessity or desire, try to encourage them to follow baby’s lead and not push them to finish all of their bottles and food unless the pediatrician has medically advised it. Both breastfeeding and formula-feeding mothers can make enormous strides in their children’s long-term health with the introduction of solids and healthy foods…

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II. Introduction of Solids

The introduction of solids is an important time in a baby’s life. The new colors, textures and flavors are all fascinating to babies. While it’s obvious that overfeeding a baby solids can result in too much weight gain, there are some other things to consider that stack up and impact a little one’s health.

Sugary puree packets

Lots of puree packets look lovely – they are organic, produced by trusted brands and packed full of healthy ingredients. What’s not to love?! The challenge with lots of puree packets is that they are loaded with sugar. Baby is already getting about 17 grams of sugar from a cup of breastmilk and, at one-year old, 11 grams of sugar from a cup of cow’s milk. Clearly, sugar is a natural part of a baby’s diet, but as we know from the obesity epidemic taking flight in the 1990s when sugary sodas were having their heyday, too much of the stuff is definitely not good for our health or weight. Even veggie and fruit puree mixes have a ton of it – sometimes as much as 11-13 grams/packet! Even when you have good intentions for baby eating up all of those peas and spinach mixed in, that’s a ton of sugar! The best bet is to try to make your own baby food or choose lower-sugar, store-bought purees.

Veggie resistance

I will be the first to admit that getting a little one to fall in love with veggies is tricky business, but it’s 100% worth every effort, creative cooking method, and/or baby-friendly spices/seasonings you can muster up. Roughly 38% of American adolescents eat LESS than ONE serving of fruits or vegetables a day. Surely, we can ALL do better than that. We NEED to do better than that, starting right when solids are introduced and kids palates are impressionable. Start early and start healthy!

Time Constraints

Yes, it’s difficult to feed extra mouths, but it doesn’t have to be an elaborate, over-the-top ordeal that’s so stressful that we break down and nuke chicken nuggets every night. If we commit ourselves to eating healthy and slowly introducing our children to the same foods, we only have to prepare one meal; the family meal! I’m totally serious – my son eats everything we do and is just a year old. It’s not because he loves salmon, quinoa and veggies more than yogurt, cheese, bread and fruit, Trust me, he would eat all the aforementioned till the cow’s come home, if we let him. He accepts and enjoys healthy foods because we try to offer him the same nutritious foods that we eat (and when we eat them). It makes things far simpler on us and way healthier for him.

What this means to us (the meal providers): Whether or not we feel like we have loads of extra time on our hands to prepare homemade, healthy purees and meals, it’s really not a matter of choice. It’s a necessity for the health of the next generation. If we give up and let nine-month olds dictate an all fruit and bread diet then how are we going to hold our own when those children are five and we are telling them to eat their peas as they protest saying they don’t like the taste? It doesn’t have to be super scary to healthfully feed young children and there are a million blogs, pins on Pinterest and nutrition resources to help make it easy! Find some or personal message me and I will help you navigate it all!

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III. Modeling Good Eating

Kids are easily influenced by their surroundings. I’ve heard stories about people with babies who didn’t walk until 18 months when suddenly, on vacation with their older cousins, the child decides to morph into a walking toddler to chase after them. Our healthy choices (or lack thereof) are no different. Kids see their parents eating pizza while they have carrots and they are gonna want the pizza. Plain and simple. Who wouldn’t? Pizza is delicious and shaped like a triangle! Since when did an edible triangle not taste amazing? Watermelon, sandwiches, chips… How we influence the wellness of children is fundamental to solving childhood obesity and its propensity to carry through into adulthood.

Eat healthy foods (duh)

It’s as straightforward as that. Eat healthy foods, in front of a baby and young children, and they will be more apt to eat them too. Think of it as a chance for the whole family to get healthy.

Mindless Snacking

“Snacky” foods typically pack a lot of empty calories. In other words, lots of calories from carbs or sugars with very little return in the way of vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats, etc. They can also cause children (and adults alike) to lose track of what “full” really feels like thanks to zoning out in front of a cartoon while eating fistful after fistful. Mindless snack habits set children (and adults) up for health problems because of the lack of nutrition and risk of overeating (which leaves less of an appetite for healthy meals).

Food as a tool

It’s definitely tempting to shove food in front of kids for any number of reasons, but when food is abused as a tool for getting children to behave better, we begin down a slippery slope that can tie unhealthy behaviors and expectations to treats. And we all know that if you give a kids an inch they take a….yup, mile after mile after mile. Or rather, cookie after ice cream after soda. 

What this means to us (the “models” for healthy eating): Modeling healthy eating takes commitment on a regular basis and also talking to kids about why you eat what you do. Even babies can sometimes be influenced to take bites of “yucky” foods when you show excitement and enthusiasm about them – or better yet, are eating the exact same thing in front of them. I understand that it’s unrealistic to expect people to eat healthy foods 24/7. I like to indulge a bit too. So, when you do go off the “healthy-food menu” simply make sure that you keep portions small for children (if you offer any at all) and discuss how certain foods are for unique occasions, and that if we ate them all the time, they would make us tired and give us stomach-aches. Your choice if and how you want to discuss the actual weight gain component. 

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There is a lot we can do as adults to impact the upcoming generations’ wellness and a lot starts with nutrition. It’s definitely worth noting that activity levels play a tremendous role in the childhood obesity epidemic too, even for babies. Take them out of their car seats and strollers, and let older children run around for fun – it’s the best exercise [playing] that there is! And if you’re feeling just a little bit daunted about setting a healthy example, focus hard on what it will take for YOU to be more healthy and the rest will gradually fall in place. It’s not fair to leave our children and children’s children in a place where they look down at the scale as adults and think “What the heck?! How did this happen? Where did I go wrong?” You will never regret setting a child up for good health because ultimately, it’s an integral part of what makes us happy as humans.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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16 Health Lessons from 2016

2016. Oh man. What a whirlwind. The world is still feeling a little dizzy from a heated American presidency race, a slew of terrorist attacks, Brexit, ZIKA and chasing after Pokemon. Who wouldn’t be? But, 2016 had its highlights too. If nothing else, we can always learn from the ups and downs alike. Here is what I learned in my year, for better or worse.

6 Lesson #1: Expect the Unexpected

It was a month before his due date when my son decided to make his debut to the world, He was supposed to be an on-time Valentine’s Day baby. Instead, he showed up on January 19th after my water broke and membranes simultaneously ruptured (which in truth made me think I was bleeding out or losing the baby…terrifying). Thus began my education in one of the biggest lessons you have as a parent: Don’t ever think you have it all figured out.

A baby is a person. It has its own mind. And probably shouldn’t be referenced as “it.” This lesson can also apply to the body and our health. Both can take unexpected twists and turns. We may get hit by a car (ahem, been there) or fall unexpectedly ill. Or we may become marathon runners at the age of 50 after a lifetime of avoiding sneakers and gym shorts. You just never know. The unlimited potential in the unexpected is actually a beautiful thing when we learn not to be afraid of it.

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Lesson #2: Our Bodies Are in Sync with Nature

The only reason I can think of for why my son arrived a month early into this world is that there were barometric changes in the atmosphere as the January 2016 blizzard made its way to the east coast. There is actually evidence of changes in atmospheric pressure increasing the number of women who have their water break. Kind of like hospitals getting flooded by pink-skinned, squealing babies when the new moon comes around. It’s pretty incredible that we are linked so inexplicably to nature.

Lesson #3: Sleep is Crucial

This seems pretty obvious but it’s worth mentioning sleep for the millionth time on this blog. When you lose sleep, things get cray cray. I had the WORST mom brain for months when my son was under six months old, waking up lots and suffering from reflux. Now that he has slept through the night for almost five months, I can still feel the impact of restless nights. My body has become programmed by maternal instincts to wake up at the slightest noise from him. Add in weird hormonal things, a need to pee once every night around 2:00-3:00 am, and my husband snoring (sorry to call you out, love) and there ya have it. Still kind of tired. Not miserably, but just that slightly worn-thin feeling that a lot of parents live with for all 18 years their children are under their roof.

Sleep impacts the way we think and feel. An earlier bedtime can be tough to stick to when the evening hours are oh-so peaceful, quiet and MINE, but it’s so important. I would advise anyone reading this to think very carefully if the quality of their entire life could be improved by minor changes to sleep schedules. Again, it’s important stuff for our mental and physical health.

Lesson #4: Being a Nursing Mom is a J.O.B.

Being a mom is tough. Being a nursing mom is even harder. Yes, it’s a wonderful and beautiful bonding experience but it’s also incredibly challenging to juggle life around the schedule (or on-demand needs) of a nursing baby. We’re talking sprinting in and out of stores and cutting meetings short in order to feed or pump for the little one. Life is a revolving door of boobs in, boobs out. It’s no wonder so many women quit breastfeeding or don’t even initiate it! In fact, according to the CDC, the national average for initiating breastfeeding from birth is under 80%. At six months of age, less than 50% of infants are breastfed and under 20% are exclusively nursed, meaning they have to be supplemented by formula. For more info check out the CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card.

But the thing about nursing is that it’s your child’s best chance at optimal nutrition and health. I’m not saying it’s the only way or shaming moms who have to do formula or supplement. There are lots of cases where that’s necessary, appropriate and life-saving. But, mama’s milk has everything in it that a baby needs and changes composition over time to meet those needs. Mama’s milk even produces antibodies to help baby get over specific illnesses and build up positive gut bacteria. So, even though it certainly feels like a job to breastfeed, it’s definitely worth trying to for as long as possible from a health perspective. Think of your paycheck as baby’s lifelong health!

Lesson #5: Patience is Everything 

Patience is not an easy virtue to abide by. I think it’s why many people quit their workout and weight-loss programs, and why some mothers give their kids food to appease them when they are fussy. It’s hard to deal with frustrations or a lack of desirable results, but almost always, if we hang in just a little longer, the scales will tip in our favor. Things will change.

Nothing has taught me this as profoundly as waiting for my son’s gut health to mature. He was a gassy, fussy baby in the first three months so I cut out dairy from my diet and we did everything we could to keep the little guy comfortable. In months three to six, he developed GERD (gastrointestinal reflux) and was in extreme pain. While medicine eventually helped keep things under control and we took every precaution we could to help reduce instances of reflux, there was still not a lot we could do except give his body time. Right when we thought we couldn’t handle it any more, our hearts so distraught over a baby who was chronically exhausted, reacting to pain, and having troubles with constipation, his body did a 180. Around six months of age he started going to the bathroom regularly, sleeping more soundly, weaning off his meds, and becoming the happy baby we had caught glimpses of. My patience definitely wore thin many times, but the fragment of it that I clung to kept me going. It kept me aware of the truth in the statement new mothers hear all the time: “This too shall pass.”

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Lesson #6: Isolation Hurts Health

I’ve learned firsthand that isolation is most definitely no fun. I spent lots of long days home alone while my husband traveled for work and I cared for my son in his early infancy. He was very sensory sensitive as a newborn so I wasn’t exactly able to be one of those new moms toting her baby around to Starbucks, Target and happy hour. I discovered from experience that no amount of Facebook, Instagram, texting or phone calls can equate to being with people in person, seeing their facial expressions, sensing their warmth, and hearing their laughter. “LOL” just isn’t the same. We are inherently social creatures. Our wellness is immediately improved by quality human interactions.  

Lesson #7: Weight Retention is a Choice

I think because I grew up in a small town that I saw a lot of mothers with young children who were overweight. Something about the culture of a small town and rural America seems to lend itself to this a bit more. Anyways, I had this idea that once I became a mom my body would never be the same. But, when I moved to Washington, DC in my early 20s I saw so many older women taking care of themselves through healthy eating and exercise that I was inspired to change my perspective.

Neither age nor motherhood means an inevitable decline into being overweight or less healthy. You can absolutely lose the baby weight instead of retaining it, with some effort. I could too, I realized. And I did! I’m no supermom and I’m not out accomplishing amazing physical or culinary feats every day for my health. I’m simply a woman who is reminding herself that she is the one in control of her weight and health. Not anybody or anything else. I stay on track by simply following my choice to be healthy, day after day after day. With the occasional wine and chocolate. Okay, fine. I eat chocolate every day. Anybody else is capable of just the same.

Lesson #8: Little Things Add Up

One of the ways that I lost the majority of my baby weight during the first few months postpartum was by staying gently active and keeping myself in check so that not every day was pancakes and scrambled eggs day for breakfast. Although for the record, if calories didn’t count, I would probably do that all the time. In the same way, little things that we do for our health can snowball and help us overcome a suppressed immune system, a chronically aching lower back, high blood pressure or any number of conditions.

If we try to do too much too fast, it can backfire. For example, if someone with cardiac issues tries to go out and strengthen their weak heart in a single exercise session, they might quite literally kill themselves. Similarly, we can hurt ourselves if we skip over all the small details and actions that contribute to better health. If we pay those obnoxious little details just a smidge of attention, they will add up and take care of us so well that suddenly we are enthused instead of annoyed by them.

Lesson #9: Sometimes, Health Professionals Suck

Confession time. I was going to a pediatrician at a trusted peds office in my neighborhood. I liked her when I scoped her out as a prospect. She seemed to-the-point, candid and knowledgeable. In the early weeks of parenthood, when it was so critical that our late pre-term baby gain weight, thrive and recover from jaundice, I hung on every one of her scary-sounding words. As he got a little older I started to notice that her bedside manner wasn’t as good as it originally seemed, and wasn’t always contextually appropriate.

At several check-ups she made me genuinely nervous about my son’s perfectly healthy development, all because of how she chose her words. One appointment, she mixed up my son’s weight chart with another parent’s baby. It had been a couple months since I saw her and she whisked through the door in a huff and said very frankly, without so much as a “hello,” that she had bad news about his weight. I hemmed and hawed and said I thought he had been doing okay but that as a new parent with a baby who came early, I was always nervous since he was consistently “behind” his birth-age peers. Which is totally normal and to be expected. I was holding my breath to hear her next words. My heart had started racing. I felt like I was failing at motherhood. Then she said, “Oh, whoops! I completely got you mixed up with another patient. Carter is doing great!” On numerous other occasions, instead of giving me professional advice, she gave me advice based on her own child’s preferences and routines as a baby. That’s just out-of-the-ballpark unprofessional and subjective. Period.

There is a certain way that health professionals can make you feel, even when they have to deliver bad news. Their tone and demeanor is everything. It can change lives just as much as their diagnoses, programs and scalpels. And sometimes, even when a professional is smart and trustworthy, they can suck at communicating the right way. Be it a doctor, nurse, physical therapist, personal trainer, OBGYN, or any other health professional, you know when they are out of line. For example, there’s a right and a wrong way for personal trainers to motivate people who are dangerously overweight to get back on track. Should the overweight client be shamed? Absolutely not. Should they be reprimanded? No, of course not. Should they be made to feel afraid? Ideally, no. That behavior on behalf of any health professional is unacceptable in my book. Which brings me to my next point…

Lesson #10: Fire and Rehire (your health professional)

If your health professional acts in a way that makes you uncomfortable (see Lesson #9), you fire them. Period. You don’t let them drag you through the mud. You don’t let them make you feel unworthy or paranoid. Again, you fire them. You find someone who can take care of you in the right way. Simple as that. Don’t hesitate or be afraid to do it.

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Lesson #11: Human Physical Development is Mind-Boggling

I know everyone is all crazy about babies learning to crawl, walk and talk, but I find the little details that my son discovers about his body to be just as fascinating. Okay, once he walks I will probably be ecstatic like every other normal parent. Recently, he has discovered that he can intentionally shake his head side-to-side like a “no” except he is super happy doing it, can touch his tongue with his fingers, can pinch his belly fat (haha), can scratch surfaces with his nails (eek!), can carefully stack objects on top of one another, and can play peekaboo with doors, blankets, curtains and anything he can hide behind. Believe it or not, this is the short list. 

I’ve been totally baffled as he has discovered things like lateral and rotational movement, balancing on two feet without support, and how to feed himself using his hands, So many things that we take for granted and don’t even think about are exploding like fireworks into his awareness. Every single one of these little things makes us human. Every one of the little things we can do so effortlessly as adults helps define our physical experience in the human body. It’s truly incredible and we are truly lucky to have such amazing vehicles to transport us from cradle to grave. Sorry if that’s a touch morbid to you, but to me it’s a thing of pure beauty. 

Lesson #12: Our Bodies Are All Insanely Unique

WARNING: TMI AHEAD. READ ON WITH CAUTION!

I’ve always heard that exclusive nursing is a form of birth control, for the most part. But a mere six weeks after having my baby, I got my period. Yup. Undeniably, my period. And I was breastfeeding around the clock. This is one very simple example of what tends to be a universal truth: There are no hard and fast rules that apply to all of our bodies. We all have some fundamental needs as humans like air, food, water and shelter, but we are each so uniquely designed that we can’t assume that what happens to one person’s body will happen to ours. This is why I much prefer to personalize workout programs rather than assume that one program meets the entire populations’ fitness needs. It doesn’t. It never will. 

Lesson #13: Doing Things Too Fast Will Slow You Down

When we push ourselves too hard for too long, it hurts our health. I know this firsthand because it’s something I have to work hard to keep myself in check about. In fact, just this holiday season I’ve found that I’ve reached a point of “burned out” because I ran on all cylinders for several weeks straight. I was working to finish writing a book, take care of my 10-month old while my husband traveled for work, get holiday shopping and wrapping done, host a party and do all the cooking, and manage normal chores, dog walking, errands, etc. I’m completely worn out. But, it’s not just that I’m tired.

Like other instances in the past when I’ve been a touch too hardcore, my body is now suffering from inflammation and stress. My joints ache, my stress-response is out of control (think heart racing over something stupid and minor like hearing a dog barking for a while next door), my tolerance for indulgent foods is zero, and my sleep is a bit wrecked. These are just a few examples of how our bodies break down when we chronically stress them. When we get to a place like this we must go back to basics; eat well, sleep well, rest, keep blood flowing with light exercise, focus on things that balance us mentally and spiritually. Sounds like a good recipe for the holidays anyways!

Lesson #14: Support Systems are Necessary

Without support systems, health inevitably suffers. I mean, we can all claim to be super woman (or at least try to be), with minimal outreach to others for emotional and physical support, but then we suffer. Big time. Our health thrives when we have the opportunity to lean in to others for help when we need it. It allows us to have recovery time and to build our strength back up so that we can face the world.

I take a lot of pride in being a go-getter who goes and gets things done. But when the going gets tough, I can get exhausted. This year I had to learn to swallow my pride and ask for more help to get simple things accomplished. And ya know what? I’m living to tell the tale. It wasn’t so bad after all. The help of others has gotten me through 2016. It has been paramount to my health. And sanity.

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Lesson #15: Good Health Takes Work

This probably seems so obvious. It kind of is. But so many of us KNOW the things we need to do for our health and yet, we don’t take action. We understand how to feel better but living out that lifestyle seems really difficult. Honestly, sometimes it can be. Buying fresh foods and preparing them takes a lot more effort than zapping something in the microwave. Going for a brisk walk or hitting the gym obviously requires more energy than sitting back and scrolling through social media. Although I’ve found that fingers can get tired too.

As my child has gotten older I’ve been challenged for the first time in a while to figure out how to stick to healthy choices and put in the effort to take care of not just him, but ME! Mama’s health matters, too! A few things that have helped me are walking into the grocery store with a list and a plan, acknowledging that efficient 30-minute workouts can be just as beneficial as lackadaisical 60-minute ones, and making sure that I’m in bed at the exact same time every night to ensure enough sleep. Maybe some of these simple things will help you too.

Lesson #16: Health is a Blessing

It’s a bit of a cliché, I know. But. HEALTH IS A BLESSING. Drop the mic.


Without further ado, I wish you all a very healthy, very happy holiday season! See you in 2017!

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Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Pregnancy and Exercise – Infographic

As WellnessWinz readers know, I’m a big fan of exercising while pregnant and wrote on the subject already: The Inside Scoop on Exercise During Pregnancy. Today, I’m thrilled that my friends from the UK’s MyFitnessBoutique have weighed in on the topic with the following article and infographic contribution. Thanks, guys!!! Gals – get your exercise on whether pregnant or not!

Pregnancy & Exercise 

For women who enjoy being active but are also expecting a child, exercising becomes a dilemma. Do they try and remain active for their own benefit and wellbeing, or is exercise a bad idea while pregnant?

This infographic from My Fitness Boutique (www.myfitnessboutique.co.uk) shows that pregnant women can still obtain regular exercise without doing any harm. In fact, it is rather important for pregnant women to try and get at least 30 minutes exercise a day for a minimum of five days a week. Exercises such as Pilates, squats, wall push-ups, cycling and lunges all serve to improve the stamina of women during pregnancy, making pains less difficult to bear. It also helps them sleep better at night and provides a self-esteem boost.

If you’re expecting a baby and you still want to keep active, that’s magnificent – just remember not to overdo it. All exercises should be done with caution and if you feel any strain or discomfort, stop the exercise. Even something as simple as a 30-minute walk still counts as exercise and certainly beats doing nothing. Don’t believe that if you haven’t exercised before, now is not the time to start. Do what you can and you will thank yourself for it.

Pregnancy Fitness

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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The Similarities Between Parenthood and Personal Training

Happy Spring, WellnessWinz Readers!

I’m officially back from maternity leave! *Deep breath.* Let me tell ya, it has been a whirlwind. This entire lifestyle shift means that I may not be able to blog as much as I would like to for a little bit, but I will do my best to produce meaningful and relevant content when and where I can until a better rhythm is established (and my son is letting me get more than a couple hours of sleep at a time, lol).

To kick off my return to the blogosphere, we have a somewhat humorous post: The Similarities between Parenthood and Personal Training. That’s right guys, I went there. I’m bold enough (or crazy enough) to compare my experiences as a new mom to the personal training experience. It turns out that my little one can be just as tough and demanding as a boot camp sergeant! He is my new little boss man and he kicks my butt. I’m like “No more! Have mercy, pleeeaaasseee!!” and he’s all “You WILL NOT rest until you climb the stairs 50 more times to check on me, change 20 more diapers, and feel like your back is going to break from rocking me!”

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Just following his lead! 😉 

A lot of the lessons I’m learning as a mom parallel ones I have experienced through exercise. For example, oftentimes anxiety over a situation as a mom is worse than the situation itself. For instance, within 24 hours of writing this my husband and I experienced one of the biggest fussy streaks in our son’s life. Every 45-50 minutes (one sleep cycle), he would wake up wailing and would be inconsolable. He did this all day and all night. None of us slept and we were all extra tired and cranky as a result. I began franticly googling all sorts of mumbo-jumbo and determined that he was experiencing a sleep regression. I was so sure of this that I texted some of my mom-friends and asked how on earth they survived such episodes in their children’s lives. I had resigned myself to sleeplessness for the next few weeks and was depressed thinking about the cloud hanging over all of us, bleeding into my birthday week and my first Mother’s Day. A bit selfish, but true.

When the crying escalated to an off-the-charts level, I felt desperate. Surely this wasn’t just something weird about my son’s sleep development, right? I mean, I get it – any change in my sleep patterns and I’m a crazy person. I called the pediatrician and we agreed to have him looked at. It took the doctor all of a couple minutes and a handful of questions to get down to the bottom of this stressful situation: he was constipated. My mind spun a million miles an hour over this simple explanation behind the manic day we barely survived. As I calmed down I realized that the simplest explanation was the right one. It wasn’t a complicated situation with his sleep. It was simply a need to poop. Poor baby. Apparently mama’s milk is so easily digested and turned into little baby parts that pressure doesn’t always build up in a baby’s system to help eliminate waste. 

AEBC2C5C-A537-493C-86D0-A44BC4D0990F Crazy how he went from this tiny preemie …

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…to this happy big boy!

Similarly, a lot of people come to me wanting to lose weight via personal training and pour out all sorts of complicated reasons for why they have been having challenges with it. I get it; losing weight is a physical, mental, emotional and sometimes spiritual process. Unfortunately though, we can get so caught up in thinking of the reasons that we AREN’T losing weight (job, time, family, convenience, etc.) that we bypass the simplest explanations for what WILL help us: controlling our diet and managing an exercise schedule and/or active lifestyle. The anxiety over trying to find some complicated solution for weight-loss troubles can blind people to the simple truth: they put a fork into their mouths one too many times a day and never hit the gym! Not exactly a mind-boggling revelation, right?  If only we could drop our anxiety as parents and/or people looking to feel good physically, then we would see the answers to our problems with more clarity instead of fishing for complicated, far-reaching explanations. Or turning to Google for the umpteenth time.

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Creative ways to stay active! On-the-go napping!

As a mother and personal trainer, I’ve learned that wellness is a balancing act, that change is a universal truth we can’t shake, that hormones are boss, and that your own opinion is the most important in determining what is right for both your body (and baby). Another very tangible lesson is that perseverance pays off…

Moms are encouraged to do “tummy time” with their babies; 3-5 minutes a couple times a day placing the baby face down so that neck, back and chest strength can develop through the baby’s effort of trying to lift his head and press away from the mat. When my son was first born, a month early, he was way too little to even consider trying tummy time. At just over 5 lbs he would just lie on the mat like a fragile little bird fallen out of its nest. At best, he might occasionally lift his head a tiny bit. We’re talking an inch or less. It was hard to imagine he would ever be able to do more.

Like a good personal trainer mom, I kept putting my baby on the gym mat for tummy time a couple times a day. Some days he wouldn’t tolerate it and would squeal and cry until I picked him up and other days he seemed to get the idea. He would attempt to lift his head and look around (complete with grunts and pitiful gasps). Around two months of age he was able to press up and look around while also cooing. Cutest thing ever. And at three months he surprised us one day and decided to roll over! The personal trainer in me beamed with pride over this early accomplishment. Bit by bit he grew before our eyes and today the gym mat is his favorite place during play time. In fact, many times as soon as I lay him down on it, face up or face down, he breaks into a big grin and squeals with joy as he works to grasp toys with his hands and kicks his legs playfully. It’s hard to imagine that this evolution will also turn into crawling and walking one day!

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Tummy time pro!!! 

Isn’t it funny though…that a person (even a tiny one) can accomplish feats they were never physically capable of with just a little bit of effort on a regular basis? Like adults attending the gym or working out, there are days when my son just isn’t feeling tummy time and there are days when he loves it. It’s normal to have days when we don’t feel like exercising, but persistence will go a long way. All we need to do is bite off a little, manageable bit at a time and we will see results emerge.

In my first three months postpartum, I’ve taken a similar approach. I’ve stayed consistent in being active but have taken things gradually. Thanks to having realistic expectations for my physical abilities day by day, I’ve actually been able to exercise 78 days out of 102 so far. That’s only 24 days postpartum without some form of movement. Mind you, a good number of the early days were focused on simple things like going on a walk, doing basic (and safe) core exercises on a mat, and performing yoga balance poses to regain stability after labor and delivery. Let’s not ignore the fact that there were Kegels too…LOTS of Kegels. Around three weeks postpartum, I was able to resume light weights at the gym and light resistances on cardio machines for short periods. Around five weeks postpartum I went for my first run – and wow it felt incredible!! Especially since I no longer had a baby in my belly to carry along! Although these days I do push him along in the stroller and it ain’t easy!!! 

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Stroller workout adventures!

Today, three months postpartum, I’m able to do almost everything I did before pregnancy – maybe even more! I feel like my emphasis on core conditioning (which I used to not prioritize as heavily) has left me stronger than ever in my stomach. Also, I’m shocked at how my cardio conditioning never felt like it took a hit since I stayed active during pregnancy. On my first run I felt like my lungs and adrenaline could have carried me through a marathon (although in reality that’s probably a euphoric disillusion). Staying active has not been easy in the wake of caring for an infant and suffering major sleep deprivation, but exercise has been a life saver, just as it was for my mental and physical health during pregnancy. I would be stir crazy and cranky without it.

When I left the hospital after having my baby I was shocked that I still had about 17 lbs to lose. Today, I only have about 3-4 lbs of that left. The short 30-45 minute long exercise sessions combined with eating about 200-300 calories less a day (than needed for weight maintenance) has helped me shed a few pounds a month. Honestly, it hasn’t felt like the exhausting post-pregnancy weight loss journey I feared. This is thanks to taking things slow and approaching the process with balance – something I’m confident all of my readers can do in their weight loss and fitness journeys if they approach them with patience and perseverance. Any good personal trainer or parent will do the same, approaching things on a daily basis, not trying to rush through rearing a child or getting a client fit. There is a due diligence and process to both. It’s all about the little steps. The small things DO add up – for babies trying to lift their heads up off the ground and for adults trying to see one pound melt off at a time.

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Leaving the hospital 17 lbs heavier than before pregnancy

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One month postpartum

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Two months postpartum

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Three months postpartum thanks to just a little effort adding up!

Happy to be back with you all in the blogosphere!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea

 

“The Winz” is on Maternity Leave!

Maggie Winzeler here, Author of WellnessWinz. I’m on maternity leave taking care of my health and that of my son’s. While I LOVE blogging, I’m trying to find a holistic balance and extra energy (hah) during this special time.

Please peruse the Archives page and enjoy a sampling of older posts. I put a lot of energy into each article, to ensure that it is of excellent quality. I hope you enjoy one or two.

I’ll be back in a few months! In the mean time…

Sincerely Yours in Health & Wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea

If I can do it, you can do it.

I bid you a temporary farewell as I enter maternity leave! Today’s message is simple. I hope it’s impactful though.

PS – I wrote the draft of this post on Monday 01/18/2016 at 36 weeks pregnant…later that night I went into labor. Man oh man, toughest workout of my life (and I had hit the gym earlier that day, haha). Pictures of my happy boy included!

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Apparently I’m about to pop…a month early! Yikes!!

Pregnancy…oh man. For the women out there who have been through it, you know how up and down it can be. For the women who will one day experience it, I hope you drop any expectations of what being pregnant will hold for you because, to be blunt, there is simply no way of knowing until you’re in the thick of it…and even then…

While on the pregnancy train, I’ve been like many women, experiencing aches, pains and not-so-pleasant symptoms (I’ll leave bowel movements and discharge details out…you’re welcome). I had the stereotypical queasiness my first trimester (although I never threw up – hallelujah!) and experienced some major food aversions and cravings. One day I felt like I would be sick at the thought of pretty much any food…except a juicy burger. I sent my husband to fetch a Five Guy’s burger. He came back with a double patty. I scolded him for getting me something too big and then scarfed the whole thing down in a matter of minutes. The next day…same thing. All I could think about was a burger. I demanded (with a bit too much force) that he get me the same succulent slab of red meat. Basically, I felt like a caveman for two days. After that, I couldn’t stand the thought of burgers or steak for the rest of summer. A bit of a shame during grilling season. In spite of the appetite anomalies and bouts of nausea, I made it a priority to keep up working out so that I didn’t lose too much fitness from my pre-pregnancy routine.

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My first meal after labor and delivery…you better bet I ate the heck out of those pancakes!!!!

During my second trimester, I kept waiting for the “return of energy” that women claim they get. I was desperately disappointed and confused at how I was increasingly MORE tired rather than energized. One day, I couldn’t believe that I could barely handle a Level 4 speed on the Stairmaster when I used to do upwards of a Level 12. I was surprised at how my abs felt stretched and tender after going out for a run. I was dismayed by the achey tension I experienced in the middle of my back…not an area I thought would have pain, especially given that my lower back was injured years ago and was the place I anticipated having challenges with throughout pregnancy. As each new obstacle arose, I tried to stay calm and address it however I could. Some days of rest were definitely in order. But most other times I found that my loosening core and achey spine were best aided by getting moving. Exercises that promoted stability worked wonders. Not only did working out help rid my body of pain, but it was the hours that followed the gym that were my most energized too. I found that if I could keep active, even if it was to a lesser degree than pre-pregnancy, I felt infinitely better.

During this third trimester, I have encountered more of the stereotypical challenges that pregnant women have: loosening hip/pelvic joints, stiff neck from side-lying sleep positions (can’t WAIT to sleep on my back again), extreme fatigue some days oscillating with neurotic nesting energy on other days, increased pelvic pressure, and a restless anxiety over all that is about to change in my life. For each of these challenges, exercise has helped.

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Leaving the hospital! *Happy moment*

Doing side leg lifts, sometimes even in the middle of the night, has helped keep me mostly pain-free in the pelvic/hip region. Performing neck stretches and exercising my back has helped get my neck back into alignment and comfortable (most of the time). The subtle Kegel exercises have truly become my friend, especially as my baby’s head has engaged in my pelvis, making me feel like I should give up working at a desk in favor of sitting on a toilet all day long. After so many trips to the bathroom, your mind starts to get a little creative. And lastly, my low energy and stress tension are both improved as soon as I walk into the gym. When I walk through those doors, it’s as though I’m already pulsating with the feel-good endorphins that follow a sweat session.

Exercise has been a blessing for my pregnancy. I truly can’t imagine getting through this experience without it. It has kept me feeling relatively physically comfortable and emotionally upbeat. It has been my “drug of choice” during a time when pains med or a nice red wine buzz aren’t really options.

Instead of looking at my aches and pains as reasons NOT to workout, I found they were reasons TO workout. I strongly believe this translates into other people’s lives too. If you’re feeling physically and/or emotionally strained on a regular basis, give exercise a try! If you’re feeling physical discomfort and you’re not in a steady workout routine, I bet you my bottom dollar that finding a balanced program will help you.

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My sweet baby! 🙂 Stubborn little stinker couldn’t wait to enter the world!

Yes, feeling less-than-wonderful physically, mentally and/or emotionally is tough. The easiest thing, pregnant or not, is to resign your body to the couch and mind to the television (or any number of other electronic devices). But, I can assure you, you don’t have to give up or give in. There’s more to life than feeling subpar. Don’t stand for it!! Use your frustrated energy – or lack thereof – to do something positive.

Even as a fitness professional, I wanted to give up exercise many times during pregnancy. It would be way easier than hauling my increasingly large belly to the gym. But, I decided to keep at it and, hands down, if there is one single thing that has made this pregnancy easier and more enjoyable, it’s been exercise. Whether or not you’re pregnant is irrelevant. The point is, if I can do it, you can do it. 

Cheers to getting active and feeling great in 2016! See you on the “other side” when I’m postpartum, sleep deprived and trying to figure out how to get back into my exercise routine. I don’t think it will be easy, but I KNOW it will be worth it.

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At least one of us will be getting sleep!! 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea

Real Inspiration: A reader’s struggles lead her down the path of wellness

WellnessWinz is thrilled to introduce you to Lucy Taylor! Lucy is one of our readers who is a devoted wife and mother of two rambunctious little girls (oh yea – and with another bun in the oven!). She used to be a full-time wedding and portrait photographer before realizing that she needed more work/life balance for her growing family. Now, Lucy has followed her passion for health wellness and has begun representing a brand that means the world to her. I encourage you to read on and learn about how Lucy has managed her journey through challenges with weight loss, body image, depression and eating. Insights galore! 

Lucy's favorite shirt

Lucy posted the above picture to Instagram:

“That day when your favorite shirt fits again and you can breathe.”

Q & A with Lucy: 

1) Lucy, can you fill readers in on the ups and/or downs of your personal health journey? 

For most of my life, weight and body image has always been a struggle. I started running in college and fell in love with it but I still wasn’t eating well. Fast forward to 2011, my husband and I had gotten married and we were pregnant with our first, Edith. I gained 55 pounds with that pregnancy and had a lot of trouble losing the weight. I wasn’t eating well and I wasn’t active.

In April of 2013, a year after Edith was born, my husband and I decided to do a Whole30. I lost 12 pounds and numerous inches! I also gained energy and the desire to be active again. Around that time, I also started working out with an amazing group of moms once a week. After our whole30 though, we went back to our old eating habits…

Info on what the Whole30 challenge is all about:

“Cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the “reset” button with your metabolism, systemic inflammation, and the downstream effects of the food choices you’ve been making. Learn once and for all how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day to day life, and your long term health.”

Later that year, we happily got pregnant with our second, Ruby. During that winter, I struggled with very bad depression. It was one of the darkest times of my life. When the second trimester finally came, I went completely gluten and sugar free. It made an immense difference in my mood and energy levels. I also started walking daily and vowed to not gain the 55 pounds I did with Edith. When our second little lady came into the world, I had only gained 24 pounds. I attribute this to my clean eating.

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Left Image: 24 lbs. gained in pregnancy #2 thanks to clean eating.

Right Image: 55 lbs. gained in pregnancy #1 before adopting a healthier lifestyle. 

Arbonne, an inner and outer health and beauty product line, came into my life around the time I had Edith. I started using their clean nutritional supplements and I saw amazing results while getting back into shape after having the baby. My husband and I did our first Arbonne “30 days to Healthy Living” in 2014 and it totally changed our lives. The program has drastically changed my relationship with food. It has truly freed me to know how to give food the proper place in my life.  It was easy to eliminate the foods that didn’t serve us because we were given the tools we needed to succeed.

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I can now happily say that most of the time, our whole family eats gluten free, sugar free, and mostly processed food free. We do like to celebrate though so we strive to find a healthy balance. We have started to enjoy gluten-free baking so that our girls can still enjoy things like a delicious chocolate cake or a warm chocolate chip cookie from time to time. Clean eating does take immense discipline, but, once I realized how good my body was created to feel, I didn’t want those other foods anymore. You start to crave the foods your body was made to be fueled by.

 

2) What has been the hardest thing for you to manage in terms of your health, exercise and/or diet? 

I would have to say that depression is definitely the hardest thing that I’ve had to manage in terms of my health. My desire to exercise, get out of bed, and eat well is greatly affected by my mood. I am grateful for an amazing support network, (my husband and dear friends) who encourage and lift me up during those hard times. I also am grateful to my faith and the Lord who gives me hope for healing.

Lucy's First Whole 30

Before & After Lucy’s first Whole30

 

3) What solutions have you found that other women may be able to apply to their lives too? 

I truly believe that my diet has drastically changed my mood. I love that our Arbonne “30 days to Healthy Living” program also makes it possible for someone who is busy and may not have ever eaten this way to have great success with a clean eating program. I do also take a daily anti-depressant which has also helped immensely. (I don’t believe this is needed for everyone but for some it is completely necessary.)

I also cannot imagine life without daily exercise. The best solution I’ve found is to make exercise a habit. Do it every single day. Even if it’s just a walk around the block. In our family, we’ve made it a goal to walk places where we would normally drive. Yes, it takes a bit more time, especially with two little movers, but I love that we can encourage our children to be active and healthy.

Lastly, women with children often need to have the proper gear to get active (it is already hard enough to leave the house– can I get an Amen?!?). I walk/run daily with our Double Bob. I couldn’t live without it. We found ours on craigslist and it was SO worth the investment so that I could exercise daily.

Lucy's First Whole 30

Before & After Lucy’s first Whole30

 

4) How do you describe wellness?

I think wellness is all about finding balance. It’s becoming the best and healthiest version of yourself in all areas of life – social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, occupational, and physical.

Ahem, Maggie with WellnessWinz chiming in here! 5 GOLD STARS go to Lucy for recognizing the complex nature of wellness and having such an incredible understanding of what it’s all about! BRAVO!

 

5) How does your definition of wellness play into your many roles in life as a mother, a professional, and a woman of faith? 

I’m currently reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and in the book she talks about self-love; that we can’t love our spouses and our children the way we are truly called to do unless we love ourselves. I think women, especially mothers, neglect themselves because they believe they need to always do more and be more for the people in their lives. I do feel called to lay down my life for those who have been entrusted to my care, but I feel that you can do that without sacrificing the body God has given you to be a good steward of.  If you aren’t taking good care of yourself, how can you be the best wife, mother, friend and professional that you are truly called to be?

Lucy's First Whole 30

Before & After Lucy’s first Whole30

 

6) What made you interested in representing Arbonne

I love that I work for a company that is truly changing lives. We offer the gift of a healthy product that could potentially change someone’s skin, help them to lose weight, and feel confident about who they are. I also love that I can give to others the gift of a life changing business that can allow them to be at home with their families, gain financial freedom, pursue a dream job, or assist a spouse who may be drowning at work. The list goes on and on.

The best part of my work is getting to partner with others on their journey towards clean eating and achieving a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Arbonne creates an incredible culture of empowerment. It’s truly unique. I also love that I have a product that I can stand behind. I truly don’t have to sell anything in Arbonne; I just have the amazing opportunity to share and educate people on why a healthy product could better serve them and their families.

Lucy's family

 

7) Do you have any additional health advice you’d like to impart on readers? 

Wellness is just like our lives – it’s a journey. It’s meant to be a progression. Good health, just like weight loss, doesn’t happen overnight. I believe that we’re meant to find joy in the journey. So, be merciful with yourself and the process (albeit that’s not an excuse to give up!) 🙂

 

Clap – Clap – Clap!!!!

Lucy, thank you SO much for sharing your story with us all. You have been the epitome of vulnerable and open in this Q&A, with the intention of helping others. I hope that other women can embrace this quality, too! 

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea

 

The Inside Scoop on Exercise During Pregnancy

 Prenatal 3

Something is in the water! As I’ve attempted to embrace my first pregnancy, with a balance of privacy and sharing my experiences with other women, pregnant ladies have come out of the woodworks – and they’re all curious about how they should exercise during pregnancy. It has long been my passion to make sure that people feel supported and confident about their health and exercise choices, so, without delay, it’s time to jump into the deep end. Whether you’re currently pregnant, planning to be pregnant one day, or have a relative going through this season of her life, I encourage you to read and share! *Insert my favorite corny hashtag: #knowledgeispower.*  

These initial insights on how to approach exercise during pregnancy are just that; beginning steps and considerations for how to cope with the new changes in a pregnant woman’s body. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for many practitioners and trainers to broach this topic in detail because every woman’s body – especially while pregnant – is unique and requires special, individualized care. For this reason, there is no single perfect routine for a pregnant woman, especially because her physical needs change from trimester to trimester! Nonetheless, I will do my best to walk you through a lot of information to consider for your personal needs. I know, all this stuff can really can make one’s head spin. Don’t worry. We’ll get it screwed back on the right way.

In the sections that follow, I will attempt to paint a high-level picture of universal prenatal exercise considerations. In the future, I will also post an article including exercises that have been modified to meet the needs of a growing belly.

 

Benefits of Exercise during Pregnancy: 

  • Improvements in energy, self-esteem and mood
  • Improvements in posture and reduction of back pain
  • Promotion of muscle strength, endurance and tone
  • Promotion of positive sleep patterns
  • Reduction of constipation, incontinence, bloating and swelling
  • May help prevent or improve gestational diabetes
  • Improvements in circulation which may relieve leg cramps, nausea, varicose veins, insomnia, fatigue and edema
  • Reduction of instances of hypertension, diastasis recti, deep venous thrombosis and bone-density loss
  • On average, 30% shorter active stage labor, 50% reduction in need for labor inducing drugs, and 75% reduction in need for C-section and/or forceps

Note: This is just a short list of benefits for the mommy-to-be, not to mention a plethora of benefits for the little one if you exercise just 3x/week!

For more information, and signs that you should STOP exercising, please refer to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s (ACOG) guidelines and precautionary measures for exercise during pregnancy: http://bit.ly/1yoHwgl

Also, check out the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) comments on this topic: http://bit.ly/1ihe1GH

 

Prenatal 4

 

Prenatal Exercise 101:

Woo hoo! You’ve peed on a stick and discovered that life is now growing inside you!

First thing I want you to know is that relaxin, a hormone that can cause your joints/muscles to be looser than normal (in preparation for Junior’s big debut!), kicks in on day one, literally. Some women can experience small changes in their body’s laxity very soon after conception. Interestingly, that is one of the first ways I knew I was pregnant – I woke up on day 25 of my cycle with my back totally out of whack. I didn’t sleep on it weird or do anything to aggravate it the day before, so the only thing I could think of was that hormones may be shifting already. A couple days later, when I went on a run with a friend, I was unreasonably out of breath and had to ask her to walk with me. It was then, in between gasps for air, that I was certain I was pregnant. On day 28, I snuck into the bathroom without telling my husband and did the classic pee-on-a-stick, and there it was – pregnant! Not every woman will experience these changes at such an early stage, but they are anecdotal evidence that hormonal changes are the REAL DEAL. Fo sho.

Due to relaxin and impending changes in elastin and progesterone (other hormones that can loosen soft-tissue), you’re going to have to see how loose and/or unstable your body feels as you enter your workouts. Hardcore high-intensity interval training or workouts with sudden lateral or twisting movements may become contraindicated. In addition to being less safe for your muscles and joints, maximal bouts of exercise also have the potential to divert oxygen away from your fetus to your large muscles. For obvious reasons, this isn’t ideal for the growing life inside you. Additionally, maximal bouts of exercise are likely to be more challenging to recover from, so it’s best to stick with what feels like “exercise in moderation.”

Some women may feel that running a half marathon is manageable because they’re in a long-distance running routine already and happen to be blessed with enough energy during their pregnancy to handle it. More power to ya – have no idea how you do it! Other women may find that their normal exercise routines feel incredibly laborious all of the sudden and/or they may have challenges getting into the gym due to nausea and/or dizziness. The point: You have to see how your body is responding to pregnancy and then make a day-by-day game plan. This is one time in your life when it’s best to set an intention for exercise, but to wake up and see what your body can actually manage, rather than pushing yourself through a set-in-stone weekly routine because you “have to.”  Pregnancy is NOT the time to push your body beyond its abilities. Let yourself off the hook a little if you’re feeling stressed about it. Don’t go signing up to train for something you’ve never done before. Your baby told me he/she won’t be very happy about it. 😉

 

Cardio Guidelines:

Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, feel free to run, use the cardio equipment at the gym, swim, dance, or anything else that suits your fancy. What’s important is to avoid sudden, uncontrolled movements and exercises/sports where you may be at risk for blunt trauma to your abdomen and/or falling (contact sports, downhill skiing, mountain biking, etc.). These guidelines seem strict, but, if you want to play it safe, it’s a good idea to modify your activities. Mind you, I’ve seen women ignore some of these guidelines and, luckily, avoid injury, buuutttttttt, I’m not going to be one to suggest risk taking.

To ensure that you’re exercising at an appropriate intensity, use the “talk test.” If you can talk while exercising, you’re good to go. If you’re feeling really out of breath though, you should probably take down the intensity. You may only need to reduce the intensity for a few minutes, or you may have to switch up your routine in its entirety.

I like to tell non-pregnant clients to use a scale of 1-10 to assess their workout intensity. A 1 means you’re lying on your couch watching Desperate Housewives. A 10 means that you’re working out as hard as possible – a level that’s not sustainable for longer than a minute or two, at most. For pregnant clients, I like to use the same scale. I counsel them that it’s no longer going to be appropriate to reach a 10 on the scale during their workouts, but that exercising up to a 7 is going to be just fine. You might even hit an 8, from time to time, if you’re really fit. But, it’s best not to linger in that zone for very long – especially if you’re feeling really out of breath.

 

Prenatal 1

 

Strength Training Guidelines:

You may be gaga for your beach body workouts or CrossFit, but pregnancy can definitely take some of the oomph out of your weight lifting routine. If you find that lifting your normal weights is a lot harder than it was before getting pregnant, then it’s a good idea to reduce the weight to a safe level. You will want to keep your heart rate in an appropriate range (see the 1-10 scale of exertion mentioned in “Cardio Guidelines” above). A lot of women find they can’t lift as heavy due to cardiac changes taking a toll on energy (ex: blood pressure drops, dizziness, fatigue). But, again, listen to your body.

You should also be extra conscientious to keep proper exercise form since it can have positive or negative consequences for your changing body. Thus, choose the weights that feel appropriate and don’t be surprised if you’re a wee bit deflated by having to step down from the heavier weights that you were so proud to lift before. Weights that you can control will be best for your body!  In fact, many women find that they have to opt for lower weights with higher reps. Do what you’ve gotta do! No self-shaming.

Full-body workouts are always going to be the golden ticket, but, during pregnancy, you may want to put a little more emphasis on hip and core exercises since these areas will be largely impacted by the growing weight of your uterus and baby. For optimal core strength, begin focusing on your transverse abdominus through planks and stabilizing exercises instead of crunches. Crunches may still feel okay for a little while during the first trimester, depending on how quickly your body changes, but they can 1) weaken the pelvic floor and 2) place inappropriate stress on a stretching belly (which can cause diastasis recti).

Pregnancy is a great time to focus on back exercises. These are super important for postural support and can minimize lower back discomfort (common in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters) and upper back discomfort (commonly results from breastfeeding and consistently holding your new bundle of joy).

Other considerations:

  • While weight lifting, always remember to breathe so you don’t get faint.
  • Avoid exercises lying flat on your back once you’re putting on significant weight and/or the pressure becomes uncomfortable. This may be towards the end of your first trimester, especially if this is not your first baby, or it may be around the end of the fourth month of pregnancy for new moms who are slower to expand.
  • Aim for stability and moderation. Sticking with safer routines doesn’t mean you can’t get a great workout.
  • Don’t compare what you can do to what another pregnant woman can do for exercise. ‘Nuff said.
  • KEGALS!!!!!! 😉

 

 

Prenatal 5

 

Stretching Guidelines:

After the first trimester a lot of women may need to avoid static, prolonged stretches in some or all areas of the body (esp. the stomach), and may find that foam rolling becomes difficult due to a growing belly and/or foam rolling’s impact on blood pressure. Stretching to the point of discomfort, for any period of time, is going to be contraindicated throughout the entire pregnancy, for all women.

Some women may find that their regular yoga class feels comfortable for a while. A lot more women will probably find that prenatal classes are a better option once they are well into their second trimester or early third trimester. Plenty of yoga and stretching exercises can relieve some pressure and discomfort in areas that get tight from daily exercise and/or the physical burden of carrying extra weight; however, the pregnant body needs modified versions of many poses and stretches.

Ultimately, your body now craves a lot more stability to counteract the natural loosening of soft-tissue, so I encourage you to consider the following:

If you’re performing yoga or stretching exercises and you notice an increase in discomfort, rather than a decrease, you should consider finding alternative routines and exercises. Plenty of women will find short-term relief of discomfort when stretching due to the increase in circulation that takes place; however, if you’re uncomfortable a few short hours later, you may try skipping yoga/stretching for a week and replacing it with stability exercises. If your discomfort decreases then there is your answer; your body is craving stability, not stretching. If you’re not noticing any change in regular discomfort, and you’ve already consulted a qualified exercise professional to learn appropriate stabilizing exercises, then it’s probably time to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. They can give you modified exercises and hands-on care to relieve your pain.

 

Fueling Your Workouts with Food:

Since you’re growing a new life, you’re going to need to eat back the calories you burn. First time you’re ever going to consider doing that, right?! 😉 In general, the first trimester you can eat for weight maintenance since you don’t need many more calories per day (baby is still itty bitty). During the second trimester you need approximately 300 extra calories/day. The third trimester, depending on your pre-pregnancy BMI and your current pregnancy weight gain, may vary and go up to as much as 500 extra calories/day. Mind you, it’s best to keep track of your weight and discuss these things at your OB check-ups, especially if you have a rapid weight gain or loss at any point during pregnancy. Lastly, if you’re an expectant mama of multiples, you will need even more! Eat up!

If you’re experiencing nausea, try to eat a light carb-based snack before you exercise. This may help ease the symptoms and will give you the necessary fuel to get moving.

If you’re exercising regularly at ANY point in pregnancy, make a note that you may need to talk to your doctor about getting additional iron through your diet so that you don’t develop full-blown anemia (very common in pregnancy).

Lastly, although carbs are probably the first good group on your pregnant brain, it’s still important to eat plenty of healthy fats and proteins. A great time for eating a healthy portion of protein is immediately following your workout.

 

Prenatal 2

Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions if you’re expecting or expecting to be expecting! No one should have to feel “in the dark” when it comes to pregnancy and exercise. You have a built in support system right here!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea

Core Support: KeepMeTight

I will be the first to admit that I don’t approve of quick fixes for fitness and diet. They never work. There is no magic one-size-fits-all solution out there on the market. Trust me, if there were, I would share it with you ASAP! But there isn’t…and likely never will be. So, you can imagine my skepticism when I was introduced to the Founder of KeepMeTight, Shameeka Hunt. But, after getting to know Shameeka, I see that there are scenarios under which giving people temporary aids for health and fitness may be appropriate. Shameeka’s story (below) and another woman’s story (who lost 70 lbs!) encouraged me to take on a new perspective.

Roni Noone recently wrote an article for MyFitnessPal’s blog, Hello Healthy. It was called The Truth About Before and After Photos. Roni explained that she worked hard to lose 70 lbs and was shocked when her before and after photos were stolen online and posted to a diet website with a false statement that she had used the company’s products and had lost all 70 lbs in 30 days!!! Can anyone tell me what the heck this company was thinking?

KMT 9

Roni was outraged (rightfully so). But, it wasn’t just the fact that her pictures were stolen that she was upset. She was frustrated that her weight loss process, which had taken her roughly a year, was being painted in an unrealistic light. In the article, Roni persuades women to steer clear of quick fixes, emphasizing the most foundational element that aids in weight loss: “Honestly, the hardest part for me was accepting and loving myself regardless of how much fat my body was carrying. Once I realized that, the eating less and moving more thing didn’t seem as hard as it once did.”

Shameeka Hunt shares this philosophy. She wants to help women feel their best so that they can move with confidence throughout their weight loss and toning journey. Shameeka’s before and after photos aren’t boasting extreme weight loss in 30 days, they’re showing you the difference in tone you can gain right away so that you can live life more confidently while you tackle your goals. Kudos to this woman for changing my stubborn perspective on compression apparel! 

Read on for my interview with Shameeka!

 

1) What made you decide to start KeepMeTight?

KeepMeTight originated from a personal need I had after giving birth to my 2 children (both via C-section) within a 3-year period. Even under a strict exercise and nutrition regimen, I found it extremely difficult to lose the baby bump. This was a problem for me given my desire and need to get back into my pre-pregnancy clothes, business suits and other form-fitting exercise attire. Like many women, I’m very conscious of my appearance and take pride in how I look in public. I needed something to provide me with support and comfort while I recovered from the abdominal incisions, and so I could stay active in my personal and professional pursuits.

KMT 3

 

2) In your own words, why is core support so important?

I always like to use an analogy of our core being like a tree trunk – it is the base of support and connects to all parts of the tree (roots, branches and leaves). Likewise our core is in the center of our body. It provides the same stability, balance and connections [to the parts of the body above and below it] as a tree does. The main muscles of the core are contained in the belly and back. These muscles work together with the hips, shoulders and neck to maintain spinal alignment. If something in our core is misaligned, weak or not working properly, another part of our body will be affected.

So, it’s easy to see that by strengthening our core we can alleviate unwanted strain on the body, like acute injuries or long-term damage.

 

3) Who do you recommend this product for?

I recommend the KMT Band for two kinds of people: 1) anyone who wants the aesthetic appeal it provides; a flattened stomach, and 2) anyone who wants or needs additional back and posture support. There is no better feeling or self-image booster than knowing that you look fabulous in your clothing and can easily transition between daily activities with the KMT Band. There is also nothing that beats solid core support since we need it to feel healthy and strong!

 

4) How does the product feel when it is worn during exercise?

The KMT Band is made of cotton, allowing it to feel comfortable and breathable. Cotton is a material that helps wick away sweat too! The KMT Band covers the whole abdominal area so it acts as a tool to assist in flattening your stomach and engaging your core muscles. The KMT Band also provides back support, serving as a physical aid that reminds you to maintain proper form and posture.

KMT 11

 

5) What is your philosophy on health and wellness? Is that integral to your company in any way?

My personal philosophy on health and wellness is simple – it’s a lifestyle. A state of good health and well-being takes conscious effort and becomes a habit, not something that is temporary, seasonal, or just because you need to get into “that dress.” This philosophy is integrated into KeepMeTight in that the products that are and will be developed serve a purpose; they support a person’s current and desired health and wellness goals (to include exercise and nutritional regimens). I do not believe in anything taking the place of what our bodies were intended to do, but there is also nothing wrong with having the proper “tools” to help you reach your goals.  And that is what KeepMeTight and the KMT Band do – provide that psychological and physical support that should be used as a tool to get you a step further in your health and wellness journey.

KMT 10

 

6) As a busy businesswoman, mom and fitness fan, are there any strategies that you use to stay healthy day by day?

Given the busyness of life, I have found that I need to think and do creative things that become a part of my schedule versus routines that are a hindrance or place a big time commitment on me (since I really don’t have a lot of time). One of my routines is taking long distance walks while pushing my kids in a double stroller. This allows me to exercise over various terrains while building my physical endurance, working against the resistance of my own body weight and that of my children. It also helps me unwind and mentally decompress while listening to music. Plus, I get to meet my neighbors!

I’m also big on exercises for cardio workouts and yoga routines that I can access through my TV or mobile device. Again, since I have children, I can get a good workout in with my children at home that doesn’t require additional travel time. One huge benefit I find in exercising with my children present is that they typically join in the exercise, which reinforces the importance of family time and staying active for everyone. Quick tip: Women with infants or toddlers can use their babies as resistance while exercising or “playing” (at least the little ones will think it’s playing)!

When it comes to food and nutrition, I’m a rather particular eater. So, I have found that blending fruits and vegetables into a smoothie or juice (with stalks and rinds included) allows me to get all my nutrients in a liquid form. It also allows me to be creative with colors and tastes, so it’s fun and good for me. What is even better is that the fruits and vegetables are typically picked or purchased from a local farm, which adds a sense of pride for me since I know how my fruit and vegetables are grown and can support local farmers.

KMT 8

 

As you can see, Shameeka’s lifestyle and product are in tune with overall wellness and finding solutions that help women work towards the bodies they want. As mentioned, it all starts with feeling good and confident, and you don’t have to wait until you’re at your goal weight to feel that way!

Thank you, Shameeka, for sharing your story and exciting business with us!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

 

References:

http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/the-truth-about-before-and-after-photos/?user_id=98146046627053&alt_source=mfp&alt_medium=email&alt_campaign=weekly20150629&utm_source=mfp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly20150629&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRokva%2FPZKXonjHpfsX66%2B0tUK6%2FlMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4DScpnI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFSrTFMblm0LgLXhM%3D

https://www.keepmetight.com/

Two Sources of Pain for Women

At some point in life, lots of women experience pain in their stomach, back, hips and/or knees. The sources of these pain points may feel elusive, but in many scenarios, there are two culprits to blame. I’m here today to help you identify whether you, or a woman you care about, has one of these conditions.

Q Angle

 PAIN SOURCE #1: LARGER Q-ANGLE

Women have wider hips than men. This is not surprising information. In some women, a wider pelvis results in a steeper angle between two landmarks: the ASIS and the patella.

The ASIS stands for Anterior Superior Iliac Spine. Don’t be intimidated – this is easier to identify on your body than it is to pronounce. Place your hands on your hips, like you’re standing with a little sass (thumbs pointing back and fingers forward). Feel where your middle and ring finger fall on the front of your hips. Slide your fingers slightly inwards and you will feel a bony part of your pelvis if you push into your flesh. You found it!

Next, place two fingers on your kneecap. You found the patella! So much easier. 

The Q-Angle is an angle measured between these two landmarks. It’s best done by a physical therapist or qualified fitness professional using a goniometer. Yuck, so many dull scientific words.

For a great visual, check out the illustration on this website: http://bit.ly/1CWkk4X (scroll down just a little on the page)

Why is this relevant to you? 

If you’ve experienced knee pain or instability, ACL issues, pain with running or jumping, and/or hip pain, then you may have a “large” Q-Angle. This doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you, so don’t panic! It simply means that your kneecap tends to be pulled at a harsh angle, causing stress on the surrounding soft-tissue structures.

Although it’s super unfair that nature has made women more prone to knee pain than men, there are simple ways to ensure knee health. Here are a few:

1) Strengthen your quadriceps. Your quads are the large muscles on the front side of your thighs. These muscles are above the knee and help stabilize your kneecap’s movement. You can strengthen these muscles through controlled leg extensions, leg presses, and squats.

Leg Extension

2) Foam roll your IT bands. Your IT-bands are dense, connective tissue on the outside/lateral aspect of your thigh. Tight IT-bands can add tension and stress to the knee.  Since there is already a strong pull on your kneecap based on a large Q-Angle, it’s important not to add any unnecessary tension to the knee.

A foam roller is a cylinder made of densely packed foam. You can roll your body back and forth on the roam roller to relieve tension in any area. It’s like you’re a big ball of dough on a rolling pin! Not what a woman wants to imagine herself as, I know, but the analogy works!

If foam rolling hurts a lot, it’s a sign your connective tissue is really tense and needs this release. You can reduce discomfort by placing one leg in front of the other, distributing your body weight into the assisting leg.

Note: It’s really important that you don’t roll directly over joints. Ouch. 

3) Control knee stability during lower body exercises. If you watch yourself in a mirror, or even look down at your knees, while performing a lower body exercise, you may notice that your knees drift slightly inwards. When your knees drift towards one another, it creates stress on the joint capsule. Although this may improve with leg strengthening exercises, it may also be a factor of form.

You can increase your awareness by simply being mindful of your form. If you notice that your knees are drifting inwards, simply exert a little effort and move them wider. It doesn’t have to be excessive. It should feel more comfortable and will help you feel better balanced.

4) Strengthen your “outer thighs.” This may surprise you, but there aren’t any “outer thigh” muscles per say. When you perform exercises to target this area, you’re actually working muscles in the outer region of your hips/gluts. More specifically, muscles called your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. 

A wider Q-Angle means that these muscles are pulled and elongated a bit more than usual, resulting in them being less stable and strong. Since knee health depends a lot on ankle and hip stability, it’s a good idea to strengthen these oft-forgotten muscles. You can do this through side lunges, lateral movements, lying side leg lifts, clams, and more.

 

PAIN SOURCE #2: DIASTASIS RECTI

Even if your baby-making years are far ahead or behind you, this is relevant information because it may impact you some day, or it may have taken place during pregnancy without your awareness. For women who plan to have children soon, or who are currently pregnant, listen even closer.

Diastasis Recti

We’ve all admired another person’s six-pack at some time or another, right? Well, imagine that the rippled six pack has an enormous split down the middle, separating and pulling the two halves away from one another so that the abdomen looks a little more like two three packs. This is what Diastasis Recti looks like. For a great visual, click here: http://bit.ly/1JQoYaS

Why does this happen?

When a woman gains weight with pregnancy and extra pressure is placed on the abdomen as it stretches, the core muscles are under great strain. The six-pack muscle naturally stretches with a growing uterus, but in the case of Diastasis Recti, the connective tissue that coats your core (the linea alba) gets stretched to a greater degree. The split can sometimes appear as a ridge in the abdomen and can be felt by placing fingers into the crevice. Diastasis Recti is usually diagnosed when the space is two finger widths.

What are the consequences?

Diastasis Recti can compromise a woman’s overall core strength, leading to secondary conditions that challenge overall health and wellbeing. Some women also experience a post-pregnancy “pooch” that they just can’t seem to get rid of because it isn’t a factor of weight loss. Diastasis Recti may present with multiple other conditions such as:

  • Back pain and instability
  • Compromising posture
  • Pelvic floor dysfunctions Hernia
  • Pelvic pain and instability
  • Gas and Digestive problems
  • Fecal incontinence (Constipation)
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction (SPFD)
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Pelvic organ prolapsed

One of our readers shares her personal experience…

When Jenna knew something was wrong:

“Sometime in the middle of my third trimester (while pregnant with my first child), I realized that I had Diastasis Recti. I was only aware of the condition because of my background in nursing school. The particular activity that made me aware of my abdominal separation was trying to sit up in bed (the wrong way). As my stretched-out abs attempted to engage, I saw what looked like a mountain ridge down the middle of my abdomen. This was a little frightening to see and though I was not experiencing pain, I could tell something was not right. When I mentioned this event to my caregiver, I received no concern and no education was given regarding how to protect myself when bearing weight or how to properly exercise my core post pregnancy.

Roughly two years later, I gave birth to my second child and suffered three tears. Even after my injuries healed, my pelvic pain lingered. It was noticeable with long periods of standing at my kitchen counter or when taking long walks outside. The pain was especially acute when I would sit up from a reclined position in bed after nursing my newborn for night-time feedings. I made an appointment to discuss the pain with my provider. She recommended pelvic physical therapy for my ‘pubic symphysis dysfunction.'”

How Jenna got better:

“I am so thankful that I took this recommendation! My pelvic PT taught me about the anatomy of the female pelvis and how childbirth impacts and often compromises core strength. I learned how to measure my diastasis recti and what exercises I could practice to help approximate the abdominal muscles. I learned how to protect my core by creating a “pelvic brace” for exercising and weight lifting. I also learned the proper posture for carrying my baby, how to get in and out of bed, and safe body mechanics for lifting my car seat.

Over a five week period, my pain significantly improved and was rarely noticeable! Only after a two week period of not exercising did my pain return (minimally). I discovered the reason for this is because I’m still breastfeeding my baby and this allows the relaxin hormone to linger, thereby creating instability at the pubic symphysis and also making it difficult to build muscle. While breastfeeding, maintaining my core stability means that I have to exercise regularly (4-5 times a week) and practice Kegel exercises daily. If I can commit to these practices, I remain pain free!”

Thank you, Jenna, a million times over for sharing this personal journey!!! It takes a lot of courage to share it and no doubt other women will benefit from hearing it. 

How do I exercise to prevent or correct Diastasis Recti?

If you believe that you have diastasis recti, then I suggest you work with a reputable physical therapist for at least a few sessions, to get on the right track. As mentioned in the former testimonial, it’s important to learn proper biomechanics for sitting up in bed, lifting heavy objects, and bracing your core during exercises. A great place to start is by checking these exercises, performed by my lovely former colleague, Alison, and presented by my wonderful friend and former PT Cari: http://www.releasept.com/videos/low-back-core/ (The first nine videos work on core bracing in a gentle, but effective, way.)

Jenna’s PT, Stephanie Fournier, has also been extremely generous with her time, and has offered us some answers to important questions about this condition. See her interview below.

 

INTERVIEW WITH WOMEN’S HEALTH CLINICAL SPECIALIST

Maternal Health

1) How many women do you encounter postpartum who have severe pelvic and core instability, and/or a diagnosable condition?

First, I would define severe pelvic and core instability as any pain or dysfunction in the postpartum period that is affecting activities of daily living. This could include severe pain, restriction in activities, avoidance of activities, or slowing a woman down in her normal activities. That being said, the exact number is hard to quantify since I treat in an outpatient clinic where I am only going to encounter those women who do have problems (core instability and/or pain) and who are coming to me via doctor or self-referral. However, I do believe that pain and dysfunction in the postpartum period go largely under diagnosed. What I hear most often from patients is that they tried to talk to a friend, family member, or healthcare provider about their pain/instability/limitation and they are told things such as, “That is normal, you just had a baby,”… “It will get better after the pregnancy,”… “You just have to live with it.”

Some research numbers to reflect on:

  • Incidence of lower back pain and pelvic girdle pain (PGP) in pregnancy range from 68.5% to 76% in prospective studies (Wang, 2004; Kristiansson, 1996; Ostgaard, 1991). And the incidence of PGP alone in pregnancy was 20%, in one prospective ,study (Vleeming, 2008). Why the discrepancy? Most likely pain is under reported.
  • 70% of women experience some sort of lower back or pelvic pain during pregnancy.
  • 1/3 of women report severe limitations in activities of daily living as a result of back and pelvic pain (Ostgaard, 1991). The risk for back pain increases postpartum (Ostgaard, 1997).
  • Most importantly, women having back and pelvic pain are 3x as likely to have postpartum depressive symptoms than those without pain (Gutke, 2007).

2) How do most women identify that they have Diastasis Recti? What tips do you have for identifying it as early as possible?

Most women that I see in the clinic do not realize that they have a diastasis recti (DrA). Often, they are coming to me for pelvic pain (posterior pelvic girdle pain, pubic symphysis dysfunction, lateral hip pain, or abdominal pain) and it is something that we find during our evaluation. They might have noticed a tent or pooch in their abdominal area with sits ups, supine to sit (getting in and out of bed) but didn’t exactly know what it meant. For identifying early on, women can measure themselves with their fingers or a tape measure or just look at their tummy when they are rolling in bed or sitting up in bed.

To measure; the patient starts in supine with their knees flexed. They can place their fingers horizontally in the umbilicus and raise their head up. They are measuring how many fingers they can place inside the gap in the rectus abdominis. [It should be noted that this finger method is highly unreliable and it is better to use a tape measure, however the tape measure is hard to do on yourself]

Some more research numbers to be aware of:

  • 66% of women develop a DrA by their 3rd trimester.
  • 39% of women have a significant DrA several years after delivery. Significant is defined as separation of 2.5cm or more (Ranney, 1990).
  • More than 50% of women presenting for urogynecological examination presented with a DrA. These are postmenopausal women. Likely, the DrA developed during the child bearing years and never fully resolved postpartum, leading to poor core stability and pelvic organ prolapse (Spitznagle, 2007) .
  • DrA is associated with varying degrees of stress urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse (Spitznagle, 2007). This is why treating DrA early on in the postpartum period is so important to me. We could potentially be helping women to avoid major symptoms and even surgery.

Also, Parker (2008) found that women with DrA tend to have higher degrees of pelvic or abdominal pain.

3) How soon after pregnancy can women start working their core muscles again? How do you suggest they start?

I recommend that women return to activity postpartum as they feel comfortable. However, I do have a few recommendations for those women who do have a DrA [separation of 2.5cm or more at the umbilicus, 4.5cm superior to the umbilicus, and 4.5cm inferior to the umbilicus].

  • Avoid obliques, regular crunches/situps, and planks until the DrA is reduced to 2.5cm or less OR the woman can affectively activate a co contraction (transverse abdominis + pelvic floor muscle contraction)
  • When treating a DrA, I start with initiation of TrA (transverse abdominis) which they can start day one postpartum with or without a c-section
  • Progress to DrA curlup (Neville, 2008)
  • Various TrA stabilization activities or progressions, depending on the individual
  • Consider corset or elastic binder per the individual
  • Avoid bearing down (valsalva) and sitting straight up (in bed/jack-knife)
  • As always, ensure proper pelvic floor muscle activation (including power, endurance, and coordination)

Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing your wisdom and expertise! You went above and beyond!

If you have any questions about this content and/or exercises to improve your health, then please don’t hesitate to reach out! Upon request, I’m happy to share the medical studies that Stephanie referenced too.

Being a woman can be tough stuff, but there’s no reason why we can’t feel amazing and pain free!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

References:

https://www.abdominalconnections.com/diastasis-recti/

http://gregnuckols.com/2013/07/17/do-women-need-to-train-any-differently/

http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/abdominal-separation-diastasis-recti