I know many of you made a resolution/goal to eat better, get fit, and be an overall healthier version of yourself. Well, we are half way through January now so I am sure the struggle is getting real right about now. That is exactly why I am so excited for you guys to read this article! It has inspired me to tweak a few things for sure… baby trees, monkey bars, and a pottete, oh my!
I don’t consider myself an expert in this department, so I reached out for some help. I found Paula last week when I asked if any of the fit mamas out there wanted to share some real practical advice. Paula was gracious enough to whip this sucker out in a jiffy and I am so glad she did. There is truly something for everyone in this article. Paula, thank you so much for blessing us with your time and expertise!
I am a little ashamed to admit it but before I had children I saw exercise and eating healthy as primarily a way to look good in my clothes and maintain my figure. After having children I have truly fallen in love with being an athlete. I have become passionate about my health and longevity.
However finding time to exercise and eat healthy when on some days I can hardly find time to shower has been a learning experience to say the least. It would be a huge understatement to say having young children doesn’t leave much time for an abundance of self-care. Most mommies I know (actually, most people I know) find it a challenge to eat healthy and exercise. However it doesn’t have to be as challenging as most people believe.
Assuming that you don’t have a live in nanny, private chef, or personal trainer (one can dream) it will take some planning and support but it is possible to have a healthy fit body as a mother of young children. You don’t need an expensive gym membership or a fridge stocked at Whole Foods. In this blog I will share some of the ways I have learned to make exercise and health attainable and enjoyable as a mother of young children.
Let’s tackle exercise first. When it comes to exercise after having children creativity is required. I believe if it isn’t fun you won’t want to do it long term. I think it is important to find a form of exercise you enjoy. It may be walking in nature, running (my love), weight training, Zumba, or ballet. Find something that makes you feel alive and invigorated.
I enjoy exercise classes but when my children were young I did not feel comfortable leaving them at childcare at the gym. I was concerned about germs and having a complete stranger watch my precious ones. Getting a jogging stroller was a lifesaver for me. You can find a good jogging stroller on craigslist or on mommy resale forums for a reasonable price. A jogging stroller gives you the freedom and mobility to take your littles on walks and hikes that you couldn’t manage with a typical stroller. When you do head out with your stroller be prepared. I never leave the house without snacks, water for the kiddos, toys, and our Potette Plus. If you have not been introduced to the Potette it is possibly one of the best inventions for post diaper years. You can find them on amazon. If you enjoy running, jogging, or even walking then signing up for a stroller friendly race can be a great motivator to get out the door. Finding mommy friends to train with can be a great way to stay motivated and have accountability. Many races also have children’s races afterwards. My kiddos love to get medals.
One of my favorite places to sneak in a sweat is the playground. Yes, the playground! I encourage you to google playground workouts for moms or check out Pinterest for some workout suggestions. I admit that I felt pretty silly the first time I worked out at the playground. My kids found it hugely entertaining. Don’t underestimate how challenging monkey bars, walking lunges, and pull-ups can be. You can always invite a mommy friend to join you to make it a bit less socially awkward. I have actually seen more mommies working out at the playground and I think it’s great. I sometimes stop by the playground when I am out for an early morning run and sneak in some pull-ups or triceps dips.
If you prefer to workout in the comfort and privacy of your home a great type of workout to consider would be Tabata or HIIT training. You can find a lot of great examples and free videos with a google search. The great thing about both of these forms of training is that they are short and sweet. You don’t need a ton of equipment and many workouts use your body weight and household objects to help you work up a sweat. You can even use your littles as “weight”. Try squats with a 3 year old on your back. Now that is a good bootie building workout!
When my children were babies I joined stroller strides with another mommy friend. Stroller strides was a great workout but I think I got even more out of the social aspects. It was so nice to spend an hour each morning working out with other who understood the trials and tribulations of being a new mom. It was also great to know that my kiddos could act crazy or have a melt down and no one would be bothered at all because we were all in the same boat.
If you can’t find a local stroller strides the website www.meetup.com often has mommy friendly workout groups as well. Or you could form your own with friends and neighbors and let each mommy come up with a workout suggestion. Now that my children are older I work out at an amazing local boot camp that offers low cost childcare. I found a boot camp with members who participate in races together as well as fun challenges to keep motivation going. I love the social support and accountability that comes from working out with others. I also think I work out harder when I have someone else telling me what to do.
One last workout suggestion is to rethink date night. My husband and I have transitioned away from going out to dinner for most date nights to taking it outside for a hike or bike ride. It is actually much more fun and much less expensive too! You get fresh air, quality time, and a good workout all rolled into one. Sometimes we pack a picnic and go for a hike or will take a bike ride near the beach.
Eating healthy with young children can seem daunting when your children (and perhaps husband) would prefer to subsist on cookies and pizza. However with a little planning and creative shopping you can get your crew eating healthy.
My first suggestion when it comes to dialing in healthy eating is to do some planning. Meal planning is not just for obsessive Martha Stewart type mommies. I started meal planning after my son was born and it has been a life saver. I suggest planning out a week worth of quick, easy, and healthy dinners and writing them on a dry erase board in the kitchen. Make sure you are stocked up when you do your grocery shopping. It has helped me a lot to do a little prep like cutting up veggies and fruit ahead of time. For healthy dinner ideas Pinterest has endless inspiration. I have even found meal plans and grocery list suggestions.
If you don’t have a crockpot I suggestion you go get one ASAP. We got a crockpot as a gift when we got married and I didn’t touch it for two years because I didn’t know what to do with it. Now I use it at least twice a week and I can’t imagine life without it. It is beyond easy to toss some chicken and marinade in and turn it on before I head out to work. It is wonderful to come home to a delicious smelling house and a healthy homemade dinner! I suggest finding two or three crockpot recipes that your family enjoys and keeping those in rotation when meal planning.
My husband does not cook. So I have found it helpful to find things that he can prepare for dinner for the nights that I can’t cook. Trader Joes and many grocery stores have healthy meal options that only require turning on the oven and popping dinner in. It is healthier and less expensive than take out. Another husband friendly option is to make a double batch of what you cook during the week and putting half in the freezer for a quick heat up. We try to have a salad with dinner every night so I keep salad greens ready to go as well.
My daughter will eat just about anything but my son is super picky. I know many mommies also have to consider food intolerances and allergies. We try to have their favorite organic veggies in the freezer at all times. They also love grass-fed organic hot dogs and veggie burgers. I try to get them to eat what I prepare and we have the one bite rule in our house. They have to try at least one bite before they can have something else. Most of the time they find they like whatever I have made and end up eating it after persuaded to taste it. If not I have some healthy options as sides that they can eat instead. I recommend stocking up on organic frozen veggies and fruit. It is less expensive, just as nutrient dense, and doesn’t go bad quickly like fresh produce.
I also keep all “fun” food out of sight. I know that if it is on the counter I am more likely to nibble on it and they will too. We keep cookies and chocolate up very high to keep our kiddos out of it. I keep health options at eye level and keep a fruit bowl on the counter at all times. I have also tried to be creative with using fun names for healthy foods to make them more appealing. “Baby trees” sounds a lot more fun to eat than broccoli. I talk to my children about how healthy food choices give them energy and help them grow.
Growing a few veggies on a patio or in the yard is a great way to educate your children about where food comes from. Things like tomatoes and zucchini are very easy to grow. A visit to the local farmers market can also be a fun way for your children to learn about food and sample healthy treats. I have tried delivery services for organic fruits and veggies but I prefer to pick produce out myself. It makes meal planning much easier. With CSA boxes you never know what you will get for that week. One good aspect of using a delivery service is that it exposes you to fruits and vegetables you may not be used to eating or cooking with.
I truly believe being a mother is the hardest and most important job in the world. My main motivation to stay healthy is so I can be a good role model to my children. I am also a much happier mommy and wife when I stick to a regular exercise routine. My husband knows this and because of this has been super supportive. I encourage you to explore what motivates you to be healthy and fit and to set some realistic goals help you get there.
For me being healthy is no longer about fitting into my skinny jeans but instead about the legacy I would like to leave for my children.
Paula Anderson is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Mission Viejo, CA. She is passionate about helping her clients reach their highest potential in all areas of their lives. She is also an active athlete who loves competing in races and triathlons. She is currently training for her first Spartan Race. She lives in South Orange county with her husband Jarrod and two children Magnus and Roxanne.