Monthly Archives: January 2010

Oh Canada (Part 2 of 2): The results are in

An honest effort was made on day one. A hopeful recovery attempted on day two. On day three the trial was completely forsaken.

In “Oh Canada: Part 1”, I looked at the number of food group servings recommended for breastfeeding women (by the Canada Food Guide). I decided to follow the guide for one day, assess its practicality, and report my findings. So what did I find? I found a challenge! As a busy new mom, it was surprisingly difficult to adhere to the guide for even one day.

Day one started out well. Oatmeal with walnuts and apple slices for breakfast. Of course. Grain – check. Meat alternative – check. Fruit -half check. An hour later I rushed out the house tardy for a scheduled appointment. What’s new. I intended to travel with a snack but didn’t get my act together.

The next meal wasn’t until  2pm. I could have scarfed down anything at that point but actually managed to prepare a quick, healthy meal – one baked salmon fillet and a veggie wrap. And so the day ensued. By the end,  I had satisfied the recommended intake of meat, dairy and oils. I fell slightly short on produce and well short on grains.

I thought, to be fair, I should give this another go. I decided to record my meals for two more days.

Day two started like day one but fell apart much sooner. My workout was a priority. Caring for Naomi was of course a priority. I was also preparing for evening guests. Cleaning, feeding, changing and cooking was quite the juggling act. Everything else fell off my radar.

I don’t think I ate a proper meal, never mind measuring and recording the servings.  I snacked on brie and apple appetizers as I made them. That’s gotta count for something. What about the tomato sauce on the pizza we ordered? Or the grapes that made that lovely merlot? How many fruit servings is that?

Day three. Experiment? What experiment?

Despite abandoning the effort, I did figure some stuff out . The biggest success was being more conscious of what I ate overall. Though I didn’t keep up with tallying my daily servings, I definitely gave more thought to my food choices. As a result, I ate more “real” foods and less processed foods for sure. Some other stuff I figured out:

  • Wraps are a really easy option for a balanced meal or snack. Just throw a bunch of veggies, cheese and/or meat into a whole wheat tortilla. You can even eat it with one hand and baby in tow.
  • Having a well-stocked fridge is key. I’m talking quality not quantity. If all you’ve got is lettuce, avocado and turkey slices, that’s what you’ll eat.
  • It’s cool to measure things once in awhile just to be reminded of what a “serving” really is.

And to answer the questions set out in part one:

  • No, I certainly didn’t find time to prepare each meal and snack. It was especially hard to do around daily outings and activities.
  • If I was hungry it was due to poor eating schedule, rather than the Food Guide serving suggestions.
  • I think healthy eating in general is sustainable but only SuperMom could fit in and track all those servings. The Canada Food Guide is exactly that – a guide.
  • No noticeable change in milk supply or Naomi’s liking thereof. Mama still gave her some sugar 🙂

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Oh Canada (Part 1 of 2): Putting our food guide to the test

Our home and native land has much to offer for our well being – health care, mountain air, maple syrup and the Canada Food Guide. Yep, remember that chart tacked to the wall of your public school health room? It’s still a great reference to guide your food choices in adulthood and post-pregnancy. Or is it?

I made a major lifestyle change in 2008. I totally committed to eating better and being more active. The results were amazing (see  About page for more). Friends saw the changes in my body and would ask about my diet. Atkins? Zone? Bernstein? Nope, Canada  Food Guide! It worked once. Maybe old faithful can help guide me back into my pre-pregnancy jeans again.

The guide is really simple. It’s just about eating balanced meals with selections from each of the four food groups. That’s what I did. Note chocolate, coffee and alcohol are not recognized groups.

What I didn’t do however, was count the specific number of recommended servings from each group. Five of this, seven of that, four of another. Somehow it seems like a lot of food to consume in a day. Yes, even for me who normally eats several times a day. Is it really practical? Moreover, is it practical for a nursing mom who some days can’t  find time to shower let alone prepare a nutritious meal? Who came up with this thing and did they ever have a 3 month old on their hands?

This is part one of my investigation. Ooo, sounds so journalistic. Below is a summary of the food guide recommendation for breastfeeding women. I’ve also included a potential days menu, according to the guide. I’m putting it to the test for one day. In part two, I’ll let you know how I do and what I think of Health Canada’s suggestions.

Recommended Number of Food Guide Servings Per Day for Breastfeeding Women

7-8 Fruits & Vegetables

6-7 Grain Products

2 Milk & Alternatives

2 Meat & Alternatives

+ an extra 2-3 servings from any group and one multivitamin

+ 2-3 tbsp Oil & Fats

Potential Daily Menu

Breakfast:

  • 3/4 cup oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup frozen berries
  • 1 multivitamin

Snack:

  • 1 cup fortified soy beverage
  • 1 banana

Lunch:

  • 1 tortilla
  • 2 1/2 oz. chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup avocado

Snack:

  • 1 apple
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 bagel
  • 1 1/2 oz. cheese

Dinner:

  • 2 1/2 oz. fish
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup raw salad
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Dessert:

  • 1/2 cup frozen berries
  • 3/4 cup kefir

Will I find time to prepare each meal and snack? Will I feel overfed, satisfied, or hungry? Do I think it can be sustained over time? Will I see a change in my milk supply? Will baby notice the lack of caffeine and sugar in my milk, LOL.

Let the games begin! Check “Oh Canada (Part 2 of 2)” for my results.

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Breakfast of Champions…and Nursing Moms: The goodness of oatmeal

I used to eat oatmeal all the time. It was awesome. Why did I ever stop? Oh yeah, because I was sick of eating it all the time, LOL! A year later and ever the wiser, I’ve rediscovered the wholesome goodness of oats.

While training for my figure competition, oatmeal was a staple kitchen item. Bodybuilding athletes often opt for steel cut or rolled oats (definitely not the flavoured stuff) among their choices of complex carbs. The taste didn’t thrill me at first, but the nutritional value couldn’t be argued. Low-to-no  fat, sodium, or sugar and a good source of iron and fibre.  A nutritionist would have more to say about it’s benefits. Apparently lactation consultants do too.

Oatmeal is believed to increase milk supply. I’m no expert on the matter but I have heard this stated from more than one source. I don’t doubt it myself. Many natural foods have proven to have prescriptive benefits. And even if it doesn’t pump up your milk supply (pun intended, ha ha) it’s still an ultra healthy food choice. Weight-loss friendly, for sure. Funny enough, Aveeno colloidal oatmeal was a God-send when my pregnant tummy itched to no end. How’s that for added goodness? But I digress.

The morning oatmeal-making has quickly become routine for Naomi and me. She sits in her bouncy chair and looks on as I prepare breakfast. She absolutely loves the sounds of clanging cookware and utensils.

For now, I am enjoying 1/3 cup of one-minute rolled oats topped with apple, cinnamon, walnuts and maple syrup. I look forward to adding a small amount of protein powder for a totally balanced breakfast. Mental note: add GNC trip to the neglected to-do list. Then there’s the oatmeal and egg white pancakes which are actually much better than they sound!

The time will come when it’s back to dry oats over a hard-boiled egg. Believe it or not, that tablespoon of uncooked oats actually becomes a treat. Yep, that’s what it takes to bring home the gold. Still, I can’t wait to do it all again!

To top it all off, January is apparently oatmeal month I know, seriously? So knock yourselves out. Bring on the oat bars, oatmeal cookies and muesli!

What are your favourite oat-based foods and recipes?

GOOD TO KNOW: Substances said to promote lactation are called galactagogues. Some others are  fenugreek, blessed thistle and alfalfa . Check with a lactation expert for more information or advice.

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Shuffling Along: Music to move to

I like music. I like the pump of a hip hop beat. I like a catchy pop melody. I like the energy of  house tracks. I like songs that make me feel alive, penetrate my soul, and persuade me to sing aloud despite being tone deaf. LOL. These are the songs that make up my workout playlist.

I need good music to work out but I am hardly a musicophile. According to the internet, that’s a word, I swear. I trained for a half-marathon listening to the same tracks for months! I have more CDs than MP3s.  I don’t surf for songs and post cool tunes on my Facebook page. I no longer recognize the names of chart-topping artists. Wow, I’m officially a 30-something mom. I have a short playlist on my Shuffle that’s in desperate need of refreshing. Help!

These are some artists and tunes currently getting play on my iPod. A few are remixed at 135bpm for maximum sweat output. You know, that infamous techo beat. Cheesy maybe but they get the job done.

  • Lady Gaga
  • Britney Spears
  • JT and Ciara: Love Sex Magic
  • Timbaland: Morning After Dark
  • Black Eyed Peas (esp. Boom Boom Pow)
  • Rihanna (esp. Disturbia)
  • Beyonce (esp.Ring the Alarm)

2008 Toronto Marathon

Last year’s overworked running playlist included:

  • Michael Jackson (Off the Wall and Thriller)
  • The Roots
  • N.E.R.D.
  • Mos Def
  • Talib Kweli
  • Justin, Justin and more Justin!

Please help me update my library with some serious body-pumping 2010 tracks or old school grooves. If you have suggestions for similar music, I wanna hear. If you’ve got recos with a totally different vibe, I need to know. I thank you. My ears, my feet and my butt thank you!

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Sleep it off: The wonders of a good night’s rest

Sleep is a wonderful thing. It’s no secret: a full night’s rest tops the list of elusive pleasures for most new moms. Where seven, eight or nine hours may have been the norm, five consecutive hours could now be a delight.

Knocking off early or sleeping in late sounds like a dream, right? Actually it’s more than a dream.  For we mamas trying to improve fitness and drop pounds, a good sound slumber can be a dream come true!

The human body is a miraculous creation. Can I get an amen?!  While we sleep our bodies are still hard at work  repairing, replenishing, and lots of other neat stuff. There are processes happening overnight that specifically affect weight loss like muscle building and appetite regulation. Research has shown that inadequate sleep can hinder weight loss efforts. Conversely, proper sleep patterns help the cause. I chose a communications major over kinesiology so my biology lesson ends there, sorry!

You don’t need a science degree to understand that sleep and fitness share a reciprocal relationship. Being fit can help you sleep better. Being rested can help you perform better – in the gym and otherwise. And so you’ll hear trainers refer to sleep as an overlooked part of fitness.

Knowing this, you’d think I’d be catching zees whenever possible. “Sleep when baby sleeps” everyone says. Not me. Unless I’m totally zonked, I use nap time to eat, pump milk, clean, email, etc. Take now for instance. Naomi is in dreamland as I type. Darn, probably just jinxed it! LOL.

Nighttime is even worse. I’m often up writing well past midnight praying baby won’t need a surprise overnight feeding when I finally do turn in. A few hours later, I’m up for the regular routine of feedings, changes and play before going to the gym.

I know better. I am vowing here and now to make this lifestyle change for the sake of my fitness efforts. And the dark circles under my eyes. It would suck to be holding onto extra weight months from now simply because I wouldn’t get a good night’s sleep. Plus there’s all the other benefits of sleep that are especially great for new moms. The blowouts are easier to deal with when you’re not dead tired, right? Yep, sleep is a wonderful thing. If Naomi will give me seven hours, I’ll take them!

Once baby is down, what’s your next move? Bed? Kitchen? Computer?

GOOD TO KNOW: Weekly fitness programs should include rest days to allow for proper recovery.

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She’s a Knockout:My favourite celebrity mom

Sure, there’s Halle, Gwen, Kate, Jessica, Heidi, Christina…the list goes on and on. All are beautiful women but none rank #1 on my list of favourite celebrity moms. The celeb mama who inspires me most does not shine on screen, top the pop charts or grace Paris runways. Still, she is highly successful, totally fit, and in my eyes, a picture of beauty. Have you guessed yet? One more clue. She’s a “knockout”.

It’s Laila Ali, boxing champ and mother of 1-year old Curtis Conway Jr.

I remember watching Laila co-host American Gladiators  a couple years ago. Of course I love that show. I swore she was pregnant but it was never mentioned.  If they were trying to hide it, their wardrobe selection sure failed. My suspicion was confirmed when I saw her featured, unmistakably pregnant, in an ad for Palmer’s Massage Cream for Stretch Marks. Yes, I use it. And yes, because of the ad.

I thought she was perfectly stunning. If I had an ideal for the beautifully fit pregnant body, this was it. Photoshop work aside.

Call me crazy but I feel like we are kindred spirits. Then again, I also think I could totally hang with Beyonce. I appreciate Laila’s confidence, humility, drive, charity, strength, beauty, competitive nature and athletic achievement. Plus we’re both December-born Capricorns. Can you say girl crush?!

As it turns out, I also respect her approach to parenting and to postnatal fitness. Laila does not employ a full-time nanny yet manages to make her workouts a priority.  She works out about five days a week but maintains, what I consider a  healthy attitude toward postpartum fitness. Committed to it but not stressed about it.

Laila is retired from the ring and now has a diverse range of career responsibilities. In each, she is a model and champion of health and fitness, especially for women and children. This is a path I also hope to walk, in my own way.

If I ever meet Laila, I think we should work out together while our kids have a play date 🙂

Humour me. We look like we can hang, right?

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He Said, She Said: In search of expert advice

Got questions about postpartum fitness? Search ten websites and you may find ten different answers. Then there’s the books, the magazines and the videos – each with its own point of view.  How does a mama know which to trust? When it comes to postpartum fitness advice, who’s the expert?

Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time researching postnatal fitness. We could say obsessing, but let’s not. I’ve found a variety of recommendations from trainers and fitness instructors. I’ve also found some conflicting information. What I haven’t found is a definite authority on the matter.

Doctors and midwives are well versed in matters of obstetrics, but don’t necessarily have knowledge of fitness training. Conversely, many fitness experts know about training, but not about postpartum considerations. You can find trainers certified in postpartum fitness, but quite frankly, that piece of paper is about as easy to get as a drivers license. I know. I have both. This is not to say there aren’t experts out there. It’s just tricky to decide who they are and which advice to follow.

My biggest question has been about appropriate abdominal exercises for flattening the tummy. It’s a particularly important question if your abdominal muscles have separated as mine have. (See Dec. 14th Post, “I’ve Come Undone”). If you’re curious too, here are examples of what “they” have to say and offer. You decide who to trust.

BeFit-Mom

BeFit-Mom (befitmom.com)

  • Crunches may do more harm than good in the initial postpartum period
  • The secret to a flat stomach is to rebuild the deepest abdominal muscles, the transverse abdominus
  • Claims it’s a myth that separation requires surgical repair
  • Says “manual splinting of the abdomen may perpetuate muscle weakness”
  • Offers a video on postnatal core conditioning

Makes sense to me. Plus, the website offers detailed information to back up the recommendations.


Tupler

Julie Tupler, RN (maternalfitness.com)

  • According to Dr. Oz, she’s the expert on treating diastasis recti
  • Recommends the “Tupler Technique” for closing diastasis. It includes splinting shown here.
  • To learn the Tupler Technique, buy the book or DVD then sign up for the workshop or private sessions.

Ms. Tupler has a lot of impressive credentials and the price tag to go with them!


Andrea Page, FITMOM

FITMOM (fitmomcanada.com)

  • The “Postnatal Workout” video warns not to do the featured abdominal exercises if experiencing more than 2-3 centimetres of separation
  • Does not provide any alternatives or specific advice for treating diastasis
  • A personal email from Andrea suggests that I could try “a hand on interaction called splinting”

Andrea has the benefit of both personal training and childbirth education qualifications. It’s disappointing that she does not offer more advice since she is really touted as a postnatal fitness expert here in Canada.


Expert Village video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TL0RN_y5M_E

  • This video does a decent job of explaining diastasis and demonstrating how to diagnose it
  • Recommends only pelvic tilts & abdominal contractions if experiencing 2+ finger widths of separation

I don’t know who this woman is but the video is easy to understand


Samara Pole Studio

Samsara Pole Studio (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBJcZpL1MAQ)

  • Suggests considering surgery or pilates, depending on the degree of separation
  • Emphasizes the importance of talking with your caregiver

This pilates instructor gives a long-winded but detailed explanation on how to diagnose diastasis. It amuses me to hear her talk, LOL.


Baby Center

Baby Center (babycenter.com)

From what I can tell, this site offers no advice on dealing with ab separation after pregnancy. Disappointing since they are such a “go-to” site.


Jago Holmes

http://www.greatshapeafterbaby.com

  • Offers a system called the Baby Belly Fat Loss Plan
  • “Tone and flatten your baby belly in just minutes a day”, he says
  • Warns that some exercises should be avoided because they can cause more damage
  • Includes diet as a key factor for losing baby belly

This trainer claims to have postpartum experience. He alludes to the diastasis issue but sheesh, the website is one LONG sales pitch! This is the exact type of resource I’m skeptical about.

What recommendations have you found? Where/Who do you go to for postnatal fitness advice?

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