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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I like to move it, move it.

Let's talk physical activity. I know, it used to be like a guilt-ridden word for me. When I was in college, I never felt like I exercised "enough" or was active "enough". If I didn't get to the gym or exercise at least 30 minutes that day, I was a useless waste of space and would tell myself I would "make up for it" the following day. But really, is it worth living life beating up on myself for unattainable goals? NO!

While you are pregnant is no exception. The American Pregnancy Association says that if you followed a regular exercise program pre-pregnancy, that you can maintain that program to some degree during pregnancy. That does not mean that you should be able to, that you have to be able to in order to be healthy. It does mean that if you were fit before, you should be able to continue some exercise, but not necessarily all that you did before. In my first pregnancy, I learned that I couldn't set that expectation for myself, otherwise, I would be pretty annoyed. Before I had Sam, I was a 3-mile a day kind of girl. Once I was pregnant, I found that I had to go a lot slower, drink a lot more water, and take it easy. I even had to stop running and start walking as I got further along in my pregnancy. My lower back just couldn't handle that kind of working out! I would think to myself "what is wrong with me?" Ha. The answer was very clear--there was nothing wrong with me, I was just pregnant. So if you are a marathon runner, and you can do just as much as you did before. Great! Good for you. If you are like the rest of us, just do what you can and stop with any discomfort, breathlessness, or exhaustion.

So, what about if you are light on exercise before your pregnancy and now you want to get healthier? Great! That is a great goal to set for yourself. I would say, start really slow and begin with lower impact exercise. Walking, swimming, stretching and practicing yoga are amazing ways to move your body while you are pregnant and will help with your overall health and well being. It will feel good and should feel good to move your body. The goal is not to beat up on yourself, it is to move in ways that feel comfortable, uplifting and even fun!

Fun. Exercise, fun? Isn't that an oxymoron you ask? Physical activity can be fun, yes. It shouldn't be a chore or a punishment. That kind of physical activity isn't sustainable in most lifestyles. Ever wonder why most people use their treadmill as a coat rack? Movement doesn't need to be exhaustive or even planned as such. Movement can be a nice walk with your partner around the block, walking your dog, a relaxing yoga class to meet other pregnant friends, a romp in the snow with your other children, shopping with your sister or good friend (you can get a ton of walking in) or could even be cleaning the house! Even sitting on your floor and stretching everyday is beneficial. So, start thinking outside the box (and off your couch) and think of non-conventional ways you like to move!

Last but not least, while considering any type of physical activity, you should follow the American Pregnancy Association's guidelines I have listed below that I pulled directly from their website
  • Listen to your body. Your body will naturally give you signals that it is time to reduce the level of exercise you are performing.
  • Never exercise to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. This is a sign that your baby and your body cannot get the oxygen supply they need.
  • Wear comfortable exercise footwear that gives strong ankle and arch support.
  • Take frequent breaks, and drink plenty of fluids during exercise.
  • Avoid exercise in extremely hot weather.
  • Avoid rocky terrain or unstable ground when running or cycling. Your joints are more lax in pregnancy, and ankle sprains and other injuries may occur.
  • Contact sports should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • Weight training should emphasize improving tone, especially in the upper body and abdominal area. Avoid lifting weights above your head and using weights that strain the lower back muscles.
  • During the second and third trimesters, avoid exercise that involves lying flat on your back as this decreases blood flow to your womb.
  • Include relaxation and stretching before and after your exercise program.
So, what are you waiting for? Find a way to go out and move (but make sure it feels good)!!!

In health and wellness,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nourish Yourself Outside of Food

This blog post is a bit different from my other ones because it is focused on other types of nourishment other than the food kind. Although what you eat is very important while you are pregnant, it is also almost equally important to nourish your soul. I thought since we are in the middle of the holiday season, which can result in a higher amount of stress and anxiety for a lot of people, that there is no better time than the present (pun intended).

When talking about stress, I could go into the physiological reactions in the body and the excretions of cortisol and different hormones and how they stress the baby, and blah blah blah...When it comes down to it, when we are stressed, it doesn't feel good emotionally or physically. It doesn't make our life feel good or make us feel happy. So, why not try to live with less of it? I tell you all to eat intuitively, so I will tell you also to live more intuitively and focus on living your life so that it feels nourishing. If throwing the Christmas party, getting out all your holiday cards, and shopping for each of your siblings is stressful instead of pleasurable, then maybe you should rethink about why you are doing those things. Is it because you think you should?

I think it is important to do a lot of self-reflection to figure out what your own stresses in your life are, and analyze them. Is it work? Is it family? Is it keeping your house clean? Is someone sick in your life? Is it just finding the time to get everything done? Do you have other children to care for? Is it meeting everyone else's expectations?

Start making a list. Seriously, take out a piece of paper and write the stresses down. Now, begin thinking creatively about how you can unload some of those stresses. Can your husband/partner take care of anything on the list? Can you ask someone else for help? Are some of them just simply unimportant? Are some of the things out of your control? Can some of the things wait?

I ask you these questions because sometimes life becomes overwhelming with the things we have to do...but many times we are stressing about things that we can't control or that we could simply take off the list of priorities.

So why is this so important for pregnant women or mommies in general? Because more often than not, most mommies I meet are just spent. They are overextended, exhausted, and they are undernourished because they don't take the time to focus on what they need because they are worrying about everyone else's needs. They have the whole world on their shoulders, and honestly, it doesn't need to be that way. Besides, can you really and fully be present for your babies/children in that overextended and exhausted state of mind? I know I can't, and when I try, "unpleasant Nicole" takes over again and then no one is very happy.

So how are you supposed to spend time nourishing yourself? Well, that is also individual. The amount of time you need and what you choose to do are up to you. Here are some of the things that I have found that help me recharge so that I can be there for the other people in my life that I love:
  • Reading for fun (a non-children or pregnancy/work-related book)
  • Taking a prenatal yoga class (every week!)
  • Walking in a park or on a bike path
  • Watching a sappy love story
  • Taking a nap
  • Taking a bath
  • Drawing or writing in my journal
  • Baking or cooking (I like it, but if it feels like a chore for you, it shouldn't be on your list!)
  • Spending time with my husband, like a date or an evening connecting that doesn't involve the TV
  • Going to a little cafe
  • Curling up with a blanket and having a cup of tea or soup
  • Stretching
  • Meditating
  • Making or giving a gift to someone
  • Shopping for something I need that I have been putting off (like maternity shirts)
So, what can be on your list of nourishing things? What can you do today that will recharge you a bit, help you to relax, and help you refocus your priorities? Now do it! If you become well practiced at it, you will be able to continue when the baby is born and be a much better mommy for it!

ONE more thing...practice saying "no" and start setting some boundaries on how you spend your time. Say "no" to organizing the work holiday party or doing that extra project. Say "no" to hosting people at your house for New Years or taking your sister out to pick our curtains. Say "no" to whatever it is that is keeping you from having a little bit of time to recharge yourself. Your body, baby, and family will be glad you did. And, don't feel guilty. Guilt trips are free, but you don't have to take the ride. No one is going to take care of you, unless you do it.

Enjoy the holidays and nourish yourself!

In health and wellness,

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snacking It Up and Homemade Toasty Granola!

So, I don't know about you, but I am a snacker or a "grazer" as some people call it. I do enjoy my 3 main meals of the day, but I do need at least 2 snacks (sometimes 3) in between meals to keep my blood sugar from taking a dive and creating "crazy" Nicole. Do you know anyone who fights on the way to a restaurant? Well, that's me. If my blood sugar takes a dive, I am not a pleasant person to be around, much less dine with. So, I have found that snacking helps me to maintain my blood sugar and the more pleasant Nicoleness that most other people prefer.

The great thing about snacking, I find, is that it is a way for me to insert more fruits/vegetables into my day. Believe it or not, but the daily recommended intake of fruits/vegetables for anyone over the age of 2 years is 5-10 servings (a serving is a 1/2 cup of most fruits/veggies and 1 cup of leafy greens). I don't know about you, but before I became a health-conscious eater, I did not even come close to that amount. I got maybe 1-2 per day, and sometimes none! Now-a-days, I use my snacks to increase those fruits and veggies and give me a natural energy boost to keep me going through the day. The other things I like to incorporate into my snacking are proteins and whole grains. They keep me fuller longer and keep my blood sugar from spiking and crashing.

For pregnant ladies, keeping a steady blood sugar level and getting all of our fruits/veggies becomes even more important. The foods we eat are the basic building blocks for our baby's growing body. I would like to think I am growing my baby from whole, natural, vitamin-filled foods instead of artificial flavors and ingredients.

So, with our busy lives, what are some good snacks to eat throughout the day that boost our energy, keep us fuller longer, and give us so many of those vitamins and nutrients?
  • Celery or carrots with peanut/cashew/almond butter (add some raisins if you'd like)
  • Whole wheat pita with hummus and taboule
  • Leftover veggies warmed up from the night before (I LOVE a warm bowl of leftover squash)
  • Whole milk plain yogurt with granola, fresh fruit, dried fruit, and/or nuts
  • Handful of nuts or dried fruit or both (trail mix)
  • Banana/Apple with yogurt or peanut butter
  • Whole grain toast and peanut butter
  • Any piece of fruit (grapefruit, banana, apple, oranges, nectarines)...list is endless. Try to get fruit in season as it tastes better and brings you nutrients you need at the right time of year. Right about now, I am eating my share of grapefruits, tangerines, oranges, and pomegranates)
  • Cucumbers, tomatoes or any salad with oil based dressing
  • Whole wheat couscous or quinoa salads
  • Avocado smeared on whole wheat toast
  • Avocado sliced on tomatoes
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Homemade air-popped popcorn

The great thing about this list of snacks, is that they will translate into great snacks/meals for kids when they get into their toddler/preschool years. If you introduce them to these types of snacks at a young age (rather than the goldfish/cheerios types of snacks) they will begin with better eating habits and set up their little palettes with a taste for healthier, more natural foods.

Homemade Granola
I altered this recipe that was originally created by Sara Foster from Foster's Market. I love the sweeteners she uses and the shredded coconut. I prefer to cut the oil, changed some of the nuts and dried fruit she calls for, and cut the cooking time a bit because otherwise it came out too dark. My husband and son LOVE when I make granola and it makes a great snack that keeps for a while. So then, I can grab something quick and healthy when I am on the run. It is delicious on plain whole yogurt, on fresh fruit (like berries or bananas), or for a snack on the go.

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecans
1 cup dried shredded coconut
1 tsp sea salt

1-2 tbs grape seed or expeller pressed canola oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins


  1. Bake the first 4 ingredients at 275 degrees for 10-12 minutes on ungreased cookie sheet. Place in large bowl.
  2. Mix oil, syrup and honey in a small bowl and pour over the baked oats and nuts and mix with wooden spoon.
  3. Spray the cookie sheet with olive oil.
  4. Spread oat mixture onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Stir while baking to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.
  5. Pull it out of the oven and mix up. Add the cranberries and raisins. Mix up and break up the chunks while cooling.
  6. Once cooled put in air tight contain and store at room temp.


In health and wellness,