Friday, March 4, 2011

If your baby was a nutritionist...

...and if your baby could talk, he or she would probably look up at you and with that honestly concerned look that babies sometimes get on their faces, would probably ask one question:

"mommy, are you sure you are eating enough?''

If you are like the moms that come to me for training and nutrition advice toward or just after the end of their breastfeeding, your honest answer should be: '' I don't really know''. Yet, when I ask this question I usually hear: ''Oh yeah, I eat a lot, I eat very well.''

Most moms that come to me usually want to get back into a regular exercise routine, want to see their ''mommy tummies'' gone and still want to get rid of a few extra pounds they accumulated during pregnancy. It should be quite easy, with the right assessment and exercise prescription, to get them pretty awesome results within 12 to 16 weeks. While I sit and listen to them telling me about how they looked before they got pregnant, what they want to achieve and how fast they want it, I look for one thing that underlies that: do they have the energy to do it? Can they really add another possibly physically and mentally challenging task to their schedule, even if it's just three times a week, even if it's just 45 minutes of concentrated organized movement?

Then it's my turn to ask questions. How many hours of sleep do you get? What does your day look like? What do you do to relax? How many children do you have other than your baby/toddler? Oh yeah, you have twins? And a three year old? And your husband works out of town? Oh, you don't eat breakfast because you don't have time? But you eat lunch, right? You really like just fruit and wine for dinner, because you are watching your weight? Uh-uh.

In peace at my pc, after the interview with the mom, I get to look at a 7 day food log and enter it in a program that lets me see how many calories, grams of protein, fats, carbohydrate and fiber they get daily. And how much water. And how much estimated vitamins and minerals. There is the rare exception, when a mother really eats very well, and she has the energy to start a program, and the right attitude that will guarantee results. But here is the rest of the story.

9 times out of 10, I come upon the following:

1. A mom has no time to eat, so she normally skips breakfast, grabs various snack items to hold her through the day, such as a piece of fruit, nuts, candy, coffee with milk or a cookie. As a result she may experience mood and energy swings and feel deprived of food and the time to eat a good meal.

2. A mom will not drink enough water. Because she is too busy making sure everyone else has water. And juice. And a snack. And because if you just stopped breastfeeding, you are no longer feeling like you need to be drinking as much, so she will drink less and less than what's optimal for digestion, elimination and energy transport.

3. A mom will not have enough calories throughout the day. In fact, a significant portion of calories will come at night. When you only have one feeding opportunity, how many quality calories can you really get?

4. The same applies to protein. In fact, most moms will choose not to eat during the day, thinking it will help them lose the few extra pounds, and that leaves a small window for protein consumption. I will often see protein ranging from 20 to 40 grams a day, way under what's optimal and even way lower than the otherwise ridiculously low RDA.

5. Most moms will eat very little cooked food. They are so busy cooking for the family, they forget to cook for themselves and would rather thrive on restaurant food, fast food and snack items. They eat those faster than I can say poor nutrition.

6. Most moms won't eat enough fat, because they still believe fat makes you fat. I am the one to break it to them that calories and inappropriate food choices make you fat and that consumption of healthy fats is essential to brain and hormone function, the health of the immune system, as well as energy production and endurance. How about fewer mood swings?

I remember the last wonderful lady I consulted, who showed up to her third workout and said:
''I have been rather happy recently, and very energetic. Just two of these workouts made such a big difference!''. Of course it wasn't the workouts, she was finally eating three complete meals a day, with adequate calories and protein, after a couple of years of severe under eating. When we later discussed it, she said she had no idea she wasn't eating enough and was very surprised she could eat eggs, cheese and meats to get energy!

If you are a mom who recently stopped breastfeeding or who has a toddler, if you are looking to lose some weight and if you don't feel like you are functioning at your optimal levels, maybe you think it's just because you are tired, but you have to understand after spending months and months waking up at night, being focused on your baby's well being, and having little time for your own well being, it's very easy to think you are eating enough and resting enough, just because you are sleeping a bit more now than you used to or you are eating a little bit better (in your opinion) than you used to. You may be depriving yourself of nutrients, calories and protein without even realizing it. Before you start a program to get your flat tummy back and your muscles back to functioning (that is a whole other blog post without any mention of crunches and sit ups.), before you can even think of seeing your pre-pregnancy weight on the scale, you need to make sure you have the energy to do it. Training and fat loss require a happy attitude, the ability to perform exercise with good form and to adhere to a moderate amount of calories and do that for a long, long time. Anything that requires a long term commitment requires you have the energy to do it.

The easiest way to assess if you are eating enough is to write everything you eat and drink for 1 or two weeks. The longer, the better.

Once you are done with that, you need to be able to positively answer the following questions:

1. Am I eating three meals a day?
2. Do I get animal protein at every meal (if you are vegan/vegetarian that would mean appropriate sources of protein or protein replacements for your chosen diet)?
3. Do I get quality fats at every meal (olive oil, cream, butter, avocado, nuts)
4. Do I get fresh fruits or vegetables at every meal?
5. Am I drinking at least 10 glasses of water a day?
6. Do I tend to snack, rather than have full meals?
7. Do I have more than a couple of alcoholic drinks a week?

You will get enough insights right there to know what you are doing right and what you need to work on at the basic level. You may feel a whole lot better just getting protein, fruits and vegetables and high quality fats at every meal and by not skipping meals. Of course you can go as far as calculating calories and figuring out how many grams of protein you are eating and make adjustments from there, but for now just make sure you log and check your current habits and we can go into deeper detail later, after you have covered the basics. Just make sure if you baby asked you: '' mommy, are you eating enough?'', that you can answer: " I sure am!''


  1. Dude!!! Did you have to hit so close to home?? :/

    On the plan for tomorrow: more water, more protein, less "snacks" and more meals.

    Thanks for the kick in the pants!

  2. I am glad I could do something for you, Jamie!
    Big hugs from me and I can't wait to see you!


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