Episode 3: Trifecta of a Healthy Mom

In this episode, we talk about the trifecta of a healthy mom: self-care, nutrition, and movement.  We define what they are, why they are important, and quick tips to get you started.

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Let’s talk about the mom trifecta: self-care, balanced nutrition, and movement. Together these three components create a foundation for mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Most of us know that all three of these are important, but when life gets crazy, busy and uncertain, they often become the last thing we make a priority. I know this from firsthand experience.  

My story: 

A year after my son was born, because of a sustained pregnancy-related hip fracture, I needed to have a hip salvaging procedure. Although I was well versed in nutrition and movement, the self-care part was virtually nonexistent.  I was struggling. I was disconnected. I was overwhelmed. My emotional well-being was so far down the list of what I prioritized. Not wanting to bother anyone or ask for help contributed to the lack of self-care. I had utilized so much help over the past year that I would spread out who I used for help at different times so that I wouldn’t overburden any one person. This method allowed me to hide from myself and from others how much I was truly struggling. My friend Kate, however, had seen how ill-prepared and disillusioned I was and rallied my friends and family to help me through this time period. 

 I kept on neglecting self- care. I wanted others to see how strong I was at the expense of my own physical and emotional well-being. The result of this neglect caused me to go back to work quicker, likely leading to a slower recovery. I was unable to do any physical activity and I was overeating to deal with my emotions. I finally realized that I just needed to do something that offered a longer-term solution than eating. I knew I needed to call my therapist and resume treatment. I started to understand that in order to be a good mom for my son, I needed to take care of myself first. This was a foreign concept to me, someone who always put others first.  The process of making myself a priority was not a fast one and came with a lot of feet dragging.  However, over time, I began to understand the importance of self-care, nutrition, and physical activity and the beneficial impact they would have on my life when I decided to make all three of them a priority.

Let’s talk about the first component  of the healthy mom trifecta: Self-care 

What is self-care? I looked online for definitions and they varied so much. To me, self-care, is the practice of taking a deliberate action to preserve or improve our physical, emotional, and mental health. Some examples of self-care include getting adequate sleep, making time to do an activity that you love, learning something new that you’ve been always wanting to try, spending time with friends, reading a book, journaling,  meditating, putting away your phone to be more present with your family, or asking for help.

Why is self-care important?

Self-care helps us refuel and rejuvenate. It helps with self -esteem, confidence, and ability to manage stress and all the uncontrollable situations that life will inevitably bring us. It helps us feel vulnerable and teaches us to cope and identify our true feelings. Lack of self-care can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, tiredness, burnout, and decreased motivation. 

Balanced nutrition is the second part of this trifecta.

Nutrition is something that I love talking about given my chosen profession of being a dietitian.  I believe in the importance of balanced nutrition and good health in general. 

What is nutrition? 

Nutrition is getting the nutrients we need to nourish our body by the foods we eat in our diet. This includes carbohydrates, proteins, fats which when eaten go into ours cells which use them for energy.  

Carbohydrates include foods like bread, cereals, pasta, quinoa, fruits and veggies, and some milk products. Carbohydrates break down easily into glucose, which is the main energy that our body likes to use. They also provide many vitamins and minerals that our body needs.

Protein is another important part of the nutrition that we need. Protein is typically found in red meat, chicken, turkey, cheese, and vegetarian options like eggs, fish, tuna, salmon, veggie burgers, beans, and tofu. Protein is important as it used for building blocks for our bones, muscles, and skin. Our body needs protein to build and repair our tissues. 

And lastly, we have fat which typically has more calories per serving size than carbohydrates or protein.

Fat includes foods like avocado, nuts, oils, and whole milk. Fat is important because we have vitamins in our body that are fat-soluble, including A, D E and K. Fat is needed to transport these vitamins to where they are needed in our body.

Each of these foods provides a different function to help the body run efficiently. The goal is to have a balance of these nutrients as each one has a different role in helping the body function properly. When there is an imbalance of nutrients, there is an increased risk for developing health conditions. 

Why is nutrition important? 

Nutrition is important as it helps nourish and feed our bodies and helps maintain overall health. Balanced nutrition helps prevent or reduce risk of diseases, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, some forms of cancer, cholesterol, stroke, and osteoporosis.  Balanced nutrition helps with healing and growing, improves our ability to fight off illness, helps improve ability to recover from illness or injury.  Balanced nutrition helps increase energy levels, acts as fuel for the body during exercise and maintain a healthy weight. My nutrition philosophy is more focused on moderate eating, portion control, and having a variety of all foods from all food groups for a balanced nutritional profile. 

The third portion of the trifecta is physical activity and movement. 

What is physical activity and movement? 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure, including activities undertaken while working cleaning, carrying out household chores, traveling and engaging in recreational pursuits.  Examples include walking, cycling, outdoor gardening, aerobic exercise, and yoga.

The physical activity recommendations can seem daunting. Adult recommendations are at least 150 minutes of moderate, intense physical activity each week This breaks down into 30 minutes, five days a week, or 15 minutes, three times a day, 3-4 days per week. The goal is 150 minutes a week with an eventual goal of 300 minutes each week. This would be going from 30 minutes, five days a week to 60 minutes, five days a week. WHO also recommends muscle-strengthening activities that should be done two or more days a week.

Why is physical activity/movement important? 

Physical activity improves muscular bone and functional health. It helps improve cognition, memory.  weight management and prevention of obesity. It also helps reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and improves the quality of life and a sense of overall wellbeing. It also helps lowers disease risk including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. There are certain cancers associated with a sedentary lifestyle, including breast and colon cancer.

The easiest way to start to implement physical activity is to starting walking. It’s free. It’s easy for most of us to do.  Any amount of movement is better than no movement at all.  Remember that you can break the physical activity down into multiple short bouts throughout the day. An Example includes walking your pet 15 min in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon to achieve 30 minutes per day.  The goal is to take one baby step, consistently to achieve 30 min per day. 

Now that we’ve reviewed the trifecta of self-care, balanced nutrition, and physical activity, what steps can you take today to improve your whole health? Will you commit to starting a bedtime or morning routine? Will you ask for help when you need it? Will you prioritize time with a friend? Will you eat a fruit or veggie at each meal? Will you stop skipping meals? Will you move your body one day this week? 

What can you do?

Decide. What behavior do you want to change?  How will you make this change? Write down your plan.

Take out your calendar and schedule which day you will do this behavior. This will help you stick with your plan. Re-evaluate at the end of the week how you felt by changing your behavior. Was it something that you would do again? 

Self-care, nutrition and physical activity, isn’t a one size fits all idea, it’s individualized to you. It’s a trial and error to see what fits into your lifestyle. Self-care and changing your behavior are not an impossibility. It requires a small consistent change practiced repeatedly so that a bigger goal can be achieved. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being 1% better each day. Be kind to yourself friends.

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