Many women I encounter feel discouraged in living a healthy mama life-- before even making any changes! They feel like in order to live a healthier life, they're going to have to change everything, overhaul their entire routine and mix things up in a way that feels uncomfortable and unreachable. I'm here to encourage you, mama, it doesn't have to be that way! In fact, sweeping changes have been proven to NOT work. Research has shown it's the small habits we form that add up to big change. That's why I encourage small changes-- creating habits that last and only keeping the ones that feel good. Forcing 'health' isn't true health! Finding what feels good and sticking with it, is. I thought I would share five practices, you can do DAILY to improve your healthy mama life. None of these are life-altering, in and of themselves. But they WILL begin or continue your journey to living a healthier life. Notice these are practices- not one-off choices that make you feel like you've made an impact (like choosing green juice instead of wine). These are daily choices that turn into habits. Even just creating one new health-promoting habit creates a ripple effect throughout your healthy mama life. We know diets don't make us healthier- here's what will.
Start your day with water.
Balance your breakfast.
Carve out some you-time.
Take a walk.
Prepare the night before.
Start your day with water.
1. Start your day with water: After (hopefully) 7+ hours of sleep, without any water, your body needs some hydration! Your body works hard while you sleep, repairing your muscles, working on the detoxifying process (yes, your body does it on it’s own), resetting your brain for the next day. Even though WE are inactive, our body isn’t! When our body is dehydrated, it simply does not work at optimal levels. Our body needs to maintain hydration for proper digestion and absorption of our food (therefore providing us with the energy we need for our daily lives); circulation of our blood and so much more. One of the best things you can do to improve your health is to drink more water-- starting first thing in the morning. I like a nice cool glass of lemon water (some like it hot, I prefer it cool-- not ice cold, but cool is refreshing to me). Lemon water has some great benefits, like kickstarting bile production (improving digestion and absorption of foods), giving us a dose of vitamin C and minerals first thing but even if you skip the lemon, you’ll still reap the benefits of water first thing.
Balance your breakfast
2. Balance your breakfast: breakfast is often, unfortunately, the most highly rated (“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”) and yet under-utilized tools for living a healthier life (“I’ll just grab a muffin on the way out of the door”). Your breakfast sets you up for a more balanced day. Your blood sugar is a HUGE factor in how you feel and how your body performs throughout the day. Insulin, our body’s main storage hormone, is the hormone that moves glucose we obtain from carbohydrates (all carbohydrates-- broccoli and bagels) out of our bloodstream and where we need it; generally to the liver or the muscles to be used as fuel. However, the higher our blood sugar spikes, the MORE insulin our body needs to move that glucose out of our blood, where it needs to go and the higher something goes, the harder it falls. Our body is MOST sensitive to insulin first thing in the morning, meaning our body is on high alert to secrete that insulin to provide the body with fuel for your day. So you eat that muffin at 8am on your way out the door, alone, without anything else to balance it, and your blood sugar is going to spike up high, and crash DOWN, somewhere in the 2-3 hour range depending on how sensitive your body is to glucose. (p.s. Those who have insulin resistance, in the case of diabetes or PCOS don’t respond as quickly to glucose, meaning more and more insulin is secreted in order to bring our blood sugar down, which causes inflammation among other side effects.). This is what I call the rollercoaster effect. You go up, up, up, up, and DOWN, fast, and you are hangry and exhausted all at once at like 10 or 11 am-- and the cycle continues. So rather than eating something where your blood sugar spikes and crashes, simply balancing your breakfast with some protein and/or fat foods will help to keep your blood sugar steadier-- it will still go up (that’s normal), but less insulin is needed and therefore the down is slower and you likely won’t dip as low (unless you’re ignoring your hunger signals), you won’t need to eat again as soon in most cases and your blood sugar looks more like a kiddie train than it does the Millenium Force.
Read: it doesn’t mean we should just eat less carbohydrates. It just means we need to balance our breakfast so we maintain our energy throughout the day, avoiding those high-highs and low-lows. We do this simply: making sure whatever we enjoy for breakfast has carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Carve out some you-time
3. Carve out some you-time. This one almost seems obvious- as most of us have gotten on board the self-care train. It’s the ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’ mentality that so many of us are familiar with-- but are you actually doing it? Are you actually taking time, DAILY, just for you-- and no, brushing your teeth or going to the bathroom doesn’t count (and heck, some of us don’t even do that alone!). ARE you taking the time to fill your cup so you can overflow to others? It’s not selfish to take a few minutes of me time during the day- it’s a necessary recharge for busy mamas (no matter what your momming situation #noguilt). I don’t mean you need to book a daily massage or lock your kids in their bedroom for two hours for ‘mommy’s me-time’- I mean where can you carve out 10, 20, 30 minutes each day to recharge? Read a book, go for a walk (if you have childcare!), write in a journal, read some encouraging scripture, take a bath, drink some tea while doing absolutely nothing; whatever is recharging to YOU, do it. Daily. Remember this is something you want to be health-promoting and uplifting; if scrolling social media or drinking wine while watching trashy TV doesn’t do it for you, don’t do those things! Focus on how this time will make YOU better.
Take a walk
4. Take a walk. I mentioned this when I was talking about you-time, but walking is one of THE best things you can do to boost your health. It can be alone, with a friend or with your kids- but walking on the regular (really, moving more in general but walking specifically) can boost your health by encouraging a healthier heart, lowering stress, maintaining bone health, strengthening your legs and making life EASIER on a daily basis by getting in more regular movement. So what about the mama who already runs marathons? Walking is STILL beneficial because it’s low-impact, it will stretch and strengthen your hard-worked muscles (whether you’ve squatted a ton or ran a bunch-- still beneficial) and encourage low-stress movement you can do with no equipment, whenever suits you.
Prepare the night before
5. Prepare the night before. The best way to ensure a healthier day? Plan ahead. Take a look at your day the next day. What’s going on? What can you do to encourage health, tomorrow? Are you busy with kids and work and the only time you can squeeze in movement is first thing in the morning? Set your alarm and lay out your workout clothes the night before. How about your lunch break? Pack your clothes and walking shoes in your work bag and go for a 10 minute stroll. Is your morning crazy? Make up a smoothie bag and put your blender on the counter so you can whip up a quick smoothie first thing. Out and about with the kids all day? Pack a lunch and snacks ahead of time instead of rolling through the drive through. Crazy evening? See what you have on hand for a healthy slow cooker meal (meal planning is HUGE). This does not have to be complicated! It’s simply looking ahead and developing the strategies to make healthy living work for you.
Living a healthier mama life does not have to feel elusive and unreachable. There is no need to overhaul your entire routine, clean out your cupboard or ‘new year, new me!’ to start creating small habits, daily that will improve your health and add up to big changes in your life. After all, it’s the little things- the simple things, that create long-term effects in your health and your family. The smaller the changes, the more success and each success creates momentum that causes a ripple effect throughout your life and daily routine. Where are you going to start? What daily habit are you going to begin to develop to improve your life, this week?