What do you say when your husband suggests taking leave from work, renting out your home, and moving somewhere else in the world for a couple of months to join you on maternity leave? I admit, when Dave posed this idea, I thought it was a bit of a pipe dream. I responded with muted excitement over the prospect, but figured it was too good to be true. It was, most likely, not something we could pull off.
Fast forward two months, and I, of course, am writing to you from beautiful Valencia, Spain.
If I have learned anything in the last decade, it is to never underestimate my husband’s ambition. He has big dreams and will do anything to make them happen. I’m just the lucky one who gets to go along for the ride. We are both ambitious in our own rights, but his crazy dreaming paired with my practical sensibility make for a great team in so many ways. Traveling together is no exception.
Unlike our past travels, this trip would be different in a few ways: first and foremost, we would be bringing along our four month old daughter, Ayla. I can’t tell you the number of sleepless nights I had about this. So many worries that were quickly forgotten, beginning when she slept for seven straight hours on the flight over. Time change included, it was all downhill from there. Ayla has proven to be a very chill travel buddy, and super resilient in all ways imaginable.
Secondly, we planned to be away for two months, a far cry from a simple week’s vacation. Two months as an adult is one thing. Leaving with a four month old baby and returning with a six month old is something completely different. There were many things to consider, including clothing sizes, developmental changes, and the introduction of solid foods. Despite these considerations, among others, we decided this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Before we knew it, flights were booked and AirBnbs confirmed. We were headed to Europe for two months to live as a family of three!
First stop: Valencia, Spain.
Next, find out how we managed Ayla's jet lag and encouraged her to become a pint-sized travel bug, all while maintaining a schedule abroad.
p.s. we're vlogging this journey! Check out The Mundy Family on YouTube and subscribe (Yes, I am now a blogger and vlogger--exhausting social media as my creative outlets)
The Birth Story
It turns out, when you have a baby, projects take five times as long to complete as they would have, pre-child. I began writing this post when Ayla was six weeks old. She is now almost four months! Time flies when you’re parenting. There is so much I want to share about life after baby--my experiences to date, the amazing and the terrifying, the daily ups and downs. There are many moments when new mothers feel lost and alone, but if I have learned anything over the past four months, it`s that you are never alone in motherhood. Whatever it is you are going through, whatever you are feeling, there are a million and one women who can relate. Today marks a new chapter of this blog and what I hope to be the first installment of many, where healthy living meets child rearing. So, starting from the beginning, here is the story about the day I became a mother.
I write this post from a very different perspective than my previous blogs: as a mother. It’s crazy to think that this tiny human I now hold in my arms was growing inside of me just a few short weeks ago… and that Dave and I created her! Wild. After months of wondering what giving birth would feel like, how it would feel to become a mother and what life with a newborn would look like, I finally know. So here I am to spill the beans: the amazing, the bad and the ugly. Let’s just lay it all out there, shall we? If for no one else but myself, I’m excited to debrief and document the birth of my daughter, transitioning into life as a stay-at-home parent, finding my new normal, and comprehending the magnitude of love that I feel for this little person that I get to hang out with on the daily.
That’s a lot of material to cover. So for now, let’s start at the beginning.
Ayla Claire Mundy was born exactly one week past her due date (the longest week of my life, to date). She arrived after a grueling 23 hours of back labour, 19 of which were drug free (you better believe it didn’t end that way). I woke up on January 13th around 12:45am with contractions that were more than a little uncomfortable. Dave was sleeping soundly beside me, so I snuck down the hall to the bathroom, turned the light on and concentrated. Were these real contractions? Were they timeable? It quickly became apparent that the answer to both of these questions was yes. Using an app (there really is an app for everything), I determined that they were coming anywhere between six and seven minutes apart. I knew from speaking with my midwife that this was not close enough to be rushing to the hospital any time soon and I also knew my water had not yet broken. I figured I had better settle in, because I probably wouldn’t be going anywhere for another few hours. It should be noted that, in my naivety, this meant around maybe 9, 10am. In hindsight, this guess was actually laughable.
I woke Dave up and casually told him that I was in labour. Contractions were still fairly far apart, but I would not be able to sleep through them, so I was going to hang out in the guestroom and do the best I could. But he should sleep. I figured one of us should be well rested. Dave tentatively agreed and tried to get some rest for a few more hours. I worked through painful contractions for the next 6 hours using breathing and visualization techniques learned, pre-labour (I really expected these to be more helpful than they were). By early morning I was convinced it was time to page my midwife. After a brief phone conversation, she basically told me (in a kind but clear manner) that I needed to buckle down and get ready for a long day, because I wasn’t even close to active labour. I’m sorry… what? I’m ready to go! The bags are packed and this really hurts! No dice. Dave got up around six, and by this time I was starting to enter what we like to call the pain cave. It’s a deep, dark place that no one really likes spending much time in. The labour was felt primarily in my back. I soon needed Dave to help me get through every contraction. He got me standing, leaning against counters, tables--anything to try to relieve some of the pain. He would push on my lower back while supporting me with the other arm under my ribs. By 11am, I told him I couldn’t do this anymore and that I needed to go to the hospital (I’m also fairly certain this is about the time that I started to request, in a very polite and dignified way of course, that I get an epidural). Just after noon, my midwife arrived to check my progress. As I lay in agonizing pain on the couch, head in Dave’s lap, she delivered the devastating news that I was only 2cm dilated. I cried tears of defeat. How would I make it through this? The high pain tolerance and strength that I thought I possessed didn’t seem to stand a chance against this beast of a task. The fact that I hadn’t slept since the night prior wasn’t helping my case either. My midwife gave me a shot of Gravol in the leg in hopes that it would help me relax and doze between contractions, and told me to get in the bath. I needed to rest to help my labour progress. Between contractions, Dave got me upstairs and into a warm bath. The Gravol was hitting hard, so he put a travel pillow around my neck in hopes that this would prevent me from drowning. Smart. Contractions would still hit like a ton of bricks, but I would immediately pass out between them. It was like having 5 minute sleep cycles. The worst.
After about what I assume was an hour, I somehow pulled myself out of the tub, grabbed a heating pad to lay on and climbed into bed. Although I was still struggling to keep my eyes open between the bouts of pain, I was convinced that contractions were finally getting closer together. I started timing them again. Four minutes, three minutes, two minutes, three minutes… I wasn’t making this up! I yelled for Dave (he had fallen asleep on the couch while I was in the bath, certain we would not get to go to the hospital until the next day and that we were in for one of the longest nights of our lives). He jolted awake and ran upstairs. Although I was still drowsy, the contractions were so close together that I couldn’t labour without his help. He would breath on my skin in an attempt to guide and slow my breathing which had become fast and out of control. He told me how strong I was and that I could do this in moments when I told him I couldn’t. In short, he was my absolute rock. I don’t know how I would have endured the pain for as long as I did without him. I have never needed or loved him more than I did through this process. He called the midwife and, finally, we were given the green light to get on the road. Between contractions we, somehow, made it into the car and drove the 15 minutes to the hospital. You don’t know how efficiently you can work in one minute intervals until you’re in labour. Getting up to the labour and delivery floor was the next challenge, walking as far as I possibly could before the next contraction hit. I refused a wheelchair (which several passerbys offered) since sitting made everything worse. I needed to lean against the wall while Dave continued to put pressure on my lower back. It took some time, to say the least.
Upon pushing through the doors, Dave ran passed me and threw our bags into the delivery room. I can’t say for sure, but I’m fairly certain the first thing I said (yelled) as soon as I saw a nurse (I think she was a nurse anyway. I really didn’t care at this point) was, “I want an epidural!” They assured me our midwife had called ahead and the anesthesiologist had been notified. As I continued to stumble towards the room, now with the help of my midwife and nurses, I suddenly heard, “Mrs. Mundy!” I looked, hazily, to my left only to see the mother of two of my past students. Heather is an OB, and for months before leaving on mat leave, we joked about her being the doctor on call when I went into labour. “Can you imagine?” we’d say. I was unable to respond, as another contraction rolled in and I grabbed the wall railing. Heather, immediately recognizing back labour, ran to my aid and put counter pressure on my lower back to help carry me through. It was at that moment that I knew I was going to survive. There were people here who were going to do everything in their power to make me as comfortable as possible. After 19 hours of hell, I welcomed the light I saw at the end of the tunnel.
Getting into the delivery room, my midwives (I had two, plus a student) sprang into action. Dave was finally able to step back and take a deep breath, knowing I was in good hands. The news was delivered that the anesthesiologist wouldn’t be able to administer my epidural for an hour. This was crushing, but less so when the nitric oxide was offered up. I was able to breath this magical gas every time a contraction hit (which seemed like every minute on the minute). Although it didn’t do much for the pain, it did deliver a serious temporary high that took my mind to a special place for a short period of time. After a few minutes, Heather popped in to say she made a call and, in fact, my epidural was on its way. It pays to know people, am I right? I couldn’t tell you the name of the anesthesiologist, or what she looked like, but I can tell you that she quickly became my favourite person in the room. A needle of that magnitude tickled in comparison to what I had been feeling. Soon, my body relaxed and I was met with the biggest rush of relief that I had ever felt in my life. Being released from the kind of pain that I had been enduring for that long was beyond any feeling I could imagine. I knew I would be getting a baby soon, but in that moment, nothing else mattered but being able to rest.
Within 20 minutes, I was a new woman. Cracking jokes and everything--a special cocktail of lack of sleep and drugs. But the energy in the room quickly changed when my midwife saw that the baby’s heart rate was elevating. After a few moments, she called Heather back in for a consultation. It was quickly decided that the baby was likely running out of space and they would need to break my water. I immediately gave up any and all control to the professionals. I knew I would let them do whatever was needed in order to keep my babe safe. So, my water was broken, which lead to the response we were hoping for and baby’s heart rate stabilized. However, it was at this time that they saw meconium in the amniotic fluid. This meant that, at some point in time, baby had pooped in utero, a common response particularly for babies who are overdo. This wasn’t overly concerning, but my midwife decided to take precaution and call in the pediatric and respiratory doctors for delivery, as extra suctioning would likely be needed. The next scary moment came when baby’s heart rate dramatically dropped. Again, Heather came quickly into the room, followed by a sea of nurses. But, after a few quickly guided position changes on my part, her heart rate stabilized once again. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
Soon after, my midwife checked my progress, and faster than any of us had anticipated, it was casually suggested that I could probably try pushing. What? Now? Both Dave and I thought we had another few hours of mental preparation left before this moment, but I guessed it seemed as good of a time as any. So, after a few very brief instructions and a bit of position change (I basically gave birth on my side, since that was the position that seemed to work best for babe), I was ready to go. I should note: there were no leg stir-ups. You know the things I’m talking about? That women get to put their feet on in the movies? Ya, turns out it was going to be a bit more relaxed than that. Ok, fine. I quickly found I was able to give three good pushes within each contraction. I made fast progress and soon, baby’s head was making an appearance! Dave got in on the action, watching our little girl make her entrance into the world with each push, all the while encouraging me to keep going and reassuring me that she was almost here. Much to the amazement of my midwives (and to myself), it took less than 10 minutes of pushing before I was suddenly holding this tiny, crying human on my chest. I couldn’t believe that she was finally here!
Before I could even process this moment, she was swept away and taken to the warming table across the room where our team of doctors and nurses got to work. She did, in fact, require quite a bit of suctioning due to the intake of meconium, but the mood in the room remained calm and positive. Dave went over to be with our daughter while I remained on the hospital bed, ready to deliver the placenta and then get cleaned up. After 20 minutes, Heather came over to my bedside and calmly explained that Ayla had taken in quite a bit of meconium--we would soon learn this was called meconium aspiration--and that they were taking her to the special care nursery to ensure she was receiving all of the oxygen needed. As I was still confined to the bed, Dave and I insisted that he go with her.
The hour that followed was very strange. I was so drained and taken aback from everything I had just gone through, I was having a difficult time processing it all. I had just had a baby, and yet, was suddenly left in this quiet room without her. After about half an hour, Dave returned with an update. Ayla was doing well, but she had been put on oxygen and a vacuum had been fed through her mouth into her lungs to clear the congestion. We were also faced with the difficult decision to put her on antibiotics in case the meconium in her lungs had caused an infection. We wouldn’t know this for 48 hours, once her blood cultures returned from the lab. Pressed for time, we quickly asked our midwife what she would do if it was her child. She told us she would take the meds. If the cultures came back positive and we hadn't yet started the antibiotics, we would have a very sick baby on our hands. We decided the benefits outweighed the risk, and (somewhat reluctantly) decided the start the medication.
Dave had been keeping our parents updated all day and we had told them not to come until morning. I called my mother as soon as I had a quiet moment and told her that our babe had finally arrived. I vaguely recall giving her the foggy details of Ayla’s health concerns, but honestly, I’m not sure how accurately I portrayed the situation. The drug/sleep deprivation/emotional roller coaster hangover was real (Ex. I announced Ayla’s birth via text to one of my best friends and told her her birthday was September 17th. Not even close).
After being released from labour and delivery after what felt like an eternity, Dave was able to wheel me to the special care nursery where Ayla was being carefully monitored. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw when I arrived. My sweet, innocent babe was lying on a warming table, hooked up to a million machines, with a tube down her throat, a mask on her face and an IV in her hand. My heart broke into what felt like a million pieces. I immediately began to cry, but was assured that she was doing well and that this was the best place for her. She would not be staying in my room overnight, as she would remain under close observation by the special care nurses and the pediatric doctor.
Reluctantly, I returned to my room. As much as I didn’t want to leave her side, I hadn’t slept in 48 hours and knew that I just needed to close my eyes for a few hours in order to process everything that was happening. Dave tucked me into bed and told me he was going to go stay with Ayla, which I supported entirely. I drifted off to sleep almost immediately and woke three hours later. It was 6am. I rolled out of bed, gingerly got myself to the bathroom, changed from the hospital gown to my own pajamas and began the walk back to the special care nursery. Dave had just stepped out of the room to call his family and wasn’t there when I arrived. I walked around the corner to see my little girl lying helplessly on the table, still hooked up to all of the machines in the world. With the clarity brought by a few hours of sleep, I began to process what we had just been through and the tears came immediately. We didn’t know how long Ayla would need to stay like this. I didn’t even know when I would be able to hold her. This was supposed to be one of the happiest moments of our lives and I felt helpless and heart broken.
I hadn’t been there for more than a few moments when the nurse who had been caring for Ayla through the night came into the room. She was a straight shooting woman. Not the warmest, but smart and seemed to recognize what I was going through. She, very matter of factly, told me Ayla had been doing very well. The oxygen being provided through her mask had already been reduced significantly. The good news continued as she quickly decided that I could try skin to skin. I was elated, as five minutes ago, holding my child seemed like a distant dream. The nurse worked to maneuver the many wires attached to Ayla. She pulled up a large chair to the table and told me to sit. Then she carefully lifted my baby off the table and placed her against my chest. At that moment, Dave came into the room to this scene and I think it was a very special moment for both of us. One I will never forget. We stayed like this for about an hour. Soon, the pediatrician began his morning rounds. The good news continued as he decided she was ready to try breathing on her own. Her mask was removed and, to our relief, her breathing was strong and stable. The next nurse on duty told me I could try breastfeeding, which she helped me do for the first time. Although foreign to both Ayla and I, it couldn’t have gone smoother. Another sigh of relief for mom and dad.
We stayed with her the rest of the day as our close family members arrived to meet our new addition. The visits were a bit of a blur, but everyone, although concerned about the extra care needed and all of the unknowns, was thrilled to finally meet our little one. By the end of the day, our straight shooting night nurse was back and told us that, if all continued to go well, she would unhook Ayla from the remaining monitors and bring her to our room at midnight, where she could stay. Antibiotics would be administered manually through her IV to allow for this. She gave us strict instructions to go back to our room and sleep for a couple of hours, which we agreed to. As promised, she delivered Ayla to us at midnight and she slept on my chest for the rest of the night. It was bliss.
The next 24 hours were a blur. The baby brain is real. I was given a lot of information over the course of this time, 20% of which was absorbed. It was like words were going in one ear and out the other. Thank God for Dave, who, recognizing my brief but very obvious drop in IQ, was an absolute rockstar and made sure all important information was communicated to him. He took care of everything that wasn’t breastfeeding, essentially (although, honestly, he helped with that too, any way he could). Looking back, we are thankful for our unexpected extended hospital stay in many ways, as it provided us the opportunity to speak with numerous nurses, doctors and lactation consultants. We learned a lot, particularly around breastfeeding. Ayla continues to be an amazing nurser, and we attribute much of our strong start to the information given to us by these professionals.
After 48 hours, we were delivered the good news that we had been praying for: Ayla’s blood cultures had come back negative for infection. She was taken off of the antibiotics and we were free to head home. This was amazing and terrifying all at the same time. Were we ready to leave the cozy, safe bubble we had created over the past two and a half days? Take this baby into the real world without the help of a team of professionals? We were about to find out.
With that, we packed ourselves up, put Ayla in the car seat (with minimal tears on all of our parts), and walked out into the world as a family of three, ready to embark on our biggest adventure yet: parenthood.
I think it's natural for many to step away from a doing a whole lot of baking during the warmer months. We are more inclined to look for refreshing food choices when the sun is beaming down. But, as the weather turns colder and my nesting instincts grow stronger, I find myself being drawn back into the kitchen. There's something about the winter months that make me want to bake up a storm on the weekends. I am constantly looking for ways to turn traditional comfort baked goods into something a little more nourishing, and this past weekend was no exception. I had a few zucchinis waiting to be used, so I thought, what better way than to whip up a loaf of zucchini chocolate chip bread! After a little research, I was able to adapt a few different recipe ideas to make this version of a gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free bread. I generally try to avoid a lot of food labels, but "paleo" was a lot easier to fit into the title. This loaf turned out moist and fluffy with just the right amount of sweetness, in my opinion. There are a couple of interesting things to note about the recipe: one of the key ingredients is a mashed banana. This not only adds to the natural sweetness, but also helps give it a great texture. The second thing is that the recipe requires quite a few eggs (6!), but that's stretched out over an entire loaf and helps to add a good dose of protein and healthy fats.
Nutrition Fun Fact of the Day: Egg yolks contain a high level of lecithin, a fat molecule that helps with a number of bodily functions. It not only helps you digest fat, but plays a valuable role in moving waste out of cells and allowing nutrients to move into cells (it helps maintain cell permeability). The take away here is to not be afraid of the yolk! As of recent, I do feel like this message has been received by the general public. The fear of yolks is passing with the increase in available information regarding the health benefits. Some professionals may suggest to limit your yolk intake IF you struggle with high cholesterol. Otherwise, you're probably fine (and will reap the benefits) of consuming the entire egg.
Ok, back to the recipe...
I used dark chocolate chips for this recipe, which I enjoy more than a milk chocolate, personally. This also helps ensure your loaf remains dairy-free, if that's important to you. I am not dairy-free myself, but I do limit the amount of cows milk in my diet to usually yogurt and a little bit of cheese from time to time. Many people, of course, find that cows milk causes digestive distress or other side effects. If you suffer from this, but are not sure why, it's one of the first foods I would suggest removing from your diet as it can be highly inflammatory. There are a couple of brands of dairy-free chocolate chips. For this recipe, I used Enjoy Life, available at most health food stores.
If you're a regular "healthy" baker (if you like to think of it that way),
I would say most of the ingredients needed for this recipe can be found
in your pantry. I didn't have to go out and grab anything special (other
than another carton of eggs so my husband still had breakfast
in the morning), as I use all of these items on the regular. So, without
further ado, let's get into how to make this yummy treat a reality
in your kitchen!
I hope you enjoy this yummy treat on a cold day as much as I did!
As I head into the final phase of this pregnancy, I thought it was time for a second trimester update. I write to you from the waiting room of the blood lab where I will be sitting for the next 60 minutes, post ingestion of 50g of glucose. There’s nothing like a 9am sugar rush to get the day started. May the gestational diabetes gods be on my side today when my blood is drawn an hour from now. They told me to bring something to do. So here I am.
Glucose testing aside (which really wasn’t that bad, by the way, despite the many cringes I've received at the mention of it), it is true what they say: the second trimester is, thus far, the honeymoon phase. Although it took a few weeks longer for the benefits of this blessed stage to really kick in, I have zero complaints when I think back to the challenges of my first 12 (*cough* 18 *cough*) weeks of pregnancy. By no means was a switch flipped over night, but very slowly, my energy levels began to increase and my nausea subsided. Some women experience insatiable hunger, particularly during the second trimester. I am somewhat appreciative that this didn’t happen for me, but am happy to report that some hunger sensations have returned in the past month or so, something I didn’t think I would ever be so excited to feel. I was beginning to think I would never enjoy eating again—one of the great pleasures in life.
With most of the unpleasantries behind me (with a few new ones to come, I imagine), it has given me the opportunity to really reflect on this pregnancy. Here’s what I’ve come up with: I continue to be amazed by the female body. To be fair, I don’t actually feel like this is my body, because I don’t recognize it, seeing as I’ve never done this whole, growing-a-human thing before. It feels more like a rent-a-body program. I’m just borrowing it for a few months. Before becoming pregnant, I would wonder if it would be difficult to watch my body change and adapt to this stage of life, experience more curves, a growing belly and a little increased padding. But, as it turns out, I am left more in awe, fascination and admiration than anything else. I am neither upset by the changes, nor am I in love with pregnancy (you know the women: “I LOVED being pregnant!”). I am, however, extremely appreciative of what the female body is capable of doing. I looked at Dave the other day, in one of those ah-ha moments and said, “there’s a human inside of me, and we made that! We haven’t even met her, but we made her!” Oh… it’s a girl by the way… did I mention that? More on that story later. Listen, I know this is nothing new. Obviously women have been making babies since the beginning of time. And yet? I am still amazed by the process. It’s incredible. By far, the best part has got to be feeling her daily kicks and punches, regular reminders of the life that is being grown and sustained inside of me.
In my last post, I wrote about how I struggled in the first trimester, feeling like I had kind of lost myself. I was unable to eat or stay active in the ways I had done for so many years. Heath and fitness are a huge part of who I am, and when I had to let go of that to merely survive (ironically), it was very difficult for me mentally and emotionally. However, minus a few lingering food aversions, I feel more like myself these days. Albeit, a pregnant version of me, but me, nonetheless. I am so thankful to be back at the gym several times a week and that my body is allowing me to do the things I love. I mentioned to my husband yesterday that I wasn’t proud of myself for maintaining my strength and fitness through this journey. I always knew I would want to do that—I wouldn’t struggle with motivation. But, I told him I was extremely proud of my body for allowing me to do this. I know it will help me during my delivery, as well as through the postpartum period. It also makes me happy. It allows me to feel like I’m still me.
Finding out the gender of our baby was an interesting process. First of all, we quickly learned that everyone has an opinion on whether you should or shouldn’t find out. In the end, I encourage you to block out all of those voices, because none of them matter. It should be a decision between you and your partner. No one else. Dave and I are beyond happy that we decided to find out. It has truly helped us to bond with our child before she has arrived. We speak about her as a “she” and are already dreaming of our sweet little girl and what she will be like when she arrives. We didn’t care either way, of course, whether we had a boy or a girl. But it’s been fun knowing this early in the game. When we went for our anatomy ultrasound, baby M was being “a little rascal,” as the tech continued to call her. She wouldn’t stop moving! This made taking the many measurements they needed very difficult. So difficult, in fact, that we were told we would need to come back in a week to get the rest of them. The tech knew we were interested in finding out the sex, so, after a few painful seconds of attempting to get the right view of our squirmy monkey, she said, “Well, my best guess is… the same as next door.” What? Anti-climactic at best, right? What does that even mean? Well, earlier in the test, when Dave had yet to be invited into the room, the tech and I could hear the very excited gender reveal of the baby in the next examination room, which happened to be a girl. Since Dave obviously didn’t hear this, I turned to him and said, “That means it’s a girl.” Not quite the moment we were hoping for. Regardless, we had a good laugh about it on the way out of the hospital. Isn’t that just the way of life? Definitely not like you see in the movies. A week later, we returned and our babe was a bit more chilled out this time. The tech was able to get the pictures she needed and agreed with the previous prediction that we were, most likely, having a girl. Ok. We’ll go with that for now. If it turns out to be a boy…. well, I wouldn’t be surprised at this point.
So here I am: 28 weeks (it’s taken me a couple of weeks to finish this post since starting to write it—life has been busy) and feeling pretty great, overall. The reality of becoming parents is certainly starting to hit us a bit harder, as the nursery comes together and the weeks seem to fly by. But it’s been so nice to be able to appreciate and embrace this stage of our lives, preparing for a life we know we are leaving behind, but excited for the incredible journey ahead. People keep saying that life will never be the same, and I believe it. But, through good times and bad, we are ready to take on life as a family of three.
When Dave and I found out we were pregnant, we were filled with a myriad of different emotions: joy, wonder, excitement, nervousness, anxiousness… the list goes on. With all of life’s uncertainties, nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming feeling that comes from knowing that, together, you created life. And now that life will continue to be sustained inside of you for the next nine months. To say that this is a miracle is an understatement. Even now, 17 weeks in, there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not amazed by what is happening inside of my body. There are so many couples who have difficulty conceiving. I think about these individuals daily and am sure to never take this miracle for granted. Even through the difficult days (and there have been quite a few), I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to become a mother.
Excitement is an emotion I have felt every day since finding out we were pregnant--excited to meet our little bean, excited for the ways in which our family is about to change, and excited for Dave and I to take on our next big gig: becoming parents. That said, my first trimester was anything but easy. As many mothers-to-be do, I experienced a variety of unpleasant symptoms that early pregnancy brings. Of course, I knew all of the possible symptoms that I may be faced with and how common they were. I knew about the ongoing nausea and un-heard of levels of exhaustion and inability to eat or live in ways you were used to, pre-baby creation. And yet? It still hit me like a ton of bricks.
Use a high-powered blender or food processor to blend your oats into a flour. Set aside. In a large bowl, add the coconut oil, applesauce, peanut butter, maple syrup and salt. Use a hand blender to blend under smooth. **Note: you can see that I did not melt my coconut oil before adding it. However, I suggest you do, as I had a tricky time getting it to blend smoothly into the mixture.
Next, add the oat and almond flour to the rest of the mixture and blend until smooth. To add a bit of moisture, add a splash of non-dairy milk. Fold in the chia seeds and chocolate chips. Roll into small balls (think tablespoon size), place on a plate lined with parchment paper and pop in the freezer for 5 minutes or until firm. I chose to store mine in a freezer bag in the freezer. This way, they will keep but are available for easy snacking access.
For a nut-free version, try sunflower butter instead of peanut butter.
It's been months, but I am back with a new blog! And after a lengthy hiatus, I thought I would ease myself back into things with a simple recipe.
Just as a little update, I spent my summer writing an email subscription course for Leanfit Protein, a company based in British Columbia. This was an incredible opportunity, and I had a blast doing it. However, it didn't leave a lot of content in the writing bank for blogging. That said, I submitted my final drafts yesterday and am ready to dive back into Eat.Move.Live.!
Today, I am sharing a very simple "breakfast" cookie recipe that I threw together yesterday. Now that I'm back at work and into a routine, healthy baking has made its way back into my weekend activities. Although the name suggests a breakfast food, these cookies can be easily enjoyed at any point throughout the day. Personally, I knew that a "cookie" wasn't going to cut it for breakfast, so I chose to make mine smaller and just have it as a morning snack. That said, if you're not a huge breakfast person, you can pump up the volume, add in more healthy fats and be left with a perfect grab-and-go food to fuel your morning.
The nice thing about a recipe like this is that it's hard to go wrong. You can substitute ingredients right left and centre, and still be left with something delicious. This was my second recipe of the evening, so I went for fast and simple:
2 cups oats
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used half sunflower butter)
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2tsp all spice
1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp baking soda
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
chia seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, almond butter, coconut, etc.
Combine oats, nut butter, banana, spices, baking powder/soda, salt, vanilla, and honey. Fold in cherries and pecans.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and spoon on batter at desired size. Cook at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.
And voila: cookies for breakfast!
This post was written several months ago, but did not transfer over to the new site. So, from the archives, here it is once again!
Carbs tend to get a bad rep in the weight loss world. It’s hard to pinpoint where this reputation originated, but I feel like I am constantly surrounded by (primarily) women who have a carbohydrate phobia. This is depressing… because carbs are delicious. If loving them is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
Without a shred of doubt, I believe there is a time and place for carbohydrates. We need them. Not only for proper athletic performance, but for optimal brain functioning. However, choosing the right kinds of carbohydrates can the tedious task.
There are so many opinions floating around about carbohydrates, in terms of what kinds to eat, when to eat them and how to eat them. Personally, I’ve played around with lots of principles and have found what works well for me. It’s important to note that everyone is different. Although the fundamentals of carbohydrate processing and utilization are the same for everyone, people’s tolerances for them differ. Some find they are more carb sensitive, while other people tend to be more sensitive to fat consumption. There are some who are very fortunate and don’t find that they are particularly sensitive to either. Like everything else in the nutrition world, your approach to carbohydrate consumption should be individualized for your body and goals. However, I’m here to tell you what I’ve learned along my own journey. Do I always stick to these principles? Definitely not. There are way too many delicious things in the world. I simply use them as guidelines to help keep me on track for optimal functioning, performance, and body composition.
My favourite carbohydrate sources
Before I start in on my favourite carb sources, I would like to preface this by saying that although yes, all vegetables are considered carbohydrates, that’s not what I’m talking about here. When I decide on my carb sources for the day, I am considering my energy levels and expenditure—what do I need to accomplish in terms of activity? The foods I then incorporate into my daily meal plan are those from the fruit, grain, and starchy vegetable categories. Although spinach is a carb, I am not going to rely on leafy greens alone to get me through a workout.
Now, if I’m being honest, my favourite carbohydrates include copious amounts of assorted candy from Bulk Barn. BUT, since eating that on the regular doesn’t help me to reach any kind of goal (other than a brief period of pure bliss), let’s talk about what carbs I like to incorporate into my meals on a daily basis.
As mentioned, my carb sources often depend on my activity levels for the day, but for the most part, I like to eat roots, tubers and starchy vegetables like sweet potato, and whole grains like brown basmati rice. Quinoa is another favourite in our house (bonus: it’s also packed with protein). I also incorporate fruits here and there. Now, since I shy away from gluten, my healthy carb sources don’t include things like Eziekiel bread, etc. but I definitely recommend that brand for the non-wheat intolerant population. After reading the work of various health authors who looked at the best breads on the market, many professionals agreed that Eziekiel bread offers some of the highest quality ingredients.
Let’s pause briefly to consider why we are told time and time again to eat whole grains (like those found in breads like Eziekiel). This is a principle that many people follow, but it may not be clear why we follow it. When breads and other grain-based foods are made with refined flours, it means their bran and germ have been stripped away during the milling process. As a result, you consume all of the carbohydrates with very few of the nutrients that were originally found in the grain. To make matters worse, these products are often packaged with additional salt and fat. Will you keel over and die for eating a piece of Wonder bread? No. But consider value and nutritional density when choosing your grains on a daily basis.
Whether you’re eating a “healthy carb” or an “unhealthy carb”, they are all broken down into the same thing and sent to the liver to replenish energy stores.
In summary: eat whole grains and other real food for the majority of your carbohydrate sources. You’ll be getting the biggest bang for your buck.
When I eat them
It’s important to remember that this is my dietary regime. When I choose to eat the majority of my carbohydrate sources works for my optimal functioning, both physically and mentally. It’s certainly not to say that this is what everyone else should do. It’s so important to be mindful of your body and conscious of your reactions to different food intake. If you’re truly trying to discover what works best for you, start listening to how your body is responding to your food choices and timing.
When possible, I like to put the majority of my carb intake around my workouts. That might mean that I have a fruit before a workout and sweet potato afterwards, for example. There are many reasons for this, but here is one that’s easy to remember: carbohydrates are our body’s favourite fuel source. So if you need to access high levels of energy, such as during physical activity, choosing a carb source that can be quickly accessed by the body—like fruit—can make for a better workout. Many fruits are high in monosaccharides (fructose, to be specific), which means simple sugars that cannot be broken down any further. That’s why they are a fast-access carb. Have you ever seen cyclists grab a quick snack out of their back pocket during a ride? This is because they are often on the bike for hours at a time. Therefore, their energy stores need to be replenished. But they don’t have time to down a bowl of oatmeal. First of all, it’s just not practical. Secondly, oats are a complex, fibrous carb (which means they have more than two sugar groups linked together) that take longer for the body to break down. The food needs to be processed
Originally written for www.leanfit.com
1. It’s not always as simple as calories in vs. calories out.
For people looking to lose weight or gain muscle, it isn’t always as simple as eating in a calorie deficit or calorie surplus. Depending on where you are in your nutritional journey, this may be a good starting point, but it will only take you so far. The type of calories (or macronutrients) consumed will have an impact on how much energy you expend during your daily activities. Various foods have a different metabolic effect on your body, and that’s an important consideration when working towards composition goals. Protein, for example, has a high thermic effect, which means the body literally burns more calories when breaking it down than, say, carbohydrates. For example, when you eat 100 calories of carbs, and 100 calories of protein, your body will actually burn more calories processing the protein. This is quite a complicated topic, with plenty of related science to consider, but if you can remember that a calorie is not just a calorie, this information will take you a long way.
2. What works for your neighbour will not necessarily work for you.
Nutrition is a complex topic, and our bodies are even more complex. People are often quick to jump on the diet bandwagon as soon as they witness someone having success with a particular eating plan. When they don’t experience the same success, they are left feeling confused and discouraged. Instead of playing the never-ending game of musical diets, jumping from one nutrition fad to the next, be consistent. Make simple and realistic changes to your daily eating habits. Choose sustainable practices that you can maintain and that work with your lifestyle. This is the first step on the road to healthy eating.
3. A little tough love: you might be eating too much.
This is a bit of a sensitive topic, because I meet many women, in particular, who are actually not eating enough. They’ve been on a calorie-restricted diet for years, and as a result, are experiencing some level of metabolic damage. Or, people limit their calories for days at a time, resulting in a huge binge at the end of the week, and consuming far too many calories for their body type. However, more often than not, people are fooling themselves. They believe that as long as they make healthy choices and are consuming nourishing foods, they should be good to go. The fat will take care of itself. And, although I wish it were as simple as this, calories do play a role. Now, this may seem contradictory to my first point of calories in vs. calories out, but we can’t deny that calories are important. If you are eating too much on a consistent basis, you will gain fat. It’s science. So that extra handful of nuts in the afternoon, eating mindlessly straight from the cereal box (guilty), or taking too many samples from the lady in Costco can really add up. All of the sudden, you’ve eaten 400 calories over your daily goal and you didn’t even notice! 400 calories x 7 days = 2,800 extra calories a week! Another example is falling into what I call “the smoothie trap.” Don’t get me wrong—smoothies and shakes are a convenient, nutrient dense meal to add into your nutrition routine. I have at least one every day. But, too often, people begin loading in the fruits and fats, without being cognizant of serving size. And, sure, every ingredient is real, nutritious food. But, suddenly, they’ve made a 900 calorie smoothie without even knowing it. It’s important to gain an understanding of what you are consuming in a day. Try tracking your food for a week, using an app like My Fitness Pal (see my previous post for more info). This will provide you with an overview of what you are consuming on a daily basis and areas of nutrition where you may be falling short (or going over!).
So, to sum here, here are the top 3 things I wish everyone knew about nutrition:
1. It isn’t always as simple as calories in vs. calories out. Our bodies process different foods in different ways. Pay attention to the types of foods you are consuming and find a balance between macronutrients.
2. Just because a particular eating plan works for your neighbour, does not necessarily mean it will work for you. Find sustainable and healthy practices that fit your lifestyle and be consistent.
3. You may be eating too much. Try tracking your food and begin to gain an understanding of what you are actually consuming in a day and changes that may need to be made. Knowledge is power.
Originally written for www.leanfit.com
Client question: What is the best way to track my nutrition?
Tracking nutrition is a great tool for those looking to gain a better understanding of what their daily food intake is. It helps build awareness of nutrition and often shines light on areas of our diet where we may be falling short. Although it isn’t for everyone, and certainly not a strategy that needs to be used daily, all year long, it is a tool that people can utilize to get their nutrition on track and learn how their eating style may be affecting their body composition and goals.
In today’s era of technology, tracking is easier than ever. Numerous aps and online programs have been developed that allow people to simply track their daily food intake. By far, the most popular of these aps is My Fitness Pal. MFP offers a variety of features, including goal setting, macro, calorie and exercise tracking, progress reports, and sharing your journey with friends.
MFP is an awesome tool, particularly for those who are working towards a specific goal. Remember: the more specific your health and/or fitness goal, the more dedicated you must be to your diet. MFP allows you to track each meal and lets you know when you have hit your calorie and macronutrient goals.
As much as I love this tool, there are certainly downfalls to be aware of. First, anyone can add foods to the MFP database, and it’s not always clear whether the nutritional information on these items is correct. The best way to combat this problem is to use the barcode scanning feature (available through the app, but not the online interface) if the food is packaged, or look for similar foods with the green checkmark beside them. This means the content has been verified. Another tip to remember when tracking your food is that “eyeballing it” isn’t always the most reliable method. Serving sizes may be misjudged, and that can be enough to throw you into a calorie surplus when you’re trying to eat in a deficit (or vise versa). Unless you are loosely tracking to ensure you remain relatively on point with your diet, I do recommend weighing and measuring your food when possible. Again, this is for those individuals who are striving to reach a specific goal within a given time frame. Otherwise, a more relaxed approach to tracking is acceptable and recommended.
Another factor to be aware of is that, by no means, is tracking a perfect science. Not only can there be error in the data, but everyone processes calories and nutrients differently. So it’s very difficult to know how your body will absorb and utilize the amount of calories documented for a specific food.
If you are working with a professional, nutrition tracking may be as simple as keeping a food journal. Your coach or nutritionist can then view your log and provide suggestions moving forward.
In conclusion, I think food tracking is an excellent tool to have in your nutritional toolbox. It can help build food awareness and support you in reaching your goals. That being said, it can be time consuming and inaccurate. So take it with a grain of salt and only use it if it makes sense to do so. Tracking is not a strategy that needs to be employed 24/7, so take advantage of it when it can be most useful to you. If you find yourself obsessing over the numbers, it may be time to opt for a less all-consuming nutrition approach.