There’s always a few buzz words popping up in the world of nutrition. Different seasons bring different trends (celery juice, anyone? And do you remember the cayenne and lemon juice craze 10 years ago? I vividly remember someone passing out from this one. True story). Some of these trends have valid health benefits but are often not sustainable practices. Good thing--save some celery for the rest of us, people.
The reason why it’s called a trend is that it tends to come and go. So why do people jump on board with these fleeting eating habits? And why don’t they stick around? The second question is easy to answer, in my opinion. They trend rather than stick because most of these practices aren’t sustainable. I would also suggest that most people don’t receive the magical results they are looking for, if you really dive into their reason for trying it. So after a while, losing motivation to keep up the unsustainable practice because their weight or health ideals aren’t coming true, they slowly stop their new routine. But why did they start in the first place? When it comes to health and weight loss, I think a lot of people are looking for that “magic pill.” And I get it. They are hoping that they have finally found the answer they have been searching for that will get them to that “ideal” they have in their head. But in the end, these practices rarely work, which leaves us wondering… what DOES actually work? How do people get themselves to a healthy, happy place and stay there?
This is where we find intuitive eating. It lives right here, at the end of that question. Now, there is also a huge emotional aspect that needs to be discussed here, but if we attempted to tackle that right now, this post would be a book. But know that you have to get to a place where you are ready and willing to eat intuitively and accept the benefits that it can bring to your life, despite the fact that you may not reach the ideal body that exists in your head. You need to deal with your crap and figure out why that ideal has manifested and determine how to move past it to the things that are ultimately more important, like long-term health and feeling great in your own skin, reducing your risk for chronic disease and increasing energy levels. Knowing and believing that healthy looks different in all people is an important shift here.
(Note: I had to move past MY own crap just to be able to write a post like this. There is no way that gym-rat, performance-based, aesthetics-focused Lindsay that was kicking around this blog five years ago would have the ability to write these words from an authentic place. I had to live it first)
My own journey to intuitive eating has been an interesting one and has certainly seen many seasons. Upon reflection, I think I made it here through experience, further education, shifting focus, and maturity. Before getting pregnant with my daughter, I was really into fitness and ate to support my goals. This meant learning how to track food and reach certain macronutrient goals in order to maximize performance in the gym. I am not afraid to say that I actually really enjoyed this for many months (maybe years) and treated it primarily as a hobby and learning experience. I learned a lot about using nutrition to fuel performance and even coached other people with similar goals. And although this is not how I eat today, I do believe, if used correctly, there can be a time and place for tracking and that it can be a major tool for understanding how food acts as fuel, how our body reacts to different macronutrients, and what food is made up of. That said, I also believe food tracking can lead to obsessive behaviours and can easily spiral out of control if attempted by the wrong personality type. This is extremely important. Tracking at any point in one’s life, even if just meant for a short period, is NOT for everyone and can even be dangerous.
However, after becoming pregnant with my daughter, a couple of things happened. I was way too sick and exhausted during my first trimester to even think about focusing on gym performance, and also my priorities quickly began to shift. Suddenly, I was much more interested in long-term health for not only myself, but my child. I was very aware that I was now in my 30s and started to look into my future and envision the healthy life I wanted for myself and my family as I got older. I began to eat for my overall health and not necessarily for aesthetic and performance goals. I looked at food as fuel for my growing baby and aimed to optimize my choices as much as I could to support her.
Additionally, I became incredibly appreciative of the female body and all it is capable of. I developed so much gratitude for my body and its abilities, which lead to having more compassion for myself and giving how I looked on the outside less power and importance. And so began my journey of intuitive eating and eating for long-term health.
As it turns out, it’s a much more sustainable place to live. It’s far less complicated and stressful as food tracking and works, well… forever. When you eat intuitively, you learn to turn inwards and listen to what your body needs. You nourish your body with the foods that make you feel strong, satisfied and energized. This knowing allows you to embrace flavours you instinctively love and maybe even try new recipes.
Personally, I found myself gobbling up seasonal foods and literally felt them allowed them nourishing me as nature intended through our transition from hot to cold in this Canadian climate. I didn't exhaust my will power by constantly fighting cravings, but learned to enjoy certain foods without going crazy, because I was not restricting. There was no pressure. It's a lovely lifestyle, if I do say so myself.
Would I still use food tracking and performance-based eating if the mood struck? For sure! If I decide that those goals are something I would like to focus on again, I would most likely create a hybrid of intuitive eating for long-term health plus focusing on the foods/eating style that brought me closer to my goals (i.e. no chemical laden zero-calorie drinks or sugar free pudding). It really depends on how aggressive the goal is, how badly you want it and why. I would suggest it would be suitable for a very small population.
People often wonder if different styles of eating can fit under the intuitive eating umbrella, like paleo, vegetarian or keto. I would say, yes. But it may be difficult to eat within these specific parameters without feeling the effects of “diet culture,” which can often lie within the realms of deprivation. So, that’s something to keep in mind. I’m not big on labels. Your diet may be more reflective of a keto or plant-based paradigm, but there is absolutely no need to label yourself as such. It’s unimportant. Eat to feel well. That is all.
Now, we can’t really talk about intuitive eating without addressing emotions. If we are eating intuitively, emotions naturally fit in there somehow. Can that cloud things a little bit? Very likely. If you’ve ever been an emotional eater, it can often be a result of deprivation and it’s very important to heal this first before being able to fully embrace the benefits of intuitive eating. If this is you, I really encourage you to work on this part first, either by exploring resources yourself or finding a professional to speak with. It’s an important step towards long-term health and building a healthy relationship with food.
If you want to discuss the world of intuitive eating more, feel free to reach out. I would love to support you on this journey.
I know I preach about green smoothies on the regular, and I do love starting my day off with a massive mason jar of green goodness, but there’s a new breakfast obsession that I am throwing into the rotation: the quinoa breakfast bowl.
I can’t deny that every now and then I love a good bowl of oatmeal. It’s hearty and warm and holds so many possibilities when it comes to toppings and flavours. That said, even when you buy organic (an absolute must for oatmeal), it isn’t necessarily the best breakfast choice.
As delicious as it is, oatmeal spikes blood sugar easily and can also cause bloating for many people.
So when I discovered the idea of making quinoa a breakfast food, I was pretty excited.
Quinoa is unrefined, gluten free, contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein and is full of fibre. It doesn’t have the same blood sugar effects as oatmeal, but can achieve the same breakfast results.
You can top it with whatever you want! Try nuts, seeds, cinnamon, yogurt, granola, fresh fruit… whatever your breakfast-loving heart desires. This morning, I chose chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut, coconut yogurt, granola and fresh raspberries.
Will I still have oatmeal from time to time, or has it been banished from my breakfast regime for good? Of course it hasn’t. I am not an abstainer by nature. I will always maintain that sometimes food is just meant to be enjoyed. That said, I am constantly on the hunt for optimal food choices to have on a daily basis.
So, if you’re an oatmeal lover like me but have your blood sugar levels top of mind, give this swap a try and let me know what you think!
We have hit summer temps here in Ontario, and that always inspires some cooler dishes in the kitchen. Nothing says summer like BBQ and fresh salads, am I right? Ayla is a massive fruit monster. The kid would live off of fruit salad if I let her. So she was the inspiration behind this dish. It's fresh and has a nice balance of sweet and salty. The star of the show is definitely the mint, in my opinion, so if you're nurturing an herb garden this year, it's the perfect opportunity to snip some of those babies off the stem and toss them in. Although I didn't use any this time around, basil would also be a beautiful addition to this recipe.
You don't have to worry too much about a specific measurements and should definitely allow the number of people you are serving to guide you, as well as a little taste test. But here's what I used, which served 3-4:
Mint, Watermelon + Feta Salad
I was on a roll. I had this mat leave schedule figured out. I was feeding my creative side by pumping out one blog post a week and sharing regular nutrition/health/mom related content on the gram. I was really leaning into a routine, joining several group workout seshes a week with fellow mat leave-ers, and soaking up quiet moments at home with Austin while pouring into Ayla when she got home from daycare. I had it all!
And then COVID hit. A tragic and impossible-to-anticipate world-wide pandemic that I certainly hadn’t imagined experiencing in my lifetime. And, like it did for almost everyone, it derailed any version of normalcy and routine we had. Nearly overnight, we were all pushed into some super uncomfortable territory. All of our kids were home… all of the time. Many people were told to work from home and to avoid going anywhere or seeing anyone. Others were deemed essential and asked to potentially put themselves and their families at risk with a virus we knew little about, while carrying out duties that supported the rest of society.
Suddenly, my two year old was home full-time. It was an abrupt full stop on the daycare scene, picking Ayla up at 5 on a Friday and learning by 6:30 that their doors would be closed on Monday. I was forced to quickly navigate life at home with a newborn, as well as with a busy toddler. All parents were asked to keep their children entertained, happy and educated without leaving their homes or relying on the support of anyone else. Working parents were asked to do this while simultaneously keeping up with their full-time work schedules and figuring out a new way of getting this done from their, likely, non-existent office.
We’re in month three now, so I don’t need to go on about how unnatural these asks were. I don’t need to tell you that we were never meant to live this way and do it all. You know this. I know this. But we’ve all had to figure it out anyway. Because when there is no other choice, humans adapt and evolve. That’s how we’ve managed to survive on this planet for so long.
So, like everyone else, I pushed through the growing pains (and, oh, were there growing pains). I am not afraid to tell you that I was in a dark place for a few weeks, mostly mourning the loss of the cushy mat leave life I had been lucky enough to create for myself, but also dealing with the incredibly hard transition for Ayla, which presented itself through big, sporadic emotions for the first month (her’s… mostly). It was rough, to say the least. And needless to say, any kind of social media presence or blogging inspiration went directly out the window, along with any other “me” time. I was struggling to find much joy in my days. I barely had time to shower. I was too busy helping Ayla through this massive life pivot--one she was too young to understand--and also taking care of the laundry list of needs of my very young children. Like most parents, I was drained by the end of the day with nothing left to give anyone. I would go to bed at night dreading the groundhog day effect I was bound to wake up to the next morning.
As if this wasn’t enough, Ayla decided to drop her nap. I legitimately couldn’t believe it. She was a new two and no nap felt extremely unfair, given the circumstances. After about three weeks of fighting her on this and wondering what kind of sick joke the universe was trying to play on me, I moved on to acceptance which, as it turns out, is an easier place to live in than denial. I began creating yet another new routine for Ayla by implementing mandatory quiet time in her room. A girlfriend introduced me to a great iPad app where a moon turns to a sun when quiet time is over and we have worked our way up to 35 minutes of independent, quiet play time. She tells me through the monitor when the sun comes up and, for the most part, is pretty good at staying in her room and playing with her books and blocks until I come retrieve her (this was after a couple of weeks of knocking on the door every 10 minutes. Teaching her that we could communicate through the monitor was key. “It’s like walkie-talkies!” I told her). Edit: today she partially ate a crayon. So… it doesn’t always go so smoothly.
Like I said, we adapt. Very slowly, we started to fall into something that resembled a routine. And, as more time passed, I tweaked that routine so that eventually it resembled something that I even enjoyed for the most part. I made it to a place where the idea of sending Ayla back to daycare made me sad. Don’t get me wrong--it will happen eventually. But we are full-out besties right now, spending every minute of every day together, and I’m going to miss her when she heads back to her classroom with her friends and teachers that she’s missed so much (my poor little extrovert).
The other thing that helped is that we basically jumped from winter straight into summer over here. Sunny, warm days that invited more outdoor play and relaxation helped everyone’s mood and opened up a few more opportunities for activity (even though we’re still missing our parks). Warmer weather also meant longer days, helping me to have more energy after the kids had gone to bed, to do more things for myself, or at least for the family, that left me feeling accomplished. Getting outside for a solo walk or errand, or spending some time in the garden, all made me feel a little more human again and gave me a chance to regain some sanity after a busy day fulfilling the needs of my kids.
So, here we are, like everyone else who was asked to navigate these unchartered waters, three months deep and feeling like we’ve done not too badly. The thing about discomfort is that you will almost undoubtedly break through the other side a little bit stronger. That uncomfortable feeling is where the change lives. It’s where you do the work to emerge a better human than before. And for this, I am thankful. I also have a lot of gratitude for this unexpected time with Ayla. At first, I mourned the loss of the mat leave I had envisioned and had guilt around the attention I wasn’t able to give Austin. I think these were important emotions to acknowledge and work through, but eventually I was able to let it go. Although very hard, at first, to balance a newborn and busy two year old, I can say with confidence that I know and understand Ayla on a very deep level, something I never would have gotten without this amount of time together.
As difficult as some days have been, a lot of good has come from this strange, strange time in history. I am thankful for being pushed into a slower-paced and simpler way of living. It allowed me to stay present with my kids and not worry if something wasn’t getting “done” all of the time. Nowhere to go and no one to see meant agendas weren’t so important anymore. As more information becomes available, strict distancing guidelines lift and businesses begin to reopen, I am thankful for the joy that very simple activities bring me today. Things I wouldn’t have thought twice about a few months ago now make me so happy (coffee from a local cafe, a walk with a good friend, time alone to read a book--time alone to do anything, really).
So that’s us. Despite it all, we managed to push through the dark days and come out the other side a little bit stronger and pretty happy. With a new-found comfort and routine, I’m looking forward to getting a little bit more content out and rejoining the rest of society again (even if it’s just virtually or from a six foot distance).
Tell me: how are you doing?
Sometimes I wonder if it just seems like the topics I’m interested in are becoming mainstream because I live in a sheltered “wellness bubble”, as I like to refer to it as. I surround myself with other health and wellness junkies and it can appear that the vast majority of the population is living a somewhat similar lifestyle to my own. Luckily, something eventually pops that beautiful bubble and I am faced with the reality that, of course, this really isn’t the case at all. Although I do believe more and more people are taking steps to lead a healthier lifestyle in general, there is still such a long way to go in terms of educating the masses on important health related issues and lifestyle choices.
It took me a while to even start this post because of its scope. Low-tox living has been at the forefront of my mind lately, but there is just so much to say about it and so much ground to cover, that the idea of writing about it seemed daunting. Too big. And you know how I have a tendency to ramble on… I want to say it all, but that would mean writing a book, not a blog post.
So I decided the best thing to do was pick one area of focus per post and today I am choosing clean beauty.
When I first began to detox the body and our home, I started with food. I slowly switched out conventional foods for organic ones and made the added cost of quality, chemical-free foods work for us because it was deemed priority. That was many years ago now. However, one of the last things I did was switch out my makeup for clean, chemical-free (or at the very least, highly reduced) products. And I’m probably not alone in this. Women become particularly attached to their beauty potions and lotions. We have specific brands and products that we’re loyal to and have been using for years. Letting go of that relationship and stepping outside of the comfort zone of knowing what gives you your desired look is a little scary. And, quite honestly, can leave you a little grumpy. I think it took being bombarded with daily messages of clean beauty before I finally uncrossed my arms, rolled my eyes and said, “Fine!"
You’ve probably heard that the skin is our body’s biggest organ. What we put on our body is just as important as what we put in it.
Although I wouldn’t say I wear a lot of makeup, I wear some form of makeup pretty much every day. Even if it’s only a couple of products. I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I’m 33 now. That’s a lot of daily chemical shit storm doses for my biggest organ… (over 5000, actually. I just checked). There are over 1400 chemicals banned or restricted in skincare products by the European Union. In the US, that number is a mere eleven. ELEVEN. My values were clear to me. Health was number one, and I just couldn’t ignore this area of my life any longer because it didn’t align.
And so began the journey of switching out drugstore (and even premium) beauty products for natural ones. These aren’t brands that you see advertised on television or in magazines. They are not in mainstream media. So even knowing where to start was difficult. It took research. I read reviews on blogs, watched YouTube videos, searched Instagram… you name it. I started with one product at a time, which made for a slow transition. But, let’s face it, makeup is expensive. Layer that on top of being reluctant to let go of your favourite products in the first place, and the switch likely isn’t going to happen over night. Between testing multiple brands and multiple products (and yes, this was a financial investment), I would say it took me close to a year before I had created a clean beauty routine that I truly loved.
But I made the switch.
And, today, I really do love my makeup.
With that, I am going to share, without bias or sponsors, products that I have fallen in love with in the world of clean beauty. I do think this is quite a personal journey because, of course, we are all different. Skin types and general makeup preferences differ. But I want to offer up my experience to help others the same way all of those internet reviews helped me when I began the careful selection of what to try next.
I think the easiest way to organize this is by brand. So I am going to start with a Canadian company whose products I adore. I tried out what felt like 25 different mascaras and, for me, Ilia came out on top. It was dark, long lasting, lengthening and included a brush I now can’t live without. I also love their foundation, when paired with an under eye concealer (a trait that was true of all foundations I tested). It’s lightweight but provides decent coverage and lasts all day.
And finally, although I don’t wear a ton of lipstick these days, I always need a bright fuchsia on hand for those rare occasions that require just a little more glam. Ilia provided great colour selection and wearability in this department that packed a punch. Beyond the products themselves, Ilia’s founder and Vancouver native, Sasha Plavsic, boasts a beautiful story of how the company came to be, inspired by her brother’s personal health struggles and her mother’s influence. This is likely a brand that will remain in my collection for many years.
Next in my makeup bag you’ll find Beauty Counter. This is a big (and loud!) player in the world of clean beauty and for good reason. I have tried a number of their products and my favourite one, hands down, is their Dew Skin. As the name suggests, this tinted moisturizer leaves your skin looking fresh and hydrated (with the added benefit of SPF). I am obsessed and use it on the daily, either on its own or under foundation. Most days I simply pair the Dew Skin with an under eye concealer and am set. I actually find when I don’t wear my Dew Skin and simply opt for a foundation, I feel like my skin looks a little dull! My second pick with Beauty counter is their mattifying powder. I use this to set an under eye concealer if I am planning on using mascara on my lower lashes (to prevent transfer) or if I need to ensure overall, long-lasting wear. It’s lightweight, not cakey and doesn’t require much on the brush to get the job done (which is also cost effective). More recently, I have also started using their highlighter. It’s not an everyday item for me, but a great option when I need a little more shimmer in my look! Speaking of highlights, if you have 12 minutes, check out Beauty Counter’s mini biography on mica, one of the key ingredients in any makeup product that gives that shimmery, sparkly look. This company is changing the face of beauty and this video is just one small example of that.
The next brand is one not as well known in Canada, I would suggest (due to accessibility), but it’s one that I simply cannot leave out because I love it THAT MUCH. Han Skincare Cosmetics won my heart when it comes to bronzer and blush. Their products are so pigmented with incredible blendability and I immediately fell in love. At first, I was forced to order from the US and pay international shipping, but can now purchase these two products via Amazon. I legit have about four clean blushes sitting in my makeup drawer right now. And as much I try to rotate them, I just can’t stay away from this one. It works so well with my skin and over my other products that it quickly became my go-to.
Finally, like most moms, I really appreciate a good concealer for nights of broken sleep and resulting under eye circles. Well People has taken care of this for me with their high coverage product. A little goes a long way and I simply apply with my finger to cover up sleepless nights and other imperfections. If you’re looking for a toxic free concealer, I highly recommend this beauty.
I am so happy to say that these products are just a drop in the bucket. The clean beauty movement is alive and happening, and I already have a few other brands on my list that I am dying to try out. This is huge because it means that low-tox living is really starting to build momentum (or maybe we’re actually just going back to how it all started in the first place? I like to think of it that way). People are demanding safer options for themselves and their families and companies are responding. It’s an exciting time in the midst of an era where we are literally exposed to thousands of toxins and chemicals every day. This is just one example of how we’re taking the power back. And that’s a beautiful thing.
As we start to settle into life as a family of four and find our daily rhythm, I’ve created a weekly routine for myself that I’m pretty happy with. I’m getting in regularly scheduled workouts (which, if you read my last post you know is a non negotiable for me), spending quality time with my family, and focusing on this blog and my own studies--all activities that I would classify as some of my favourite things. Maternity leave in Canada: it’s pretty sweet. It allows you time to really lean into the things you love. And it’s not to say that I don’t enjoy my job, but there’s nothing quite like making your own schedule and being really picky about how you spend your energy. A structured 9-5 doesn’t quite allow for the same flexibility.
Last week, I was hyper aware of how level I felt. And by level, I mean blood sugar wise. I wasn’t craving sweets the same way I have been known to (not saying I didn’t have my daily dark chocolate. Because I did. Let’s not be ridiculous). And I was just feeling super satisfied by all of my well thought-out, real food meals. I was motivated in the kitchen to create nourishing dishes for my family and feeling more creative when it came to our meal prep. Just because I am a health and nutrition enthusiast, doesn’t mean my level of enthusiasm is consistent. Like anyone, it ebbs and flows and from time to time, I fall into a rut. Sometimes life gets away from me and my planning isn’t as top notch as it needs to be, or I have a difficult time coming up with new and interesting meals that also meet my nutritional standards. I began to wonder why, exactly, I was feeling this way.
Why is it that my eating habits are better at certain times than others?
When I really sat with this, I came to the conclusion that my eating habits are strongly correlated with my overall life satisfaction. When I feel fulfilled and generally happy, as well as minimally stressed (at least in a negative way), my food intake and eating patterns are optimized. Reflecting on periods of my life when I am not as satisfied by my daily routines, have less satisfaction by my close relationships, etc., I noted that my eating habits are more likely to stray from my ideal standards. There is an obvious emotional connection.
I felt very confident in this prediction, but wanted to dive a little deeper into the theory, so I began to research whether life satisfaction impacted eating behaviours, whether or not this was a well known phenomenon, and moreover, why. It was difficult to find studies that reflected this precise idea, but I definitely came across some closely connected literature.
In one study, women were sorted into groups that aimed to help them increase their exercise, improve eating patterns and reduce weight. Results found that subjects’ mood, self-efficacy and body satisfaction strongly predicted emotional eating behaviour. Women who received in-person support in their health journey, reported increased exercise, and more positive self-efficacy and body satisfaction. They were also found to participate in emotional eating far less. The study itself concluded that multiple psycho-social factors should be addressed for optimal weight loss results.
Another study found that unmet psychosocial needs were associated with disordered eating behaviours. “Path analysis revealed that unsatisfied needs of autonomy and competence were indirectly related to disordered eating behaviours through feelings of ineffectiveness… The observed patterns suggest that persistent experience of need frustration may engender an internal sense of ineffectiveness and lack of control, which then compels individuals to engage in disordered eating behaviours in an attempt to regain autonomy and competence.” It should be noted that researchers admitted this type of thing is difficult to study in depth and they weren’t entirely happy with their model, finding there was some obvious limitations and further research should be conducted.
To be fair, these studies are looking at far more serious psychological matters than what I am referring to, but I am not afraid to draw a connection here. Based on what I have read (and what I am self reporting), I would suggest it makes sense that better/more positive food choices (as perceived by the individual) are generally made when one is feeling positively about themselves and their overall lifestyle. In other words, when everything else is in order and you are feeling organized, in control of your destiny, and satisfied by your daily routines, you are more likely to eat in alignment with your nutrition goals and ideals.
What do you think? Is this too much of a stretch? Study correlation or not, I’m pretty convinced! Tell me about your personal experiences with this.
There is a lot of talk about sugar and its negative effects on our health. From diabetes to heart disease, to obesity, the laundry list of reasons not to consume too much is never ending. Personally, I haven't baked with regular white refined sugar in a very long time. My guess would be years. I do, however, like to use natural, unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup (my favourite) and honey. I will also choose something like coconut sugar and dates--both which have a lower glycemic index than refined sugars. Ayla is at an age where, if dessert is on the menu, she is offered it. It isn't contingent on whether or not she ate her main course, and often I will actually serve it at the same time! Limiting labels creates less emotion around what she is eating and helps her develop a healthy relationship with food. Although we don't eat dessert every night, I do like to experiment with baking (obviously), so it's important to me that I am offering her desserts that are made with real ingredients and are low in sugar most of the time. Of course, we have the odd treat not made at home and fully enjoy it. I don't deprive her of that, but it's certainly considered a special occasion. When we are home, I have the power and responsibility of offering nourishing, whole foods.
Traditionally, I have found brownies to be one of the easiest
desserts to make gluten free.
It isn't difficult to find a flourless version of this tasty treat. However, I was really on the hunt for something low-sugar as well, and sometimes that can make things tricky. However, once I started looking around at a few different recipes, I was confident I could create what I was envisioning. And sure enough, the result was this decadent, fudgy, chocolate dream brownie. Bonus: I made it without any sugar!
Brownies can get away with being more on rich side (using cacao) than sweet. So we luck out there. However, some sweetness is necessary. So what did I use? Monkfruit sweetener! I've been experimenting with this 0 carb, 0 calorie sweetener lately. I've found it definitely has its own unique flavour and can alter the texture of a recipe a bit, but it's a great option for a 0 sugar dessert, especially if you follow a paleo or keto lifestyle. It's fructose and glucose free, which means it doesn't spike blood sugar levels. My sister-in-law also reminded me that it is AIP friendly! So, if you are eating to support the healing of an autoimmune disorder, this recipe is one for your collection.
My main tip for this batter is to not overcook it. Check the brownies at about 18 minutes. Insert a knife into the middle and if it comes out a little moist, that's perfect. Remove them from the oven and let them sit. If it's clear they need a little more time, put them back in, but don't exceed a baking time of 25 minutes. The brownies will dry out and will not be the texture we're going for here.
Find the recipe below and let me know if you try out these decadent, low-carb treat with your family!
Having a baby is all kinds of wonderful and brutal mixed up into one crazy shitstorm of a few months. What do you think? Did I describe that accurately? It’s such a unique and complex experience that is difficult to describe accurately in a few lines. When you become a mother, there’s a lot of talk about survival. And, let’s be honest: that’s what it can be about many days--just getting by. That said, after having my second baby a couple of months ago, I feel better equipped to handle the ups and downs of newborn life and am pretty committed to creating a life that looks a lot more like thriving than surviving. I want to share my own lessons learned and tips to thrive through these crazy days in hopes that it can help other new moms live even a little above that survival baseline and maybe even create a life with her baby that she always envisioned.
#1 Get your feeds in and manage the daytime sleep
This is probably my most specific tip and may not win me any popularity contests depending on your parenting style or school of thought. But I’m ok with it, because I can honestly say that this rule helped me stay sane with both of my babes and, because of that and the nature of this post, I can’t not share it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love baby sleep. And I don’t just mean babies that sleep (although, ultimately that is what we’re aiming for here). I mean I love learning the ins and outs of baby sleep. There is a boatload of literature and resources on this topic and it can be difficult to figure out how you want to approach sleep and how to get your baby to actually do it. But, a common thread I’ve found amongst most sleep resources and professionals is this: have your baby consume most of their feeds during the day. I’m no expert, but this screams logic to me. If your baby consumes the majority of their food during the day, they are less likely to be asking for it all night long. So, I always suggest starting there. Feed every 2-3 hours. Now, this inevitably affects daytime sleep. Sometimes, in order to ensure your baby gets in all of their feeds, you have to wake them from naps (gasp!), thus also controlling their daytime sleep. And here’s the thing: another concept that makes sense to me is that a baby who sleeps all day long will, at some point, sleep less during the night. I know this is the part of my belief system that doesn’t always sit so well with every parent. But, hey, this is my blog. And because I want to provide something really practical and actionable, here’s a rough daily feeding schedule that I used with both of my children from very early days (once they had reached birth weight after that initial loss), and spoiler alert: both of my kiddos have always been awesome night sleepers. By no means are they perfect, but they’re really good. I’m not saying that this is why… but I’m also not saying it’s not. If you’ve never done something before, and you don’t have anyone to tell you where to start, it can feel like driving without a road map. A schedule gives you a starting point, and thus, a little bit of confidence.
Six weeks ago, we welcomed the fourth member of our family earth side and, needless to say, we’re pretty smitten. Austin Andrew Mundy arrived on December 22nd at 6:58am, weighing 7lbs 6oz. We didn’t have a “plan” that we were hoping would pan out when it came to the birth of either of our children. It was really about getting in there and seeing what felt right, and, of course, making sure baby was safe and happy. That said, we had a few ideas of what could happen this time around, based on some consistent family history. Myself, my mother, and my grandmother were all born at home due to precipitous birth--in other words, an extremely fast labour. So, with this top of mind, although we were hoping to make it to the hospital before delivery, we had a soft home birth plan… you know… just in case (it involves a lot of shower curtains).
We had planned a family Christmas celebration with my inlaws, which included a full weekend of events and a sleepover party. I had been experiencing inconsistent contractions here and there in the days prior, so we threw the hospital bags in the car, prepared for anything. Around 5pm on Saturday, while sipping Perrier and snacking on horderves, I started to notice some light cramping in fairly regular intervals. Looking back, I’m not sure why I wasn’t concerned that I wouldn’t just pop my baby out in the bathroom of his Grandparents, given all of the discussion that had taken place around this possibility. I guess my intuition told me otherwise. As the evening progressed and contractions increased, it was clear that I would, in fact, have the full labour experience once again. But for how long was still unknown. I wasn’t even convinced it was really happening. However, around 6pm, I looked at my sister and said, “I think I’m in labour.”
Contractions were still about eight to nine minutes apart and manageable. So, we put Ayla and her cousins to bed and planned to sit down for one of the few civilized grown-up meals of the year. However, halfway through dinner, we made the decision to head home. Contractions had become painful and required my focus to breathe through. They were still eight minutes apart, so we figured we still had a good chunk of time before things got serious, and I knew I wanted to be labouring in the comfort of my own home… without my extended family members as cheerleaders (no offence--love you, guys). I had some major mom guilt about leaving Ayla behind without being able to give her an explanation about why she would be waking up without us, but felt very fortunate that she had a slew of babysitters that loved her. It really could not have worked out much better.
By the time we got home, contractions were six minutes apart… then five… then four. Dave was calling the midwife while simultaneously filling the bath, thinking we may not make it to the hospital if things continued to progress at this speed. I had just changed my clothes, turned on the John Mayer Live soundtrack and hopped on my exercise-turned-birthing ball when my midwife came, checked me and said it was time to go if we wanted to have this baby in the hospital. We hadn’t been home for an hour and contractions were now one minute apart. Preferring to labour standing up, the drive there was as excruciating as I remember with Ayla, but I was thankful to have avoided the long early labour I had with her, and was more rested this time around. When we arrived, everyone was fairly confident that I would hop up on the bed and push this baby out. Active labour was intense and contractions were starting to run on top of each other. But, after a quick check, I just wasn’t dilated enough. We made the decision to break my water, in hopes that that would move things along. Still, progress was slow, despite the fact that contractions had become “merciless,” as my midwife would later describe them. As I knelt on all fours in bed, they offered me nitric oxide, which I eagerly accepted. The pain was excruciating at this point, and without any breaks, I was growing weary and fast. I just needed a minute to rest, and it simply wasn’t going to happen. As I furiously sucked in the gas, desperate for relief, a nurse came and said if I wanted an epidural, I had to get it now before the anesthesiologist went into surgery. I remember feeling so vulnerable and helpless in this moment. I felt like I should be able to push my baby out now. It didn’t seem right that my labour would be so fast and furious without any progression. But, alas, I still was not dilated (this would make sense later). Feeling defeated, I said yes to the epidural. My feelings of defeat weren’t a result of choosing the epidural. A goal I had set for myself this entire pregnancy was to work with my body during labour--something I didn’t feel like I did with Ayla. I prepped for it. I visualized it. And when the time finally came, it actually felt like it was my body that wasn’t working with me. I didn’t know what else to do. If someone had been able to tell me, “You only have to do this for 20 more minutes!” I know I could have endured. But no one could do that. So, I hedged my bets and got the epidural (thank goodness).
Soon, I was able to relax, although sleep still eluded me because of the constant pressure of contractions. Still, hours passed without much progress, and although baby was still happy, everyone was a little confused. Then, during a check, my midwife told me that she wanted to consult the OB. The doctor came in to check me and both women decided that they were fairly certain they were feeling my cervix--and not in the way they wanted to. My cervix had begun to swell and protrude, essentially blocking Austin’s escape route. Neither professional had experienced this phenomenon before, but baby was still happy, so they decided the best plan of action was to wait it out and see if the issue would resolve itself.
A couple of hours passed and the situation began to worsen. My cervix continued to swell and Austin’s heart rate suddenly began to drop dangerously low after the passing of each contraction. The doctor explained that the baby was getting tired and that things had become dangerous for him at this point. She said, although it was never her first choice, I needed to get to the operating room for an emergency c-section. This baby needed out.
Not once in my nine months of being pregnant had I considered the idea that I may ever need a c-section. Ayla had been delivered naturally and the idea of anything else just hadn’t crossed my mind. But in the moment, I had to let go of any feelings of shock and fear and focus on what mattered most: getting my baby out safely. They quickly prepared me for surgery and I was whisked away to the O.R. within minutes. At this point, my epidural was wearing off (or I had been weaned off of it. Who’s to say at this point? I was an exhausted wreck), but I was told I couldn’t move as they administered the spinal. I was experiencing painful contractions, extremely close together, and was also beginning to feel nauseous while simultaneously fighting to keep my eyes open (a special cocktail of drugs and lack of sleep). One of the doctors/nurses/some kind of medical professional (I legitimately can’t remember what this woman actually did) stood in front of me, wearing a mask over her mouth, preventing me from seeing what she really looked like. She braced me from the front for stabilization as they began the freezing process, and I recall it being one of the most vulnerable moments of my entire life. Something about the exhaustion, the pain, the worry, not having time to properly process the idea of a c-section and not having Dave with me (he was getting scrubbed in and would join me in a few minutes). I clung to this woman I had never met, silent tears streaming down my face, trying desperately not to move through contractions. Such an odd feeling, being so desperate for a stranger’s love and support and trusting her to help me keep it together. And she did. Whoever she was. I still remember her eyes, and being so grateful for her in that moment.
Soon, I was on the table, curtain up between me and my bump, and Dave was by my side, holding my hand. I remember thinking how badly I wanted this to be over so I could have a glass of water. I was parched! A strange thought when you’re about to meet your child for the first time. Within a few minutes, there were cheers as they pulled Austin from my body, lifted him above the curtain for a quick glance before my midwife whisked him over to the warming table. There was lots of commotion as my midwife and nurses rubbed his little body and performed some suctioning. Dave and I both anxiously watched the clock. A full three minutes passed before we heard the most beautiful cry from our son. The longest three minutes of our lives. We both let the tears fall and breathed a sigh of relief. Dave was able to perform skin to skin as they stitched me up and prepared us for the recovery room. They put Austin on my chest as they wheeled me out of the OR. The following few hours were peaceful and quiet as we went from recovery to our inpatient room and began to process everything that had just happened, as well as update our family. He was here and we were healthy.
(Days later, I would work through some big emotions that I knew would come from having a c-section. At first, they were difficult to describe and understand, as my baby was happy and healthy, and I felt that’s all that should matter. But my midwife said something very important to me that I will remember forever and her words became the foundation of my healing: It is not selfish or unjustified to feel the way you do. You have to mourn the birth you did not have)
The hours and days that followed included lots of baby snuggles and the beginning of a painful, unexpected recovery process. 48 hours after he was born, we headed home and introduced Austin to his big sister (an emotional reunion I will never forget. I missed that kid like crazy). And of course, we still celebrated a very toned down Christmas, something that was important for us to give Ayla, in spite of everything going on. Safe to say things were a bit of a whirlwind at first. But once the dust settled, we began to sort out what life would look like for our little family of four. Tiring, a little chaotic, lots of change, but mostly just full of love.
Austin: we love you, little boy. Let the adventure continue.
The postpartum experience, health choices during pregnancy and the authentic share
The other night, I had a scheduled call with my naturopath which left me in a very reflective state (our appointments have a habit of doing that). We talked about a few interesting topics and I thought I would share some of our chat here, including my own reflections on our conversation. And, for anyone interested, I’m going to provide a little preggo update in terms of my nutrition and activity during T3.
After having my daughter, I became very passionate about the postpartum experience. And maybe it was because mine wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies (read about my struggle with anxiety here). Maybe it’s because much of my own journey caught me off guard and inspired me to have as much open dialogue with other mothers or soon-to-be-mamas about the postpartum period as possible. And maybe it’s because I am about to jump head-first back into that whirlwind for a second time around. Regardless, this conversation really resonated with me. The most important thing that we discussed and that I think is most poignant for women to remember is that the postpartum experience is different for everyone. You don’t need to be diagnosed with the word “depression” to legitimize whatever it is you are going through. You don’t need to be sad or anxious all the time. Time-after-baby is real, regardless of what it looks or feels like for you and, likely, there are some huge adjustments that won’t be easily made. We are all different and our experiences can be difficult to label. I encourage every mother to make space and acknowledge this period in their lives in a big way, because it is so freaking important. Likely the biggest change of your entire life. Pay homage to that, as it is not to be taken lightly. My own experience has led me to give this piece of advice to anyone navigating this journey: community. Find other women who can relate. If they are currently in the same stage of life, even better. Lean on each other. Laugh and cry together. These are the people who will allow you to get out of your head and find the light in the midst of the dark days. I promise that community is key. That could mean joining a mommy-baby class once or twice a week. That could mean setting up a weekly play/coffee date with one or two… or seven people. Whatever reminds you that you are not in it alone. Because I promise you, you aren’t.
This brings me to the next interesting point in our conversation: the authentic share. In a time when social media innodates our lives, it can be an interesting exercise to reflect on who we’re showing up as online. Many of us feel as though we can’t post about a difficult experience or day until we’ve worked through and moved passed it. Sharing “in the moment” isn’t always easy. I am definitely guilty of this. I’m not sure if it’s because, subconsciously, I am worried about a personal weakness it could portray, or if it’s because I need to be on the other side of this difficult moment to have the perspective needed to talk about it. Maybe it’s just that I don’t feel drawn to put my difficulties out into the world when I’m working through them. But I will say this: when other people post in these very authentic moments, I find I respect and often connect with them in a real way. And this is pretty special--to feel like we all go through these trials on a daily basis. It creates connection and community. And, on the average, crappy day, sometimes it’s just nice to find the humour in these moments by laughing together. So I encourage you (if you have a social media presence and enjoy this type of thing), don’t just share the perfect moments. Because that’s one of the biggest issues we’re facing with social media, isn’t it? And a world I am not thrilled to have my children growing up in. If we’re sharing our lives, let’s put real moments out there, the good and the bad, so we can all connect in a more authentic way.
Next up: health decisions during pregnancy. My family was hit pretty hard with some gnarly sicknesses this fall and it knocked us on our asses pretty aggressively. During these times, as my naturopath and I discussed, it can be hard to know the right treatment route to take, particularly when pregnant. I tried a whole host of natural remedies before succumbing to the extent of my illness. Eventually, I ended up in the doctor’s office, likely later than I should have. I was told I had a significant case of bronchitis and decided, with my doctor, to use two different puffers to battle the breathing and coughing issues. Ultimately, we said the threat of not enough oxygen reaching my baby was far more dangerous than the potential risks of the steroid puffer I would need in the short term. This treatment also allowed me to sleep without waking up several times a night in raging coughing fits. All of this is to say that, during pregnancy, you need to make the right choice for you in the moment. Ask yourself what you are comfortable with and don’t worry if others are shaking their heads at you. You know your body and, with the guidance of your healthcare team, paired with your own intuition, you have the power to choose the right options for you and your baby in that moment. There is no one right answer. And also remember that, just because you did something once, doesn’t mean you have to do it again, should a similar situation arise. Every experience is unique. Whatever you are comfortable with in the moment, right now, is likely the right decision during pregnancy.
So, those were some of our big talking points on the call, obviously extending beyond just physical health, and crossing over into our common ground of family and parenting.
Next: is my nutrition during the final weeks of pregnancy. I am now 35 weeks along, and there have been peaks and valleys in terms of nutrition quality. I was feeling pretty decent in my second trimester and I also think there was something about the warmer months (and being on vacation for 8 weeks, of course) that made nutrition choices easier. In the third trimester, a lot of food aversions returned and just a general lack of interest in food. We survived the Halloween season. And by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’ because for some reason I used pregnancy to justify a lot of poor food choices. And by food choices… I mean I just ate all the sugar. Listen, my sweet tooth is real, which I own wholeheartedly, but I felt like there were a few days there where things got out of hand. There were just too many tasty treats at my disposal. And I don’t mean the dark, organic chocolate variety that I tend to use to satisfy any sweet cravings. I mean the crap that ends up in kids’ Halloween bags. The fake food. I got to a point where I had to say, out loud, “I’m done with sugar,” and I legit just threw any remaining sweets in the garbage. And that was that. I also got scared of my baby gaining an additional 2 lbs simply due to my poor food choices and delivering an unnecessarily large kid. That was motivation enough to kick the crap food to the side (within reason, of course). After I made that decision, I was able to get my nutrition back on track! I started making choices that were far more reflective of my core values and, no surprise here, started feeling a lot better because of it. Can we also just talk about how dumb it is to eat additional sugar when your immune system has already been compromised? Guys, I am no saint. I am here confessing that I was making some bad calls for my body. That said, I am feeling much more revitalized today and making choices that are serving my body, as well as my baby’s development. Amen.
Moving on to activity: as mentioned, sickness knocked our family out in a serious way this fall, so this de-railed the great workout routine I had going! Which brings me to my next point: grace. It’s very important, in these moments, to find grace for yourself. I wasn’t able to work out for a good 3 weeks, which can be challenging for me, but also just how it had to be. I wasn’t well enough. And that’s ok. It was better to let myself heal and recover. Another way I’ve needed to show myself some grace is around what my workouts look like. During my first pregnancy, I was still able to get to the gym 5-6 days a week! Life doesn’t lend itself to that kind of schedule these days (or, at least, I don’t prioritize that schedule). This time around, I invested in a decent online program and some basic home-gym equipment. 90% of my workouts take place in my basement. Slightly less glamorous, but I’m making it happen. If I can get myself to the gym 1-2 times a week, I’m happy. It’s not even the fact that I think my gym workouts are better. It’s more about the mental clarity and reset it provides me. So I do try to get there on the weekends when I can. It’s just as much for my mental health as it is my physical.
So there’s my update! Only a few weeks left before life gets a whole lot crazier. I am half scared, half excited, to be honest. But either way, I know our hearts are about to explode with love and that will be the craziest part of all.