15 Postnatal Superfoods

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Postnatal Nutrition

Just like in pregnancy, you need to eat healthily and sensibly. Your diet should be nutrient rich, comprised of quality protein such as poultry, lean red meat, eggs, oily fish, beans, pulses and legumes along with complex carbohydrates like brown rice, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes and other starchy veg. Additionally lots of vegetables and fruit should be eaten to ensure you consume your vitamin and mineral requirements.

Eating regularly will ensure your blood sugar levels remain stable and that you have enough fuel to keep you going throughout the day whilst drinking enough water, roughly 2 litres a day (and more if you are breast feeding), will help you to keep hydrated. The amount of water required varies greatly from person to person but as long as your urine is pale in colour and odourless this shows you to be hydrated.

Superfoods are important post birth as they can help improve recovery from pregnancy, labour and birth.  They may also help new mums cope with new stresses that come along with looking after a newborn. Check out my 15 superfoods for new mums:

15 Superfoods for New Mums:

  1. Oats

Oats are a completely natural whole grain, high-fibre food. A bowl of porridge will keep you full for a long time after breakfast—and may help increase your milk supply. If you are breastfeeding your energy requirements are now higher than they were at any time during you pregnancy. Your body is working seriously hard to produce all that milk and so you need to provide your body with the energy it needs to do this. Oats are ideal as they have a low GI meaning that you absorb them slowly, giving a steady stream of glucose into your bloodstream and helping to give sustained energy over the morning. Oats are also rich in soluble fibre which contributes to the benefit on blood glucose control, but also plays a role in gut health. Just be sure to buy traditional or steel cut oats rather than instant – the latter have a higher GI and often full of added sugar and salt.

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Porridge with almond milk, a teaspoon of almond butter and strawberries makes a superfood breakfast for new mums
  1. Almonds

Almonds aren’t just packed with protein; they’re a good non-dairy source of calcium. And the every little bit helps. Breastfeeding mums should take in 1000 mg of calcium per day. That’s because the milk you make is high in calcium, and if you don’t get enough in your diet, your bones and teeth could be robbed of calcium they need (remember you baby has already drawn a lot of calcium out of your body during pregnancy to build her own bones) Almonds are great snacks and can be used in smoothies.

  1. Apricots & Dates

Apricots contain dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium, all essential nutrients. Eating apricots can also increase prolactin—that’s the hormone that tells your body to produce milk. Fresh, whole apricots are a better source of fibre than canned apricots; if you go canned, look for ones packed in water or natural juices, instead of sugary syrup. Dried apricots are also easy to toss in the change bag for an on-the-go snack.

Dates are another calcium-rich food—and they’re thought to help increase milk supply, since they increase prolactin like apricots do. They’re also a high-fibre, naturally sweet treat. Chop some and add them to your morning oatmeal.

  1. Salmon

Salmon is a fatty fish which has a high amount of fat called docosahexSalmon-Fillets-CREDIT-AquaBountyaenoic acid (DHA) that helps the development of the baby’s nervous system. Wild-caught or farm-raised salmon are both good for you. If you don’t eat dairy, you can eat canned salmon, which contains tiny salmon bones, to get some extra calcium. For mums, Salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids that can help in treating postnatal depression symptoms and. salmon also has vitamin B12, which is essential for a healthy skin.

 

  1. Yogurt

As mentioned previously, your baby has drawn a lot of calcium from your body during the pregnancy to build her own bones. If you weren’t getting enough from your diet the baby will will have taken that calcium from your own bones. You now want to ensure that you have plenty calcium coming from your diet to halt that bone loss and try to redeposit minerals to keep your bones strong. Natural yoghurt is ideal as it’s calcium rich, but also provides protein and a few probiotic bacteria for gut health to boot. It’s also an easy food to add into your day – add a dollop to smoothies, have with cereal or muesli for breakfast, or have with fresh fruit as a snack.  Note: If your baby is diagnosed with milk protein intolerance, do not consume milk or other milk-based products.

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0% fat Greek yoghurt with a “healthy” choc sauce – melt a little almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil and coco powder and pour over the yoghurt… delish
  1. Beans

Fibre-rich kidney, black, and other beans can be good for your digestive system, and they’re fantastic sources of iron and protein.

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Grab a can of haricot beans, rinse and bring to the boil in a small pan with stock and minced garlic. Simmer for 10 minutes and then mash. It’s a great substitute for mashed potato and the addition of garlic makes it extra tasty. Give it a whirl for a quick and easy mid-week dinner

  1. Spinach

Actually, pretty much any dark green, leafy veggie is a breastfeeding super food. That includes broccoli and Swiss chard. They’re all-around nutrient-dense and even high in calcium. So you can get a veggie serving and a calcium-rich serving in one, delicious, leafy food. Plus, we love how versatile spinach can be. Eat it fresh in a salad, sautee it as a side, add it to smoothies or stir through a casserole, sauce or pasta dish at the last moment before serving.

Below – spinach smoothie mix – spinach protein pancakes and wilted spinach with salmon and scrambled eggs.

  1. Brown rice

Skip the white stuff. Brown rice is better for you because it’s got more fibre and other nutrients. Complex carbs like brown rice (and oats) help keep you full and keep your blood sugar at consistent levels (no drastic energy dips!). It also helps in increasing breast milk. The fibre in brown rice can help with postnatal constipation as well as keep the mother full and provide consistent energy levels.

Don’t have time to boil a pot of brown rice? Instant and boil-in-bag brown rice have the same nutrition content as the regular kind, but require less effort.

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Pre cooked packaged brown rice stir fried with egg, broccoli, carrots, spring onions and soy sauce for a super quick and healthy lunch/supper
  1. Lean Red MeatDuring your pregnancy you have an exceptionally high requirement for iron to fulfil both your and your growing baby’s needs. It’s common therefore for new mums to have low iron stores and often mild to moderate iron deficiency, while others may tip into anaemia. Although we get much of our iron from plant foods, it is not as well as absorbed. If you do like and are willing to eat red meat this is therefore a brilliant choice to provide the iron boost your body needs. Beef, for example provides vitamin B12 and proteins that help in the eradication of iron deficiency diseases in mothers, especially due to blood lost during birth. The absence of iron can drain energy which is important in a mother due to the new challenge of taking care of a baby.

    10. Bananas

    New mums need sustained energy over the day and frequent snacks if breast-feeding. Bananas are brilliant to have in your fruit bowl and easy to eat along with a glass of milk (or soy milk for those on dairy free diets) for an easy mid morning or afternoon snack. They are rich in potassium, important for blood pressure control, and if you eat them while still nice and firm you get a nice dose of resistant starch. This is a particular type of fibre that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. The knock-on effect is a boost to your immune function as well as good gut health.

    11. Eggs

    When time is short and you need a quick nutritious meals, eggs are pretty hard to beat. Be sure to eat the whole egg including the yolk – no egg white omelettes! The yolk is where almost all of the nutrition is and you’ll give your body a mdownload (7)agic boost of B group vitamins essential to turn the food you eat into energy for use by your body. Eggs don’t need to be just for breakfast, they are terrific for quick lunches and dinners too. Team with a few veggies, perhaps some beans, avocado and wholegrain toast for a wonderfully nutritious meal.


    12. Oranges

Breastfeeding mothers require vitamin C. Oranges are said to be the one of the best in the provision of vitamin c. Vitamin C intake by breastfeeding mothers reduces the risk of allergic diseases in the infant and also helps in keeping the baby’s brain healthy. It contains foliate that is crucial in the formation of new blood cells as well as tissues. Oranges can be consumed raw or as juices that mothers can take as super juices.

  1. Blueberries 

These should be a must eat for all mothers as they are rich in antioxidants which help destroy free radicals, keeping you and baby free from a number of diseases.

Blueberries also contain vitamins and minerals that a nursing mother needs as well as carbohydrates for the energy boost. Eat 2 or more serving per day.

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  1. Fennel

Fennel is another excellent superfood for new mothers as it helps increase lactation and also aids digestion. It can also help prevent colic. One good way to include fennel in your diet is to drink fennel water. To prepare fennel water, boil one or two teaspoons of fennel seeds in four cups of water and then let it simmer for another five minutes before turning off the heat. You can also add one-half teaspoon of sugar or honey for taste. Strain and drink this fennel water throughout the day.

You can also chew one teaspoon of fennel seeds after meals. In addition to increasing lactation and promoting digestion, it will also work as a natural mouth freshener.

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  1. Water

Water is essential for you during the pregnancy weeks and also after birth. This is very essential as breastfeeding mothers are at higher risk for energy-draining dehydration.

To keep your energy level and milk production up, make sure you stay well hydrated by drinking water, fruit juices, vegetable juices and coconut water. Stay away from caffeinated and alcoholic beverages that can be dehydrating.

During pregnancy mums need to drink 1.8-2.4 litres daily and breastfeeding up to 3 litres.

Water helps reduce fatigue and ensures both mum and baby stay well.

Fitness New Year’s Resolutions Anyone?

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How to make sensible health and fitness goals for 2016

Reeling from all the food and drink we have recently consumed, a little dazed, over fed and partied out from the Festive season and we are finally on the cusp of 2016.. Personally I am completely sick of ALL THE FOOD (I have no will power at this time of year – Quality Street for breakfast anyone?) and looking forward to January for some normality and routine again. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Christmas, the FOOD, family time and the chance to switch off from work… But as 2016 beckons, our thoughts  turn to a brand new, blank canvas that is the NEW YEAR – the chance to be the “best” versions of ourselves once again….

I don’t know about you but I used to be very big on New Years Resolutions…. I would make a great long LIST of inspiring and exciting and wholesome things I wanted to achieve in the New Year.  And did I keep any of them I hear you ask? Er – nope.  Millions of us make New Year Resolutions but apparently 80% of us fail to stick to them…. (so at least I wasn’t the only one then).

So, should we bother making any resolutions? Well, yes, I believe a new year is a good time for a fresh start so why not (although I also believe in seizing the moment – any time is a good time for improving ourselves so don’t limit yourself to just a new year thing! Revise and renew resolutions regularly through the year).

The best resolutions in my opinion are related to our health and well being.  Because, really, why make bold resolutions about our career/travel/houses/ambitions if our health is not being prioritised? Our health is most definitely our wealth, and vowing to get promoted at work if you are not fit and healthy is pretty pointless.

Two of the most common resolutions people make are to “lose weight and get fit”…. That’images (4)s a no brainer really. Something we fitness professionals see first-hand as our exercise classes become packed out in January and the gym is swarming with people with good intentions..

Sadly come February, things start to die down and those 80% who’s resolutions were to “get fit” and “lose weight” fall off the wagon.

But WHY??

The main reasons for setting ourselves up to failure is because we make rather general, unrealistic resolutions with no real plan for following them through.  The best way to set goals is to make them SMART…..

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The two resolutions –“ I will get fit” and “I will lose weight” are definitely not SMART goals

  • Specific – there is no indication HOW you will get fit or HOW MUCH weight to lose
  • Measurable – yes, you can measure the weight loss, but there is not a designated goal weight – how will you measure fitness??
  • Attainable – Yes – you can lose weight, you can get fit –  but again no specific goal
  • Realistic – Perhaps –  depending on the amount of weight and the time frame??
  • Time-sensitive – no time-frame is assigned to these goals

So let’s be realistic with health and fitness goals and keep things simple and specific. Whatever your health and fitness resolutions may be, make sure they are SMART.

  • Change one small thing at a time, write your goals down and stick them to the fridge/around the house for you to see
  • PLAN everything down to the last detail – make sure you know EXACTLY how you are going to stick to your goals and make them happen
  • Develop a support network – friends, family and colleagues can all help you – talk to them about what you’re planning to do and tell them how they can help or even join in with your goals
  • Measure your success will keep you motivated and on track – it’s good to have short term goals as well as longer term goals to break things down (if your aim is to lose 1 stone for example, a 3-4 month period is realistic and you can break it down as 1-2Ib per week so you can keep on track)
  • Reward yourself (with a non-food related!) treat when you achieve your short term goals to stay motived. You could have your nails done, buy a new book/magazine, go shopping with friends etc
  • Be aware you ARE going to fail from time to time. This is unavoidable but don’t despair! Learn from the setback: what situations made you slip? Can you avoid them next time? Don’t obsess over small setbacks – it won’t help you achieve your goal. Start fresh the next day. We are human afterall and we slip up from time to time. The key is not to give up – stay focused and get back on track.
  • Make your resolution stick. After a couple of weeks, the changes you’ve made will become a habit and part of your routine, so don’t be discouraged if you’re still finding it hard after the first week or two. Stick to it and it will only get easier!

So what are my resolutions for 2016? Well, as a PT I should really have the fitness and health thing nailed – but of course there’s alwshutterstock_125736689ays room for improvement!  Following a 4 month back injury I am going to continue participating in a weekly Pilate’s class to help with my recovery and to practice what I preach!

Less physical but just as important is I hope to learn more about and practice “mindfulness” – I have downloaded the app Headspace – apparently it’s a gym membership for the mind  – sounds good to me!

 

Good luck and here’s to a fit, healthy and happy 2016 for us all!

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Find out why it’s great to Exercise when Pregnant!

Exercising during pregnancy for most women is a safe and healthy thing to do AND benefits your baby too!

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However, it is advisable for all women to have a pregnancy health check with your Midwife/ GP before you start your exercise or fitness programme.

Here are some fabulous benefits of exercising throughout your pregnancy:

  • Helps alleviate many symptoms of pregnancy, eg back ache, varicose veins etc
  • Enhances self esteem, mood and positive body image– and therefore less likely to have prenatal depression
  • Better posture (and therefore less back pain)
  • Improved sleep and relaxation AND more energy
  • Maintain a healthy weight gain AND Faster postnatal recovery:

A new report out that suggests the reason why it may be so difficult for some women to shed their post-baby weight is because they, are gaining too much weight during pregnancy which makes it more difficult to lose afterwards.

There are no official UK guidelines for how much weight you should gain over your pregnancy. There is only general advice that most women put on somewhere between 10kg and 12.5kg (22lb to 28lb). You’ll gain most of the weight after 20 weeks.

See below for average weight gain:

Pre-pregnancy BMI BMI Total weight gain Rates of weight gain
2nd and 3rd trimester (average range/week)
Underweight Less than 18.5 13kg to 18kg (28lb to 40lb) 0.5kg to 0.6kg (1lb to 1.3lb)
Normal weight 18.5 to 24.9 11.5kg to 16kg (25lb to 35lb) 0.4kg to 0.5kg (0.8lb to 1lb)
Overweight 25 to 29.9 7kg to 11.5kg (15lb to 25lb) 0.2kg to 0.3kg (0.5lb to 0.7lb)
Obese 30 or more 5kg to 9kg (11lb to 20lb) 0.2kg to 0.3kg (0.4lb to 0.6lb)

The bottom line is you will be able to get back to your pre pregnancy size faster if you have exercised and eaten healthily throughout your pregnancy.  Remember – eating for 2 is a myth! You do not need to drink full-fat milk or change your diet at all for the first six months of the pregnancy. Even in the last three months you need just 200 extra calories a day  –  the equivalent of a small sandwich. (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence)

  • More oxygen rich blood via placenta to your baby .The placenta is your baby’s main source of nourishment for growth and therefore anything that can promote the healthiest possible placental function has to be a huge benefit. In other words the healthier and more efficient your cardiovascular system is, the more likely it is to drive oxygen and nutrient rich blood to benefit the function of the placenta and your baby. And as research shows the best possible way to builds a strong, efficient and healthy cardio vascular system is with cardio vascular exercise.
  • You can lower your gestational diabetes risk by as much as 27 percent. High blood sugar during pregnancy puts you at extremely high risk for developing type II diabetes in the decade after delivering and raises the odds of preterm delivery or having an overweight baby. If you do develop it—and many fit women do because genetics and age play a significant role—exercise may help prevent or delay your need for insulin or other medications.
  • Increased ability to cope with labour anxiety and pain AND increased endurance levels for labour – you will need it as labour can be a marathon! Both mine were LONG and I was glad I was fit and strong to cope with them. Some studies show you may also decrease the time you are in active labour – No guarantees, of course, but strong abs and a fit cardiovascular system can give you more oomph and stamina for the pushing stage.
  • You’re less likely to get constipated.Pregnant women’s intestinal tracts often get backed up due to high progesterone levels and a growing uterus, but exercise, along with a high-fibre diet, keeps your digestive system humming..
  • Your child may have a healthier heart. The developing babies of prenatal exercisers have more efficient hearts than those of non-exercisers, and this higher cardio fitness level seems to last into the childhood years.
  • Your children may grow up to be smarter.Some research indicates that kids of mums who work out during pregnancy have better memories, in addition to higher scores on intelligence and language tests!

The most important wisdom for exercising during pregnancy is to “listen to your body”

Remember every woman’s pregnancy is different and changes through the 9 months. I felt amazing during my first pregnancy and continued my exercise programme with no trouble and a spring in my step. I definitely had more aches and pains with my second, I still exercised regularly (I was teaching spin up until 8.5 months!) but not as often as I was exhausted from running around after a toddler… You are likely to have ‘energetic’ periods and also ‘exhausted/ fed up’ times. So you need to be flexible to your exercise goals; and not a slave to a rigid training regime.

Don’t try to exercise at your former level; instead, do what’s most comfortable for you now. Ideally work no harder than a level 8 on the perceived exertion scale – 1 is when you are sitting on the sofa completely relaxed, 10 is maximum 100% flat out effort, so a 7/8 is as hard as you should push yourself in pregnancy – sweaty, a little breathless but able to manage a conversation is a good guide I used with clients.  Low impact exercise is better than high impact, especially as your bump starts to grow bigger as it puts less strain on your joints and ligaments that are having to cope with the extra weight and also the hormone relaxin which makes us more unstable and prone to injury.

I will write another post soon on the best types of exercises to do whilst pregnant –but in a nutshell you can’t go wrong with walking, swimming,  squats, lunges, press ups against the wall (on the floor puts too much pressure on your rectus abdominus and could result in diastasis recti) tricep dips, light weight work for the upper body. Spin/indoor cycling is good as low impact (but adjustments need to be made as your bump grows and not too much work out of the saddle), prenatal yoga and Pilates. DEFINITELY no sit ups – although you do need to work your deep core muscles – the TVA – and of course the pelvic floor…

REMEMBER not to jack knife out of bed from the lying position – roll to your side and use your hands to push yourself up – may seem a bit unnecessary but trust me it can cause diastasis recti which you want to avoid or minimise.

Happy Pregnancy Exercising!

Mind the (tummy) Gap!

CORE Function Part 1

What is Diastasis Recti (also known as abdominal separation)

Ok ladies, I am aware that there is still a massive lack of knowledge around diastasis recti – (ab separation) amongst postnatal women – even those who have much older babies and toddlers can be unaware they have the condition. So let’s have a look at what it is and clear up some facts about it…

“Diastasis” means separation. “Recti” refers to your ab muscles called the “rectus abdominis.” These two muscles run down the front of the abdominals and they are joined in the centre by the linea alba. During pregnancy, when the linea alba is softened, it is stretched by the increasing size of the baby and the abdomen. This causes the muscles to stretch and weaken as they lengthen. Eventually, the linea alba may split, and when this happens it is called diastasis. The split tends to start around the belly button area and then moves upwards or downwards depending on how the mum to be affected is carrying her baby.

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So basically, it’s a separation of the abdominal muscles, allowing your tummy to literally bulge out, making it difficult postnatally to lose the “mummy tummy”, or in many cases so you still look a little bit pregnant.  It is most common with women who have multiple pregnancies, carry multiples, have big babies and those over 35. And in fact two thirds of women who have two or more babies have it. Just to add in here that it’s not just pregnant and postnatal women who can suffer from DR –  newborn babies also can have this belly spread, though it should go away on its own. Men can also get it, possibly from doing sit-ups or weightlifting the wrong way, or from other causes.

It is important to know if you have DR both in pregnancy and postnatally and sadly it’s something that is not always checked by your midwife or doctor. I see many women in my postnatal classes and many have never had their tummies checked before. Therefore many women are unsure or unaware they have it and can unintentionally make the condition worse. Women with an untreated DR can suffer poor posture, back pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, digestion problems and an inability to lose their “mummy tummy” despite their best exercise efforts! I have seen clients with children over a year old and more who have had  DR and not known about it.

So how do I know I have DR?

If you have never heard of diastasis recti and have never had your tummy checked then it’s definitely worth heading along to a postnatal exercise class or seeing a personal trainer (who specialises in pre and postnatal exercise) or physical therapist that is familiar with diastasis and can check you over. It’s very simple, painless and quick and I can outline the steps so you can also check yourselves – see steps below and my video.

I would suggest you only check from 6 weeks post birth (when your uterus has shrunk, you have less fluid retention and abdominal discomfort). It makes for a more accurate test and it’s important to test your separation so you can measure progress.

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor
  • Place 2-3 fingers above your tummy button with your palm facing you
  • Take a deep breath in, then slowly raise your head and shoulders slightly off the floor as in an ab curl
  • Breath slowly out as you raise up and press your fingers into your tummy
  • The two sides of the rectus abdominus should close together on your fingers – a 1-2 finger width gap or less is fine, but don’t panic if it’s much bigger at first
  • You want to continue to feel for the width (and depth – how far in your fingers go) all the way along the length of your tummy, into your tummy button and below it. The width and depth may vary… it’s common to have a diastasis around the belly button area but can be above or below.
  • If the gap is greater than 2.5-3 fingers then the diastasis recti is present and doming may occur
  • Remember, you are also testing for the condition of the connective tissue (the Linea Alba). The further your fingers go into your belly, the weaker the connective tissue.

I have a one finger gap just above, in and below my tummy button and my youngest “baby” is almost 4!  However it is very shallow and I have a good, strong and functioning core.  Some women get hung up on their gap and closing it altogether. Up until recently we would often advocate that to fully close the gap is necessary as we know that this is best for optimal function. HOWEVER new research shows that some women can function without pain, leaking or poor posture when a DR remains so it becomes necessary to assess each person individually. This is not an excuse not to address a DR after birth, however it does mean we don’t have to get too focused on completely closing the gap – it’s more important to look at having a strong and functioning core.

How do you know if you have healed and to what extent can you classify yourself as restored if there is still a gap? Its all about the connective tissue strength and health, how you can connect with your core system and your individual function. If you have no pain, leaking, have good activation of your core muscle system, your connective tissue is strong along your midline and your posture improved then even with a small DR you have may found your balance.

However, if you do suffer from this condition there are many exercises that you should avoid altogether until your tummy separation has knitted back together (and fear not –  you CAN improve your diastasis – we will come on to that later)

What exercises should I avoid doing if I have DR?

  • Exercises that require lying backward over a large exercise ball.
  • Yoga postures that stretch the abs, such as “cow pose,” “up-dog,” and all backbends
  • Abdominal exercises that flex the upper spine off the floor or against the force of gravity such as: as crunches, obliquecurls, “bicycles,” roll ups/roll downs, etc.
  • Pilates mat and reformer exercises that utilize the “head float” position, upper body flexion, or double leg extension. Pilates 100s definite no-no.
  • Any exercise that causes your abdominal wall to bulge out upon exertion.
  • Lifting and carrying very heavy objects.
  • The full frontal plank (side planks ok) as the core muscles have to work against gravity and puts great pressure on the abdominal wall.
  • FULL press ups (as above re full plank) Press up against the wall ok

With regards to every day movements, try not to sit straight up from a lying position –  roll to your side and  push up from there (like when you are pregnant) and try and always engage your core muscles whenever you lift (babies, toddlers, car seats, whatever!), twist or get up from lying or crouching.

How Do I Fix It?

The key to closing a DR is to learn how to correctly engage your core….

Now this is something that is talked about a lot in some exercise classes, particularly Pilates and it’s something that many people are unsure about and in my opinion don’t do properly! You want to connect with your deep core muscles in order to start to knit your DR back together. We are talking about your TVA muscle –Transversus abdominis which is the deepest of the abdominal muscles and wraps around the abdomen between the lower ribs and top of the pelvis, functioning like a corset. It is NOT sucking your tummy in as hard as you can.

Breathe in and on the breath out contract the transversus abdominis by drawing your tummy button in towards your spin…

No movement of your hips, pelvis or spine should occur as you gently connect you TVA. If you palpate your tummy just inside the left and right hip bones, this deep contraction should feel like a light, deep tension under your fingertips, not a contraction that pushes your fingers out.

Now, as well as activating your TVA – you also want to be working your pelvic floor at the same time. Which brings me on to pelvic tilts – a great exercise for everyone to do – but especially important for postnatal ladies and safe to do from birth.

Pelvic Tilts (lying down)

Start in neutral position, lying on your back, feet on floor, knees bent.

Breathe in, fill your lungs and let your belly expand. Then exhale, emptying your lungs, whilst gently drawing your tummy button right back towards your spine. Keep your shoulders down and your neck relaxed. Focus the work between your pubic bone and waist. Keep your gluteals (buttocks) relaxed

There are a number of visualisations which may help :

Imagine ‘zipping up’ the gap from below the belly button, to above.

Visualise doing this exercise on sand, don’t let your feet indent the sand – instead indent the sand with your lower back.

Whichever works for you, remember to exhale as you draw your abdomen inwards, and inhale as you allow your tummy to expand and your lungs to fill. Don’t raise and lower your chest (it’s all in the tummy), don’t hunch your shoulders, and don’t hold your breath!

You will find that as you do this, your pelvis will naturally tilt forward as you contract the transverse muscle.

OK, now add in your pelvic floor exercises (now we’re really multi-tasking!). As you draw in your transverse abdominis muscle, pull up your pelvic floor. Remember; don’t hold your breath, all these muscles work together best whilst breathing. Exhale and release all muscular effort, allowing your pelvis to gently roll into the neutral position.

Repeat 8-10 times – holding each tilt for approx. 30 secs

In my next blog post I will outline more safe deep core exercises you can try and hope to have some videos to accompany them! And we have touched on pelvic floor but this needs to be looked at in more detail so that will be in Core Function Part 2.

I run a postnatal exercise class at Horfield leisure centre on a Wednesday 11am so please feel free to come along to that or contact me for further information.

Easy Healthy Eating

Ok, so my last post was about how busy we all are and how to fit in your regular exercise. This time, we need to look at food and how it can sabotage even the best and most dedicated gym-bunny. I expect some of you have heard the phrase “You can’t out- exercise a bad diet” and that is so true… Even if you are doing regular exercise, it is very difficult to reap the benefits if your daily diet consists of unhealthy food choices and/or too large portion sizes.

Now I totally understand that it is HARD to eat healthily when you are a busy mum – you are so focused on your baby/children that you never put yourselves first and often end up skipping meal times which results in reaching for a chocolate bar or overeating later on. You don’t need me to tell you this isn’t ideal. So I just wanted to share with you how I – (mum of 2 and busy fitting in work around the children’s school and pre school hours – no superwoman, just what millions of us are doing!) try and manage my own eating and meal times to ensure I am fuelling my body the best nutrient rich food it needs to run on.

Here are some of my tips for easy healthy eating:

  • Always, always, always eat breakfast. I still can’t believe there are people out there who don’t. I won’t bore you with the stats but there is loads of research out there that proves people who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat later on and more likely to maintain a healthy body weight  -click here for 5 reasons to eat breakfast!  I always make time for it, no matter what. To make things easier, I stick with the same breakfast most days. That way it’s a no brainer and I can go on auto pilot when half asleep and navigating the kitchen in the mornings. I have porridge with unsweetened almond milk, with a teaspoon of almond butter/peanut butter (for protein and I love the stuff) and have some seasonal fruits chopped up – so in the summer it was strawberries or blueberries or raspberries. FullSizeRender 12Going into autumn/winter it maybe blackberries or some stewed pear or chopped 1/2 banana. Sometimes I sprinkle some chia seeds on top too. Oats are a great choice for breakfast, filling and full of fibre, with no added sugar. Practically ALL breakfast cereals are packed with sugar, even the seemingly healthy versions – in fact especially the “healthy ones”. Oats are your best bet, or shredded wheat/weetabix not too bad either. I’m proud to say my eldest daughters eats porridge with me, however the youngest refuses point blank so makes do with weetabix! Or the occasional boiled egg.  Poached or scrambled or boiled eggs are great, served with wholemeal/rye toast, spinach/mushrooms/tomatoes and/or smoked salmon. Eggs are great protein and will also keep you feeling full. If you really are on the go and can’t sit down for breakfast – DO NOT reach for the belvita breakfast biscuits as one client told me she did!! SO MUCH SUGAR. Some oat cakes with peanut butter and banana or boiled egg is a good option and portable.
  • Preparation is key. Plan your meals a week in advance and shop online so you are not tempted to buy unnecessary – ie unhealthy items. It reduces waste too. I stock up on lots of time-saving cheats, like ready-cooked packets of brown rice, puy lentils, quinoa, so you just need to add it to a stirfry/salad and you are good to go. I also buy the “cheats” garlic, ginger, chilli, etc as great to keep in fridge. I know these “cheats” may be frowned upon and also are a little more expensive but I make savings elsewhere as anything that makes life easier is worth it for me! I roast LOADS of veggies in one go, like sweet potato, butternut squash, red onion, peppers, whatever I have in the fridge and then use them to add to my lunches or to accompany evening meals throughout the week. I try and shop locally for fruit and veg as we have brilliant greengrocers that are much cheaper than the supermarkets.
  • One way we save time is we make more than we need for our evening meal and then we have leftovers to eat for lunch the next day. Perfect for busy people!
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Left over chicken fajitas mix – peppers, sweetcorn, mushrooms on spinach with some avocado
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Left over salmon stir fry with quinoa mix, brocoli, peppers, shallots, cornish greens, with garlic, ginger, chilli and soy sauce
  • Similar to breakfast, I tend to have the same things every week for lunch as it really does make things simpler and easy to have “go-to” meals. When you are busy, you can’t think straight and just go on auto pilot with food  -so good to know it’s a healthy choice. Leftovers are great but I will also have a few other quick “lunch” ideas – usually eggs, spinach and avocado,  a homemade soup (I tend to make big batches of soup too)  Baked sweet potato with salad/veg etc. I try and have a balance of protein, veg and healthy carbs (sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa). I try and avoid bread during the week as I find it quite bloating.
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Lucky me I had lunch with my friend A who is really on it with healthy eating. She made me this delicious and simple lunch, baked sweet potato with goats cheese, a quick stir fry of roasted sumac cauliflower, spinach, sun dried tomatos and walnuts. YUM
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Another equally healthy friend was having my youngest daughter for a playdate with her little one whilst I trained a client. When I went to pick her up my lovely friend cooked me lunch and it was delicious – stir fried brown rice and kale with garlic and soy sauce, served with some hummus. Simple, quick and tasty. Please note that this was mummy’s lunch – I am not superwoman – there is no way my daughter would have eaten this…
  • DRINK LOADS OF WATER! You must have all heard this one and it’s true – we often mistake thirst for hunger – so make sure you are drinking enough – start the day with a glass of hot water and lemon and drink a big glass of water about 30 minutes before every meal as a minimum. Herbal teas are good as count towards your  minimum of 2 litres per day and I know it’s the Daily Mail but this article has got many friends drinking more water… lose weight and look 10 years younger? Yes please!
  • AVOID drinking unnecessary calories – so stick with water and herbal teas… Fruit juice has loads of sugar and therefore calories. Don’t even get me started on any type of fizzy drink unless its sparkling water – all packed with sugar or if sugar free packed with other “nasties”.  As we are talking drinks, it should be noted that alcohol is a big no-no if you are trying to lose weight or just be a bit healthier as it is packed with calories and has no nutritional benefit. Of course I do drink –  but definitely in moderation and generally stick to 1-2 glasses of red at the weekend. When analysing food diaries many clients are shocked to see what their weekly drinking adds up to in calories…. so remember even if your diet is generally good, watch those sneaky glasses of wine – they add up!
  • I have snacks lined up if I’m on the go  -usually fruit and a few nuts (I have to be careful with nuts as I can eat A LOT – and they are high in cals) oatcakes with nut butter and banana a personal favourite of mine and Total Greek yoghurt. I find I can get through the morning usually without a snack if I’m on the go, but will usually need one late afternoon – and try and make it a protein rich one.
  • Finally – watch your portion sizes!! I am very guilty of this one…. Try not to over-eat… you should NOT feel totally full after you have finished eating, that means you have over-eaten! You should feel like you could perhaps eat a bit more… but don’t (especially if you want to lose weight or very least maintain your weight) Remember, if you are eating healthily, this does not mean healthy food is void of calories!If your body needs 1500 calories to maintain your weight and you consistently eat 1600 calories in SALAD you are still going to put on weight!! Quite often people reward themselves when eating healthier by eating MORE… like a friend who ate a massive bag of dried fruit and nuts instead of a packet of crisps – but realised she’d scoffed over 1000 calories!

To finish – I am no saint and if the above seems to good to be true I am only human and like I’ve mentioned, try and eat well 80% of the time. So during the last week I committed the following: I skipped a meal (not breakfast!!) due to rubbish planning, I ate a guilt free (it was worth it) pain au chocolat with a cappuccino over a lovely catch up with a good friend,  and I had 2 slices of chocolate cake (not guilt free, I should have stuck to 1 slice) with my sisters yesterday… 🙂   However, that’s ok,  it’s Sunday, I’ve done my weekly shop and I am ready to be on track in the week ahead!

Busy busy busy – my top tips for fitting in regular exercise…

We are all so busy, busy, busy:

  • Being perfect mothers (fyi they don’t exist)
  • Managing to begin/maintain a long lasting happy relationship with our partners (or at very least avoiding divorce..)
  • Being dutiful daughters, thoughtful sisters, aunts etc
  • Being fabulous friends
  • Being efficient employees/business owners/entrepreneurs/full time parent
  • Maintaining our homes
  • Maintaining ourselves – (washing hair once in a while, make up, clothes, shoes, that kind of thing)

I’m exhausted just typing that list – so it’s no wonder we often say we have no time in our busy lives to fit in exercise. Yet when we neglect to exercise we are neglecting our HEALTH. Not just our physical health either, our mental health is also directly linked with regular physical exercise. So if something can help improve our physical health by making us stronger, fitter and leaner and also at the same time lift our mood and improve our entire well being then surely we need to be finding times in our busy lives to fit this in??

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Here are some tips:

  • Do something you enjoy – but if you are not doing any type of physical exercise at the moment be aware that whatever you start is going to be challenging (as with anything new!) and to persevere….. Try out a few classes, ask friends what they currently do… which brings me onto…
  • Make it social – if it’s with friends then you are more likely to motivate each other. Also exercise is a great way to meet fab new friends so start going to classes and you will have a whole new set of buddies. It doesn’t have to be running or the gym, or exercise classes. What about re-discovering a sport you used to love, netball, hockey, IMG_0695badminton, or trying one for the first time – many clubs are happy to accept and encourage new members who have not played before…
  • Exercise doesn’t have to take long to be effective! Don’t think that to see results you have to slog it out for an hour on the treadmill. HIIT, Tabata training focuses on short, intense interval type training is great for those with little time (more on HIIT and Tabata in another post)
  • Make sure you are as active in your daily life as you can be.  Walk AS MUCH as possible, take the stairs not the lift, try not to sit on your bottom for long periods of time (def not if mum to toddler/young child!) – if at work get up and walk around in between emails/phone calls. Now this all helps, but please don’t mistake being active in your day as your “exercise” and therefore you are exempt from doing any “formalised” type of physical activity.  Yes you may have walked the kids up to the park and then sat on a bench or chased your toddler around but this is on top of and  not instead of your regular exercise plan (even though you may feel exhausted afterwards)

Next, and this is very important…..

  • Plan your weekly exercise into your diary as an essential, non negotiable appointment. Think of it in terms of as important as meal times for your kids (you definitely wouldn’t miss that!) or washing  your hair (hopefully you wouldn’t miss that?!) or a meeting at work? A doctors appointment?  Or er – you get the picture. Unless it’s an absolute emergency, you are not cancelling your exercise time… because it’s for your mental and physical well being… remember? Which leads me on to:
  • You have to WANT to do this – some of the busiest people I know find time for regular exercise, some of my clients’ dedication to their health and well being amazes me. With everything else going on in their lives, they pretty much always make a session. So commit to your exercise and soon it will become an inherent part of your life.
  • However, don’t set unrealistic goals for exercising… by saying you are going to hit the gym 5 days a week, every week you are setting yourself up for failure if you know this is going to be really hard with your schedule. Instead plan in sensible times for at least 3 sessions per week. You don’t have to leave the house – you could do a 30 minute workout DVD or YOU TUBE workout (there are loads out there!) as soon as kids are in bed before dinner…

So – here are my tips on trying to make that Zumba class, or heading out for a run when you feel shattered and totally de-motivated:

  • No one ever REGRETS doing a workout – you may feel shattered and feel like you have no energy – if you MAKE yourself do something you will feel fabulous and energised afterwards (seriously – I can’t believe anyone would disagree with that unless they were genuinely ill?) So keep that in your head at all times… “I WILL feel amazing afterwards..”
  • Be prepared. If you are at work and planning a trip to the gym after work, change into your gym clothes before you leave so you are all set to go. If possible go STRAIGHT to the gym/run/class before going home first. Ok, for mums – you are about to do the teatime/bathtime/bedtime routine (aka witching hour or two) and have planned your exercise for when the little darlings are in bed. Before (or during to buy yourself some time) the mayhem starts, go and change into your gym gear – sports bra and all. You may get yoghurt splattered on it but who cares) Then, mentally, you are prepared and ready to go. You actively have to take off your gym stuff and put your comfy PJS on instead – good sports bras are not nice for lounging around watching telly in… I have tried and failed.
  • Mums with babies –  once the chaos of the first few terrifying and exciting weeks are over and you are post 6 weeks (10 weeks if c section)  and have had your doctors check you can start exercising again. Walking is great and some gentle core work. Buggyfit type classes work well as you are outside in fresh air with your baby. Other postnatal classes where you can bring your baby with you and you can exercise under supervision of a pre and postnatal exercise specialist are also good ideas.

Committing to a relationship with regular exercise is one that you are not going to regret 🙂  You will be a happier and healthier you, I promise!

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Green Protein Pancakes aka “Bogey Pancakes”

It’s a rainy, autumnal Monday morning and I needed to cheer myself up…. and normally this involves exercise. However as I’m still injured (hurt my SI joint and lumbar facet joint) and unable to exercise at the moment I am turning to food instead (my other passion) . Healthy food that is obviously (and I don’t keep chocolate in the house..) Of course it’s important to eat healthily, we all know that, but even more so when you are ill or injured or feeling a little low, as eating healthy, nourishing food can help alleviate your symptoms and give you the energy and nutrients your body needs to repair and get better. Naturally it’s tempting to turn to “junk” food in these situations but from experience this rarely makes you feel better due to the zero nutrients (perhaps very short term as you are shoving the cake into your mouth) and isn’t helpful in your recovery.

I have a tendency to “make things up” when it comes to recipes, and to be honest more often than not they don’t turn out great. I am no Masterchef candidate or sadly Bake Off contender (in my dreams). But what I lack in skill I make up for in enthusiasm and today with limited ingredients in the fridge I concocted….. GREEN pancakes! Or as my daughters like to say “Mouldy” pancakes, or “Bogey” pancakes. They sound delicious don’t they….. please read on….

I have tried to make spinach pancakes before but they didn’t turn out well (I actually followed a recipe that time) so this time I went off piste (as it were) and the result was extremely edible and dare I say pretty good. All you need is 5 or 6 ingredients… eggs, spinach, milk of your choice, ground almonds and/spelt flour, coconut oil.

This is what I did (I’m not very exact when it comes to recipes either..)

  1. I put two handfuls of spinach, two eggs, a banana and some almond milk (about half a cup ) into the Nutribullet or use a blender and whizzed up
  2. I poured the mixture into a large bowl and I added some ground almonds until the mixture was the texture of pancake batter – not too thick. As I ran out of enough ground almonds (I only had a small amount left over) I added some spelt flour too – about a tablespoon. If you have nut allergy you could use all spelt flour, or flour of your choice.
  3. I heated up some coconut oil in a pan and dolloped three FullSizeRenderspoonfuls of the mixture in – don’t make them too thick – and when the bubbles started coming up I flipped them over and finished cooking them until slightly browny green colour (stay with me.. it gets better)
  4. I served them with a good spoonful of Greek yoghurt, heated up some frozen berries and poured them over the yoghurt and pancakes – YUM! What a delish way to eat your greens 🙂  No added sugar, can be zero flour so gluten free and lots of good protein. Apologies for my lack of presentation skills – something else I need to work on but you get the idea. Please do let me know if you give them a try!

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