I was scrolling through Instagram the other day and came across a post on nutrition.
The Instagrammer was making suggestions on how someone could improve their nutrition habits without actually changing what they eat – simple habit tweaks here and there.
Now there were some helpful tips, but I couldn’t help but think that 99% of the ideas just weren’t realistic for most moms.
Mom life is crazy and chaotic and totally unpredictable every single day.
And if you’re trying to make healthy changes but you can’t easily fit them into your life it’s going to cause you more stress then happiness – which defeats the purpose of trying to be healthy in the first place.
Because being healthy isn’t just about our physical health or how we look. We also want to nurture our mental and emotional health and if you constantly feel like you’re failing at the nutrition goals you set, that’s not doing your soul any favours.
So let’s talk about some of these common nutrition tips and how you can tweak them to realistically fit into your life – most days. Because let’s be honest, there’s never going to be one thing that works every single time.
Just like you can’t bank on your workout schedule always being the same now that you’re a mom, you can’t plan to be strict about your nutrition 100% of the time (because it’s that much harder right now and you’ll drive yourself nuts if you try too hard).
And, honestly, perfection is a load of bologna that we all need to let go of. (P.S. Am I the only one who thinks bologna needs to be changed to balonie? 😉 )
Trying to be perfect sets you up for all or nothing thinking. And that all or nothing thinking trickles into the idea that you’re “good” for eating salad and “bad” for eating chips.
We definitely want to avoid that negative, self-deprecating mindset.
And all or nothing strategies
rarely never work because you’re honestly setting yourself up for failure right from the get go. You’re expecting perfection and perfection is rare to obtain and impossible to maintain.
In the psychology world this is called “selective abstractions” (oh-la-la!).
It’s the black and white thinking that has you saying things like:
“I just ruined my entire week of clean eating by eating that cookie.”
“It doesn’t matter. I already ruined my diet. I might as well finish the bag.”
“Ugh! What was the point of even eating a salad at lunch now that I’m eating this 7-Eleven hot dog?!”
And as Jennifer Shindman suggests, “It is important that we work on staying in the grey.”
Instead of making a global statement, “I’ve ruined everything” keep it in check, “It’s all good. Balance, right?”
One of the most powerful (and simple) ways you can stay in the grey is by reminding yourself that you don’t have to be perfect (especially not all the time) to be healthy.
Everyone has overeaten at least once in their life. Everyone.
So cut yourself some slack. Stay in the grey. And work on adopting some healthier habits into your life as best you can – like the 3 examples I give you to switch up some common nutrition advice and make it more realistic for #MomLife. Play around with them in your life. Experiment. Test. See what works. Ditch what doesn’t.
And – most importantly – do what feels good and right for you.
Common Tip #1: Put Your Fork Down Between Bites
As a mom, there are often two options when you’re eating with your kids:
1. You’re constantly putting your fork down between bites (or not even getting to eat at all) because you’re trying to stop your screaming toddler from throwing spaghetti in the hair of the lady next to you while you’re getting the stink eye from everyone around you even though it’s a “family friendly” restaurant and you swore your kiddo was happy when you left the house.
2. You’re shoveling it in because junior is happily playing or eating and you’re going to take this opportunity to eat as fast as you can before they change their mind.
So with this being your reality, how can you adopt this strategy and make it work in your life?
More Realistic Tip For Moms:
When you’re eating with your kids around, make a deal with whoever you’re eating with (your husband, partner, friend, sister, mom…). You’ll each take turns taking care of the munchkin so that one person can eat and enjoy their meal, while the other person entertains, cuts up food, puts the food on a fork, spoons it in…
You’ll take the first 5-ish minute shift, they’ll take the second 5-ish minute shift. And so on.
This way you each get a chance to focus on eating slower and enjoying at least part of your meal.
Of course, this won’t always work – like when you’re eating alone with the kiddo. But try it out and see if it can work for you at least some of the time.
Common Tip #2: Aim for Being Satisfied, Not Stuffed
We’ve all been there. You’re suddenly super stuffed even though you barely remember eating.
But simply focusing on stopping when you feel satisfied doesn’t work for a lot of moms because we just don’t have the luxury of paying that close attention all the time. We’re so busy trying to coax our toddler to try the green beans and not stick the fork up their nose that we don’t realize we’re full until we’re really full.
So what can you do?
More Realistic Tip For Moms:
Use smaller plates. This is one of those common nutrition tips that can actually work well for you.
If you’re constantly eating more than you need and you feel super stuffed after meals simply because you’re so busy dealing with your kiddo and you can’t pay attention, opt for smaller portions or smaller plates.
This isn’t about depriving yourself. I want you to feel satisfied after you finish eating. But feeling overstuffed is not only no fun, but not helpful if you’re trying to lose some weight (or maintain the weight you’re at).
So simply use smaller plates and don’t load it up so high and you’ll at least have a moment to think about it – “Am I really hungry still?” – before you dish out seconds.
Common Tip #3: Get Rid of Distractions
My sister (who has 4 kids) once joked that with the distracted driving laws in effect here in Canada, all moms should be getting tickets. Daily.
Eating with a baby or toddler (or kiddos of any age) means you’re going to be distracted.
It’s just what happens.
So unless you find a way to always eat without your kiddos in the room, you’re going to have times where you can’t have full attention on your food.
But you do have options.
More Realistic Tip For Moms:
Choose one meal or snack a day to eat without your kiddo around. This may be something as small as eating a banana by yourself in the closet while your kiddo plays in the other room. That’s okay. It still counts – as long as you’re taking your time and enjoying the moment (as best you can).
You can also:
- Eat breakfast before your munchkin wakes up
- Have lunch or a snack while they’re napping
- Eat dinner after they’re in bed
- Have a snack in the gym locker room before picking them up from daycare
- Sit in the car and eat a snack (when you’re not driving) while the munchkin babbles in the backseat
- Enjoy lunch alone in your office or on a park bench if you work outside of your home
- Bring your breakfast with you to work to eat at your desk – in peace – before you start your day
The idea is to get some time by yourself (or with adults who are less demanding of your attention – most of the time at least 😉 ) to enjoy whatever food you’re eating.
This isn’t simply about being healthy and not eating so much because you’re distracted.
A huge part of the joy of food is in how it tastes and if you’re so distracted, you might finish your entire plate and not even remember what it tastes like.
And a huge part of feeling satisfied and not overeating has to do with hormonal signals in our body telling us to stop. And – while we don’t know all the science behind it just yet – our stomachs aren’t the only ones telling us we’re full. Our brains have a role to play too. Which could mean that feeling satisfied – psychologically – plays a role in our tendency to overeat.
And if we’re constantly distracted to the point we barely remember the taste of our food it’s impossible to feel fully satisfied.
So try to get in at least one snack or meal a day where you do get to enjoy the taste and experience of eating something yummy.
This may not be realistic every single day. But start with one day a week and grow from there.
Remember to Stay in the Grey
Choosing to eat healthy isn’t just about the food we buy, it’s also about the habits we create around food.
Being a mom may make it more challenging to eat slower, not get distracted, and stop when we’re full. But more challenging doesn’t mean impossible.
There are always changes and adaptations you can make to create healthy eating habits in your own life.
So play around with these ideas and find a plan that works for you.
And remember the bottom line – it’s not about being perfect, good enough is great.
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