A Well-Nourished Life From the Perspective of a Wife, Mom & Life Coach

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Whitney Post Ottos is a dear friend whom I have referred to before on this blog. She is a consistent source of authenticity and encouragement to me, frequently helping me to look at life and various challenges from a refreshing perspective. I am honored to share her perspective on a Well-Nourished Life as a wife, mom and Life Coach. I hope you enjoy her inspiring thoughts as much as I have!

A Well-Nourished Life from the Perspective of a Registered Dietitian

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What does a well-nourished life look like for you as a wife, mom & R.D.?

This year has been a journey back to a well-nourished life for me, as I have transitioned from working full time outside of the home (as an RD in the world of Food Service Management), to working full time within the home, caring for my young children. And it has been more of a challenge than I expected! Perhaps, if I’m honest, in part because my expectations of what a well-nourished life looks like, have changed. This journey has prompted me to pause and realize a well-nourished life looks different in each of the seasons of life. Simply pausing is a good start to a well-nourished life in my experience!

Ultimately, for me, a well-nourished life is centered on nourishing my body, mind and soul.

Care for the body is important for many reasons. Three key elements: eating, exercising, and sleeping – all significantly impact how we function, and at least for me, also influence my emotional and mental health.

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As a Registered Dietitian, I am naturally a supporter of healthy eating. The evidence and health benefits of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds, lean meats/protein and avoidance of processed foods – continues to grow. But that’s not to say enjoying some chips or your favorite ice cream should be avoided at all costs. Balance is key. Learning to listen to our bodies is key. I have strived to help teach my kids (ages 2 & 6) to listen to their bodies when it comes to hunger and satiety. I have had some proud mama moments when my 6-year-old stops eating a cinnamon roll or cake as he feels full or suspects more will make him not feel well. This self-regulation is so important to learn and I strive to encourage it. All members of my family get “hangry” when we are hungry or beyond the point of hungry….and the anger starts to flare! So regular eating times are crucial for us to avoid this. Plus, fueling our bodies with nutrient dense foods supports energy for keeping active.

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Exercise and activity have tremendous benefits for our body. In addition to muscle strength and disease prevention, it boosts our mood as well. Even though getting to the gym is not feasible on a daily basis right now, I do prioritize 3 designated gym days and it so helps center and focus myself throughout the week. The other days I strive to just move my body as much as possible through my normal day. Playing with and chasing my very active kids, vacuuming, grocery shopping, etc. My kids actually love to join me in exercise so we often do push ups or jumping jacks or simply have a dance party to get our hearts booming (as my kids say)!

My eating fuels my exercise and my exercise supports my sleep quality. Sleep is an area I am personally striving to get more of! I recently decided to set a goal bedtime, which is a challenge sometimes (most days!). The evening when the kids are asleep is the quiet and calm time of the day, where I typically enjoy a few moments with my husband, watch a show, or catch up on the long list of to-dos (uninterrupted by the needs of the kids). In the end though, listening to our bodies when it comes to eating, exercising and sleeping is critical. Sometimes running that extra mile after you had a poor night of sleep may not be the best idea. Check in with your body. It will often have something to say.

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Care for the mind is also so vital. This one has become more apparent to me upon my recent transition to working full time caring for my family in the home. I love being home with my kids and managing the home front. But my mind needs a challenge. For me, in this season, that has been reading both personal and professional education books/articles or listening to a podcast or webinar on a new topic of interest. I have a list of books (another to-do list) to read, as reading more is a personal goal of mine (it is going slowly, but remains a goal!).

I’m currently reading Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. Both are very encouraging and thought provoking for me in this season. Nutrition Action is a favorite newsletter I subscribe to, put out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It is a great resource for science based health and nutrition advice and it’s unbiased.

Care for the soul is, without a doubt, a necessity too. This can look different each day or week, but for me, finding quiet moments for time in prayer or reflection and intentional gratitude are key for nourishing the soul.

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Practicing gratitude has been a tremendous way to keep my mind and soul focused on the positive and helped minimize anxious thoughts or getting discouraged depending on what is happening in life. For me, reflecting each night on the day, taking a moment to says thanks, and letting go of any regrets or things I could have communicated and handled better, is helpful as I lay my head to rest. Each morning starts with a moment of thanks for a new day; it is typically very brief as my daughter calls my name. But the quiet moment of thanks nourishes the soul; instills life and joy as a new day unfolds.

Nourishing the soul has also come through life in community for me. I have found such comfort, support and joy from my dear group of friends, many of who are fellow moms. Prioritizing time in community, whether at a play date, school function, or church gathering (whatever it may be), has been so nourishing this past year!

From your perspective, what is one thing busy moms can do to increase a sense of health and happiness?

Speak kindly to yourself and extend yourself grace. There is only one of you and you are uniquely made and have a purpose!

We live in a culture that promotes the message that we are never enough, perpetuates the treadmill of constant striving to complete our to-do list(s), and urges self-sufficiency through a seemingly silent fear or judgment if you, God forbid, need help. But, if we are honest, the list is never completed. The notorious invisible bar is always being raised higher. So how do we find sustenance in the midst of daily chaos life?

For me, combating this cycle and demanding culture, entails finding the delicate balance of allowing others to support me (yes its true) and supporting one another. Knowing when to say yes and when to say no. Advocating for what I need and what my family needs, or does not need in some cases.

I just mentioned how being active and exercising is a key component in my view of a well-nourished life. While it certainly is, I recently had a season of life where exercise was not feasible for many reasons. For a while I had the mindset that I was not caring for my body and carried the guilt and unkindness toward myself each day. But when I was honest with myself and acknowledged that sacrificing even more sleep or time with my kids was a bigger detriment, I decided to extend myself grace and let it go. Rather than focusing on whether or not I had exercised that day, I considered it a bonus if it happened. I worked in other small forms of activity. It may not seem like much, but simply letting go, extending myself grace in this area, made a huge impact on my overall sense of health and happiness.

Do you have a favorite recipe you would be willing to share?

Absolutely! I have a passion for baking and these are a cookie favorite!

Aunt Sandy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pudding

1 ½ cup margarine or butter
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 package chocolate chips

Cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees.

A Well-Nourished Life From the Perspective of a Wife, Mom & Triathlon Competitor

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What does a well-nourished life look like for you as a wife, mom & triathlon competitor?

If you had asked me what a well-nourished life looked like 10 years ago when I
started my mothering journey, I would have said something like sharing weekly
meals with friends, coffee dates, and spontaneous adventures. My firstborn’s
incredibly easy-going nature afforded me the opportunity to travel and explore with
him where we lived, which was between the Middle East and Boston in his early years.

Then ask me that same question 5 years ago, after dealing with years of secondary
infertility, but being blessed with our twins, I would have told you that I’m sorry I
don’t have time to write about it.

I didn’t know what “well-nourished” was when I was just trying to survive our days with meager finances and a spouse who was a full-time student.

I was so grateful to have our miracle babies, but I thought that also
meant I couldn’t admit how difficult they were. My insecurity in trying to meet all
three of my kids’ needs was masked by the confident exterior I painted on my face
each day.

And just 3 years ago, when our 4th child (surprise!) arrived and I had twins under the
age of 2, I would have told you I’m just doing my best to keep everyone alive but
honestly, my body feels like it’s falling apart at the seams! During that time, a friend
tried to get me to join a gym with childcare, but I excused the idea as impossible, still
scraping by with 4 kids in a high cost of living area. Eventually I hit a wall of extreme
burnout, got seriously depressed, and various parts of my body did require surgery,
starting with my back.

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In response to those very difficult years, I’ve come to see the nourishment of my
body, soul, and spirit as intertwined, vitally important, and not something that can
be pushed aside till some arbitrary time in the future. I’m not exactly referring to
work/life balance but more the idea of devoting time to nurturing my full identity–
not excluding my mom identity but not limited to it either. We change throughout
life, but there are parts of our being that are always there, even if not fully expressed
in some seasons. The key is staying in touch with our talents, interests and
attributes, expressing what we can in the chapter we are in, and being content with
what has to wait for another time.

From your perspective, what is one thing busy moms can do to increase a sense of health and happiness?

I’ve learned to create little windows of time for self-exploration, even if that means
giving up social media for months. I’ve gotten back in touch with the things that
make my heart beat faster, that bring tears to my eyes and laughter to my lips, and
I’m bringing those things back into my life. I dream, plan and reflect in a journal, and
I read to keep my mind engaged in the bigger world and in all the areas of my
interests. Listening to books and podcasts, with wireless headphones, makes my
cleaning much more entertaining.

I’m also doing my best to say what I need and ask for help instead of just trying to
pick myself up by my bootstraps. I believe that we can do a lot more than we think
we can when we share the burden of parenting by sharing our struggles with our spouses and authentic friends whom we can learn from and lean upon. I love the
saying, “Don’t mom alone!”

Looking back over this last decade of parenting really motivates me to nourish my
own interests and my children’s. I’m trying to express the artist, writer, musician,
athlete, social butterfly, community organizer, and refugee aid activist– just not all at
once! Right now I’m training for a triathlon, which not only keeps my body healthy
and strong, but also gives me something (outside of household chores and child-
rearing) on which to focus my mental energy. I like to visualize different parts of the
race and think through how to better improve my training schedule. I find it very
uplifting to work hard toward a goal, never give up, and just get stronger. And really,
the way I approach my physical training has become the way I parent and approach
other areas of my life: not seeking perfection but greater strength instead.

Do you have a favorite recipe you would be willing to share?

Fruit salsa:
1/4 of a watermelon diced
1/2 of a cantaloupe diced
3 mangoes diced
1/2 of a red onion diced
1 or 2 jalapeño minced
1 bunch of fresh cilantro chopped finely
Juice from 1 or 2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste

Play with the ratios of the ingredients to get the flavors you desire!

Serve with lime chips. Also delicious with white fish. This recipe is time consuming with all the dicing but a wise older gentleman once told me that cutting fruits and vegetables while practicing mindfulness makes each cut less of a chore and more of a relaxing experience. Enjoy!

A Well-Nourished Life From the Perspective of a Wife, Mom, Yoga Teacher and Lover-of-Movement

What does a well-nourished life look like for you as a wife, mom, yoga teacher and lover-of-movement?

A well-nourished life for me, as a mostly-SAHM and yoga teacher, changes each week as the needs and realities of my family change. One thing that mostly remains, however, is my morning ritual. Upon waking, I do (most of) the following: drink a pint of my fave tonic (ACV, magnesium powder, & homemade tincture [Echinacea, licorice, marshmallow & chamomile]), use the netti pot, meditate, yoga & pray or read my Bible.

I also prioritize meditation, as well as movement, during the day. As soon as I have 10-15 minutes alone, before diving in to my tasks for the day, I give my body and mind the gift of stillness & quiet. When I am working for long stretches, I set my timer for ~40 minutes. When the chimes sound, I force myself to stop what I’m doing and MOVE! Maybe I do a sun salutation, or perhaps I walk down the stairs to grab laundry and practice squatting as I hand the clothes on the drying rack. When the weather permits, I work outside. Fresh air is SO good for us and it’s easy to get trapped inside. I also try to ensure my children get time outside every day, even in the winter months.

I am equally passionate about how we move our bodies (or lack of) and what we put inside of our bodies. My journey has led me to experiment with many different styles of eating, in search of the “most healthy” option out there. Where I have landed – “health” looks different for different people at different stages of life. That being said, minimizing processed foods & sugars is never a bad thing. I find myself feeling most nourished right now by high fat, low carb foods, focusing on lots of healthy veggies and high quality meats. I try to honor my body by feeding it what it wants when I’m hungry and NOT feeding it when I am not hungry (afternoon chocolate cravings are a work in progress!!).

Lastly, I try to extend a big dose of GRACE & TRUTH to keep me nourished. The TRUTH is that I am doing the best I can do and that I love my children and family more than words can describe. GRACE allows me to keep moving and trying my best rather than getting stuck in the “ugly mama moments” that inevitably show up daily.

From your perspective, what is one thing busy moms can do to increase a sense of health and happiness?

As a one who loves movement (in all forms of the word!), one thing busy moms can do to increase a sense of health and happiness is to find a few moments of stillness. Pause, breathe, and connect to the fire that is burning inside of you, however small it may be… then ask yourself, “how can I flame that inner fire?” Take a step toward making it happen. Perhaps the step is simply allowing yourself time to imagine – see in your mind – YOU doing that thing that gives you such life. And, dare I say, find a way to move toward your passion – find a sitter, set aside 10 minutes of nap time, wake up early – and feed your soul by honoring what burns inside of you. YOU have a purpose, desires unique to you; entrusted to the unique you, both for you and for others. I believe we owe it to ourselves and to our children to make time for fanning the flames within us. And if all of this sounds way to ambitious right now, simply PAUSE your body and mind. Notice your BREATH. And give yourself the gift of simply BEING for a few minutes.

Do you have a favorite recipe you would be willing to share?

Ummmm yeah!! I LOVE finding new yummy & healthy recipes! My latest love is Keto Grain-free Hemp Heart Porridge.. My kids AND hubby LOVE this – and that says a LOT!

A Well-Nourished Life from the Perspective of a Reading Teacher

What does a well-nourished life look like for you as a wife, mom, grandma and reading teacher?

I love to teach – and I love to teach children how to read. But leading a well-nourished life required more balance than running a classroom full-time allowed me. So teaching reading through Word Bird Reading was a major step in that direction.

From your perspective, what is one thing busy moms can do to increase a sense of health and happiness?

Maximize positive interactions with your child(ren) and minimize the stressful, crazy-making interactions. I found that reading books that both my baby/toddler/preschooler and I enjoyed was a very enjoyable, relaxing experience. The key, though, was finding material that we both enjoyed. (So I eventually stopped reading certain books – Bernstein Bears or Little House on the Prairie books, for example – which for whatever reason I didn’t particularly care for.)

I also found a weekly story time at a local library which I enjoyed, along with my child. Every children’s librarian is different; I recommend finding one whose story time routine you enjoy too!

Do you have a favorite recipe you would be willing to share?

Tofu Cutlets

Press tofu, slice in 1/2″ slices, bread, and fry in sesame oil.

Serve with sweet chili sauce.

Breading: 5 T sesame seeds 4 T cornstarch 4 T flour 1/2 t. salt 1/2 t. sugar