Practical Tips from a Mama Personal Trainer/Nutrition Coach
The day we became moms, life was no longer only about us. In fact, our health and fitness needs often take the back burner to taking care of others, which can feed a cycle of frustration that fuels self-sabotage.
Guilty of eating a pint of ice cream after the kids go to bed? Don’t worry – admittedly, I’ve been there too.
Even when we reset an intention for ourselves – to start a 30-day workout challenge or follow a new meal plan – the life of our little ones may have other plans for us.
The good news? There is a lot we can do to meet our health and fitness goals with nutrition alone.
So, here are 4 easy tricks using just our mindset and the food that we eat – one thing we definitely can control – to drop 10 or 15 pounds (like many of my busy mama clients have done)… And keep it off!
1. Stress Less
From a metabolic standpoint, stress does not help us meet our fitness goals. In the caveman days, we developed our sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system, and our parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system.
Even though we’re no longer running for our lives from a saber tooth tiger, these nervous systems still exist.
Today, emotional stress triggers the same reactions that were meant to help us survive the saber tooth tiger in that life or death moment: increased blood sugar, increased blood pressure, and decreased digestion and reproduction (yes, this likely contributes to fertility issues… story for another day).
However, in our modern world, we spend WAY more time in the “fight or flight” nervous system than our bodies were designed to be. Increased blood sugar alone can lead to weight gain, since high blood sugar triggers insulin, our body’s fat storage hormone.
So what can we do about it? Depending on how much time you have, there are lots of ways to manage our body’s stress response and get back into the “rest and digest” nervous system.
You probably know a lot of them already – meditate, journal, practice yoga… Here is a strategy you can use anywhere, anytime (and you can teach it to your kids, too).
We can help our body transfer back to the parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system through our breath.
Box breathing is a great technique to signal your brain to calm down.
Think about a box: breathe infor 5, hold at the top for 5, breathe out for 5, and hold at the bottom for 5. Repeat as many times as necessary.
As busy moms, we can do this anytime, anywhere (especially helpful when a baby is screaming, a big kid is arguing with you, or the noise decibel level in the house is causing you anxiety).
#2 Eat Slowly to 80% Full
By simply minding our body’s hunger cues, we can make some significant changes to our body composition.
Rather than trying to follow a strict meal plan or count calories, eating slowly and stopping before we are stuffed is a very simple and effective way to make sure we fuel our bodies with what it needs and help prevent extra fat stores.
Because whatever our body doesn’t need that we consume has to go somewhere, right? And conversely, if we starve ourselves, we’ll actually slow our metabolism down.
So let’s try to create an energy balance to optimize our metabolism in a healthy way.
When do we want to stop? When we are 80% full. What does that mean? If you think of how you feel after Thanksgiving dinner, that overstuffed sick feeling is 150% full.
When you haven’t eaten in hours due to the Life of the Littles or back-to-back work meetings – that is 0%. We want to eat to stay in the middle of that – satiated, but not stuffed.
The key to this is to really slow down and cue in to our true hunger. There’s a reason stress was listed first on this list – stress eating, or scarfing down food in the car, or waiting till we are hangry to eat and then eating All the Things – are not helping our cause.
Taking some deep breaths first and checking in with ourselves to ask if we are really hungry is a great first step. Even drink a glass of water first, as dehydration can often trigger a false hungry feeling.
Of course, trying to plan times to eat into our day hugely helps, as does having some good healthy snacks on hand to prevent entering the hangry zone until we have time to (mindfully) eat a proper meal.
#3 Mind Your Macros… The Easy Way
Ok – so now we’ve covered the basics – control our stress and eat mindfully. Now, let’s get into what to eat a bit.
You may be familiar with the buzzword macros – short for macronutrients – and eating to optimize them, or “counting macros.”
The three macronutrients are carbohydrates, fat and protein. Each serves a specific purpose in our body, which is another story for another day.
In my first nutrition coaching course, I learned an awesome, easy trick to optimize macros without counting anything.
We simply use our hand to create a well-balanced meal: a palm’s worth of protein, a fist’s worth of vegetables, a cupped handful of a healthy carb (fruit, whole grains, potatoes, etc), and a thumb’s worth of a fat dense food, like a healthy oil (avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, etc), nuts/nut butter, or avocado.
Since your hand is always with you, this can be especially helpful when you’re traveling, eating at a restaurant, or quickly throwing a meal together at home.
Protein is one of the most common deficiencies in the American diet. Anchoring our meals with protein, vegetables, and healthy fats helps ensure our bodies have many of the nutrients it needs to thrive.
This breakdown helps us prevent that pesky insulin fat storage hormone from firing. In fact, eating this way is nearly identical to the fitness challenge meal plan used at a very successful boutique fitness studio where I work, without having to track macros at all. You are WELCOME!
#4 Follow the 6:1 Ratio
In the recurring theme of preventing fat storing insulin spikes, we can help with this by avoiding highly refined carbohydrates, which can spike our glucose levels quickly.
Refined basically means the fiber and nutrients have been stripped out of the grains.
Fiber helps prevent insulin spikes, to help prevent fat stores. Fiber is also a natural way to detoxify our body.
An easy guide to help ensure we get enough fiber if bread, pasta, and crackers are in our daily diets is to read food labels. Keeping the ratio of grams of total carbohydrates to grams of total fiber to 6:1 or less helps ensure the carbs we eat contain enough fiber to prevent those insulin spikes, and resulting fat stores.
For example, a pasta with 40g of carbohydrates and 1 g of fiber (ratio = 40:1) is not so good. Bread with 18 g total carbohydrates and 3g fiber (ration = 6:1) is much better.
And remember, a cupped handful portion of these healthy carbs is key.
A Plan for Success
Our nutrition alone really can make a big impact in changing our bodies.
All of these tips are safe whether you are breastfeeding, have gestational diabetes or pre-diabetes, or another health issue (of course, always consult with your healthcare professional before starting a new nutrition plan, especially if you have a health condition).
The easiest way to make these changes sustainable for the long term is to pick one at a time to work on.
Maybe the first trick you choose to implement will be the easiest or the one you think will make the biggest impact. Once you have your first trick mastered (usually after practicing it for about two weeks), you can add on another one to take things to the next level.
I’d love to hear in the comments below any questions that you have, and of course any successes you have from using these tips!
If you’d like a little extra help prioritizing taking care of you, I’d love you to sign up for my free 5
This will be a virtual mini-retreat for moms to reclaim our health and happiness. I hope to (virtually) see you and your best mama friends there!
About the Author
Rachel Rotabi is a mom to two girls, a certified personal trainer, and functional nutrition coach in Hermosa Beach, California. She leads online group nutrition coaching programs for busy moms as well as virtually coaching women 1:1 using a functional medicine approach, which looks to improve vitality by addressing nutrient deficiencies, hormonal and gut flora imbalances. Rather than adding an additional stress to our busy lives, Rachel works with her clients to make space for the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle in a sustainable way.