Why Eating Well Means Eating Mindfully (And Why Willpower Has Nothing To Do With It)

mindful eating

We’re all born with the innate wisdom of how to best nourish ourselves. (Just observe a baby who is breastfed on demand!) Although, most adults have become extremely disconnected from their body’s signals and are no longer in tune with when, what, and how much to eat.

This disconnect can begin happening from a young age. When starting solids with babies, one of the most important things I promote is to honor the intuitive ability that babies have to self-regulate their intake.

However, we’re conditioned to convince our babies to “finish the whole jar” of purée. Or we get our toddler to “take one more bite”, or tell them “no dessert until they finish their dinner”.

With these external forces dictating a child's consumption, it overrides their ability to listen to their body’s own needs and teaches them to ignore their own cues of hunger & satiation.

Combine this with the constant barrage of conflicting dietary advice and it's easy to see why most adults have completely lost touch with how to best nourish themselves.

The word “diet” has become synonymous with weight loss and restriction, but diet is actually just the total sum of food consumed. In other words, it’s what you eat! Unfortunately when we begin trying to figure out what our diet ‘should’ consist of, we’re often left with more questions than answers.

It’s all about tuning in and eating intutivley, but how do we do that?

 

Mindful Eating

No one-size-fits-all

Just like the seasons, our bodies go through cycles. So as you change over time, your nutritional needs will change as well. This is all part of an ever-evolving journey of finding balance.

It’s also why there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to eating. Getting into the habit of eating mindfully will help you honestly assess if what you’re consuming is fueling your body in the best way possible.

Habitual eating

Are you a habitual eater? Don't worry, this is a natural human instinct that is even exhibited by very young babies! But it's beneficial to get into the practice of eating mindfully and becoming aware of your patterns. Do you eat when you’re hungry, or do you eat when you’re bored, sad, watching a movie, driving, doing a certain activity? If you know your patterns you can be prepared by having healthy options within reach during those times.

Try tuning into how you feel

There’s no need to do this obsessively, but it’s a beneficial practice to check in with yourself every so often. If done routinely enough, it will eventually become second nature.

1) Before you eat: How hungry are you? What are you craving? Are you feeling bored or emotional?

2) Halfway through your meal: How full are you? Is the food satisfying? Are you feeling present or mindlessly munching? Are you paying attention to the flavors, textures & colors of your meal?

3) 1-3 hours after your meal: How is your digestion (bloating/gas)? How are your energy levels and mood? Are you still feeling satisfied?

 

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Mindful Eating Made Easy

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Factors to consider

Tracking numbers (macros or calories)

When you start listening to the numbers you’re more likely to stop listening to your body. People often become less able to tune into their body’s internal cues when they become dedicated to tracking and letting numbers dictate their diet.

What to do instead? Find a balance that works for you.

Taking some simple measures to balance your meals helps you maintain balanced blood sugar, which can be nothing short of life-changing for some people. I firmly believe that the majority of the population suffer from unbalanced blood sugar on a daily basis, all without knowing that they possess the ability to feel much more vibrant, energetic, and focused.

Symptoms to consider

There are many symptoms that accompany blood sugar irregularities.

You should be especially mindful of maintaining balanced blood sugar if you experience:

  • dramatic shifts in energy (ups & downs)
  • afternoon slumps
  • mood swings
  • sugar cravings
  • trouble focusing / unclear thinking
  • light headedness
  • strong reliance on coffee

Especially if you have:

  • hypoglycemia
  • frequent yeast infections
  • diabetes (type 1, 2 or gestational)
  • PCOS

 

Balance Mood & Energy by balancing Meals

My new guide, Oh Baby Essentials, is designed to help you simplify balancing your meals. It’s broken up by macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) to help you mindfully discover which ratio work best to help you meet your needs and reach your goals.

 

Why you don’t need willpower

Don’t be afraid of actually eating! Especially if you eat real foods, whole foods, balance your meals, enjoy what you eat, and listen to your body by obeying your hunger signals and stopping when you’re satiated.

Unfortunately for most, going ‘on a diet’ involves some level of deprivation. Whether this is under eating (not getting enough calories/nutrients) or the mental deprivation of restricting.

Yes, we all know that sugar can detract from our health, but simply cutting sugar (or restricting and avoiding anything in your diet) can leave you feeling very deprived. Plus it can take the pleasure out of eating!

Changing habits is hard, and changing mindset can be even more challenging. If we want to have a healthy relationship with food, we need to rethink our conditioning around food. Food is fuel and necessary nourishment for our bodies. It’s not about less, but rather more. More nourishing, more balance, more mindfulness.

Instead of a long list of foods to avoid, Oh Baby Essentials offers a unique approach that emphasizes healthy alternatives & nutritious swaps. This enables you to make informed choices that will leave you feeling empowered and satisfied, instead of deprived.

 


Pregnant Before Her First Postpartum Period: An Oh Baby Interview

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Many women are often surprised to learn that after having a baby, you can become pregnant again without actually menstruating first. This is because about 60% of women will ovulate before their first period postpartum. However, only about half of these women will have a long enough luteal phase to sustain a pregnancy after this first ovulation. The other 40% will have some sort of bleeding to indicate their first postpartum ovulation is approaching. Due to the wide variations of returning fertility, it can be very difficult to detect when ovulation occurs for the first time after giving birth.

 

So, what are your chances of conceiving? 

Lactational amenorrhea is the suppression of a menstrual cycle due to the breastfeeding hormone, prolactin. While there are exceptions, exclusively breastfeeding on-demand both day & night, without using of bottles, pumping, or pacifiers usually suppresses fertility until baby starts solids. When these criteria are met, your chances of conceiving before first foods are introduced is about 2%, which is lower than the risk of a fertile woman conceiving using either hormonal birth control pill (8%) or male condoms (15%).

Certain practices have shown to extend lactational amenorrhea, including:

  • frequent nursing
  • lying down when breastfeeding
  • providing baby access to comfort nursing
  • co-sleeping at night
  • napping with baby
  • skin-to-skin
  • babywearing
  • keeping baby close

 

Fertility Awareness Method Postpartum

Before having kids myself, I practiced the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). It proved so reliable for me that it was the only method of ‘birth control’ (pregnancy avoidance) my husband and I used. With FAM I was able to closely monitor my fertility signs to both avoid pregnancy and then successfully conceive after we decided to begin trying.

The 3 main fertility signs to monitor are cervical mucus, basal body temperature, and cervical position. However, these can prove much more challenging to observe prior to your cycle returning after having a baby. Before your first period postpartum your hormones still "cycle" and fluctuate as they gear up for ovulation. Eventually they finally surge and drop enough for ovulation, then menstruation to occur. These fluctuations can cause seemingly fertile cervical mucus for several months without actually being fertile yet. Temperature reading are done first thing when you wake up in the morning. Although they're no longer accurate if you experience sleep disturbances, which is usually the reality for most mothers with young children. As for cervical positioning, it can feel different after having a baby and may be difficult to monitor until your cycle returns and you can familiarize yourself with your ‘new normal’.

 

An Interview with Ashley Chea

Ashley Chea and I first met at an Ergobaby event in 2017. We each had our daughters with us and they were both 6 months old, born just days apart from each other. When I saw her at the same Ergo event this year, she shared that she was pregnant again with her third baby and that she conceived before the return of her first period postpartum. She was also exclusively breastfeeding her 9 month old at the time and wasn't using bottles or pacifiers. She also slept with her baby and regularly wore her in a carrier as well.

How did you realize you were pregnant and how far along were you when you found out?

I didn't realize until I was about 4 months pregnant. I thought I was dying because I kept having migraines and feeling really sick. I went to the doctor to get an MRI and he said I was pregnant, not dying of a brain tumor like I thought. (I kept having headaches and getting dizzy, which is why I asked for the MRI.)

How old was your youngest when you became pregnant? Were you breastfeeding at that point?

My youngest was 1 year old when I found out I was pregnant, 13 months to be exact. I was still breastfeeding her and had no cycle, so it was a complete surprise. 

Before your pregnancy was confirmed, did you have a suspicion?

Complete surprise for me because we weren't using contraceptives but we weren't trying to make a baby. I assumed that I was safe from getting pregnant because I was breastfeeding and had no cycle. That clearly isn't accurate. 


Does this pregnancy feel quite different than your previous pregnancies?

It has been completely different from my other two pregnancies. I was sick morning and night until about 5 months. I started having severe pelvic pains early on and haven't been able to work out/exercise much at all. This has been my laziest pregnancy. I normally work out 5 times a week while pregnant up until the day I give birth. This time I have had to take it really slow and can barely go on walks without severe pelvic pain and pressure. It has been a very humbling experience for sure. 


Prior to your own experience did you know that it was possible to become pregnant before your first period returned postpartum?

I knew that it was a small possibility but researched and it seemed rare. Especially if you aren't attempting to get pregnant (meaning avoiding that part of intercourse). The pull out method is obviously not a guarantee but I really thought it would work. We used the same method and our first two are seven years apart. So I was extremely surprised when I found out I was pregnant with my third. 

{Note from Carley: Full transparency, this is the method my husband and I use too. I'm currently 20 months postpartum without the return of my cycle and I peed on a pregnancy test immediately after reading Ashley's story. As in, packed the kids into their car seats and drove directly to the store. (It was negative.)} 

Thank you so much for sharing Ashley! You can find Ashley on Instagram at @watermeloneggrolls and her blog.

 


 

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