My twin daughters are in a kickboxing class at the local community college and this video was assigned to them as homework. It struck me as so simple that it is well worth the couple of minutes to review information we likely are already aware of but need continual reminders about. Moms, this is what we do -- we are the reminders, the repeaters, the consistent, kind, and friendly reviewers and encouragers!
From the YouTube Description:
Wellness means overall well-being. It includes the emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life. Incorporating aspects of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, such as choosing healthy foods, forming strong relationships, and exercising often, into everyday habits can help people live longer and improve quality of life. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness may also help people better manage their condition and experience recovery. This short animated video explores the Eight Dimensions of Wellness and helps people understand the practical strategies and ways they can begin developing healthy habits that can have a positive impact on their physical and mental health. To learn more about SAMHSA’s Wellness Initiative, click here.
Is it Perimenopause?
By Ericka Moore, Director of Energy (Eating, Exercise, & Sleep)
Spring is here! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the bees are humming—and you’re feeling and moving like Suzy the sloth. You ask yourself, Where is my energy? There are a lot of reasons for feeling tired—anything from wacky sleep schedules to lack of motivation. Let me suggest another possibility for your decreased energy. Could it be perimenopause? Wait, what is that?
What is Perimenopause? Menopause?
Perimenopause is the transitional period before menopause. It can last from four to ten years. Some women begin noticing symptoms in their thirties but most women will start the process in their forties. Menopause occurs when a woman does not have a menstrual cycle for twelve consecutive months. Average age for menopause is fifty-one but can occur anytime between ages forty to fifty-eight. Due to medical procedures, some women may undergo menopause early; this is called induced menopause.
During perimenopause, ovaries are beginning to slow down, and less estrogen is produced. Eventually, the ovaries will no longer release eggs, so pregnancy will not be able to occur. This transition causes hormone fluctuations resulting in some of the following common symptoms: hot flashes, night sweats, breast tenderness, migraine headaches, difficulty concentrating, sleep challenges, mood swings, anxiety, menstrual cycle changes, weight gain, loss of libido, etc. Some uncommon symptoms include increased body odor, hair loss, vision changes, cold flashes, increased allergies, increased facial hair. Symptoms may continue until the menopause stage for some women. Due to low estrogen levels during breastfeeding, mothers may feel symptoms that are menopausal-like. Yet, it is possible for a breastfeeding mother to experience perimenopause.
What can you do?
Perimenopause and menopause are natural processes that occur for women and should not be feared. Empower yourselves with information and support so you can become a positive example to other women.
The Importance of Breastmilk
By Ericka Moore, Momivate's Director of Energy (Eating, Exercise, and Sleep)
It’s not a coincidence that this blog is addressing the importance of breast milk during the month of March. March 8th is International Women’s Day and March 3 is IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Day. Both days commemorate women’s achievements—and why not spend a moment discussing breast milk? It is a wonderful accomplishment for a mother to be able to provide this gift for her baby. Granted, it is easier for some mothers than others. There is also a social, political, economic undercurrent to the very act of providing breast milk—which is a discussion for another day. I just want to go back to basics and focus on the awesomeness of breast milk.
Why is breast milk important?
I know there is a ton of information on breastfeeding from a variety of sources. Which positions are best? What pump to use? Should I use a pump? How do you know baby is getting enough milk? It can be overwhelming at times to figure out who or what to listen to.
Why is there an emphasis on feeding your child breast milk? What’s so great about it? When I nursed my first child, I didn’t have this information. I didn’t participate in a breastfeeding class because I thought I could wing it and ask for help when needed. Knowing what I know now, I highly suggest taking a breastfeeding class and speaking to an experienced Mom who has nursed her own child.
Simply put, breast milk is made specifically for humans. It’s your baby’s first food. It contains the perfect blend of carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, and antibodies. Breast milk is easily digestible and is specifically made for the needs of your baby; it is a living item. In other words, breastmilk operates like an attendant at your local drive-through restaurant. When a baby latches to a breast, messages from his/her saliva are transmitted to the mother and the mother’s body adjusts the components of the breast milk for that session. In fact, the composition of breast milk varies throughout the day, depending on the needs of the baby. If a baby needs more carbs during the morning and more fat during the afternoon, no problem! Mom is able to produce the right combination for her child.
This process is also used when making antibodies to combat illnesses. A baby can communicate his/her needs for specific antibodies through saliva. Mom also participates in this process. When a mother encounters various pathogens in her environment, she immediately begins producing antibodies and other immune factors to protect the baby from illness. This is the reason babies who are breastfed are less likely to have ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections and other illnesses.
Another plus to providing breast milk for your child is early exposure to Mom’s diet. When breastfeeding, mother’s milk carries traces of food flavor which introduces and trains her child to appreciate variety. So, in essence, you are already training your child to appreciate fruits and veggies. That sounds fantastic to me. Breast milk is a glorious gift.
Mothers—and those who support them in giving this gift—should be thanked. Not just on their days of celebration, but every day!
parenting a child with cancer
By Kandis Lake, RN, BSN, guest blog post contributer.
Learning your child has cancer or another life-changing illness is probably every parent’s worst nightmare. While the medical advances to treat these life-changing diagnoses have never been better, it is still a very taxing experience for any family. Ways to navigate such a trying and difficult situation can include learning all you can about your child’s sickness, leaning on outside support, and knowing ways you can help your child and family cope.
Learning About Your Child’s Sickness
Any good healthcare provider will provide you with ample education surrounding your child’s sickness, and what the sickness will mean for your child and your family. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, ask doctors to clarify meanings, and repeat what you hear to ensure you understand the information being given you.
If you are not in a good headspace to understand what you’re being told, it’s a good idea to ask if you can be given the information at a better time. It is also a good idea to have another family member or support person receive the education with you, so you can both learn together and help each other remember and understand in times ahead. If you get home and think about something you need clarified, you can always reach out to your child’s healthcare provider to ask questions or get more information.
Study any materials your child’s healthcare providers have given you or resources they have suggested. Seek out reputable sources for further information. The American Cancer Society has a lot of information online about all types of cancers. Advocate for yourself and your family to ensure you understand what you need to, and can feel empowered moving forward.
Take Care of Yourself and Get Outside Help
Be sure to take care of yourself so that you can handle your difficult situation in the best way possible. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your child. If your child is staying in the hospital, take advantage of working with a social worker and case manager to ensure you and your child are provided with everything you will need when you go home. Many hospitals have a chaplain whose job is to help patients and families care for their spiritual needs. If your child is being cared for at home, take regular breaks by setting up respite care (when a healthcare professional, such as a nurse, temporarily cares for a patient at the patient’s home).
Accept your feelings about the situation you are in without judgement. Talk to a friend, family member, or counselor about the difficulties you are facing, or write your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Talking and writing can help you process your experiences and help you better cope. There are online support groups for a wide variety of situations and illnesses. An online group could connect you to other parents or caregivers who are going through something similar.
If you have other children, seek a balance of personally caring for them and asking for help to care for them as well. This could be a very difficult time for them and they will need help and support through it. You will likely need help caring for them while your child is sick.
Utilize any church or community support available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help during such a difficult time for your family. It can be hard to ask for and accept help, but doing so is in your child’s best interest, as well as your own. The less stress you feel in regard to all aspects of your life, the more energy and focus you can put into supporting and bonding with your child when he needs you.
Cheryl Harris’s son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when he was two and a half years old. Cheryl said, “Almost more than the sleepless nights and endless tears during that time, I remember the amazing, wonderful good people who showed up for us.” She describes friends, family, and hospital staff giving immense support.
Her own parents drove across the country to help, and her mother stayed with them for six whole months. They had friends that brought gifts for her child, and others offered to watch her one-year-old since Cheryl was so frequently at the hospital and at appointments. Friends and family who didn’t live near them sent the family frequent words of comfort and love.
Many people also find strength and support in spirituality or religion. Faith or spirituality can be very helpful in coping for some. Cheryl remarked about her faith, “I am so grateful for the gospel and the knowledge of God's plan during that time. I knew no matter what may happen, everything would be okay.”
Helping and supporting your child
The most important thing you can be doing at this time is helping your child. You will best accomplish this by taking breaks and accepting help yourself, as discussed above. Take time to address your child’s concerns and answer his questions. Speak to him about what is happening in a way that is appropriate for his age and level of understanding. The American Cancer Society has some great advice for communicating in age-appropriate ways here.
When asked how she helped her young son, Cheryl said, “I prayed for and tried to have an abundance of patience and stamina. That was absolutely necessary. I cleared my schedule and dedicated my life to comforting him in any way I could.”
Your child will likely feel a range of emotions as he lives with his illness, as well as because many aspects of normal life are altered because of it. Be a safe space for your child to express thoughts and feelings, free from any judgement or shame. Resist the urge to try to change those feelings. Every time your child has difficult feelings, it gives you the opportunity to strengthen your relationship through supporting him. Having a strong and secure relationship with your child will in turn help him build resilience and confidence, and also give him the tools to navigate difficult feelings in the future.
Cheryl kept a blog during her son’s battle with cancer. One story illustrates the need children have for their parents: “He woke up once while they were taking his vitals and was in pain. His little body tensed up and I could tell it hurt when I moved him. He asked to ‘give Mommy hugs,’ which means to hold him chest to chest, bear-hug style, but when I picked him up he was so rigid and stiff and couldn't relax. I called for more pain meds. I asked him where it hurt and all he said was, ‘Mommy kiss it better.’ He's said that a lot the past few days. That has been the hardest part for me.”
Helping your child cope with stress, navigate difficult emotions, and express himself could prove to be extremely difficult, especially if you haven’t had a lot of experience with healthy coping and emotional expression yourself. A child life specialist (often employed at pediatric hospitals) or a counselor can help you and your child with this.
Recognize things that comfort your child. It may be a pacifier, blanket, special toy, or favorite book or movie. Whatever comfort object there might be, allow your child to have it readily available. Be sure hospital staff and any other caregivers know ways your child likes to be comforted. Like Cheryl with her son, be there to comfort him yourself as much as possible.
It can also be important to try to incorporate some routine and normalcy into your child’s life. This can include doing schoolwork, socializing with family and friends, playing and being silly, and having some routine to his care. Let your child take opportunities to enjoy being a kid. Find ways for your child to maintain sibling and family relationships.
The ways you can help your child with illness as his mother is monumental. You and your family will be empowered through learning and understanding as much about the illness as you can. As you take care of yourself and to seek and accept help from others, you will better be able to care for your child and be there for them. You can play an important, unmatched role of providing support and comfort to your child during this very difficult time.
Cheryl’s advice to other moms who experience something similar is “Let people help you. Take care of yourself. Let things go that don't matter. Count your blessings along the way and recognize and appreciate the beauty of all those who are trying to help. It will lift you.” Cheryl’s son received cancer treatments for five years. He is now a healthy, thriving eleven-year-old.
For more information see:
Kandis Lake, the author, is a professional health writer and can be found at www.healthwriterkandis.com
By Alana Hutchins, Momivate Director of Energy
Have you ever wondered to yourself, What should I eat to be healthy? High-protein or low-protein? Low-fat dairy or whole milk or paleo? Whole grains or gluten free? Fruit or no fruit? High-fat or low fat? There are innumerable voices out there claiming different and even opposite messages, but the good news is, a lot of the basic diets have some common sense similarities. Michael Pollan claims, “the authority of tradition and common sense” to help us navigate this strange new eating world that has made a once simple activity into an entire field of scientific study and a multibillion dollar industry.
We live in a bleak landscape of SAD- the Standard American Diet. The SAD is generally characterized by high intakes of red meat, processed meat, pre-packaged foods, butter, candy and sweets, fried foods, refined grains, high-fructose corn syrup, high-sugar drinks, and low intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, grass-fed animal products, fish, nuts, and seeds.
If you want to live your best and most healthful life, start to look at what God has already given you- whole plant foods. The more a food is broken down into different components and reconstructed for taste and shelf life, the less of a food it becomes and the more of a food approximation or an “edible food-like substance.” Forget the lotions and potions, powders and shakes- that’s not food, those are simply food products. If it has more than five ingredients or you don’t recognize the words in the ingredient list, then chances are, it was developed by a food scientist and not a farmer. Most of what we are consuming today is not food, and how we’re consuming it — in the car, in front of the TV, and increasingly alone — is not really eating. Many of these food facsimiles come packaged with health claims which should be our first clue they are anything but healthy.
In the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by single nutrients, and common sense by confusion. The professionalism of nutrition, or “nutritionism”, for the past fifty years has made America anything but healthier, quite the opposite. Americans are sicker and fatter than ever. This belief system assumes that the key to understanding food is the single nutrient, disregarding the fact that natural foods are a symphony of complex compounds and chemicals that science has yet to all discover, never mind understand how they act in concert with one another. Layer on top of that the complexities of a traditional diet, and trying to sell health as a single macronutrient (think “High-Protein) is laughable.
The real food, the food your great grandmother would recognize as food, sits quietly on the perimeter of the grocery stores, with its naturally bright coloring and unassuming packaging. I can hear you saying now, but what about protein shakes and power bars- those are healthy right? “Good” for you food is a spectrum and a power bar might be better than a bag of chips, but your safest bet is nuts and a piece of whole fruit as a healthy go-to snack.
In other words, try to eat a Whole Foods, Plant based diet. Think beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Potatoes with the skins on, lentil curry, fresh salads with olive oil and vinegar, hummus with crudités. No more counting calories, or grams, or desperately trying to remember the difference between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Vitamin supplements just turn into expensive urine and they are in NO WAY a substitute for fruits and vegetables. Consuming a diet rich in whole plant foods is the best way to avoid chronic diseases in the future including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer and even autoimmune diseases. Eating does not have to be complicated, simple is usually best, but it will take more time to plan ahead and prepare than just grabbing a Cliff bar or downing an energy shake. A landmark study known as the China Project, combined with laboratory findings—conclusively demonstrated the dangers of a diet high in animal protein and the amazing health benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. You say, yeah I’d like to be healthy but I’m not going vegan, that’s just too hard! Life can get crazy, so if you are hitting your whole-foods plant-based diet 80-90% of the time, you are doing awesome and keep up the good work! You will receive 80-90% of the benefits.
You might also say, yeah but I still have baby weight I want to lose and all the sources I read say to eat a diet low in “carbs” and high in protein. Isn’t losing weight healthy? This approach to weight loss, based on the ketogenic effect, or keto diets for short, involves cutting way back on carbohydrates, to 50 grams a day or less, to help the body achieve a state of ketosis, in which it has to burn fat (rather than sugar) for energy. This diet, like most diets, does work to help control weight gain and even induce weight loss in the short term, but it is hard to stick with long term. Most people will regain a lot of the weight they lost as soon as they go back on carbs. It is an issue with any fad diet, but it seems to be extra common with ketosis. Stop looking at short term effects rather than your long term goals of remaining healthy over a life span and look twenty years down the road to a life free of heart-disease and cancer. There are other dangerous side effects that can come from approaching the keto diet the wrong way including fatigue, decreased performance, head-aches, diarrhea, and even halitosis (bad breath.) Think of meat as a side dish or garnish, rather than the principal component of the meal.
When you are in the supermarket try to avoid food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than five in number, or include high-fructose corn syrup. For that matter, all diets out there pretty much agree that sugars, including corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, are unnecessary foods and should be reduced as much as possible or eliminated completely.
Unfortunately there is one fairly obvious problem with all this advice: Americans don’t primarily eat food that comes in a box with a long list of “health claims” because we actually think it is healthier than a home-cooked meal. We do so because it is convenient, often cheaper, and we are addicted to high-fructose corn syrup, salt, and saturated fat laced in almost every food product. There is no silver bullet for changing our lifestyles and improving our health. It takes commitment, a dedication of monetary resources, hard work, and a certain amount of self-denial. On the upside though, measure that against reclaiming the pleasures of eating real foods, becoming your healthiest and most energetic self, and taking control of your own table.
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, 2008
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and his son, Thomas M. Campbell II, 2004
PHOTO CREDITS: Alana Hutchins
Our Team of CouncilMoms take turns submitting blog posts in each area of the RAISE UP acronym. Guest authors are encouraged to submit their blog posts as well (CONTACT US for more info! Thank you!)
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