Hold the Pickles, Pass the Ice Cream

The Gummy Bear Files, Part III – Dealing with sugar cravings during pregnancy.

Snapseed (5).jpg“Are you having any weird cravings?!”  This is the number one question I have been asked since becoming pregnant.  And the answer is, NO.  I am not having any weird cravings.  No pickles and ice cream for me.  My doctor even told me about women that have craved fresh mud when pregnant (ew).   Definitely also not me.

Now let me clarify something.  I said I was not having weird cravings, but that does not mean I am not having any cravings.  Namely I am having cravings for one thing only: SUGAR.  Before getting pregnant I was on a very low-carb (almost zero sugar) diet.  Before I even knew I was pregnant my desire for cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and all things sugary and sweet skyrocketed and I did not understand why.  I found it really  stressful to deal with, and in the beginning of my pregnancy I gave in to those cravings.  A LOT.  I gained more weight in my first trimester than I needed to, but this is also my first pregnancy and I have definitely learned from this experience.

I told myself that it was okay to eat whatever I want because I was pregnant.  But in all honesty this is not actually true.  When you are pregnant it is even more imperative to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.  Everything that you put into your body is going to be broken down and digested by the baby as well.  And with my family history of diabetes, there is always a chance that I could develop gestational diabetes.

My challenge became: How can I manage my sugar cravings without completely going off the rails? 

Here are my tips for doing just this…

  1. Make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet. Include plenty of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, some starches, and healthy fats.  Whole foods keep you full much longer than processed sweets.  Oftentimes if I’m craving something sweet I literally just eat a regular meal of chicken and veggies.  I promise you there’s no more room for a dessert after that.
  2. Eat 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day, rather than eating 3 large meals.  Not only will this keep your blood sugar from crashing at any point, but it is also incredibly useful for keeping that pregnancy reflux and excessive bloating at bay.  Trust me.  If you eat too much your already growing and swollen belly will not feel very good.
  3. Keep sugar out of the house! This is pretty common sense, but if sugary foods are not easily accessible to you, you will think twice about having to do the extra work to obtain them.  Set yourself up for success.  If you know that you won’t be able to stop at just one serving of ice cream, don’t leave the grocery store with a pint of your favorite flavor!
  4. Fruits.  I always keep my fridge stocked with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and apples.  The fructose in these is usually enough to satisfy your sugar cravings, plus fruits have nutrients in them that you won’t find in that pack of oreos.  Win-win.
  5. Distract yourself.  If you’ve just eaten a meal and find yourself yearning for an unnecessary dessert, distract yourself by going for a 15-20 minute walk.  Not only are you getting a little bit of movement and exercise, but by the time you get back you probably won’t even be thinking about those donuts that were on your mind before you left.  Endorphins from exercise can be just as satisfying as the high you get from a sugary treat.
  6. Drink a glass of water.  When that mid-afternoon hankering for a cookie sets in, drink a full glass of water.  Sometimes your brain mistakes thirst signals for hunger.  You’ll get a little extra hydration, plus the water will take up the space in your stomach where that cookie would have resided.
  7. Delete food delivery apps if necessary.  Fortunately (and unfortunately) we live in a world where your significant other does not have to run to the grocery store at 10 pm to pick up whatever sweets you might be craving.  It is so simple to just push a few buttons on our iPhones and someone will deliver fresh baked cookies (or even Dunkin Donuts!) right to your door.  If you find yourself falling back on Postmates or UberEats on a regular basis, even if you are not keeping sugary foods in your house, do yourself a favor and just delete the app until your pregnancy is over.
  8. Don’t restrict ALL the time.  Allow yourself to a indulge a little every once in a while.  If you always say no, you will wear out your willpower muscle and this can lead to binges and overeating.  I like to set parameters with myself.  5 days of the week I do not allow myself to have any sugar.  That gives me two days of flexibility, so if I go out to eat with friends and decide to partake in dessert, I won’t feel so guilty.

One of my favorite ways to allow myself to indulge a little in dessert is to make healthier options to keep at home.  I love to experiment with low-carb and low-sugar baking.  If I have an absolutely unbearable craving for something sweet, I like to at least know exactly which ingredients (and how much) are in what I’m eating.  In fact, in my next post I’m super excited to share one of my favorite recipes for almond flour chocolate chip cookies with you all!

Most importantly, remember to go easy on yourself! If you do eat something sweet you hadn’t planned on, don’t beat yourself up!  It already happened, just keep moving on and make sure to have plenty of vegetables in your next meal.  It is absolutely OKAY to treat yourself every once in a while, just make sure the bulk of your diet comes from healthy, whole foods.  This is true of anyone, but especially for pregnant women like me, who are using all of our resources to grow tiny and healthy humans!

Sunday Rituals

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Clean out your fridge weekly.  An organized space lends itself to an organized mind.  Plus no one likes old food in their fridge.

We all have them.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, my Sunday ritual consisted of recovering from Saturday night.  Maybe sauntering to a midday brunch with friends where I would continue my “recovery” with bottomless sugary mimosas that left me feeling sluggish and out of commission for the rest of the day.  Daytime drinking coupled with poor food choices throughout the weekend would leave me feeling bloated and guilty on Monday morning.

Daytime drinking is also not very conducive to the productive sorts of activities that promote readiness and success for the upcoming week.  I arrived at work on Monday not only feeling a complete lack of physical rejuvenation, but a lack of mental revitalization as well.  Somewhere along the way, as I matured and started integrating more mindful and healthful habits into my life, I found my Sunday priorities drastically shifting.

There is something so satisfying and refreshing about waking up on Monday morning knowing that things in your life have been literally and figuratively put back into their proper places.  I no longer drift through my Sundays dreading the week to come, rather I intentionally prepare myself to be as successful as I can for the week.  I am a firm believer that how you spend your Sunday will completely set the tone for the following week.  If you fail to prepare, you will be frantic and stressed on Monday morning, and that attitude will carry itself throughout the remainder of the week.

It is important to engage in activities that make your home feel organized, as well as your mind.  This way you can arrive into the week with a tranquilly clean slate.  Exactly how you choose to prepare for your week is up to you, but here are the activities that I engage in every Sunday (yes every) in order to ensure that my life is in order.  Some of these things may seem boring or mundane, but I find that I actually quite enjoy my Sundays and even look forward to this process.

5 Sunday Success Habits

  1. Cleaning – I am actually the most OCD person, so I tend to clean a little bit each day rather than saving it all up for the weekend.  I wake up with so much energy on Sunday mornings that I usually spend about 30-45 minutes doing this first thing  just to get it out of the way.  Whether I need to sweep the floor or straighten our bedroom, I just. DO. IT.  Keeping your space clean and organized will help your mind stay organized.
  2. Laundry – Is there anything better than starting the week with fresh smelling clothes? This is especially true when you basically live at the gym. I never start Monday morning with dirty clothes in the hamper.  Also, never leave dirty clothes on the floor or on “that chair” (you know the one).  It literally takes .037 seconds to throw those socks into the hamper *ahem men in the house ahem*.  If you like multi-tasking like me, throw one load of laundry in and then start your cleaning while the clothes wash.
  3. Church – Maybe you are not very religious.  I haven’t always been, if I’m being perfectly honest, but we go to an amazing church (check it out: Vous Church) here in Miami.  Every Sunday we leave the sermon SO PUMPED to be our best selves.  It’s a chance for self-reflection and a chance to refocus on what is important in your life.
  4. Groceries/Mealprep – My boyfriend and I have been mealprepping our lunches for almost two years now.  Every Sunday we go together to get all our groceries for the week (usually Trader Joe’s because it’s awesome) and split the cost down the middle.  We generally get exactly what we need, no excess.  And if we decide on Wednesday we want to eat something that’s not in the house? Too bad, put it in on the list for next week.  This is an amazing way to save money and to avoid food waste. The mealprepping process is messy and experimental when you’re first starting out.  But with practice you will get it down to a science and figure out exactly what you need.  We probably spend about an hour grocery shopping, and 2-2 1/2 hours cooking each Sunday.  I usually take this time as well to reorganize and clean out the fridge.
  5. Gratitude Journaling – Some people make this a daily habit.  I choose instead to take 15-20 minutes each Sunday to reflect on the week that has just passed, as well as the week ahead.  I set my intentions for the week and this helps me to start Monday morning with the most positive mindset possible.  Cleaning your house is important, but I would argue that cleaning your mind out each week is even more important.

That’s it.

These are the things that I cannot go to bed on Sunday without having completed.  If I do, I feel very thrown off and unprepared.  Even with these 5 essential activities, there is plenty of time left in the space around them to relax and recharge.  Use this time to catch up on reading, catch up on work/emails (if that’s something necessary for your Monday success), or even catch up on sleep.  Technically I don’t think its scientifically possible to “catch up” on sleep, but naps are always nice 🙂

If you are a keen observer, you will notice that I did NOT include working out on this list.  The truth is, I go to the gym just about every Monday-Friday, and most Saturdays.  So even though I am just a little obsessed with crossfit and working out, I am completely okay with taking Sundays to recover.  Sometimes we go for a nice, sunny walk with our pup, other times we just spend time with family, friends, or each other.

Last, but not least, GO TO BED EARLY.  I cannot reiterate enough: get a full, restful night of sleep on Sunday night.  If you start Monday morning grumpy, sleepy, and exhausted, not only will your Monday obligations be challenging and unpleasant, but I promise that this will carry throughout your week.  As I mentioned, you can’t just catch up on sleep, so it’s important to get at least 7-9 hours each night.

Happy Sunday, friends! I hope you all have a productive Sunday full of gratitude and good energy!

YOU GOAL GIRL!


So much to look forward to in the coming year.

Since it’s the last day of 2018, I’d like to take a quick intermission from my pregnancy series to talk about goal-setting and some goals I have for the upcoming year. I don’t really like to use the term “resolution” – that word conjures up images of grand schemes that fizzle out after the first couple weeks of January. To me GOALS is a more long term way of looking at New Years Resolutions. You can make and stick to goals at any time of the year, not just beginning on January 1st.


Goal-Setting 101

I’m not sure where I first heard about it, but I think the simplest guideline to setting goals is to make sure they are SMART. I mean obviously you don’t want to set dumb goals *eyeroll*. But if you just say your goal is “to lose weight”, for instance… how would you even know when or if that goal has been met? So make your goals…

  1. Specific – write down your goal using specific language rather than ambiguous terms. What do you want to accomplish, where and why? “I want to lose 15 pounds” is much more specific than lose weight. Also, what specific steps can be taken to attain that goal? “I will go to the gym 4 days a week” or “I will not eat desserts 6 out of 7 days of the week.” Those are both very specific steps that can be taken to help you achieve your goal of losing 15 pounds.
  2. Measurable – make the goal something that you can actually objectively track the progress of. You can’t track an ambiguously phrased “lose weight”, but you can step on a scale each day to measure how much of the 15 pounds you’ve lost. Seeing the progress in real time will actually do wonders for your momentum and motivation.
  3. Attainable – YES, even goals are confined to the laws of physics. I know, I know, we all wish we could just have one million dollars by tomorrow, but this is not a realistic or attainable desire. It is attainable to make a goal to “save up $5000 in 6 months” or something like that. It is attainable to “lose 15 pounds by next Christmas”. Make sure the goal is actually something that you can achieve and not just a wild fantasy you have, otherwise nothing but frustration will ensue.
  4. Relevant – I guess this means a goal you set should be something that’s worthwhile to you while also in line with your other goals. Your goals should complement each other and help push you to be exactly who you want to be.
  5. Time-bound – I think this might be the most important of them all. Exactly by WHEN do you plan to meet your goal? “I want to lose 15 pounds.” By tomorrow? As if. Set a time limit. “I want to lose 15 pounds by June 30, 2019.” Thats about a 6 month time frame. Not only would this be perfectly feasible, but the sense of urgency that a time limit sets will allow you to stay focused and motivated.

I want to mention one more goal-setting guideline that is not included in this model but I think is absolutely CRUCIAL. WRITE YOUR GOALS DOWN ON PAPER. Put them in a place where you will see them and be reminded of them daily. Each day ask yourself, “What have I done today to bring myself closer to my goals?” Every day you should do at least one thing, no matter how small, that will propel you forward. Going back to the theoretical weight loss goal, maybe the one thing you did was make the choice to not eat the donuts your coworkers brought to work. AND THAT’S A HARD CHOICE, TRUST ME, I KNOW. But every day you have the chance to make little choices that add up to big changes. If you just have your goals floating around in your head, it will be harder to take real-life steps toward them. Writing them down makes them tangible.


My Goals for 2019

So what are MY goals for 2019?? I may have a couple…

Maybe that last goal isn’t quite measurable or specific, but that one may be the most important to me of them all. I am going to be a mom. It is still crazy to me but each day I will do whatever I can to make sure that little baby feels loved and safe.

Each of these is important to me for different reasons, but they are all intended to help me be the happiest, healthiest, and most successful I can be. Some of these goals are stepping stones to even longer term goals (education, career, etc.). I have been especially overwhelmed lately with the concept of getting a graduate degree, especially with the unexpected little bundle of joy that will be here before I know it. My goals have had to shift a lot from what they would have been were I not now growing my little family.

But that’s okay. That’s just life. Life is unexpected and will always throw curveballs your way. What’s important is the ability to remain flexible and adapt and grow with those changes. Maybe 2018 didn’t end for you exactly as you would have planned, but you’re about to have 365 brand new, shiny and fresh chances to make the most of each day, to grow and to learn and to appreciate all of the blessings that life gives you. You are breathing and you are alive and this coming year is going to be SPECTACULAR. ✭

Some Thoughts Regarding Alcohol

We’ve all been there.  Especially if, like me, you went to college away from home. You were 18 years young, and finally got to experience that sweet taste of freedom and cheap, watered down beer.  I am 110% guilty of falling down this college-drinking rabbit hole and gained more than the freshman fifteen.  I had immense difficulty losing (and maintaining that loss) until recent years.  What starts off as benign college fun can turn into something more sinister, and even affect your health.

 

Isn’t alcohol what being an adult is all about?!

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It’s the culture – you go to house parties, go out for drinks with your friends every weekend night starting on Thursday (Thirsty Thursday is a real thing, people), you sneak pregame drinks in your dorm room.  But this doesn’t stop at college, it carries over into after work happy hours three days a week, and turns into “needing” that glass of wine (or four) every night after work just to wind down.  I was that chick at college parties that would literally HOARD room temperature bud lights in my purse, just to be stocked up when the party inevitable ran out of booze.  I firmly believed that you could not go out and have a “fun” weekend unless it involved a whirlwind of cocktails and bad decisions.  Needless to say, I entered into adulthood with a very unhealthy, “all-or-nothing” relationship with alcohol.

My junior year of college, I started working out because I seriously wanted to shed that freshman fifteen – which at this point had become more like the freshman 25ish.  I became obsessive about counting the calories I ate, never once stopping to give second thought to the calories I DRANK.  Yes, I lost some weight due to eating lower calorie foods, incorporating lots of veggies, hitting cardio 4x a week with mild strength training (I had yet to discover crossfit!!), but I always seemed to kind of plateau.  I never quite got to the level of fitness and health that I wanted.  I thought I was doing everything right!  Oh, the frustration that ensued!

Alcohol goes straight to the a** (and belly and face and joints).

At this time I was still drinking a lot of wine on the weeknights – you know, because that’s what adults do, right?! – and going out to drink on weekends Friday through Saturday.  And don’t forget about mimosa-fueled Sunday brunches.  That’s a lot of empty liquid calories.  Like, a lot.  One mimosa has about 160 calories with 9 grams of sugar.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever had just one mimosa… yeah I didn’t think so.  Multiply that by 4 or 5 and you’re staring down the barrel of almost 1000 calories, just from your brunch drinks alone.

And there’s the other sneaky thing about drinking: it affects your eating habits as well.  When you’ve had a few drinks, all of a sudden it becomes so much easier to make poor food choices.  Who cares about that 1 am pizza??? I’ll tell you who doesn’t care: those three beers, two tequila shots, and four vodka sodas you consumed in a span of 3 hours.  And what about the next morning when you wake up cranky, dehydrated, and feeling like a jackhammer wrecked your whole body?  Definitely gonna need a triple stack of pancakes and/or a giant plate of sour cream chicken enchiladas to soak up those bad decisions.  And then the downward spiral ensues.

As I started to maintain a healthier lifestyle throughout the week, it became so much more noticeable how crappy I felt on the weekends after countless drinks and junk food.  By every Monday morning, I felt like an inflamed whale, only to get right back on track and feel great again by Friday night.  This cycle of healthy week, boozy weekend, Monday morning guilt lasted for years.  I thought this was normal, along with my IBS issues that came along with it.

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Here we encounter a prime example of me not following my own advice and drinking a beer.  Inflammation and gastrointestinal issues ensued post consumption of this beer.  But it was really hot out and this beer was refreshing and provided a great photo op. (Taken with Moment lens.)

Alcohol: the other macronutrient???

Now I am certainly not saying alcohol is terrible or that you should NEVER drink it, but in my personal experience I have just found that overall I feel better when I don’t.  I don’t need to get blackout wasted to have a good time, and I’d rather just not experience the post-drink inflammation and blues.  If you are trying to lose weight, an easy way to boost your progress is to seriously limit or cut out alcohol altogether.  Remember, alcohol is NOT a macronutrient that your body needs.  On the contrary, your body views alcohol as a toxin, and will always preferentially burn any alcohol that enters your system.  That means any carbohydrates, fat, or protein that enters your system at the same time as alcohol will not be processed.  I repeat, ALL OTHER METABOLIC PROCESSES WILL CEASE.  All of a sudden, you have all these extra carbs, fats, and proteins floating around in your body, so what happens to them? They get converted to fat and stored for later!

So next time you go out for dinner and drinks, remember that when you drink a lot of alcohol, and eat excess calories, the alcohol is hindering your body’s ability to metabolize that food.  Again, I am not saying to never drink.  It’s just no wonder so many of us gain the freshman fifteen when we are poor college kids drinking alcohol all the time and eating fast food at 2 am after a night of partying.

The key is to find BALANCE.  If you must drink, save it for special celebratory occasions.  And when you do drink, don’t drink to excess.  Have a few drinks, and remember to drink water so you don’t get dehydrated.  And try not to give in to those late night alcohol-fueled munchies: they are not your friend.

The Most Important Meal of the Day

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Did this image of the most enticingly delicious, absolutely sugar-laden waffles grab your attention?? Good. Because today I want to talk about something that affects me as a teacher, and should also be affecting you as a parent: breakfast.  In particular, I want to discuss the affect that high-carb, sugary breakfasts devoid of nutrients can have on your child’s ability to function at school.

I may not be a nutritionist quite yet, but it’s never too early to make an impact.  This week I got to experience what it was like to positively influence the nutrition of one of my students.  This 5-year-old is exceptionally smart, loves being at school, and genuinely enjoys the learning process.  Let’s call this boy Liam*.  Liam is a brilliant student, but he can also tend to be very silly and jumpy at times.  The key phrase here is at times.  This past Monday he seemed to be having a particularly difficult time sitting still and concentrating on his work.  And an idea just struck me so I decided to ask him: “Liam, what did you eat for breakfast this morning?”  His answer?  FROSTED FLAKES AND CHOCOLATE MILK.

Now I’m not a parent, but after five years of experience educating young children, I know how picky children can be about food.  I also know what a battle it can be early in the morning to get your child fed and out the door in a reasonable time.  Too often this leads to children eating sugar-filled breakfasts in a rush, such a frozen waffles with syrup, sugary cereal, cookies, and at times even candy! (Yes, I have witnessed the mother of a two-year-old girl feeding her daughter M’n’Ms at 8:30 in the morning at carpool). Most parents don’t even realize just how much sugar their children are eating, not just at breakfast, but throughout the entire day.

Frosted Flakes have 10g of sugar in one 3/4 cup serving, all 10g of these being added sugars. But let’s be real, how many of us pour a bowl of cereal and actually measure out “one serving”.  Realistically, Liam was probably having double this, or even more.  So let’s say 20g for the cereal.  The chocolate milk has even more sugar, at 24g! 10.25 of those grams are added sugar.  So before 8:30 in the morning Liam has already been loaded with 44 grams of sugar – this is equivalent to 11 teaspoons of sugar.  Have you ever added 11 teaspoons of sugar to your coffee?  I’ll just let that sit there for a minute.  No wonder he couldn’t stop fidgeting, running around, and was unable to focus on his math lesson for more than a few seconds at a time.  The sugar-consumption recommendation for adults is no more than 40 grams of added sugar a day.  With this one meal, Liam has already gone over this recommendation.

The average child under 12 years of age eats about 49 pounds of sugar per year.

How could this be affecting your child in the classroom?

  1. Behavioral Problems: We all know that excessive consumption of sugar leads to children “bouncing off the walls.”  In Liam’s case, all the sugar he had eaten for breakfast literally manifested as him jumping up and down.  No matter how many times I called his attention, it was as if he couldn’t control it.  And the fact of the matter is, if Liam is jumping around and acting playful, his friends are going to follow suit.  Too much sugar leads to disruptive behavior in the classroom that affects the other children – and drives the teacher crazy!
  2. Attention Span and Memory: Sugar consumption causes the brain’s hypothalamus to release excess amounts of the stress hormone cortisol.  When this cortisol is flooding through a child’s little body, they find it very difficult to sit still and stay focused on their work in school.  Without the ability to pay close attention to the lessons, it is unlikely that they will be encoding that knowledge into their long term memory.
  3. Refusal to Eat Healthy, Nutritious Food: Sugar is like a drug – eating it feels really good because the neurotransmitter dopamine is released by the brain.  The more sugar children have in their diets, the less likely they are to eat vegetables, fruits, and protein-rich meats – the sustenance that their bodies and brains need to grow and develop.  Constantly being fed sugar means that your child will struggle to accept the less-sweet taste of foods such as green vegetables.  Too many times I have witnessed the meltdowns of 3 and 4-year-olds refusing to eat the “healthy” items in their lunchbox because they know there is a bag of Fruit Loops or a bag of chocolate chip cookies waiting to be devoured at the end.  Too many times I have seen these children simply refuse to eat their lunch because they are not allowed to have the sugar.  Needless to say, these children are not getting the nutrients they need.

When Liam told me what he had for breakfast that day, I informed him that I was going to speak to his mom about the amount of sugar he was eating for breakfast.  Turns out he beat me to the punch, because the very next day at carpool his mom informed me that he had already told her what I wanted to talk to her about.  Luckily she agreed with me and and given him something much more nourishing to eat for breakfast that morning: eggs, toast with peanut butter, and a side of fruit.  She was so thankful I had brought it up with him, because – and these are her exact words – she couldn’t get him “to eat anything but that goddamned cereal.”

To say that Liam was a different child that day is an understatement.  He was calm and concentrated, able to complete his academic tasks without excessive interruptions and distractions.  Every day this past week I made sure to check up on him and ask him what he had eaten for breakfast because I could see such a dramatic difference in his behavior.  I heard peanut butter, I heard fruits, I heard waffles made with almond flour.  Such a far cry from the processed, sugary meal he had consumed on Monday morning.

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Ideally, your child’s breakfast should be a balance of healthy protein, fats, and carbs.  Consider proteins such as eggs; low-glycemic carbohydrates such as fruits (berries, bananas, apples), oatmeal, and even vegetables (if you dare!!); and healthy fats such as avocado, almond butter, or peanut butter. Be wary of nut butters that have added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup – always be sure to read the labels before purchasing!

Remember, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but make sure you are sending your child to school fed with the nutrients he needs to function and learn effectively.  Not only will you be benefiting your child’s long-term health, but I promise your child’s teacher will be eternally grateful!

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.