Balance, Mom Wellness, Nutrition, Self Care

Nourishing Nutrition to Heal the Postpartum Body After Baby

Healing from birthing a baby is necessary for optimum well being postpartum. A part of that healing can heavily rely on the foods that are consumed. The foods you eat can determine how well you feel, how depleted you are, and your risk for postpartum depression.

Because of societal pressures and stigmas, new mothers can find themselves focusing on “bouncing back” and comparing their postpartum bodies to other mothers. As a “Mom Coach”, I am here to encourage you to change your perspective. Healing is not about your size, weight, or what your abdomen looks like. Proper healing comes from within and nourishing nutrition rather than “restrictive dieting” is a key to doing just that. Changing perspective can ease this journey and encourage your body to function at the best it can in that moment.

A few things to focus on to change your perspective…

  • Your body is healing from creating, carrying, and birthing your beautiful new baby.
  • Focus on healing, not the weight.
  • Every BODY is unique and is on their own journey.
  • Allow grace, love, and compassion towards your body.
  • Reward your body with nourishing foods, do not punish it for it’s amazing work.
  • This is a season that requires a different prioritization of self care.
  • Focus on fueling your body for healthy function, rather than aesthetics.
  • Do not waste valuable mental energy on self loathing.

This change in mentality is the release you need to move forward with a healthy mindset. Our mental load is so heavy in the postpartum period, flipping the script can lighten this mental load enough to allow you to focus on what is really needed. Self loathing is a useless energy that can lead you down a despairing rabbit hole. We live in a world that pushes a certain way we should look and feel, so it is tough to be immune to certain feelings. Flipping your script is a practice that gets better with consistency.

Just as I discussed in my last post, 10 Steps to Replenish Your Mind, Body and Soul After Baby, consuming the right foods can help improve postpartum depletion and reduce your risk of postpartum depression. Consuming nutrition that is vitamin and mineral rich can improve mood, which sometimes is what’s needed to not only make it through but thrive through motherhood.

Most mothers don’t seem to struggle with the actual eating the right things but the preparation it can take to understand what your body needs, planning, shopping and making meals. As mothers, we are busy and our mental load is heavy, so the thought of adding in nutrition can seem overwhelming. My main message that I try to convey to all mothers is allow yourself grace. Your nutrition doesn’t have to be perfect to meet your nutrient needs. Life happens and our day is usually driven by our children’s needs so if you have had a sleepless night, and a long day ahead of you, you probably aren’t rushing to make yourself a 4 course balanced meal. If you like creamer in your coffee, enjoy that cup, girl! If you like a glass of wine here and there, drink it! You make the rules and you know your body.

So, what does your postpartum body need? A healthy balance in macro and micro nutrients. It’s important to note that a normal calorie intake varies from person to person but early postpartum is not the time to focus on restricting calories. A person with an average weight, an estimate of 2000 calories is a good place to start but can heavily vary depending on a variety of factors.

Understanding Macronutrients– Protein, Fats, and Carbohydrates

Proteins consist of amino acids. Amino acids help build and repair muscle and tissues in the body. Because of this protein is important for postpartum recovery. Protein also helps keep you full longer, which is helpful for busy moms. And that postpartum hair loss, that creates our fly away baby hairs, it can help with that too, since hair is made up of proteins. All in all, it’s important. Proteins come from meat, eggs, and certain plant based proteins such as soy, quinoa, and buckwheat. Striving to eat protein with every meal is a good goal to have.

Fats are an important source of energy for the postpartum body. Fats help regulate hormones which is why they are so important to consume. Fats are a carrier for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and supports their absorption in the intestine. Consuming sufficient amounts of fatty foods are essential for proper vitamin absorption which plays a huge role in postpartum depletion. Fat intake should fill 20-35% of your total caloric intake. Some examples of fats to add to your diet are; oily fish, including anchovy, salmon, tuna and mackerel, peanut butter, oils, avocados, nuts, chia seeds, cheese.

Carbohydrates is another good source of energy for the body. There are two types of carbohydrates, complex and simple. Complex are the healthiest form of carbs (unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans) promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients. Simple, highly processed, refined foods, include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease. Consistently choosing complex carbohydrates to add to your meal is going to give you the healthy energy you need to keep up with baby.

Wellness starts from within. Eating a diet balanced with these macro nutrients will improve your overall wellness and how you feel.

Important Micro nutrients After Baby

Micro nutrients are vitamins and minerals that are vital for so many different functions and systems of the body. The best way to ensure you are receiving and absorbing micro nutrients is eating a balanced diet filled with wholesome, nourishing, colorful foods. Also taking a multivitamin or prenatal to ensure you are getting enough for your body. Research has shown that nutrient depletion can increase your risk for postpartum depression.

Vitamins and minerals to focus on consuming postpartum…

  • Iron

Due to the loss of blood that happens during delivery it is recommended to eat 18 mg of IRON per day. (most important in the early days after birth). Iron can be found in red meat, beans, lentils, oatmeal, iron fortified cereals.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is used to form collagen (protein found in skin and connective tissue) Important for healing c-section scar, vaginal tearing. Vitamin C can be found in Peppers, citrus fruits, berries, spinach, broccoli, garlic, pumpkin seeds.

  • Fiber

Promotes a healthy GI tract and keeps stool soft. The first urge to poop after baby can be frightening, but with extra fiber you can go with a little more ease! Fruit, beans, lentils, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes are good examples of fiber.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the micro nutrients linked to an increased risk of postpartum depression with a deficiency. It is the key nutrient in bone health, promotes calcium absorption. Sun exposure can help produce vitamin d. If breastfeeding, high levels can enrich breast milk adequately for baby. Foods that contain vitamin d include; cod liver oil, fish, such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon, egg yolk, beef liver, Fortified dairy product.

  • Zinc

Zinc deficiencies have been linked to an increased risk of postpartum depression. The body does not produce zinc, zinc comes from consumed foods and supplements. Zinc aides in wound healing, growth and development, decreases inflammation immunity, protein synthesis, etc. Zinc is in a lot of foods including, oysters, crab, mussels, lobster and clams, beef, pork, lamb, bison, turkey chicken, flounder, sardines, salmon, sole, chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, oats, quinoa, brown rice, mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus.

Selenium

Research findings suggest that supplementation with selenium during pregnancy might be an effective approach for the prevention of postpartum depression. Selenium is an antioxidant, improves immune function, and thyroid health.Selenium rich foods include eggs, cheese, mushrooms, oats, Brazil nuts, chicken, beef, pork, wheat, tuna, oysters, whole grain rye, salmon, brown rice, turkey, shrimp, soy.

Nutrition for the Breastfeeding mother

All of the above applies to you, but with some extra bullet points to note. It takes your body more energy to produce milk which in turn means you need more food to fuel your body.

  • Add 450-500 extra calories (divided between fats, proteins, carbs) to your diet to make breast milk. Your baby will take in calories and nutrients before you. A Normal range weight would strive for an estimate of a 2500 calorie intake.
  • All of the foods that were off-limits during pregnancy like sushi, certain cheeses, etc, can now be ate! Pathogens like salmonella can still make you sick but won’t pass through breast milk like it does the placenta.
  • Avoid fish with high mercury levels- limit to 6 oz a week. examples include, shark, swordfish, albacore tuna.
  • There are no off limit foods like dairy, unless instructed by your pediatrician. If you notice baby has excessive reflux, fussiness, or blood in the stool, contact the pediatrician immediately.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep up with your milk supply and your own hydration. I always go with the goal to keep your urine light, if it’s dark, drink more.

Whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding these are nutrient basics to add to your normal diet. This may seem overwhelming but try to keep it simple and evaluate how you feel as you add in some of these foods. Think of your baby as you nourish yourself. Nourish your body as you want to nourish your baby’s. Treat your body as lovingly as you do your baby. Keeping this mindset establishes a healthy mentality when it comes to your postpartum nutrition.

This is covered in deeper detail in the Ultimate Postpartum Wellness Recovery Online Course launching soon! And if you are interested in a custom postpartum nutrition plan, contact me by email at balancebuilding@brandimills.net.

Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5104202//

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3564601/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/zinc#sources

Mom Wellness, Self Care, Women's Health

Trying to Conceive? Balancebuilding before Babybuilding

The motherly instinct we get as women kicks in long before baby gets here. As mothers, or future mothers, we need to plan ahead in creating the most fertile and healthiest environment in our bodies for the baby and ourselves. The road to a positive pregnancy test can be daunting so taking action months prior to conception can get your body at its peak level to support conception and a growing baby.

So, what are the first steps you should take after making the decision to expand your family?

1. Schedule an appt with your OB/GYN.

Scheduling a pre-pregnancy appointment where your physician can review your family history, health issues, past pregnancies, what to expect and a plan moving forward. And it is always a must to consult your physician before making any changes to your health regimen.

2. Check your lifestyle and manage your stress.

Now is a good time to engage in stress management tools such as yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, eating healthy, exercise or whatever you consider healthy self-care to be. Evidence states that everyday stressor can impact fertility but most experts believe that this isn’t due directly to the stress but the stress from the unhealthy habits that people turn to in response to the stress like smoking, drinking, overeating, undereating, neglecting to exercise, etc.

Using the Holmes-Rahe stress scale can help you calculate your own stress levels based on huge life events and everyday stressors. If you are under a serious amount of stress, talk openly to your physician about it so they can work closely with you to help manage it.

 3. Evaluate your health and diet.

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), you should focus before and during pregnancy, on consuming a healthy, balanced, vitamin rich diet. Being underweight or overweight, going into a pregnancy, can have adverse effects on you and the baby’s health.

Risks to being underweight:

  • Fertility issues
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Low birth weight baby
  • Preterm labor
  • Labor issues
  • Health and behavior issues well into childhood and even adulthood

Risks to being overweight:

  • Fertility issues
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • High blood pressure
  • Preeclampsia
  • Preterm birth
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Macrosomia- Larger than normal baby
  • Increased risk of birth injury and cesarean birth
  • Increased risk of Neural Tube Defects
  • Increased body fat can make it difficult for your health care provider accurately monitor the baby.

These are definitely good reasons to start evaluating your health and start thinking about what you are consuming. It is also important to make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet. It can be tough to get in all of the vitamins and minerals we need from food alone so the ACOG also suggests taking a prenatal vitamin even before becoming pregnant.

List of important vitamin and minerals to enable a healthy pre-pregnancy body (ALWAYS consult your provider before taking any supplements):

  • Zinc– Important for Men and Women prior to getting pregnant
    • 25-50 mg per day for fertility purposes
    • For women
      • Zinc helps the body utilize estrogen and progesterone in the body.
      • Regulates menstrual cycles.
      • Enables high quality, mature eggs ready to be fertilized.
      • Zinc deficiency can cause miscarriage, imbalanced hormones, irregular periods, and ovarian issues.
    • For men
      • Helps develop high quality, mature sperm and a higher quantity, making it easier to fertilize the egg.
      • Zinc deficiency can cause low sperm count, chromosomal defects (due to the low quality of the sperm that fertilized), which can lead to miscarriage.
    • Foods that contain Zinc
      • Sunflower seeds
      • Pumpkin seeds
      • Eggs
      • Beef
      • Turkey
      • Shrimp
      • Venison
      • Whole grains
      • Dairy that contains whole fat
  • Folic Acid/Folate
    • 400 micrograms daily at least one month before becoming pregnant
    • 600 micrograms daily while pregnant
    • Taking a supplement containing folic acid can help assure you consume enough.
    • When taken before pregnancy and during pregnancy folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects. Just by taking the recommended dose of folic acid prior to conceiving, you can decrease the chances of an NTD in from 4.8 in 1000 babies to 1 in 1000 babies, according to the Center for Disease Control.
  • Iron
    • 27mg daily for Pregnant women, half of that dose for a non-pregnant woman.
    • Iron is used by your body to make a substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your organs and tissues. During pregnancy, your body needs extra iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to the baby.
    • Research shows only one in five fertile women starts her pregnancy with adequate iron levels.
    • A study on how Iron affects infertility shows that women who consumed iron supplements had a significantly lower risk of ovulatory infertility than women who did not use iron supplements.
    • Taking a prenatal vitamin supplies you with adequate Iron but you can also get Iron from certain foods including…
      • Lean red meat
      • Poultry
      • Fish
      • Dried beans
      • Peas
      • Iron fortified cereals
    • Iron rich foods are also more easily absorbed if ate with Vitamin C rich foods like…
      • Citrus fruits
      • Tomatoes 

4. Ditch the Toxic Products.

  • Scientific evidence accumulated over the last 15 years have shown that exposure to toxic chemicals before conception and during pregnancy can have significant and long-lasting effects on reproductive health, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
  • This research, along with the Environmental Working Group’s research, has determined that reproductive health problems linked to toxic chemicals in cosmetics and other personal care products include…
    • Infertility
    • Low birth weight
    • Preterm birth
    • Cancers
    • Birth defects
  • These toxic chemicals are not regulated and continue to be used in common household products and beauty products.
  • These toxic chemicals include but not limited to…
    • Pesticides
    • Synthetic fragrance
    • Phthalates- a family of toxic chemicals that have been linked to allergies and asthma, infertility, reduced testosterone concentrations, and abnormal development of reproductive system in baby boys.
    • Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen
    • Mercury- which can lead to kidney and nervous system damage
    • Lead- a known neurotoxin
    • Asbestos- a carcinogen
    • Isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben- research shows parabens can be linked to breast cancer and disruption to the endocrine system.
    • Toluene- toxic to the brain and nervous system
    • Triclosan- affects the thyroid
  • Do your own research and be your own advocate. Take action and replace your household cleaners and beauty products with more natural products. Research companies and take labels that claim they are “natural” or “organic” as face value because they are not regulated by the fda, so these companies are not required to show all ingredients or disclose what is really in the product.
  • Download the Think Dirty App to help you find out where your favorite products rank on a toxicity scale!

5. Start Exercising if you don’t already.

  • Exercise has so many health benefits so you can’t go wrong with starting a new exercise routine to incorporate in your Pre-Pregnancy health regimen that continues during pregnancy.
  • Physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery, according to the ACOG.
  • Regular exercise during pregnancy benefits you and your baby in many ways including…
    • Reduces back pain
    • Helps digestion
    • May decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery
    • Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy
    • Improves your overall fitness and strengthens your heart and blood vessels
    • Helps with endurance and strength to endure child birth
    • Helps you to lose the baby weight after baby is born
  • Exercise Guidelines for Pregnant Women- “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. An aerobic activity is one in which you move large muscles of the body (like those in the legs and arms) in a rhythmic way. Moderate intensity means you are moving enough to raise your heart rate and start sweating. You still can talk normally, but you cannot sing. If you are new to exercise, start out slowly and gradually increase your activity. Begin with as little as 5 minutes a day. Add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.
  • If you were very active before pregnancy, you can keep doing the same workouts with your health care professional’s approval. However, if you start to lose weight, you may need to increase the number of calories that you eat.” https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-During-Pregnancy
  • Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity include brisk walking and general gardening (raking, weeding, or digging). You can divide the 150 minutes into 30-minute workouts on 5 days of the week or into smaller 10-minute workouts throughout each day.

6. Have fun!

Trying to conceive can be stressful and disappointing for so many, do your best to eliminate stress, become your best, balanced self and rely on your health care provider for any questions or concerns! Best wishes on your TTC Journey!

Sources:

https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Good-Health-Before-Pregnancy-Prepregnancy-Care

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529092816.htm

https://www.conceiveeasy.com/get-pregnant/zinc-and-your-fertility/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10559448

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/3150/pre-conception-and-early-pregnancy-iron-deficiency-harms-brain.aspx

https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2006&issue=11000&article=00015&type=fulltext

https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Nutrition-During-Pregnancy#iron

https://www.ewg.org/research/exposing-cosmetics-cover/toxic-chemicals-threaten-healthy-births

https://www.ewg.org/californiacosmetics/toxic20

https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2015/11/common-preservative-in-personal-care-products-linked-breast-cancer

https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2008/12/phthalates-phthalates-everywhere

https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-During-Pregnancy

Chemicals in Makeup: Controversial Chemicals, Popular Alternatives, and How to Learn What You’re Putting on Your Face

Self Care

What is the Balancebuilding® Philosophy?

Balance can seem like something that is easily achieved, but it is actually something that so many people struggle to find. Struggling with balance is something, I have found, that no one really talks about. Society has placed this stigma that if you aren’t balanced, happy, aesthetically pleasing and centered at all times, then you are weak or a failure. I can assure you that everyone struggles at some point in their life with imbalance in some aspect. And that is where the Balancebuilding Philosophy was created.

The Balancebuilding Philosophy is living in a way to bring balance to all aspects of your life; mentally, physically and soulfully. There are a multitude of tools that comes with this philosophy to help in achieving this. Balancebuilding is the act of working on your personal mind, body and soul goals to achieve a life of overall wellness. Just as, let’s say, bodybuilding, it’s challenging and takes dedication, consistency, persistence and time. Balancebuilding is the same, but it takes into consideration the other pieces that need added to the foundation to be able to sustain and maintain the physical aspect of it. Everyone has a situation or certain circumstances in their life and your ratio of what balance looks like differs from the person sitting next to you. Our lives are ever changing and so does our Balancebuilding journeys. Instead of feeling guilt and shame for things we can not change we simply shift how we approach our journey.

I wear many hats including writer, Holistic Life Coach, Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Yoga Teacher and Mompreneur, but my main focus is collaborating all of these hats to bring the Balancebuilding Philosophy to everyone’s way of living. I am on a mission to get the tools out to others, to empower them to achieve their goals physically, while nurturing their mind and soul, working in while working out. I created the Balancebuilding Philosophy after going on my own journey to finding balance, recovering from the physical and mental extremes from competitive bodybuilding, going from a bodybuilder to a balancebuilder. The Balancebuilding Philosophy helps alleviate the dieting mentality, by combining information and tools to help others achieve complete synchronicity between the mind, body and soul, for a lifetime.

Message me for more information on how the Balancebuilding Philosophy can help you achieve your goals! I want to help you become a better balanced self!

 

Nutrition

Coffee Talk

Let’s talk coffee. I drink one cup of coffee in the morning, every morning, and if I am out and about, I like to grab a coffee from Starbucks or local coffee shop. And let’s be honest, I am a mom of a toddler so, need I say more. I also have some of my best memories drinking a morning cup of joe with some of my former coworkers/friends. But let’s talk about how the fun, specialty Starbucks drinks can be loaded with sugar and fat! If you are trying to be healthy or have wellness goals you are trying to meet, these drinks can stand in your way of making real progress. Let’s just break down a couple of the most popular drinks on the menu…

White Chocolate Mocha- Grande w/whole milk and whipped cream

Calories-470

Total Fat-22g

Total Carbs-55g

-Dietary Fiber-0

-Sugars-53g

Protein-14g

 

Vanilla Latte- Grande w/whole milk and whipped cream

Calories- 290

Total Fat-11g

Total Carbs-37g

-Dietary Fiber-0g

-Sugars-35g

Protein-11g

 

Caramel Macchiato-Grande w/whole milk

Calories- 280

Total Fat-11g

Total Carbs-35g

-Dietary Fiber-0g

-Sugars-33g

Protein-10g

 

A couple of red flags stick out when I look at these numbers…

 

#1- there is no dietary fiber, so absolutely no health benefits.

#2- Holy Sh*t, that is a lot of sugar! Just to put a visual out there, 55 grams of sugar equivalates to about 12.6 teaspoons of sugar. Do you know that a Snickers bar has less sugar than all three of these drinks, coming in at 29grams of sugar?! And it has less calories, 271! These are basically like extra-large candy bars!

The World Health Organization guidelines recommends keeping sugar consumption below 10% of total calories and suggests keeping it below 5% for further health benefits. So, based off a 2000 calorie diet 25grams of sugar is at 5%, 50grams is at 10%, which would be the recommended max amount of daily sugar.

#3- The total fat accumulates to about 1/2 to 1/3 of your daily suggested intake of fat based off a 2000 calorie diet. The American Heart Association suggests that healthy adults limit their dietary fat to no more than 20-35% of total daily calories.

#4- There is some protein that comes from the milk, but the other macros are so saturated that it is definitely not considered a healthy protein drink.

After that little break down, you are probably wondering what you can even order. There are plenty of yummy alternative options that will keep you under the recommended guidelines and even not hinder your goals while ordering out.

  • Check out the menu before you go if you can. This will enlighten you on what is really in the drinks.
  • Ask the Barista how to make the drink you want in a lighter version.
  • Ask for an alternative to milk. Milk has a good bit more sugars and carbs than the alternatives.
  • Ask for no cane syrup be added to your drink. Instead use an alternative sweetener.
  • Use sugar free flavorings.
  • If you aren’t into any of that, try out a hot or iced tea instead. Most coffee shops have a variety of different teas.
  • Or bring your own additions.

Drinks I order…

Iced Green Tea

  • NO CANE SYRUP
  • With 2 Splenda or Stevia

Matcha Green Tea Frappuccino

  • NO CANE SYRUP
  • With Almond milk

Blonde (insert your preferred roast) Roast coffee

  • 1 pump sugar free flavoring
  • 2 Splenda or Stevia

Drinks I make at home…

Folgers w/ Sugar free hazelnut or chocolate creamer w/alternative sweetener

  • I usually get these at any grocery store

Folgers w/ Ripple (non dairy) half and half w/alternative sweetener

  • This is a great alternative to anyone with dairy sensitivities or allergies. Ripple brand milk and half and half are derived from pea protein.

Folgers w/MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil and alternative sweetener

  • MCT’s are fats that are digested easily and more easily absorbed and processed by the liver.
  • MCT’s enable a healthy gut, metabolism, balance hormones, and give an energy boost.

Teas (of any kind) can have many health benefits.

Just like food, you should be aware in the drinks you order. They usually contain a lot more sugar than we imagine and can ruin any fitness goals if drank on a consistent basis. With these tips you will still be able to enjoy an outing to your local coffeeshop.

Exercise, Mom Wellness, Nutrition, Self Care, Women's Health

5 Steps I took to go from an Extreme Mindset to Blissfully Balanced

My whole life I have been an extreme, self-competitive, driven, determined, structured, type A individual who can get deep into something I put my heart into. This is great for accomplishing things and with being a former national level figure competitor in bodybuilding, this was great for succeeding in the sport but I didn’t realize I had a lot of healing to do and competing only pushed me further away from myself. Bodybuilding is not to blame, I still love following the sport and love seeing my friends achieve their personal goals with it. I believe that determined mindset is also why I did so well. When I did well and kept improving each show, I was rewarded with my own competitive stage goals, that made me love the stage even more, creating a vicious cycle and an unrealistic expectation of myself in the “off season”. Being so lean on stage created a sense that when not competing and wanting results I felt like…

“I have to do hours of cardio”

“I have to eat the same foods and restrict calories to the extreme.”

“I have to be a slave to the gym.”

This mentality also cycled into…

Binge eating

Insatiable cravings

Fatigue

Feeling like a prisoner to food

Insecurities

Never feeling good enough

Hormonal imbalances

You don’t have to compete to know this cycle. I do believe there are many competitors and non-competitors who have the same mindset and suffer mentally, physically and emotionally from the years of an extreme mindset that causes a multitude of issues that affect wellness. There are so many people feeling this way, but it isn’t talked about because so many do not want to appear “weak”. What I didn’t realize during this rabbit hole I was in, was that these qualities were reactions of feeling out of control of my life, imbalanced, insecurities, past emotional issues and not truly loving myself. That is not weak, that is a serious issue that needs addressed. I hope by speaking about my own journey, it will encourage others silently dealing with the same feelings, to help themselves out of this situation.

I have friends who are competitors and non-competitors who understand this mental state, who have asked me “how did you change that extreme mindset and heal yourself from it because I don’t know how to change?” Everyone’s situation is different and healing looks different for everyone, but these are the first steps I took that started my journey of healing myself.

  1. I started making decisions for my wellbeing.

These decisions look differently for everyone, but I would challenge you to ask yourself, “what is holding me back from being my best self? What is it that is bringing me down?”. After some big realizations, I decided to quit competing and left a toxic relationship. These two decisions were the very first steps to improving my overall wellness and honestly were necessary to my health. My body was so exhausted and needed time to heal from the hormonal damage of extreme dieting for so long. I knew I needed to make decisions that put me in a less anxious, less volatile environment. I needed to focus on me and my mental, physical and emotional well-being.

  1. I hired a coach I trusted.

I hired a coach who helped me come up with a meal and cardio plan. I know what you’re thinking, “How could this be helpful, wouldn’t this put you back into the same situation?” No, this was necessary because if I made my own plan at that time, I would have made things worse. I needed someone to get me started in the right direction and someone that was knowledgeable and knew what they were doing. I was eating the right macros for my body, I was feeling full, I liked the food I was eating and also felt like I had someone who cared about the state of my body, mentally and physically. This helped me get to a point that I could rely on myself and my own awareness which is something I could never do before.

  1. I started listening to my body.

Being on a wholesome, balanced plan sparked enough confidence to start listening to my body, paying attention to my needs and truly taking care of myself. We know our bodies better than anyone but a lot of times we ignore important signs and wait until it’s out of hand. We can prevent a lot of issues just by living more intuitively, quieting the outside noises and extrinsic pressures, and really being real with ourselves.

  1. I started exercising for enjoyment.

I stopped exercising for a competition and started training for fun. I stopped punishing my body with exercise and instead rewarded it with exercise. That was a part of breaking that obsessive habit of only training the way I needed to for the stage and to please judges. I focused on what I liked to do and what made me keep going back. Exploring different kinds of exercise empowered me to break free of the obsessive-compulsive part of my mentality, while maintaining the benefits of aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

  1. I stopped comparing myself to others.

There is nothing wrong in wanting to improve things about yourself while loving yourself and the process. It becomes negative and the opposite of loving yourself when you compare yourself to others. This is so crucial in our world of social media. Social media is a highlight reel of someone’s life, so you can’t compare your challenges to their best. There is so much behind the scenes that we don’t see and who knows where they are in their journey of life. No one is you and that is a beautiful thing to celebrate.

Healing and changing the way you think is challenging but staying in a toxic mindset is even harder. Time will pass anyway so always prioritize your own happiness and see what unfolds. These 5 steps that started my own journey to a healthy and happy mindset inspired many positive things in my life. I married someone who brings even more joy to my life, I got certified in personal training, fitness nutrition, and Holistic Life Coaching, created The Balancebuilding Philosophy based on my own personal journey, that has helped so many struggling individuals become blissfully balanced as well and most of all I have found my own internal peace and love for myself. If you are someone who struggles with finding a balance with personal goals, health, wellness, loved ones, and/or life in general, start with step one, be real with yourself, and start making decisions to better your well-being. Positive decisions create positive outcomes.

Peace, Love, and Positivity,

Brandi