Well-being tips for expectant Mums

Taking care of Mum and her well-being is essential, before, during, and after birth.

Recently I collaborated with Martina from NINE+QUARTER and put together nutrition tips for expectant Mums here. As part of this, our well-being is important, and whilst we cannot tick every box, it is a good time to make sure you take care of your well-being in preparation for your baby’s arrival.

Some of these tips are relevant for every woman, you don’t have to be pregnant. Our ever-changing hormonal needs are more than enough, so I hope you find this useful no matter what stage of life you are in.

Having my two boys 19 months apart, I knew my well-being had to be one of my top priorities. In no way did I strive at everything every day. Some days were purely muddling through, but if I were to look back on what resonated with me, and what I learned from the wise Mums I know in my life, then these are my top tips:

You First

Putting yourself first may seem to some people a little hard to do, but with practice, you will soon discover that focusing on your self-care is so important and it will filter through into other areas of your life. It helps you to build a positive relationship with yourself and you can improve on this at any point, it is never too late. I love the saying “you cannot pour from an empty cup”. I have always lived by this, especially since becoming a Mother. It is the core message of my business, put yourself first, and you will have more energy to give to your life around you.

Keep active

Exercising during pregnancy is safe and healthy for you and your baby. It will help to reduce stress, improve your circulation, boost your mood, and help you to sleep better. This isn’t a time to take up any new strenuous exercises, however, taking a pregnancy class or walking for 20-30 minutes every day will do wonders for your well-being. Pilates, yoga, and swimming are excellent for pregnancy too. Strength exercises also provide many health benefits, it will assist in the birth and give you the extra strength you will need for when your baby arrives. Practice your Kegels to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles which support your bladder, bowels, and uterus. If you have any underlying health or physical issues, seek advice from your GP before undertaking any new exercises.

Connect

Connecting with other parents-to-be in your area will give you (and your partner) the chance to build friendships and meet for those much-needed coffees and chats about anything and everything when your baby arrives. Explore your local area’s community groups for things like child birthing classes, prenatal yoga/pilates, postnatal exercise classes, book clubs, and walking groups (just to name a few). Having local friends nearby is also very handy if you ever need any help or just a last-minute excuse to get out of the house.

Treat yourself

Pregnancy (and anytime in fact) is the perfect time for pampering, and you deserve it. Book yourself into a pregnancy-friendly spa, treat yourself to a massage, facial, or mani & pedi. Enjoy that time and let someone else dote on you for a change.  Run yourself a bath, light some candles, read a book, or listen to your favourite music. Schedule date nights with your partner or friends, get dressed up, and still enjoy yourself. Keep your mood boosters going, and treat yourself to quality “me time”, things that will lift your mood and make you feel rewarded and relaxed.

Journal

Journaling is a wonderful way to keep a record of the experiences you go through during your pregnancy. You are sure to go through some highs and lows and writing things down can often be a form of release. It is a lovely keepsake to look back on and remind you of those special and perhaps challenging times. When your baby is born, our time can be somewhat more limited. I set up email addresses for my boys and continue to send them photos and videos so that one day they can login to and have a look at their life so far. There are some great apps available too where you can print photos at the click of a button and have them delivered to your door to start those special family albums.

Nest

Nesting is real and when you get the urge, make the most of this impulse before your baby arrives. Start to prepare the essentials your baby needs, such as sorting out your home and kitchen cupboards, stocking up on things you need, batch cooking healthy meals and freezing them, eliminating things you no longer need, and preparing the nursery. Try not to do it all at once though, a to-do list will be your lifesaver, and aim to tick one or two things off every week. Remember small baby steps!

Sleep

It is the one thing pretty much everybody says when women fall pregnant “sleep whilst you can”. Our sleep is so important, and it often has a domino effect on everything else if we are not getting the quality of sleep we need. Some nights it might be impossible to get a good night’s sleep but if you are doing everything that you can, then you have a better chance of quality rest. I have a separate blog post on how to improve sleep here and natural ways to increase melatonin here. You may also like some props to help you sleep, for example, an extra pillow between your legs to help support your hips is simple, yet effective.

Ask for help

Women are a million wonderful things rolled into one: powerful, inspiring, busy, loving, caring, and strong (just to name a few). Sometimes, we also need to ask for help too. As your body changes and you go through the highs and lows of adjusting to your new life with your baby, stay in tune with yourself and know when to seek any help if you need it. Remember that asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it is showing your strength. Speak to friends and family, take them up on their offers to babysit or help with chores and cooking. Baby blues are common in most new Mums, speak to your GP if you find that these are persistent. With the right help and speaking to a professional, you will discover the tools to get you through any challenging times.

Advice – trust your instincts

Being pregnant and becoming a new Mum often comes with loads of advice, from other Mums, family, friends, professionals, books, and online. Some advice can be useful, whereas other times it may not be suitable for you and your baby. As always, trust your instincts, and if you aren’t sure, a second opinion can be helpful if that’s what you feel you need. I asked a group of Mum friends recently what the most valuable piece of advice they received was, and here is a list of their answers:

  • Do what is best for you and your baby
  • Seek advice from trained professionals rather than general mum groups
  • Throw the so-called “rule book” out
  • Button onesies will end marriages at 3am!
  • It is ok if you don’t breastfeed, sometimes it doesn’t work – a fed baby is a happy baby
  • As long as your child is fed, clean, clothed, and loved, you’re doing a wonderful job
  • A shower before the baby wakes in the morning will make you feel much better for the day
  • The nights can seem long, but the years are short
  • Always ask for help if you need it
  • Remember your “me” time to recharge
  • Life doesn’t stop, put dates with loved ones in the diary

These are all so relevant, and I particularly like the one about seeking advice only from trained professionals. There are some incredible books on the market and podcasts which are easy to listen to when on the go. I personally like “Raising Good Humans” by Dr. Aliza Pressman. She is a wealth of knowledge and has wonderful advice for raising children of all ages, and personal advice for Mums too. Do you have any favourite books or podcasts?

I hope you found these well-being tips useful, and I would love to hear any of your favourite tips too. Enjoy this wondrous time and remember, you are doing an incredible job.

Aimee x

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Classic potato salad

Perfect for BBQ’s, the classic potato salad can be made a bunch of different ways. Of all the variations this is my favourite, it hits all the flavour and texture spots and the kids love it too!

Ingredients can be easily swapped around – if you are vegan, opt for vegan ingredients, take out the bacon and eggs, and add things like red onion, pickles and caramelised leeks for more flavour.

Ingredients:
750g baby organic potatoes (sweet and full of flavour)
2 organic eggs
3 organic celery stalks
2 bacon rashers
1/2 cup of fresh herbs (flat-leaf parsley & chives)
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
Optional: 1/2 red onion finely chopped (soak the onion in water for 15 minutes prior, to make sure it doesn’t overpower the salad)

Dressing:
1/3 cup of organic fresh sour cream
1 tablespoon of yellow mustard
1/4 cup of light mayonnaise
Salt & pepper

Method:
1. Scrub clean the potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces (half or quarter depending on size) and cook in a saucepan of boiled water with a few pinches of salt for approximately 25 minutes.
Whilst the potatoes are cooking:
2. Fry the bacon rashers in a pan until cooked through then take them out of the frypan and cut into small pieces.
3. Hard boil 2 eggs in a saucepan for approximately 10 minutes, place into a bowl of cool water and peel the shells. Slice the boiled eggs and set them aside.
4. Slice the celery stalks into small pieces.
5. When your potatoes are cooked (check with a fork), drain and place them into a large bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking, then slowly peel the skin off the potatoes (or keep them on if that’s what you prefer). Drizzle the apple cider vinegar over the potatoes.
6. Add the potatoes, bacon pieces, celery and eggs into a serving bowl or platter and slowly stir through the dressing and herbs.
Serve warm, or if you are making this ahead of time, make a double batch of dressing as you may need to add a little more before serving.

A drizzle of lemon gives a lovely zesty finish to this dish too, if that’s what you like. 🍋

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December practice

As we head into the final month of 2020, let’s finish this year on a high*

Previously this year I have shared a few practices with you including mindfulness and gratitude meditation. These are both very powerful and they are available to you at any time.

This month, starting on December 1st, take 5-10 minutes to meditate every day, and at the end, write down 5 things you are grateful for. When New Year’s Eve arrives, you will have over 100 things on your list to reflect on and be thankful for.

I completed a 21-day meditation challenge back in June/July which was a paid course, however, there are plenty of free resources online if you are new to meditation. I personally like to meditate in the morning as it sets me up for the day ahead. Choose a time of day that suits you.

If you have never tried it before, start by finding a space that is quiet and free from distraction. Seat yourself comfortably on a chair or on the floor, and release any tension in your body. If your mind wanders (which it usually does), bring it back to the practice and your breathing. Guided meditation is a great way to start. Find one that you like, it is a personal preference. A few of my favourites are Gabby Bernstein, Amanda Frances, Louise Hay, Elena Brower, and Deepak Chopra.

Here are a few links to get you started:

Manifesting Meditation: Holding a vision of a new way of living – YouTube

lululemon | Gabby Bernstein’s everyday meditation – YouTube

A Morning Meditation with Elena Brower – YouTube

Guided Meditation on Gratitude with Deepak Chopra – YouTube

As you evolve with meditation, you will be able to practice it everywhere you go without the need of guidance. If you lose momentum, it’s great to go back to a guided meditation to get you back on track.

For this month, at the end of your meditation practice, write down 5 things you are grateful for and add to it every day. These can be anything, from the freshwater you drink, to being in nature, your loved ones, or the places you have been. Anything that springs to mind.

For me, meditation strengthens our mindfulness, and mindfulness strengthens our gratitude. These practices combined nurture our happiness.

Earlier this year I wrote a blog on mindfulness, you can view it here.

I’m going to get my two boys involved for a bit of fun too. Share with your loved ones to make this New Year’s Eve special, reflecting on the things we are most grateful for, and I hope you get to enjoy the meditation along the way.

Aimee x

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Nutrition & Well-being tips

Hi F45 members,

I have had the pleasure of knowing Annie and Wayde for several years now, and I have to say what a wonderful job they have done by building the F45 team in Maida Vale. Their determination and passion for what they do is so inspiring, and it is people like you as members who also make it an incredible community to be part of.

I am honoured to be invited to share some nutrition and well-being advice with you all as we are in our second lockdown in London and working from home.

Working and/or being confined to our homes more than usual comes with many distractions, and most days can feel very much the same. However, we can use it to our advantage, and come out on the other side feeling good!

One of the major distractions at home is food. Often, we can turn to food when we are bored and with it being so accessible, it can become a mindless cycle of poor food choices without consciously realising it.

Our lifestyle also matters just as much, if not more than our nutrition too. I will touch more on this later in my well-being tips.

Nutrition

To get started, I have put together some tips on keeping your nutrition on track:

Master your environment

Create an environment in your home that is organised, so you know exactly what foods you already have, and to make space for the foods you need. Clean out your fridge and food cupboards, get rid of out-of-date foods, and put things in order. A clean and organised kitchen is a good starting point.

Assess yourself

A good way to identify any habits you need to change is to take note of your food and drink intake for a week, and your energy levels. Spot any trends – perhaps the 3 o’clock binge in the afternoon which makes us feel lethargic for our evening workout. Whatever they may be, bring light to them and be conscious of it. I believe that we shouldn’t try to erase our bad habits. Instead, we build better habits and focus more time on them. Eventually, the bad habits will diminish.

Know what you need

Have a look at this eatwell guide, consider how your current diet compares to each food group. Take a note of the foods you need to eat less of, and make a shopping list for those you need more of. This is just a guide for a larger group. For a tailored approach, keep a food diary, and people like me will consider your personal needs and can advise you on areas you need to focus on to improve your nutrition.

Plan ahead

Choose a day every week where you can plan your meals for the week ahead. Planning prevents us from making last minute bad choices, it saves us time, and stops food from going to waste. Get a chalkboard for your kitchen, or a magnetic whiteboard for your fridge, and write your menu for the week. Put your daily F45 workouts on there too! Be flexible, swap meals around depending on your taste buds that day, and if you want to, treat yourself to a takeaway night during the week, it is all about finding the right balance and making sure you are happy and in control.

Get creative

If you are stuck on meal ideas, invest in a couple of recipe books that are quick and easy, or have a look online for videos and recipes for inspiration. If you are short on time, companies like Mindful Chef and Hello Fresh provide everything for you and deliver it straight to your door, all you need to do is cook it. There is a variety of recipes to choose from (including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free) and it is a fun, healthy, and creative way to get cooking.

Keep hydrated

Being sedentary more than usual can often mean we do not keep hydrated enough. Make sure you are getting the minimum 2 litres a day, and more if you are exercising. Try some herbal teas, they are great to sip on throughout the day and they contribute to your daily water intake, unlike caffeinated coffee and tea. To know more about our body’s fuel and its benefits, click here.

Get supported

If you need to change some habits at home, sometimes the people surrounding us can play a part in this. We might live with partners or flatmates, family, and friends who may indirectly affect the way we eat, what we eat, and how much we eat. If you notice something needs to change, it is good to let the people know around you, so they can support you. It might mean you have to take control of your own cooking for a while, or try and get them involved, and motivate them too.

Everybody is different and we all require different foods based on our lifestyle and personal needs. Short-term crash diets don’t usually work as they are not sustainable long term. It is important to cultivate a positive relationship with food, rather than the start-and-stop cycle of diets. If we find a healthy consistency and understanding of what our body needs, there is no need to avoid “bad” foods. Instead, we can indulge every now and then, and enjoy food for what it forms part of; traditions, celebrations, connecting with others, and so much more. I have kept these tips broad for you as a wider group, however, if you would like a long-term plan that suits you personally, please send me an email at hello@youfirstnutrition.com.

Well-being

Our lifestyle forms part of our well-being, and it plays a vital role in our nutritional health. Each of these have a flow-on effect with one another, for example, if we don’t get a good night sleep or our mindset doesn’t feel right, then we can form unhealthy food habits.

Here are a few of my top well-being tips:

Put yourself first

Putting yourself first may seem to some people a little hard to do, but with practice, you will soon discover that focusing on your self-care is so important and it will filter through into other areas of your life. It helps you to build a positive relationship with yourself and you can improve on this at any point, it is never too late. This is the core of my business and one of the first blog posts I put together, here.

Sleep well

Sleep is so important for our physical and mental health. It gives our bodies the chance to rejuvenate, recover, and should make us feel refreshed and alert the next day. Sometimes, our sleep can be affected for various reasons, but if we try to get the best night sleep we can, it will give you a solid foundation for healthy well-being. Click here for tips on how to get a better night’s sleep.

Start your day right

Practice healthy habits in the morning to ensure your day gets off to the right start. A few examples could be, drink a big glass of water to re-hydrate after your sleep, take 2 minutes to practice your gratitude, set your intentions for the day, keep a notepad next to your bed and write things down. Try these things before reaching for your phone/screens first thing in the morning, it does wonders for the mindset. Have a shower, freshen up, and particularly if you are working from home, take a short walk outside or do a morning workout to clear your mind before starting work.

Stress Management

Long-term stress leads to elevated levels of the steroid hormone cortisol. Cortisol suppresses the effectiveness of the immune system, essentially blocking it from kicking into gear. As well as your F45 classes, try to do at least one other stress-reducing activity every day. This can be a short walk around the block to get some fresh air, meditation, listening to your favourite music, taking a hot bath and having a glass of wine, whatever it is that makes you feel better, take the time for you, and do it every day.

Exercise regularly

This goes without saying and you have the amazing support of F45 for this. Exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It increases your endorphins (a group of hormones that reduce pain and create feelings of pleasure) which makes it a great way to manage stress too. More exercise leads to more health benefits, so aim high!

Alcohol in moderation

If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation, and give your body the recovery it needs. High levels of alcohol consumption can weaken your body’s ability to fight infection and will slow down your recovery time if you get sick. According to the UK CMO’s, they advise it is safest not to drink more than 14 units per week. Find a good balance, enjoy yourself, and take care of your body too.

Quit smoking

Smoking affects our health and increases the chances of cardiovascular disease and heart problems. As with any toxins, the chemicals released by cigarette smoke can interfere with the growth and function of the immune cells too, meaning you will take much longer to recover from an illness if you were faced with it. If you currently smoke, there are many resources available to help you kick your habit. Contact your GP for more advice. On a lighter note, smoking does affects the taste buds, so one of the big advantages to quitting is being able to appreciate and enjoy the flavours of your food more.

Stay connected

Especially during times like these when we are not allowed to physically see our loved ones or travel to see our family and friends, staying connected to those around us is essential for our well-being. These days with so much technology at our fingertips, it is so easy to keep in touch, take the time to connect, and re-connect. A simple phone call with a loved one will do wonders for your well-being.

Find a passion or hobby

Finding a passion or hobby is a wonderful way to distract yourself from the mundanity of being confined to our homes. This can be absolutely anything you desire, and try to set aside some time every day to enjoy it. Something as simple as keeping a journal of your future travel destinations and goals, learning a new musical instrument, or trying a new sport. Use the time to your advantage and try something new, you never know where it might lead.

Look after your mental health

2020 has been a challenging year for people’s mental health. Thankfully, the stigma on mental health is being lifted so people can feel they can talk about it more openly. We all have up and down days, but if the down moments are starting to outweigh the ups, then speak to someone close to you and seek some advice. There are plenty of ways to work on your mental health as a daily practice, even if you are not feeling low. It will help to strengthen your mindset when you are faced with challenges. The above tips mentioned contribute to your mental health, alongside things like practicing gratitude and mindfulness, which are both very powerful. Click here for tips on mindfulness.

I hope these nutrition and well-being tips can help you through these ever-changing times. If you need any personal advice, I would love to hear from you. My email is hello@youfirstnutrition.com

Some blogs I have written recently also include Superfoods, Vitamin D, Collagen, Strength training, Foods to boost your immune system, and From the farm to your plate. These are accessible through my website www.youfirstnutrition.com and you can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more nutrition & well-being advice.

Aimee x

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Delicious & satisfying immune-boosting soup

I made this delicious batch of fresh soup today, ready for the week ahead. Packed with immune-boosting organic ingredients and full of flavour, this will nourish your body and satisfy your taste buds.

As we head into the cooler months, soups are a wonderful way to combine a variety of nutrient-dense vegetables into one healthy and comforting meal. They are easy to make, they freeze well, and are the perfect “mindful eating meal” – you have no choice but to sit down and enjoy every mouthful 🤍

Soup Ingredients:
1 large bunch of cavolo Nero (kale or dark leafy green)
1 whole broccoli
1 whole cauliflower
1 large zucchini
5 handfuls of organic spinach
4 carrots or 1 large sweet potato (optional for a sweeter taste)

Vegetable broth:
1 large leek
1 red onion
2 large garlic cloves
1-2 large mild chillies (depending on how hot you like it) 🌶
600ml of organic, gluten and yeast-free vegetable stock
3 bay leaves

Garnish:
Flat-leaf parsley or coriander
Fresh lemon
Fresh chilli or chilli flakes

Method:
1. To make the vegetable broth, cut the leek, onion, garlic, and chillies. Cook in a saucepan with a drizzle of organic extra virgin olive oil, until soft.
2. Add the organic vegetable stock (powder with boiled water or ready-made liquid), add the 3 bay leaves, then leave to simmer.
3. To make the soup ingredients, chop the vegetables and steam them until cooked through.
4. Once cooked, place the soup ingredients into a large heatproof bowl.
5. Remove the bay leaves from the vegetable broth.
6. Start blending the soup ingredients with a hand-held blender and
7. Slowly add the vegetable broth to the bowl until a thick soup consistency is formed.
8. Blend until smooth.
9. Serve in a bowl and garnish with a generous amount of fresh lemon juice, some chopped coriander or parsley, and a sprinkle of chilli (to taste).

Serves 5-6 portions, perfect for planning your week ahead.

This soup is guaranteed to keep you satisfied for hours, aid your digestion, and will give your body the immune fighting powers it needs as we head into winter.

I created this recipe myself, and I hope you get to enjoy this too.

Aimee x

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