Ginny inspired us to “rock our mom bods.” I strongly believe in loving the body I have. But I’ve learned over the past year that truly doing so means more than letting go of body shame. It’s also about treating our bodies with the love and respect they deserve, and, frankly can’t live without. Which means not starving ourselves in a futile attempt to be “skinny” OR completely ignoring what we put into our bodies.
It’s easier said than done to truly nourish our physical bodies, for so many reasons, and especially for moms. Lack of time to prepare healthy meals, the cost of organic foods, food marketing at every turn, etc. But there’s one less familiar reason that I believe is why so many of us “fail” at being truly healthy. We obsessively – and mistakenly – believe that cutting calories is the way to be healthy, instead of focusing on the quality – or nutrient density – of the calories we consume.
No, I’m not advocating for a 5,000-calorie per day diet. Of course, we must pay attention to calorie intake, just not in a vacuum. For example, a chocolate donut contains about 195 calories. If you eat seven donuts per day, you’ll stay within the “recommended” range for caloric intake. And you may even lose weight over time. But you’d feel utterly disgusting, have zero energy, and your body composition would be that of, well, a donut.
Let’s consider the less exaggerated example of a more nutritious Greek chicken salad, which contains 250-500 calories. Sounds great, right? And many of you may feel jazzed about eating one of these, or more, every day of your life. But guess what? Even if you did, you wouldn’t get all of the nutrients your body needs.
Sadly, our whole food supply is not what it once was, thanks to soil depletion from over-farming, fertilization, pesticides, erosion, etc. In one study, researchers found “reliable declines” in amounts of several crucial vitamins and minerals in 43 different vegetables and fruits.
Don’t get me wrong – spinach (or other whole food) is still the healthy choice over a processed food. But spinach today can’t compare to spinach grown 30 years ago.
The bottom line is, by cutting calories alone without also addressing the nutrient deficiencies in even our most unprocessed, organic foods, we are literally starving our bodies. Adding exercise into the equation can make things worse. Exercise depletes nutrients, so if your body is already deficient, it has to pull energy from muscle. This equals loss of crucial muscle mass with zero impact on fat.
What Can You Do About It?
I am not a nutritionist, and this isn’t a commentary on the food industry. Rather than focus too much on how and why this happened, I prefer to spend my energy countering its effects. Here are a few quick things I’ve learned that we need more of in our diets. This list is not exhaustive (see above about me being not being a nutritionist) but represents the most crucial elements:
- Minerals. They are the most crucial and overlooked part of our diets. We need a LOT of minerals, and simply aren’t getting them all in our food.
- The highest quality protein that we can get. It comes from New Zealand. And pay attention to how it’s processed – you want “undenatured” whey protein, which essentially means not treated with high heat. There are also high-quality plant-based proteins out there for people who choose or require a vegan lifestyle.
- Prebiotic fiber. While probiotics put good bacteria into the gut, prebiotics nourish the good bacteria that is already there.
You may have guessed this by now, but in order to get all of these things into your body in an efficient manner, you’d need to supplement. Many shy away from the concept of “supplementing.” But if chosen carefully, dietary supplements or meal replacements can give us back the nutrients that we could once get from our food. And in the process, we also gain energy, sleep quality, and mental clarity – essential ingredients to the freedom and confidence we need to #RockTheMomBod!