Posts by Cassie
The phrase “body after baby” has been so corrupted by the media that it usually means some sort of crash-diet and insane-exercise plan to get back to a size zero and six-pack abs three weeks after giving birth for some celebrity with a live-in nanny and a raw food chef on speed-dial. Don’t worry, my body is not that kind of body after baby (although a raw food chef would be so fun to have at my beck and call).
But the truth is, I had a pregnancy that wasn’t very conducive to staying fit and healthy. I’m not trying to make excuses (okay, maybe a little), but between my unrelenting, all-day, all-pregnancy morning sickness that made it nearly impossible to eat anything but refined carbs and my pelvic condition that make it hard to even walk from the bedroom to the bathroom, let alone workout, the weight piled on for me during pregnancy. And even more important to me than that, my fitness and general health plummeted—I had a scare with preeclampsia during labor, and I figure my inactive lifestyle and poor diet during pregnancy probably contributed to that.
I pretty much took a nine month, forced vacation from my healthy lifestyle, and man, I can feel it. My joints ache. I’m tired—and not just new-mom sleep-deprived tired. I have no energy. My hair is dull and lifeless. My nails are breaking all the time. My skin doesn’t have the nice, healthy girl glow it once had. I just don’t feel good. And I used to feel really good.
And then there is the weight thing. I don’t really put a lot of value in weight as an indicator of health on a global scale, but I do think it’s possible to use weight as one guidepost (among many) to help you gauge your health on an individual basis. I know what number feels good on my body. It’s the number where my knees stop hurting, my energy spikes, and I can enjoy going on a strenuous hike. And that number is about 50 pounds away from where I am right now—30 pounds of that is baby weight and the other 20 is extra weight I was carrying around before I got pregnant.
It was important to me to give myself a pass of the first few months of motherhood. I’ve spent the past 10 1/2 weeks not even a little worried about my health or weight. I ate what I wanted to eat (well, other than the stuff I’ve had to cut out because of breastfeeding). I worked out if I felt like it. I took walks when I could. I drank water when I remembered. Instead of focusing on my health, I’ve taken this time to really try to acclimate myself to motherhood and bond with my new family. And I think that time has been vital to my (what I think is) healthy and positive postpartum mindset. And thanks to breastfeeding, I’ve managed to drop about 30 pounds of pregnancy weight without even thinking about it (yes, I gained 60 pounds total during pregnancy).
When we first came home with JuneBug, I gave myself a deadline. I said that I’d try to get back to living a healthier life by her three-month birthday—and if I got the urge earlier, I’d go with it. Turns out, here I am two weeks shy of my deadline, and I’ve got the fitness itch again! Yay! I’m so glad I took the time to just focus on being a mom and letting my whole world revolve around my daughter, but I think it’s now time to slowly bring back in taking care of myself, and that includes getting healthy again.
I’ve been thinking of a plan for the past few days, and it’s really nothing ground-breaking. It’s doing the same things I did the first time I had 50 pounds to lose—only adapted to take into account the fact that I’m taking care of a tiny human.
Track my food—I loathe counting calories, but the fact is, when it comes to food, I have a quantity problem, not a quality problem. I eat tons of high-quality, healthy, clean, real foods. And that’s the problem—I eat a ton. Too much of healthy food is still too much food. I’ve always struggled with portion control, and the only way I’ve ever found to really get over those issues is to diligently track my food for a chunk of time to reacclimate my eyes and stomach to eating a reasonable amount of food. It’s not forever, but it is an important tool for me to start out with. With breastfeeding burning an extra 500 calories per day, plus my height, I actually have a very comfortable calorie range of between 2100-2300 calories per day I’d like to hit. While counting calories to help drop weight is the main reason I’m going to track my food, it’s also vital for me to track calories to make sure I’m eating enough food (and getting enough protein and fat) as to not cause any issues with my milk supply. Sure, I’d like to get fitter, but I definitely don’t want to do anything to jeopardize breastfeeding. It’s a delicate balance to strike, and I don’t quite trust myself to strike that balance intuitively (yet).
Reduce sugar—I’m not one to believe a few sugary treats is going to derail a healthy lifestyle, but I do think my diet has been a little too sugar focused lately. I’d like to cut back on the amount of sugary treats (and I’m not just talking white sugar, I’m talking honey, maple syrup, etc.), and make them more of an accent to my diet.
Drink more water—One of the biggest keys to my earlier weight loss success was keeping very well hydrated. I’m not dehydrated now (I get my 8-10 cups a day), but I could definitely be better about it. I feel SO much better when my body is properly hydrated. And I have to remember that since I’m breastfeeding, and carrying around more weight, my body requires even more water than it did before.
Get back to food prepping—It may seem silly to prep food and pack my lunch considering I work from home, but I think going through the process of thinking about everything I’d eat in a day in order to pack my lunch when I was working in an office really helped keep me on track. Now, I can graze all day, or, more commonly, I can skip meals all day because I’m busy, and then eat a huge dinner to make up for it—neither of those are very healthy. Have a food regimen during the day is really helpful for me.
Two solo workouts per week—Fitting in workouts is a big struggle for me. It always has been (mostly because I don’t really enjoy working out just for the sake of working out). Even though I know fitness is important, it always seems to fall to the bottom of my priority list. There always seems to be something that seems more important to do at the time. So, for now, I’m going to start off small. Two, 30 minute workouts per week—just to get myself back in the habit. And maybe once I remember how good working out makes me feel, I’ll want to devote more time.
One family workout per week—It’s important to both Craig and I to model an active lifestyle to JuneBug. And that’s why we want to get back to being active together. Plus, like I said above, I much prefer having an active lifestyle as opposed to just working out for the sake of burning calories. Before I got pregnant—and sick—each week we’d try to do something active together (go for a hike, go to the school track and walk or run, go for a family walk at the park, etc.) and I’d like to get back to that. We’ve implemented one “family day” per week (see below), where neither of us work, and I think that’ll be a good day to get in our family workout, too.
10 minutes of activity per day—The nature of the beast of my job is that I sit down, a lot. I’m always at the computer. It has definitely improved now that I have a baby to walk around and bounce, but I’m still guilty of not spending nearly enough time in the day being active. Just like my first fitness goal, I want to start off small. At least 10 minutes of some kind of activity per day. And hopefully I’ll build up to more! I also want to start wearing my pedometer again to encourage me to not sit around so much.
30 minutes of self-care time per day—I was bad about taking care of my self pre-baby, and now, any semblance of time to myself has completely flown out the window. I understand that isn’t healthy at all (and not a good example to set for my daughter), so I want to make an effort to take at least a half hour a day to do something just for me. Maybe that’s a workout. Maybe it’s just sitting outside reading a magazine while I eat lunch. Maybe it’s taking a nap. It’s amazing how 30 minutes of doing something just for the fun of it can be refreshing.
One “family day” per week—With the hub-bub of every day, it can be really easy to let weeks go by without devoting time to family fun. Sure, we have little fun moments everyday, but both Craig and I want to start having one day a week where the computers get put away, and we head out and do something fun as a family. Since neither of us work a “real” job with clear lines that divide workdays from weekends, it can be hard for us to shut down and take a break. So we’re making our own weekend (well, at least a weekend day).
One fun self-care reward per month—For each month I mostly stay on track, I’d like to reward myself with something self-care related. Maybe it’s a pedicure. Or a new piece of clothing. Or a new book. Something that is just for me.
And that’s it! Nothing earth-shattering. And definitely nothing crazy. My hope is that within the next 12-18 months I can get back to being my healthy, fit self—and maybe even end up as a healthier version of me than I was before I got pregnant. I’ll need the extra energy to chase around a toddler!
Happy Labor Day, everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying your day off and taking some much deserved time to relax on this unofficial last day of summer. I know I am!
If you’ve never downloaded one of my wellness calendars before, these little guys have a daily wellness-focused challenge. When you put them all together, you’ve got yourself a great start to a healthy month! I like to believe that a healthy lifestyle is built off of a lot of small, daily healthy decisions, and this calendar helps you get there. Oh, and it’s totally free!
Download the PDF, print it out and hang it up so you can see it daily. Enjoy!
Do you have any big plans for September?
Do you share recipes in your family? I come from a pretty large family (I have three older siblings, and we are all married and have kids), and we’re all big fans of cooking and eating. And whenever we land on a delicious recipe, it normally ends up spreading through the family like wildfire. There are so many dishes in my recipe binder that come from my sisters’ and my Mama’s kitchens (and quite a few from my grandmother who passed away a few years ago).
The sharing of family recipes is how I came into this Cuban Slaw recipe. It originally comes from the kitchen of my sister-in-law, who is a spectacular vegetarian cook (and has the most incredible cookbook collection I’ve ever seen). And she passed it along to my Mama, who told me it was an absolute must try. Slaw recipes tend to be ho-hum, but there is something really incredible about this combination. It’s such a simple recipe, but the flavor is anything but simple.
This slaw works as a side dish, but it really shines when you use it like a condiment. We ate it on top of chipotle-lime chicken thighs, and then the next night on top of burgers. I’d also imagine it would make one heck of a delicious filling for fish tacos (make some and then invite me over, k?). And the next time I make pulled barbecue, I’m going to whip up a batch of this slaw to go on top of the sandwiches.
Of course, I couldn’t exactly follow the recipe from my sister-in-law’s kitchen. I’ve never met a recipe I could follow to a “T”. I did some tweaking to suit our tastes—adding a touch of sweetness to the dressing in the form of honey, and subbing out the white vinegar the recipe calls for for unfiltered apple cider vinegar (which is so delicious and so super-duper good for you). The original recipe also calls for 1-2 jalapeños, and I found that even one seeded jalapeño was a bit too spicy for our mild-loving taste buds. But that’s because we’re totally wimps when it comes to spiciness! I imagine for most folks, 1-2 peppers would be the perfect amount of kick.
I love that this recipe is both oil- and mayo-free. So often slaw is drowning in oily dressing, but this vinegar-based dressing is light and healthy—it really let’s the flavor of the veggies shine through. And it keeps this side dish a light option for the late, crazy hot days of summer.
You could definitely spend some time doctoring up this recipe more, but I recommend trying it straight-up first—you’ll be surprised by how intense and layered the flavors of this slaw are. Just make sure you don’t ignore the chilling time, it’s really important to get the flavors to meld!
I love simple recipes that don’t taste simple. Enjoy!
This super healthy, bright and colorful slaw is both oil- and mayo-free! But it's packed with layered, intense flavor.
- 1 large head red cabbage, shredded
- 1-2 jalapeño peppers, finely minced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
- 1/4 cup finely minced cilantro
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- Toss together the cabbage, jalapeño, carrots and cilantro in a large bowl.
- Whisk together the salt, oregano, vinegar and maple syrup. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture, toss to coat.
- Chill for at least three hours before serving, preferably overnight.
If you and I were to sit down for a cup of coffee this morning, I’d tell you that the idea of a coffee date was actually kinda ironic because I’m not drinking coffee right now. And then I’d probably order some sort of iced herbal tea, because I’m also off of soy and dairy—making pretty much everything on the menu at the coffee shop off-limits. That’s alright, it’s all so my baby girl feels better, so that makes it worth it.
Once we sat down, I’d probably tell you that I’m really struggling with how much of my private life I want public now that I’m a parent. It’s no longer just my life that I’m sharing, it’s this tiny human’s, too. And I feel like my sole purpose is to protect her. Part of me wants to shut out the whole world, but the other part of me wants to spread around all this immense joy I feel everyday. It feels like too much happiness to keep to myself. Especially considering the state of the world.
You’d probably ask if the baby was sleeping through the night yet (because that seems to be the question everyone wants answered), and I’d probably give a hearty chuckle, because our sleeping arrangements are decidedly unorthodox.
I’d confess that since we’re dealing with a baby with severe reflux, we haven’t let her sleep without one of us awake nearby since she was diagnosed six weeks ago. Which means we split the night up into two shifts—Craig takes from 8pm-3am (with him waking me up once for her to eat), and I take from 3am-10am. The irony of this situation is even though both of us sleep on strange schedules, we’re actually both getting more sleep than most parents of newborns. I haven’t felt sleep-deprived since the first week we were home.
So no, she isn’t sleeping through the night, but we’re cool with that.
Then, I’d tell you how it was a blessing-in-disguise that Craig was laid off from him job during paternity leave. I know it’s unfashionable to talk about money, but I’d admit to you that it’s taken some financial rearranging to deal with the sudden loss of work. And then I’d tell you that even though it’s been hard, it’s probably the single best thing that’s ever happened to us, because it means we both get to be home with our baby girl. Silver linings and all that stuff.
We’d talk about how I’ve re-watched both Friday Night Lights and The West Wing during my late-night nursing sessions over the past two months. And now I’ve moved onto re-watching Gossip Girl. If you’re a mother, I’d probably ask for your reassurance that I’m not totally ruining my child’s brain by watching TV while she sleeps on my chest.
If you were pregnant, you’d probably ask me for some advice, and the biggest piece of advice I’d give you is to throw away all your parenting books. Seriously, don’t read them. Your instincts are the only guide you need. And all those books will do is make you feel guilty when you don’t follow their recommendations exactly. Which you wont. Because every family is different. And no one has ever written a parenting book about your family.
And then I’d ask you if you want a box of baby clothes. Because a new outfit or two gets thrown into the “too small” pile every day.
Since you’re polite and a good conversationalist, you’d probably ask how my work was going. And I’d tell you that I am so happy in my career it isn’t even funny. I’d talk about how miserable I used to be in my job—how I’d cry almost every single day—and how drastically different my life is now. It feels like an entirely different universe. I’m in such a healthier place. And I’m so proud of the work I do. Sure, I still have frustrating days, but that’s life. And overall, I’m so much more fulfilled in what I do.
I’d ask you how your family was doing. And then I’d try really hard not to talk anymore about my baby girl. She’s really all I want to talk about all the time, but I’m not so far removed from being childless that I don’t remember how annoying that can be. I refrain from telling poop or spit-up stories. And try to think of something non-baby related to talk about.
I decide to talk to you about my other baby—our garden. I tell you all about our grandiose plans next year to plant even more space and sell at the farmer’s market. I tell you that Craig and I really want to start a CSA, but are petrified to take the leap because the number of successful farmers out there that make a living wage off their farm is pretty much right around zero.
I’d then tell you how excited I am to spend hour and hours with JuneBug in the garden when she’s a little older. I remember playing in the freshly-tilled soil as a kid, and I can’t wait to give her those same memories.
Whoops. There I go again, talking about the baby.
I’d tell you how I’m starting to get the urge to get back to taking care of myself again. We’d chat a bit about weight loss, and then I’d sheepishly admit to you that I’m intimidated of the weight loss process again. What if it doesn’t work this time? What if I never can get back to feeling healthy? What if I can’t figure out how to fit in fitness and taking care of a kid?
I’d tell you that I’m back up close to my highest weight ever as an adult, and, while it feels totally different this time, it also feels just as insurmountable as it did before. I’d tell you that I miss my old clothes. And I miss my knees not hurting. I’d tell you that is such a strange feeling to be so incredibly proud of this body (it made this beautiful creature, birthed her, and fed her), but at the same time want to change it.
I’d tell you that I tried to workout last week and it was so difficult, I cried. But it also felt so amazing. I’d tell you that it’s going to take some time to get used to this new body—the parts just aren’t all working the same way they used it.
I’d then probably apologize for unloading all my baggage on you. Let’s change the subject.
We’d start talking about the good food we’ve both been eating lately. I’d tell you that I’m totally obsessed with mashed avocado on toast, topped with a few slices of our homegrown tomatoes, salt, pepper and a perfectly-runny poached egg. I’d admit I’ve eaten it at least once a day for pretty much the last month.
I’d tell you that I’ve started to drink beer again (oh, how I missed it), but I’m such a lightweight now that about a 1/4 cup of the stuff gets me good and buzzed. Hey, at least I’m a cheap date.
I’d then tell you about the most perfect (orange!) honeydew melons we grew this year. And then I’d beg you to take one off my hands because we have a million of them sitting on our counter. No matter how delicious, two people can only go through so much melon before it goes bad. In fact, I’d probably hand you a whole bag of produce to take with you before you leave.
Then I’d probably apologize for scratching so much, but I can’t really help it because the lower half of my body is covered in poison ivy—and has been for the past month. You’d ask where I got it, and I’d tell you it was from walking the path to my parents’ house a few times a week. I’d tell you it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out the source and start wearing boots and long pants over instead of flip-flops and shorts. You’d tell me not to scratch. I’d nod my head and then try to covertly scratch between my toes. Because it itches worse than any itch I’ve ever had before.
I’d look up at the clock and realize I spent all of this time together babbling on about my life, without asking you much about yours. I’d promise to be a better listener next time, and then I’d ask that maybe we go for pedicures for our next coffee date, because my toes haven’t been touched since the day before I went into labor. And I’ll try to have something non-baby-related to talk about.
When I was working on pulling together our baby registry, one item that was on all of the must-have lists was a nursing pillow. Being someone who’d never breastfed before, the idea of a nursing pillow confounded me. I mean, after all, women have been nursing babies for long before nursing pillows existed—why did I need one? I was skeptical. And the price of them really made me skeptical. I had a hard time justifying $45 for something that I might never use. Now that I’m two months in to breastfeeding, I can safely say that a nursing pillow might not be an absolute necessity, but it certainly does help make the tough first few weeks of nursing a little bit easier. And it’s really a difficult time, so anything you can do to make go a bit more smoothly is highly recommended.
There are two different common styles of nursing pillows on the market today, and there is no way of really knowing which one is for you until you try it (which is pretty much the story of all baby items). I own both styles. I made this Boppy nursing pillow knock-off back when I was pregnant, and then also ended up purchasing a My Brest Friend (worst name ever) at the recommendation of my lactation consultant.
I definitely used the My Brest Friend the most when I was learning to nurse in the first few weeks. It’s firm and rigid, which helps when you’re trying to awkwardly get a squirmy baby latched on. And because it wraps around your body, you can use it to support the baby’s weight, giving you free hands to help get latched on.
But now that JuneBug and I are old nursing pros, we’re transitioning to being more lax with our nursing sessions—and that includes using the pillow that I made, which admittedly is a ton more comfy for both me and the little girl. This pillow also works as a comfy spot for JuneBug to lounge in. I’ve also heard of a lot of new moms using this pillow as a comfy cushion to sit on during the first few weeks postpartum.
I’m happy I have both pillows, but I’m definitely glad I decided to make my own Boppy instead of buying one. For about $10 worth of materials and an afternoon worth of work, I was able to get my own Boppy knock-off with fabric that I love (the irony of which is now that I’m breastfeeding, I’m off coffee because the caffeine affects JuneBug—this fabric is the closest I get to the stuff).
If I had to pick just one pillow to buy, it’d be the My Brest Friend, but like I said, it’s different for every Mom. I know some mothers who hated the My Brest Friend and swear by the Boppy. And some who hate nursing pillows all together! You really don’t know until you’re in it, and that’s why I think this tutorial is an awesome way to get to test out one style without shelling out tons of cash. I’m so glad I didn’t pay all that money!
To make your own Boppy knock-off, here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 1/3 yard white cotton fabric, washed, dried and ironed
- 1 1/3 yard cover fabric (flannel or minky are both nice and cozy, I just used high-quality cotton), washed, dried and ironed
- 18″ zipper
- Polyfill (about 32 ounces)
- Pins, needles, thread, sewing machine, iron, scissors, etc.
First step is to print out the pattern, cut it out and tape the four pieces together following the diagram.
Once you have it taped together, you’ll have what looks like half of a nursing pillow.
Trace around the edge of the pattern using a marking pen onto the white cotton fabric, making sure the right side of the pattern is lined up with the fold. I just used cheap-o white cotton muslin (the stuff that’s like $1 a yard), but honestly, you could use whatever you want. This is just to make the pillow form to go inside of the case.
You’ll want to cut out two pieces from the white fabric.
Unfold them, and then pin them right-sides together.
Using a straight stitch, sew the two pieces together using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Sew all the way around the case, except leave about six inches open at the top to allow you to turn the case and stuff it. Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and the end to reinforce the seam—you’ll be stuffing this pillow very tight, and you don’t need your seam ripping in the process.
Turn the case inside out and give it a good pressing.
And get to stuffing.
You want to stuff it until it’s very firm. A firm pillow is a good nursing pillow. If you make a floppy, soft pillow, you might as well just use regular bed pillows for nursing. You want it to be so tightly stuffed that you can’t even fit your hand in the case.
It should be so stuffed full that you have a hard time keeping the opening closed.
Once it’s nice and firmly stuffed, fold under the opening seams and pin it closed.
Since the pillow is so firm, you’ll need to hand-stitch this opening closed.
No need to worry about it looking nice—you’ll never see this part of the pillow—just make sure it’s nice and secure. I’d recommend going back and forth over the opening a few times to really secure it.
And your pillow form is done! That wasn’t so hard, now was it?
Set that aside, and start working on your slipcover. Repeat the same process with the pattern and your slipcover fabric. Again, you’ll want to cut two pieces, and make sure to line up the right side of the pattern with the fold of your fabric.
This time, instead of pinning the two pieces together off the bat, we’re going to measure for the zipper first (trust me, you want the zipper for cleaning later).
Place one of the pieces, right-side-down, and center the zipper over top, right-side down. Curve the zipper around the top of the pillow gently, and pin in a few spots, just to get it secured. Using a marking pen, place a mark at the beginning and end of the zipper. Then remove it and the pins from the fabric.
Place the two pieces of fabric, right-sides together, and pin all the way around, leaving open the space for the zipper.
Sew around the cover, using a 1/4″ seam allowance (note, this is 1/4″ less than the pillow form in order for it to be slightly larger, but still use the same pattern). Make sure to leave open the space for the zipper.
Turn the case inside out and give it a good pressing.
To insert the zipper, place it right-sides together with the front layer of the slipcover. Lining up the top of the zipper tape with the top of the fabric of the pillow case. Pin it down, but make sure you only pin through the top strip of zipper tape and through one single layer of the pillow case.
Pin all the way around, working gently to make sure the zipper curves with the curve of the pillow.
Pull off the arm of your sewing machine, and put on a zipper foot (you could do this with a regular foot, but the end result wont be as nice and clean). Open up the cover and place it on the sewing machine, zipper up.
Begin sewing to the right of the zipper teeth—making sure you only have one layer of the pillow case under the needle.
When you have about four inches left of sewing. Stop the machine and unzip the zipper to back behind the presser foot. This is a little difficult to maneuver, but you can get it back there if you’re using a zipper foot. If you’re using a regular foot, you might need to lift the presser foot to get to back there.
Continue sewing to the end of the zipper tape.
Turn the pillow case inside out, and repeat the process with the other side of the pillow. Align the top of the pillow case fabric with the top of the zipper tape—right sides together. And pin, making sure to only pin through the top of the zipper tape and one layer of pillow case fabric
Place the pillow back on the sewing machine—this time, no need to place it over the sewing machine arm—and sew the zipper to the fabric, making sure to stop four inches from the end and unzipping it past the presser foot. Depending on your zipper foot, you might need to reattach it to switch sides of the zipper teeth (I did).
Next, you’ll want to finish your seams since this will be put into the washer pretty frequently. You can use a serger to finish the edges, but I like to use pinking shears. Nice and easy (plus, I don’t own a serger).
Turn it right-side-out, iron it again, and then place the pillow form in the cover and zip it up! All done.
The zipper covered is really nice for easy clean-up, and if you plan on making this for a baby shower gift, I’d actually recommend you make two or three for the mom-to-be.
Just like with the name-brand version, make sure to use caution with this pillow. It’s not meant for babies to sleep in, and make sure you’re always supervising when your baby is in or on the pillow.