Monday, June 20, 2016

Salad Day!

   Last week I had my postpartum check-up with my midwife. All was deemed healthy and normal, so I'm cleared to get back to "normal" life. That means no pregnancy or postpartum restrictions, and back to that journey I started last May- the one I wrote about in Whip It Good. If you haven't read that post, do it. For lots of reasons. That journey: to lose 75 pounds.
   As I wrote in the post linked above, the last now three years have been rough for me: A very difficult pregnancy and delivery with my fourth child, a summer and fall spent apart from my husband as he moved to VA before us which left me in NY with 4 children including a preschooler with still profound special needs and a newborn with health issues, a cross-country move to Virginia, followed by a very stressful adjustment period, an unexpected pregnancy, the loss of our son, a bad car accident involving my husband in which he sustained permanent spinal injuries, and several months of Postpartum Depression and PTSD on top of grief as I dealt with it all. My vice was food, and a lot of it. I eat healthy 98% of the time, but I eat more than I should. I eat my feelings. So almost exactly one year ago, I decided to really be conscious of it all and make the necessary changes to lose the weight that was making me unhealthy. I was successful for 2 months, then the same thing that always happens when I start diligently improving my health with diet and exercise: I got pregnant.
 Isn't he scrumptious? I was meticulous with my diet during pregnancy, but my body did not handle the pregnancy well and while I usually gain 20-25 lbs during pregnancy, I gained 35. I blamed it on my age. 32 is the new 55, y'all.  Thankfully, once my hormones began to come into balance again in the first weeks postpartum and for the first time my baby and I didn't have nursing issues, the pounds came off quickly, so here I am at 8 weeks postpartum with only 8 more pounds to go to my pre-pregnancy weight. I am so thankful. But that still leaves me with 70 lbs from right here, right now, to get to my healthy goal- a weight that for many is a lot, but for me I know to be the point at which I am a healthy, happy, 5'11" size 12. I feel good there. Don't say it. I hear it all the time. 'How can you possibly have 70 lbs to lose?!' I'm am apple shape so I have tiny-thin arms, muscular shoulders and calves, and the rest of me hides it well, I guess.
   So how am I going to lose 70 lbs while breastfeeding for at least another year? Every woman's body is different. Some women need to eat calories to produce calories. Some women can eat whatever they want and as long as they're breastfeeding the pounds melt away. Most women are somewhere in the middle of those. I've been all of them. With my first two babies, the pounds melted off, but something happened when #2 weaned himself. My metabolism crashed, and I gained 15 lbs in a month. FIFTEEN! My knees felt the gain, and I soon found myself at an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation. Her recommendation: An anti-inflammatory while I got my diet under control to lose the weight and take the strain off my knees. She wrote a prescription for Naproxen and a referral to a nutritionist. After two months of careful monitoring, meticulously writing down everything that went in my mouth and weekly appointments for weigh-in's and discussing intake, we discovered that my thyroid function was still in the 'normal' range, but at the very bottom, and in order to maintain weight- Not loose, just not gain any more- I was having to restrict to 1200 calories per day. It was rough. Lucky for me, I lost a few pounds and- Yep, you guessed it- got pregnant again. Something about pregnancy boosted my metabolism again so I only gained 22 lbs, but had a very healthy 9-pound baby girl. The problem, though: I lost 10 lbs the day she was born, then didn't lose another ounce no matter how I tried. The summer before she turned two, she weaned and I was so grateful to be able to bust my rear and work on the poundage without having to be mindful of milk supply. I started again food journaling, and for the first time in 3 years got back to running. I lost 15 lbs in 2 months, and just as I was celebrating being 2 lbs under pre-pregnancy weight again- Yep. #4. It seems my body senses it's shrinking and decides to get pregnant out of self-preservation or something. 
   Back to now. Three keys to healthy weight loss while breastfeeding for me(it's not going to be the same for every body):
Water. So. Much. Water. I have three 32-ounce jumbo mugs(and one 32-ounce water bottle for when I leave the house), ad I choose one for the day, every day, that I keep filled with water. I aim to drink at least 5 of them. That's at least 160 ounces of water every day. On days I garden or exercise a lot so I sweat extra, I drink at least one extra.
Food Journal. I have found for a decade now that I am far more mindful of what I am eating when I write it down. A simple little notebook, and write down everything I eat or drink when they go down the hatch. Not only does it help me notice habits I could improve after the fact when I look over my day or week, but it helps me say no to temptation many times because I don't want to write it down. If I eat this right now, I'm going to have to put on paper that I had a bowl of ice cream. My day looks so good so far. Do I really want to admit to reality that I ate this bowl of ice cream while the kids were napping? It's the small sense of accountability, not counting the calories or grams of fat, but just to write exactly what I ate and drank throughout the day that helps acknowledge and break the habits.
Cowboy Caviar
Setting myself up for success. That's where the title of this post comes in. As a breastfeeding mom, I'm a snacker. I can eat a good, protein-filled meal, but if the baby is nursing a lot that day I could very well be legitimately hungry in two hours. Sure, we keep fruit on the counter and veggies in the fridge, but sometimes I don't want another apple or carrot. Instead, I keep things rich in protein and healthy fats readily available. I scoop out of the bag 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds or roasted, unsalted cashews, or open the fridge and scoop 1 cup of a protein-packed salad out of a bowl. Each of these options are under 200 calories, and really high in nutrients of all kinds, including the much-needed proteins and fats for breastfeeding.
   Cowboy Caviar is a family favorite refrigerator salad. This is a great, basic recipe, but we modify it to our likes. I use just one whole pepper(Because I'm lazy and frugal, and who wants three partial peppers sitting in the fridge, that's why), and leave out the jalapeno so it's toddler and sensory kid friendly.  It's great by itself, on top of a bed of salad greens, inside tacos or burritos, on top of nachos- really a lot of different ways to use it, and a fantastic picnic dish that lends itself to doubling and tripling to feed bigger crowds.
Avocado Salad
   Avocado Salad is one of my all-time favorite salads. Avocado is just, well, perfect for nursing moms. Healthy fats, tons of nutrients, and so yummy. It's one of my favorite things to add to meal train meals, because it's pretty mild and likable, and great for new moms just establishing their milk supplies. I like to tone down the onion flavor by using a sweet onion like Vidalia when it's for other people(or when I forget to buy red onions. Like this time.), because you never know whose baby is going to decide milk + onions = cry fest.
Spicy Greens and Quinoa Salad
   Spicy Greens and Quinoa Salad is a new one to my list. I just discovered this a few weeks ago when I was trying to find a way to use up some odds and ends in my fridge before the CSA pick-up the next day. When I first read the recipe I thought, "Um, quinoa, hot sauce, and maple syrup? This is either going to be disgusting or genius. Much to my pleasure, it was genius!!!!! Seriously, I thought this would be gross, but I had everything for it and I was in a 'What the heck- why not?' kind of mood. Before you get scared by the title- It's not super spicy. I used Frank's Red Hot(the ONLY hot sauce of native Central New Yorkers ) and it was barely a tingle in my throat. I actually added more on my plate because I wanted more spice. I've made this with kale, as well as with tatsoi(a milder, more tender hearty green in the chard, kale, etc, family) from our CSA box, and it was delicious that way as well. I also double the garlic because.... Um, hello? Who uses one clove of garlic in ANYTHING?! No one that's married to an Italian, anyway.
   Carrot Top and Chickpea Salad is another new addition to my lineup this spring. Our CSA has given me so many new things to work with and try, and this has by far been my favorite way to use the green on the gorgeous, plump carrots we receive. Mine usually ends up with more carrot greens than the 1 cup the recipe calls for, because I just chop-chop-chop the whole leafy section, and if it's not enough to double it I leave it.
   And there you have it. Four of our favorite summer salads I like to keep in the fridge to be quick and easy sides for the whole family at any meal, but also help me as a nursing mom keep my snack attacks healthy, wholesome, and good for my supply. I spent an hour in the kitchen this morning, rocking the Rock-N-Play with my foot as I stood at the cutting board, settling arguments and handing out snacks and water to bickering kids, and made all four of these to last me through the week. And now I'm hungry again.

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