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Avoiding Mealtime Battles With a Toddler

 Posted by on September 19, 2016 at 07:00
Sep 192016


Mealtime is a big deal in our house. Well, at least for my toddler. If he isn’t fed at 8 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. on the dot, his world comes to an end. I’m not quite sure how such a tiny human can have this much emotion about food, but mine does. And every meal brings a new adventure in parenting. Will he finger paint with his ketchup? Will he feed his chicken nuggets to the dog? Is it a pancake or a waffle morning? Will he wear a milk mustache, or a yogurt beard? Or will he eat all of his food, even using his utensils, and then ask for seconds?

On this particular evening, it’s 5:26 p.m., post-daycare, and he’s already pretty angry that his dinner is late. Mind you, he’s just about two years old. Tonight I decided to get creative and make him breakfast quesadillas (so easy, just a one-egg omelet sandwiched between a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and flour tortillas on either side) with a side of mild salsa, a sippy cup of whole milk, and a veggie pouch to sneak in some extra greens. At this point I’m more excited about his meal than he is, and I proudly set it down on his high chair and exclaim, “It’s dinnertime, baby!”

He stares at his plate, then back at me. He sticks his finger in the salsa and swirls it around a bit, then looks at me with a half laugh, half smile. Next, he takes his whole hand and slaps the salsa, sending pieces of tomato all over the kitchen. He completely ignores the quesadillas and doesn’t even look at his veggie pouch. I already know what direction this meal is going in.

Fortunately, before I can feel completely defeated, I collect my cool and remember the following tips and tricks I’ve picked up during my tenure as a first-time mommy. Some ideas are from a toddler nutrition class I took when my son first started eating solid foods, others are from friends, and most I just learned along the way.

Eat with him. Like many adults I know, my toddler doesn’t like to eat alone. He prefers eating together, and I don’t blame him. He almost always eats better when we sit down at the table as a family. Some days this isn’t always possible (like pretty much every breakfast as we’re all scrambling to get out the door for work and daycare), but we make a point to at least time our dinners so that we can all eat together. Bonus points if everyone is eating the same food!

Be creative. Offer a healthy selection and variety of food. We try not to overload his plate with too many carbs or similar colors. In fact, don’t overload his plate, period! Smaller portions fare better with toddlers, and it’s good practice to start with less and let them ask for more. It also saves you the headache of throwing out good food that becomes inedible after taking a dunk in applesauce (or salsa). To get creative, serve food in different ways. For example, tonight my toddler wouldn’t eat his quesadilla in little triangles. Instead, I cut it up into smaller pieces and gave him a fork so he could stab it and dip it in his salsa. Winning!

Be patient. Staying positive is key when training our mini-mes to become good, healthy, confident eaters. Never associate mealtime with negative feelings, forcing your child to eat, or punishment. Even when I’m the one who wants to flip his plate upside down during a mealtime tantrum, I do my best to stay on point and gently coax him to “eat up, it’s yummy!” If he isn’t hungry, he isn’t hungry. It’s not the end of the world!

Listen to and look for his cues. Some days they’ll eat everything in sight, other days they won’t take a bite. The child nutrition class I attended explained that this is normal and expected. At this young age, the whole of what a toddler eats in a week is more important than what a toddler eats in a day. You know your child best, so watch his or her cues for when they’re telling you they are hungry or full. This is the ultimate mealtime tantrum saver.

Don’t give up. Don’t let one meal, several meals, or even a week’s worth of disappointing toddler meal times get you down. Toddlers can be fussy, fickle and are really just trying to figure this whole “eating” thing out. Keep trying new foods, keep your cool, and stay positive. Soon your little one will be tantrum-free and enjoying new foods and the wonderful family time that happens around the table!

How to Get Your Family to Go for Healthy Holiday Recipes

 Posted by on December 23, 2014 at 16:51
Dec 232014


My sweet little family has a stereotypical Texas palate — burgers, brisket, sausage, bacon and butter. Every holiday meal has a giant, greased-up bird or beast surrounded by five desserts and every casserole dish from grandma’s, mama’s and my kitchen, and they’re all full of something loaded in either sugar, fat or both.

Every year, everyone asks the same question, “Why did we make so much food?” This is the mystery of the universe — unsolved to this day.

But, after the military moved me away from home, and back again, the holidays are a little different for me. While I was out of the barbeque capital for three years, I gave up red meat, I learned to cut way back on sugar and fat without sacrificing the foods and flavors I really love and I realized the difference between a full dinner plate and a portion size.

Getting selective about food was easy for me, it is all my kids know and my husband is a supporter as long as I occasionally buy him a brisket and let him eat the occasional bag of fast food without a guilt trip. But, introducing my healthy changes to my extended family has been a struggle — mostly because it happens so infrequently, like only around the holidays. You know the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” No, Dad, I’m not calling you an old dog; I’m just saying that it’s tough to change when you’re facing off against holiday tradition…and grandma. HolidayRecipesKS2

But, I promise you, it can be done! You can cut an entire stick of butter or shortening out of a recipe, you can make simple lower fat choices and you can cut way down on that holiday sugar rush (and crash) by taking it easy on the sprinkle cookies (ahem, Santa).

Unlike grandma’s super-secret pie recipe, I’m sharing my secrets to a healthier holiday with you, and sending you into the kitchen equipped with the tools to turn your biggest critics into believers:

  1. Start small, but start somewhere. If your family is a long, traditional line of indulgers, you don’t want to send them into a holiday panic. For example, swapping the holiday spread for a green salad or the cookies for celery sticks could cause your kinfolk to turn on you. Take it slow — remember you’re working against recipes that go back for generations. Use great-great-grandma’s recipe, but sub equal parts of unsweetened applesauce for some of the butter or use whole grain rolls instead of the basic white dinner roll. Even small changes can make big differences.
  2. Go undercover. Shh — bring it in real close now. You know your family will like the flavorful, healthy makeover you found of one of their favorite dishes. They just don’t know that you know that they’ll like it…or something. Anyway, the point is. You can be a little sneaky. The only way I can get my husband to eat butternut squash is by mixing a puree into my homemade macaroni and cheese. Sneak in the healthy stuff, and just sit back and listen to them rave about your cooking. Your secret is safe with me.
  3. Come clean. Once you’re sure your family loves your healthy alternative recipe, spill the beans — not literally, I could see how that could be confusing when we’re talking about food. You have to eventually tell them about the secret ingredients, though, so that they are no longer afraid of the healthy. Keeping them in the dark forever will only keep them closed off from healthy changes.
  4. Accept constructive criticism. You are introducing new healthy alternatives with the expectation that your family will embrace change. You have to be willing to do the same. If you make something that was a major flop, admit it. If you made a healthy substitution that completely ruined the flavor or consistency, head back to the drawing board. Eventually, you’ll strike a balance that will keep you and your family satisfied and ready to accept a new holiday recipe into the fold.HolidayRecipesKS3

Letter to My Younger Self

 Posted by on November 17, 2014 at 10:40
Nov 172014

I recently had a lot of time to kill in a dermatology waiting room – I’m talking a solid hour and a half. I’ve waited in shorter lines to meet celebrities, like Nicholas Sparks and Santa Claus. In that time, I studied the



faces around me and concluded that I was, without a doubt, the youngest person there (with the exception of a little girl around the age of 4, but she was just tagging along with her grandma).

You never want to be the youngest patient in line for biopsies on a Wednesday afternoon. I was furious with myself because my own poor choices and naïve attitude landed me there.

There isn’t much from my past I regret. I believe that the lessons I learned made me who I am, as corny as that sounds. My mistakes taught me well, and without them, my life might have turned out very differently.

I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t confess the handful of things I would take back. And though a letter to my younger self won’t help me much right now unless someone has the cell number of Doc Brown and one time-traveling DeLorean, I’ll put my lessons learned the hard way out there for my kids, your kids and maybe even you:

  1. Your skin is perfect the way it is. I spent my adolescence covered in oil and baking in lounge chairs and tanning beds. I wasted hours and dollars on tans that faded in a week. My payout is becoming a regular at the dermatologist and undergoing biopsies and surgeries before the age of 30. I’ll never have “just a freckle” again. You don’t need a tan, and you definitely don’t need skin cancer.
  2. Credit cards are for building credit, not destroying it. Those credit card companies saw me coming a mile away. I was happily charging food, gas, plane tickets and shopping sprees in college without really grasping how long I’d be paying them back. I earned a bachelor’s degree and an ugly stack of credit card statements. The accomplishment of paying them off was incredibly rewarding, but I’d easily trade that for trashing them before they did any damage.
  3. Time moves fast enough without wishing it away. First, I do support short-term time rushing. For example, “I wish it was Friday,” is an acceptable statement Monday-Thursday. Beyond that, you’ll always miss something after you move on from it. I miss kindergarten naptime, a time when my only responsibility was homework and the days before my kids learned to crawl (even though they’re still pretty cool now). You’ll never realize it at the time, but exactly where you are right now is a pretty amazing place to be.
  4. You are good enough. I was always shy. I was a perfectionist afraid of sounding stupid or saying the wrong thing. As much as my parents told me how beautiful and brilliant I was, I felt like they kind of had to say that. It took someone like my husband and a few good friends to make me realize that I have important things to say and ideas worth sharing. True, I do say incredibly stupid things sometimes, but it feels great to throw out an idea that is praised. You’ll be recognized and remembered for the things you say and the chances you take, not the other way around.
  5. Silence and ignorance are not the same thing. To amend number four, you don’t have to agree with bad ideas or mean comments. Sometimes you don’t have to speak. You can watch, observe and assess the situation without lifting a finger or speaking a word. Sometimes the easiest way to look smart or spare someone’s feelings or your own reputation is to keep your mouth shut.
  6. Honesty is the best policy, especially with yourself. Don’t embellish or exaggerate to fit in or impress people. The truth always comes out, and you will look foolish – case closed. Don’t bother lying to yourself either because you’re smart enough to see through it. Do yourself a favor and trust your gut. Or your mom – as a mom now, I can say that listening to your mother is the only other viable option.

So, there you have it. Six tips from me to you. Do with them what you will, but I hope that at least one piece of advice resonates with you. I’d hate for you to look back on the day you read this blog and think, “Man, I wish I would have listened to that brilliant, eloquent blogger on Military OneSource.”


Apr 252014


Blogger Biography: Rochel is an active, creative recent college graduate and mom to two wonderful kids. She stays active running (literally) around her wonderful neighborhood and in local races with her friends, the Half-Momathoners (just for fun). She allows the creative juices to flow baking with her kids, being crafty and doing photography. The accomplishment of graduating college was a dream come true and she looks forward to a career in health and wellness. She has been a military wife for 17 years to an amazing husband. He is currently serving in Afghanistan.

As I write this, there is the chatter of my son and his friends playing a board game just 50 feet away, while my daughter and her friend record a mock news report on the computer. I pause and think of the words health and wellness and how important they are to me in my life right now.

We are at the beginning of a six-month deployment; my husband is away in Afghanistan. Health and wellness are not only a personal priority, but are necessary to get me going in the morning and a gentle reminder of how to successfully balance the upcoming months. Like many military families, this is a common story line, so I do not make my life out to be epic or unique, but rather to embrace this life and give a virtual hug to those balancing a similar situation. I do not have any magic tricks either (although I’d love to learn one for doing the laundry), but I feel comfortable in sharing what works in our life.

First, stay active. Moving somehow, someway, everyday… even if it’s dancing while vacuuming or throwing the football around outside with friends. For me, running is my therapy. I run by myself and with a group of friends, and even on the harshest days, I know I will feel better afterward, so I get dressed in my gear and head out the door. Being active also means making good choices about what you put into your body. It takes a little more effort to actively choose the healthier foods, but it is so worth it in the end.

Second, get involved. Getting involved in your community can be such a rewarding feeling. This is not something I have been very good about, but I am now looking for opportunities that will allow my children to feel a connection to people outside their usual interactions. We recently participated in Fanquest- a program that cheers on Special Olympics athletes. We did not know any of the players, and yet my kids cheered like it was the Super Bowl. The wonderful feelings from that night lingered for days.

Third, find something good in your day. When you mull on the things that went wrong in the day, you will easily feel overwhelmed, and that mental frustration can affect your physical well-being. Instead of asking my kids, “How was school?” I ask “Tell me three good things that happened at school today.” The answers are more active and mindful, usually generating more conversation.

Regardless of where you may currently stand in your own health and wellness, you have the opportunity to make better and more mindful choices for you and your family. Be glad in the life you live and rejoice and appreciate the fact that you have the capability to be active in your health and wellness.

Guest Blog: How NOT to Be a Health Risk

 Posted by on March 31, 2014 at 16:34
Mar 312014

GuestBlogger-VictoriaEBlogger Biography: Victoria  is new to military life. She’s a Georgia Southern University graduate and a public relations enthusiast who works as a social media editor for small businesses. When she has free time, Victoria volunteers at the USO center to support other military service members.

I woke up. Hot and sweaty. Coughing. With a headache. No warning — I had the flu. During my four days of misery in bed, I started thinking about the bigger picture. I realized that I had been selfish to not get the flu shot. I should have been more careful. More responsible.

Currently, my significant other is in Undergraduate Combat Systems Officer Training, a rigorous nine-week training school. He goes to work, comes home to study, goes to bed and then does it all over again the next day. If he were to get sick, it would immensely affect his career. The bigger picture: our lives.

I made a promise to myself while I dismally ate my tomato soup. I would do everything in my power to keep us healthy!

Get the flu shot. I have always been skeptical of the flu shot. I have heard a number of horror stories about people having bad reactions or getting sick as a result of getting vaccinated. The reality is my spouse is required to get the flu shot, so shouldn’t I? Also, I’m around other spouses who are pregnant or have little ones. I don’t want to risk their lives.

Carry hand sanitizer in your purse. I go to the gym, the grocery store, out for coffee, to bars, restaurants and the movie theater. Thousands of people touch doors, counters, shopping carts and chairs. All it takes is one sick person to make me sick.

Get more vitamin C and vitamin D. Vitamin C serves as an antioxidant, so the nutrient can help prevent colds. I plan on getting my vitamin C by eating more fruits and veggies. Vitamin D helps sustain the immune system. I plan on spending more of my afternoons at the park, walking my dog or sitting by a window.

Sleep more. Every night, I tell myself that I need to go to bed by 10 p.m. Before I know it, it’s already 11:15 p.m. I wake up the next day wishing that I went to bed earlier. I’m going to get ready for bed at 9:45 p.m. every night. I will.

Work up a sweat. Exercise helps the immune system stay strong. It’s actually helped me kick a couple colds. I vow to work out at least four days a week. No excuses.
There’s a little something that everyone can do to decrease his or her chances of getting sick. It’s important to create healthy habits such as washing your hands regularly, avoiding touching your face and staying away from sick people.

I haven’t been taking it as seriously as I should. I never had to. But now, we have so much to lose, and I don’t want to be responsible for risking our livelihood and ultimately, his dream.

Don’t be a health risk.


Sticking to Your Resolutions

 Posted by on March 14, 2014 at 16:52
Mar 142014


In November of 2013, I decided on my New Year’s resolution for 2014; I was going to run a half-marathon. Because I was a little ahead of the game, I set my sights on a race in the middle of February. Game on.

I don’t claim to be a runner by any means. Find proof here and here. You might even say, despite the time I’ve been spending getting to know running over the last year, I was still skeptical that it had good intentions. I started to look forward to my jogs – as a mom of two, it was the only time I really had to myself to hear nothing but 150 beats per minute of music that wasn’t sung by cartoon characters. I felt alive up until mile five or so, and then I had a strong feeling that running was going to be the death of me. Blisters, runner’s knee, chapped lips, mud splatters all over my coordinating jogging outfit and a runny nose (that’s what I get for starting my training in late November) all became painfully obvious around mile five or six when the runner’s high gave way to fatigue.

Week after week, though, I kept at it. Even over the holidays, I ran in freezing rain, 30 mph winds straight out of the arctic and into my face. I was up to running nearly nine miles at a time and was starting to feel like I was, in fact, a runner despite my last ditch effort to avoid that at all costs. I was motivated…

…right up until the day I was physically and mentally ready to register for my half-marathon. I knew my body could make it 13.1 miles and I was ready to commit. Imagine the look of shock and disappointment on my face when I read that my race, my half-marathon, my Everest that I’d worked so hard to conquer was cancelled.

Who does that? How does one just cancel a half-marathon?

As you might imagine, I hit my plateau right around the New Year when everyone else in the world is out pounding the pavement making this the year they get in shape. I’d spent the last two months pushing my body to the max physically and mentally and my adrenaline fizzled quickly with that cancelation.

I went nearly two weeks without a good run. My relationship with running was rocky at best and I felt betrayed by it – like dumped the morning of the prom betrayed. But competition drives me, and after watching my husband join the other motivated joggers in the city, I was finally shamed into getting back into it. Message received, universe. I’m back at it now, but I’m still fighting to stay motivated. My times are slower and distances shorter, but I’m still getting after it.

I’m hanging onto my half-marathon goal, but checking it off of my bucket list will have to wait until later in the year – which still counts because 2014 has 12 whole months.

I’ve realized through this whole situation that setbacks happen. Sometimes they’re our fault and sometimes they’re out of our control. Either way, when we face them, we have to decide whether they’re going to stop us in our tracks or be a hurdle we overcome. Twelve months is a long time, and if you’re discouraged now, step away for a minute and come back to your goal in a couple of weeks. I’m keeping up my usual exercise regimen, but I’m not pushing too hard right now. I’m giving my body time to recuperate and then I’m getting back at it – probably not at warp speed like my first trial run.

When you truly care about your resolution, it becomes bigger than a promise you made to a room full of people at 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day; it’s a promise to yourself. Make the decision not to quit on yourself. Push toward something that seemed impossible last year – I certainly never envisioned myself running 13.1 consecutive miles on purpose, let alone paying to do it.

Starting a New Diet

 Posted by on February 12, 2014 at 15:30
Feb 122014


This year, it turns out I am a “resolutioner.” You know, that lovely term given to anyone that starts a new diet or workout plan in January regardless of whether it is actually for a resolution, or in my case, just the timing that it all happened. Is this the first diet I have ever started? No. Will it be my last? Probably not. However, I prefer the more modern words “lifestyle change” over “diet.” Seems more permanent, doesn’t it? In order to start my most recent lifestyle change, I decided to approach it differently in the hopes that it would actually stick this time. My first step was to find a plan that I could live with. Next, get my husband on board, and finally, execute said lifestyle change.

Picking out a lifestyle change turned out to be a cross between a bunch of different plans out there. The most important thing is knowing yourself and choosing a realistic plan. For me, I know that the Paleo or “caveman” and other similar protein-based diets are not for me because I joke that I am “half a step away” from being a vegetarian. I really do not like red meat or things that once lived in the ocean. To add to the trickiness, I do not like eggs (unless they are in cake or cookies!), cottage cheese, milk or yogurt. It’s OK, you can totally judge me right now. With a lot of research and help from a nutrition savvy friend, I was able to formulate a solid plan. Next up? Convincing my husband.

I am married to THAT guy. The one that eats whatever he wants and never gains weight. THAT guy that suggests popcorn covered in butter for the movie, or hey what about some ice cream while we watch TV? I knew I had to get him on board with my lifestyle change and make it OUR lifestyle change in order to be successful. I have the willpower of a 3-year-old if there are cookies involved, so I need my husband to not suggest we grab them at the grocery store. Fortunately, my husband is very agreeable. He was kind enough to compromise on us incorporating “Meatless Monday” into our menu planning a while ago. However, he gets nervous when I mention lifestyle change because the man likes his beef and seafood. The first question out of his mouth is always “It’s not only chicken right?” Followed by “I am not giving up steak or crab legs.” I can of course compromise to that! Even if it sometimes means we are making two meals to keep everyone appeased!

Plan in place, husband on board, time to execute! Before we started, I went through our refrigerator and pantry and made sure it was clear of “trigger” foods for me.  This type A girl then made a meal plan for the first few weeks to keep me organized. The plan that I am working on now requires a lot of preplanning our meals with fresh, carefully measured out ingredients. In order to be successful, I got reusable containers to use JUST for our plan. That way I am motivated and not stuck on what I need to do or claiming that I don’t have the tools needed to be successful. My goal is to make this as “no brainer” as possible. This includes a LOT of time prepping in the kitchen at the start of the week to make sure we are successful. I know that this is an adjustment and it will take time.

Even with all the prep, there will be roadblocks and real life challenges that may derail you. I am no exception. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just escape to an island for two weeks while we get our new diet down to a science and detox all of our previously bad habits? I know I am not the only one that this happens to, but have you noticed that the very week you start a new diet you get invited to calorie laden lunches, over indulgent dinners or the dreaded party full of delectable treats? I have found being upfront and honest for invitations is best. If it is a casual lunch with a friend, I suggest that we do a sack lunch picnic instead. If it is a can’t miss dinner, I load up on an “approved” meal or snack beforehand and stay strong by enlisting the help of dinner partners.

As I am still a newbie on this adventure, I know that I will fail (Totally admitting that I relentlessly attacked a piece of chocolate cake on day five! Four heavenly bites and the craving was satisfied.). I know it will take time to get our lifestyle change right and get to a place where it is just second nature with no preplanning and measuring required. Until then, this resolutioner is going to do her best and beat the odds!

Making Health a Holiday Tradition

 Posted by on December 17, 2013 at 15:49
Dec 172013


The word “tradition” gets tacked onto holiday festivities year after year because – well – it’s tradition. We dump two sticks of butter and some marshmallows into a perfectly simple bowl of mashed sweet potatoes – or candied yams, another tradition alert – in order to make them taste just like mom’s sweet potatoes. We take our plates – which we shamelessly wiped clean of crumbs and brown gravy with our last bite of dinner roll – back for seconds because it’s tradition to stuff ourselves during big holiday feasts. And, then, we unbutton that top button on our pants that fit fine just minutes earlier to lounge around groaning and watching football (or holiday parades for those of you who don’t know the difference between a first and fourth down) until we doze off because that’s just the American way.

At the risk of raising eyebrows during this season of indulging, you are allowed to make a healthier version of the sweet potatoes. You can exercise restraint when faced with five dozen varieties of holiday cookies. You can remove mayonnaise-based “salads” from your holiday spread, and – stick with me on the last one – you CAN move around before and after holiday dinners instead of taking up residence on the couch or in front of the pumpkin pie.

I know what you’re thinking, “You’re crazy, Kristi. You obviously don’t know my family, Kristi.” And you’d be right. Wait – only on the second accusation. Anyway, I do know my family, and I feel like we’re a fairly traditional bunch. So much so that when my brother and parents came to visit me one holiday season while my husband was deployed, I tried to substitute ground turkey breast in my favorite chili recipe. I felt it was an easy trade and that my steak-loving family wouldn’t know the difference. My brother took one bite, asked what the heck I was trying to do to him and then asked to borrow my car so he could drive to the fried chicken place to pick up some dinner. I offered to make the same dish the following year, and my dad respectfully said that he and my mom would just eat at the airport before I picked them up.

Changing the way you eat is no picnic – especially when you try to justify it to the people who raised you and think they know you better than you know yourself, but you can make a few healthy decisions and swaps that can keep family traditions alive and well, and keep you from getting booted to the kids’ table or uninvited to that yummy cookie exchange. And, who knows, maybe your healthy – or at least, healthier – suggestions will encourage some new traditions.

A healthy holiday doesn’t have to mean drastic changes; try one or a few of the following to “healthify” your family’s holiday celebrations:

Make some substitutions when preparing some of the traditional holiday recipes. One of my favorite substitutions is unsweetened applesauce in place of butter, oil or eggs in sweeter dishes, like holiday cookies and quick breads. It also works beautifully in my family’s tried and true sweet potato soufflé. Non-fat Greek yogurt is another simple solution for ingredients like mayonnaise, cream cheese or sour cream. Both applesauce and Greek yogurt are equal substitutions.

Balance your plate. I’m not insisting you perform circus tricks at the family table; balance your plate nutritionally speaking. According to, half of your plate should be reserved for fruits and vegetables – bonus points for any fruits and veggies not slathered in gravy, creamy sauces or covered in sugar.

Skip your second helping and have small portions of leftovers instead. Sometimes the leftovers are better than the dinner itself – just throwing that out there.

Get active before or after dinner. Sign up for a holiday race, take a brisk walk with your family or head to the backyard for a little family football game.

Give yourself a break. If you live a healthy lifestyle 364 other days out of the year, understand that indulging one day won’t undo all of your hard work. You have waited all year for these dishes and treats, so you should enjoy them! As long as you’re responsible with your portion size you should have nothing to worry about!

Make the holidays about family, not food. True story, you don’t have to eat a crumb to be thankful for what you have or enjoy the company you’re in, which is what holidays are all about. Whether you’re celebrating with family you haven’t seen in years, a few close relatives or your military family, make the focus of your holidays about enjoying the company of people special to you.

As this year winds down, remember how much we all have to be thankful for. Enjoy your family, friends, great food and a little fun and fitness. Happy Holidays!

Oct 172013

Blogger Biography: Betsy is a proud Navy wife, busy mother of three young children and a happy writer. She is grateful for the adventures and friendships she has enjoyed during her 12 years as a military spouse. No matter how stressful, unexpected and plain old crazy life can be, she is happy to say that she honestly wouldn’t change a thing.

After having three kids in four years, I was not skinny. I am fully proud of the fact that my body grew three teeny tiny babies into hefty and healthy newborns in nine months. I am fully amazed that my body nourished them for another six months outside of my belly. I am also fully aware that my body was used and abused for nearly four years.

I’m not even really talking about the stretch marks and saggy skin thing here. Don’t get me wrong, they definitely added to my soft, doughy form. But I’m really talking about years of not getting a full night’s sleep, hormones raging up, down and all around, baby blues and post-partum depression battling in my brain. I’m talking about being so tired that going to the gym rarely won over a quick nap and being so nauseous that lying still on the couch was the best I could muster. I’m talking about macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, frozen waffles, those silly and oh-so-bland-yet-oh-so-addicting rice puffs being my nutrition for four years. I was not skinny.

When my husband came home from work and told me we got orders to Southern California, one thought popped into my mind: Holy cow, I need to get skinny!!! Don’t get me wrong, I knew well before we had those orders in hand that I needed to get back in shape and take some control over my body; the move to SoCal was just the motivation I needed. So, within a week of our PCS, I joined a local gym and signed up with a personal trainer. I thought all I wanted was to get skinny.

We were in California for two months before my husband headed out on a four-month deployment. In those two months, I worked out consistently with my trainer and saw some great results. I told my husband that I was going to keep working with my trainer through his deployment since the workouts would not only get me skinny, but they would also be my stress reliever and a break from the kids (thank goodness for gyms with great childcare, especially during deployment)!

The day after my husband left on deployment, my trainer brought in boxing gloves and pads. Let me tell you, there is no better workout on the first day of deployment than punching and kicking to your heart’s content. Twice during his cruise, the Navy announced the deployment would be extended. The four-month cruise became a 7 ½ month-er. I texted my trainer when I found out about each extension, and the very next day she brought back the punching bags and gloves. I’m fairly certain those gloves had an even mix of sweat and tears soaked into them.

I met with my trainer every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. I literally worked my backside off. We took measurements, so I could tell you exactly how many inches I worked off back there. Through the months, we charted my weight and measurements and I was definitely getting skinnier. I remember standing in front of the mirror and thinking, “I haven’t looked like this in years!” For a while, my focus was on my body getting smaller.

Over the next few months, my trainer concocted some of the craziest, most torturous workouts I could ever imagine. No, I actually never could have imagined doing these workouts. There were burpees everywhere, plank holds, box jumps, mountain climbers, wall balls, walking lunges, balancing on bosu balls, and on and on. But little by little, and sometimes not-so-little, I got stronger. I could do more burpees, jump up onto the higher box, throw a heavier wall ball and hold a plank for a minute longer. The achievements were awesome. I would leave the gym feeling proud of myself and stronger than ever.

Somewhere around the five-month mark, we had just finished taking measurements and I didn’t even write them down. I was too busy thinking about the day’s upcoming workout. I realized I was starting to care less about the way I looked and being skinny and more about what my body could do and how strong I was getting. Instead of sending my husband a photo of me in a pair of jeans I hadn’t worn in years, I started sending him videos of me doing box jumps on the 24-inch box, or mat pushes with the 45-pound plates or the very tiny beginnings of a six-pack. You see, my focus had shifted from my body getting smaller to my body getting stronger.

By the time my husband came home from deployment, I was four dress sizes skinnier, but I didn’t care about that, really. Instead I invited my husband to come to the gym with me so he could see what I could do. He took a training session with me and we had a great sweaty time. I was proud of my new strength and excited about getting even stronger.

Sadly, with the end of deployment came the end of my training sessions. The good news is that my amazing trainer opened her own gym and is totally successful at showing her clients how strong they can be. My husband has been home from deployment for a year already, and in the meantime, I have joined the local Crossfit gym. I am certainly not on my way to any competitions or anything like that, but I am certainly pursuing my new goal of getting stronger, not skinnier.

The Healthy Road to Postpartum Weight Loss

 Posted by on September 29, 2013 at 08:00
Sep 292013


Pregnancy is a beautiful thing; our bodies transform into cozy homes for our growing babies. When it’s over, though, and I’m changing clothes for the umpteenth time in one day because my little bundle of joy spit up on me (again), I’m just wondering why in the world I can’t fit into any of the clothes in my closet.

Getting our pre-baby bodies back is a process. We can’t cheat and reach that magic number on the scale overnight. Getting our energy, fitness, waistline and confidence back takes commitment, but I can promise you – as a two-time survivor of a postpartum slim down – the results are well worth the effort.

Before diving into what helped me get back into my skinny jeans, it’s important to mention that you should wait for the all-clear from your doctor before beginning any postpartum exercise. Starting too early can lead to injuries or tearing, which will put you on the bench even longer. Your first weeks postpartum are uninterrupted time to bond with your new baby and your body’s chance to heal. Give yourself a break; you just had a nine-month workout with a sprint to the finish.

In addition, I’m a firm believer that your weight loss goal should focus more on health than a number on a scale. If, after reaching your goal weight, you are finding it difficult to maintain, you may have overshot. Listen to your body and steer clear of anything promising a quick slim down. If you achieve health and fit back into your pre-baby clothes on your own, you’ll be proud and confident, and aren’t those the kind of traits we want our growing babies to see in their moms?

Fueling your body

Drink water. Easy enough, right? You wouldn’t believe how many days I got swamped and forgot to drink water. I now pour myself a glass of water first thing in the morning – even before my coffee…GASP! Water keeps you hydrated, improves your skin and can help you feel full.

Don’t count calories. Aren’t you busy enough already without math homework? Unless your doctor has assigned a specific diet, put your calculators away, ladies. Everything is OK in moderation; I know if I deprive my body of something I really want, like cookies, I will go nuts and eat a dozen in one sitting. If you want a cookie, have a cookie – just resist having the entire batch. Make sure you’re eating a variety of healthy foods – not empty calories – and be mindful of your milk supply if you’re breastfeeding. ChooseMyPlate has some great pointers for nutrition while breastfeeding.

Revamp your recipes. I’ve made many simple switches for my family that cut unnecessary calories and fat while increasing nutrients without sacrificing taste. In baked goods, I use unsweetened applesauce in place of butter, oil and, occasionally, eggs. Non-fat Greek yogurt is a perfect replacement for sour cream, cream cheese or mayonnaise, and it’s packed with protein, which can help you feel fuller longer. We also use whole wheat pastas, brown rice and protein-packed quinoa over white rice and pasta. And we swap a meat entrée for legumes a few times a week – it’s an easy trade in some of our favorites: enchiladas and stuffed peppers. There was only a temporary, minor protest from my “meat and potatoes” hubby.

Physically fit

Perfect your posture. Lingering pregnancy-induced lordosis – the common arch in your low back that causes you to push your tummy out, weak core muscles and carrying a baby around all day can lead to “mommy posture.” Do like mama told you: stand up straight, roll your shoulders back and down, and pull your bellybutton in towards your spine (like you’re sucking in to button your jeans – you know what I’m talking about). Check yourself several times throughout the day, and fix your posture if it’s out of whack. Good posture will get you a flatter stomach sooner since you’re strengthening your core without even breaking a sweat!

Take quality over quantity. If you can do sit-ups all day, you’re either an Olympic athlete or you’re not doing it right. Good form will get you the results you want much faster than just going through the motions.

Exercise according to your schedule. Hit the gym on the way to work, hit the pavement for a run (with your jogging stroller, of course) or hit “play” and work out along with a video. I prefer working out at home – a combination of cardio and strength training five to six days per week for roughly 30 minutes each time – because I can do it anytime I have time: during my kids’ naptime, before they wake up in the morning (don’t ask me how many times that’s actually happened) or after their bedtime.

Modify. Ease your body back into exercise. Push-ups are a great example. You can do a beginner version on your knees, then graduate to a traditional push-up, and when you’re ready, lift one leg off of the ground at a time for a little extra credit.

As with any weight loss goal, anticipate a plateau. I seemed to hang on to that last 10 pounds for weeks, and it was incredibly frustrating. For a little extra motivation, involve your family and friends in your weight loss journey. When they know your goals, they’re less likely to pressure you into that ever-so-small piece of cake.

When you do give yourself the green light for that sliver of cake, let yourself really enjoy it! If you scold yourself the entire time, then what’s the point? If you work hard, don’t beat yourself up for occasionally indulging or skipping a workout when you’re exhausted. You make your choices, and if you’re happy where you are, your good enough is good enough!

All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.