My pregnancy mantra: Happiness is healthy

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IMG_0049My pregnancy mantra: Happiness is healthy

by Aly Simons

In May, we found out we were pregnant with our first. Since then I have been bombarded with advice about things I am now “supposed to eat” or “not supposed to eat” because I am pregnant. Many newly pregnant women are torn between the enlightenment offered by the vast amounts of information available, and the fear of what eating a slice of deli meat or soft cheese will do to their unborn child.

Of course, I do not want to do anything that will hurt the development of my baby. Actually the reverse: I want to create an environment where my baby can grow strong. I know that unless I make a conscious decision about state of mind, I could easily become anxiety-ridden, which could harm the baby. I have that sort of personality.

I grew up with an outlook that was very black or white, I struggled to find balance. During this pregnancy, I have committed to maintaining balance. In my attempt to do this, I remind myself of the Be Better motto: Happiness is Healthy. I need to focus on my mental health in addition to my physical health.

Therefore, I have sort of created a mantra in my head:

Educate yourself, and don’t be an idiot. Don’t eat/drink stuff you know will seriously hurt the baby. But at the same time, don’t obsess about everything you could do that could “possibly” hurt the baby.

Eat healthy, but allow yourself treats.

Try to continue your active lifestyle (especially when you are free of morning sickness), but allow yourself rest.

And stop pretending like you actually have control, when the reality is that you have so little control right now.

Now, back to the “educate yourself” part of the mantra. Very early on my doctor told me I needed to start taking prenatal vitamins. Some doctors even recommend taking them while you are trying to conceive. In addition to your standard prenatal vitamins, most doctors recommend taking an additional omega-3 fatty acid vitamin called DHA.

IMG_0057The supplement I take is Spectrum Prenatal DHA: For Pregnant or Nursing Mothers. Although most of the time DHA is found in fish, this supplement is made of algal oil.

The back of the bottle says:

A non-fish DHA solution for expecting and nursing mothers. Naturally found in the brain and eye, clinical research shows DHA supports a baby’s brain and vision development. *Doctors recommend expectant mothers take DHA. This unique non-fish DHA formula provides 200 mg of this vital nutrient, while avoiding risk of ocean-borne contaminants sometimes found in fish oils.

IMG_0051In addition to taking my omega-3 supplement this week, I have noticed products in the stores highlighting the benefits of omega-3. While shopping at Trader Joe’s this week, I saw a new product on the shelf called Super Seed Blend with Cranberry & Coconut Chips. It has chia seeds, buckwheat, and shelled hemp seed. In two tablespoons, you get five grams of fiber and one gram of omega-3 fatty acid ALA. According to WebMD, ALA is also known as alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds. I have been sprinkling this seed blend on cereal, in smoothies and on yogurt. Honestly, it is delicious.

I am grateful for this week’s #bebetter52 challenge, because it made me dig deeper into why taking my prenatal supplements is so important. It’s fascinating how impactful omega-3 fatty acids are on brain development, vision, depression and even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Keep it up, Be Better. Let’s continue to consume omega-3s this week.

Spoil Yourself #bebetter52

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Spoil Yourself #bebetter52Spoil Yourseself #bebetter52

Eleanor Brownn, an accomplished author, once said: “Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”

We can’t agree more. Often when stress levels rise, self-care declines – an unfortunate cycle that affects all facets of an individual’s life.

Practicing self-care may seem like an obvious step toward improving mental and physical health. But sometimes it takes a reminder or even permission from an outsider for us to feel OK about taking time for ourselves.  Self-care is not a selfish act; rather, it is necessary for survival.

We want to remind you of that with this week’s Be Better Challenge, which is to set aside an hour (or more if you can) to spoil yourself. Take time this week to do something you want to do, instead of doing something you should or need to do. You’re worth it. By routinely practicing self-care, you let yourself know that you are important.

Practically speaking, it would be silly not to indulge in a little (or a lot of!) self-care, considering the numerous health benefits that go along with spoiling yourself. These benefits include – but are not limited to – stress reduction, lasting feelings of happiness and well-being, lower blood pressure, boosted immunity, improved circulation, and the ability to take better care of others.

Potential ways to pamper yourself this week include:

  • Taking a hot bath before bed
  • Getting your nails done
  • Taking that dance class you’ve been meaning to make time for
  • Getting a massage
  • Treating yourself to your favorite meal
  • Finally purchasing that handbag that you’ve been eyeing for months
  • Enjoying a night out with friends, a significant other, or simply by yourself

For more ideas, look at these articles on Parent.com and Parentables.howstuffworks.com.

21 ways to spoil yourself silly

137 Ways to Pamper Yourself, Lift Your Spirits, or Recharge Your Life

 

Regardless of what self-care activity you choose, enjoy the moment and remind yourself how much you truly deserve this.

Spoil yourself to Be Better.

Drink Water #bebetter52

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IMG_7384Drink Water#Bebetter52

This week’s 52 Week Be Better Challenge is to drink the proper amount of water for your body using a reusable water bottle. How much water do you need to stay properly hydrated depends on your height and weight, your activity level, and the climate where you live. Aim to drink one-half to one ounce of water daily for every pound that you weigh. If you weigh 140 pounds, for example, look to drink 70-140 ounces of water each day. If you are active and live somewhere warm, aim for the higher end of your calculated range. Before you get started use this hydration calculator to figure out how much water you should be drinking.

The benefits of staying hydrated are endless: enhanced mood; greater concentration, memory and alertness; energized muscles; better digestion and kidney function; clearer skin; congestion relief; improved cardiovascular health; and the list goes on. Even better is the fact that you can start reaping all of these benefits now – no need to stop what you’re doing and run to the grocery store for this “super food.” Grab a glass (or a reusable bottle if you’re on the go), fill it to the top with filtered water, and you’re all set. By the end of the day, you just might impress yourself knowing how many times you refilled it!

 

Keep in mind, though, that your body can only metabolize 12 ounces of water at a time, so it’s best to spread out your consumption over the course of a day. To stay hydrated all day long, experts recommend drinking a glass of water:

When you wake up – to rid your body of toxins, and help you feel more energized and ready to take on the day

Before you eat – to reduce overeating, and activate digestive enzymes and bile production

Before and after you exercise – to replace what you lost through sweat, and to keep your muscles hydrated and energized

Before you go to bed – to help with detoxification, and reduce your risk of stroke or heart attack

 

IMG_7390As part of this week’s challenge, commit to using a reusable water bottle to reduce waste. According to reuseit.com, 480,000 tons of plastic bottles and jars were thrown away in one year (2008). This is a problem because “ten percent of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean. 70% of which finds its way to the ocean floor, where it will likely never degrade.”

Here is a great list of reusable water bottles by Real Simple. One that is not on the list is the new and trending Hyrdo Flask, which keeps ice water cold for three days and water hot for 24 hours.

Some of our favorite water-drinking tips can be found in the article “Water & 20 Tips For Getting Your 8 Glasses Daily”

-While at work, get a 20-ounce cup of ice and keep filling it from the office water cooler. The key is drinking with a straw — you take bigger gulps and drink much more.

 

-Freeze little bits of peeled lemons, limes, and oranges, and use them in place of ice cubes. It’s refreshing and helps get in a serving or two of fruit.

-Substitute a cup of hot water with a drop of honey or lemon for tea or coffee.

-When you have juice (apple, grape or orange), fill half the glass with water.

 

Drink water this week!

Cheers, and happy hydrating!

 

 

 

Aly's Angle: Herbal Tea

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IMG_7249Aly's Angle: Herbal Tea I have traveled around the world, and enjoying a cup of tea seems to be a tradition across cultural boundaries. In Kenya they drink chai tea, in Peru coca tea (which is illegal in the U.S.), and in Europe they drink their tea in fancy cafes. Whenever I return from my travels, I envision a life where I wake up early and enjoy a hot cup of tea before I start the day. This week, every morning I did exactly that for the #bebetter52 challenge.

Due to religious reasons, I am limited to herbal teas (yes, I am Mormon), and have always felt that my herbal tea options were limited. It wasn't until recently that I realized, it isn't the caffeine, it is the leaf Camellia sinensis which makes up black, green and white tea. Any tea that does not include this leaf is considered herbal. So now I am super excited about trying different combinations of herbal tea. My friend recently introduced me to a caffeinated herbal tea called yerba maté. This feels almost "life changing," because sometimes it’s just nice to have a little caffeine in my bloodstream. Without the option of coffee and tea, I was limited to soda, which I knew wasn't healthy. So this week I have been drinking yerba maté, which doesn't make me feel jittery or make me crash hard after I drink it.

Image-1My younger sister Maddie kick-started my interest in learning more about herbal teas. She totally inspired me this Christmas because she gave me an adorable glass jar full of loose leaf tea meant to help with fertility. Yes, my husband and I want to have a baby. It wasn’t just the adorable support my sister gave my "baby making" goal, but also that she was so thoughtful about giving a gift that was good for my health and incredibly creative. In addition to the gift she gave me the "Mr. Tea Infuser," which looks like a man chilling out in a hot tub. But instead he is a tea bag propped at the side of a hot cup of tea.

 

 

It was perfect timing because a week before this challenge I was visiting my family in the Northwest. Maddie took me to The Herb Shoppe in Portland. This was my first time in a loose leaf herb shop, and now I am obsessed. The shop has shelves full of tea combinations to heal dozen, or maybe hundreds, of ailments. So after thoughtful consideration, I bought two bags of tea for $5 each. One is for head cold relief and the other is for morning sickness for the future. I am scared to death of morning sickness and, based on my sisters’ experience, there’s a genetic tendency. Now, hopefully, I am prepared.

 

IMG_7250I hope everyone enjoyed this week’s Be Better challenge to drink herbal tea in the morning. For me it was the exact amount of push I needed to fulfill my dream about coming home from my travels and waking up early to enjoy tea in the morning.

 

Aly's Angle on Sleep

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Aly’s Angle on sleep

I am a good sleeper. I am the type of person who can fall asleep midday for anything from a power nap to a two-hour nap and wake up feeling energized. I have theories as to why I developed this impressive nap ability, but that’s for another day. Let’s just say it allows to me to truly relax my anxious mind. If I try to read, mediate or do yoga, I feel uneasy because I think I should be doing something “more productive.”   I guess the nap feels productive to me.

This week’s Be Better Challenge is to sleep. While I pride myself on my ability to sleep, during busy weeks I find it hard to fall asleep because I am worried about my list of to do’s or excited about the direction of the Be Better Movement. When my husband and I get really into a Netflix series, which we tend to watch right before bed, my mind wanders, trying to figure out the plot line. Sometimes those plots enter my dreams, where I get chased by terrorists, make meth in the middle of deserts or try to solve White House political scandals. Can you guess the television series we have been watching?

IMG_6959So this week I have made a very deliberate effort to turn off all electronics before bed because the Be Better challenge is to get seven to eight hours of sleep, plus give yourself an “electronic curfew.” The seven to eight hours of sleep has been relatively easy, but it has been at the cost of waking up early for my morning routine.  I had set a goal with my husband to try to go to bed before 10 p.m. every night so I could get up at 6 a.m. and start my morning routine. But this has been a super busy Be Better work week, which has made it hard to disconnect and go to bed. I have been on phone calls, listening to podcasts and writing emails late into the night. Regardless, this week I made it a rule that once I get into bed, I do not touch my phone. I don’t scroll facebook, I don’t respond to emails, and I don’t text.

I like the feeling of excluding my phone from our bed.  For my whole life I have valued my bed as a special place. No food or dogs allowed, sheets need to be clean, etc. So I don’t know how my phone snuck in without me even realizing how distracting it is. This week I am grateful for the challenge to set an “electronic curfew.” Not only to prepare me for sleep, but to replace the time wasted on my phone with more productive nighttime routines, such as baths, listening to music and journaling.