Spring Soups to Warm Your Soul

Spring has sprung! Well, on the calendar at least. Mother nature may or may not have gotten the memo. Rainy, cold days plus a desire to stay on track for a healthy summer bod call for healthy comfort food. Enter, soup.

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Annie’s Pick: Caldo Verde aka Portuguese Green Soup

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Don’t be fooled, this is no watery kale snooze. When I was younger, we were stationed in the Azores islands for a few years and this is one of the recipes we brought home. This is a hearty potato-leek soup with added linguisa and winter greens. It’s made to warm you from the inside out when Atlantic Ocean hurricanes come howling across the island and it. is. amazing. It’s also pretty dang healthy if you get good quality sausage, but we won’t dwell on that.

Tip on leeks: Slice before you wash, throw into a bowl of water, swish around and then let sit so the dirt settles, scoop the leeks off the top of the water into a colander, voila! Clean leeks.

  • Linguisa or other spicy sausage, to make non-spicy can use sweet Italian, cut into coins. If thick casing, remove.
  • Olive oil
  • 1 leek sliced and washed
  • 4 Cups Chicken Broth (bone broth is great)
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 1 Bunch Kale shredded into 1/2 – 1 inch strips, thick stems removed
  • Salt and pepper, optional apple cider vinegar and hot sauce

Heat Dutch Oven or other heavy bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Sauté sausage in olive oil until browned, remove and set aside. Add leeks, season with salt and pepper and sauté in rendered fat until soft and beginning to be translucent, then remove and set aside. Add broth to hot oil and use wooden spoon to deglaze all the browned bits. Bring broth to a boil. Add Bay leaves. When boiling, add potato and cook about 10 minutes or until very soft. Add kale and cook 10 more minutes at a simmer. Stir in reserved sausage and leeks. Add salt and pepper to taste. If thinner consistency is desired, can add more broth or a splash of apple cider vinegar. If you want extra spice, add a splash of hot sauce on top. Serve piping hot with garlic toast.

Christiana’s Pick: Vegetarian Bisque

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This soup is creamy, rich, and all of the things a bisque means to me, somehow achieved through the magic combination of roasted vegetables, broth, cream, and (you guessed it) wine. I’ve recently pumped up this soup with added protein by sautéing tofu in an herb-butter sauce that is nothing short of divine. This soup is our go-to comfort food for its hearty nutrition and incredible flexibility. You can really use almost any combination of vegetables here, (basically whatever is left in your fridge) centered around the staple, a sweet butternut squash. And since all the veggies are blended, chopping doesn’t have to be fine or precise. You can also roast all of the vegetables hours (or days) in advance and blend & warm on the day of serving. Easy, peasy, veggie squeezy. 🙂

Tip on Butternut squash:  To easily prep this beastly gourd, simply halve lengthwise and remove seeds. Smother in olive oil, herbs (like herbs de provence), salt, and fresh ground pepper, and roast at 400 until fragrant and lightly browned, about 50 minutes. No hacking and chopping required. Line pan with foil for easy clean-up.

  • 1/2 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Roasting vegetables such as:
    • 1 red pepper
    • 1 zucchini
    • 2 potatoes
    • 1/2 bunch of cauliflower
    • 2-3 carrots
    • 1 onion
    • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 package of tofu, cubed
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 bunch of fresh rosemary and thyme stems (or another dried herb blend such as herbs de Provence, if fresh are unavailable)
  • 3-4 tbsp olive (or other desired) oil for pan and drizzling
  • a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Optional garnishes: a dollop of greek yogurt, fresh herbs, or for the carnivores in your life, crumbled Italian sausage.

Instructions:

Coat a roasting pan or cookie sheet with olive oil and preheat oven to 400 F. Place desired roughly chopped roasting vegetables on prepared pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and fresh herbs. (I don’t bother chopping the herbs at all, the leaves will crumble easily after roasting.) Halve and core butternut squash, smother with olive oil and herbs.IMG_9877 2

Roast vegetables in preheated oven for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through. (Do not flip butternut squash.) While vegetables roast, heat dutch oven or preferred soup pot over medium-high heat and add butter, herbs and tofu. Sautee until tofu is lightly browned, 5-7 minutes.

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Transfer sauteed tofu and any herb-butter remaining in the pot into a blender or food processor, and reserve the pan. (I have found our vitamix works best.) When vegetables have roasted, allow them to cool and crush roasted herb leaves into your mixer, removing stems. Scoop cooled butternut squash into the blender, discarding the skin. Add half and half, vegetable broth, white wine, and crushed red pepper (if desired) to the mixer, and blend with lid insert removed and dishtowel over hole in lid until creamy, adding more liquid as necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the creamy soup back into the dutch oven and warm. Serve hot with your choice of garnish and of course, my homemade herbed bread. Voila!

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Kristy’s Pick: …Flu Fighter Chicken and CousCous Stew

This soup is adapted from a recipe that my neighbor sent to our family when I had a nasty case of a “Flu-Like” virus that had me couch ridden for almost 10 days. This savory, flavor and nutrient dense soup had me back in action before I could say “hand me another tissue”

  • 2-3 TBSP Olive oil
  • 1 Red onion Diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 inch grated ginger root
  • 2 Sprigs Thyme
  • 1 TBSP Turmeric
  • 1 TBSP Kosher Salt
  • 1 TBSP Black Pepper
  • 1 TBSP Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 TBSP Morroccan Spice mix
  • 12 oz bone broth
  • 1 Sweet Potato diced
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, pulled
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower cut in half and sliced into florets
  • 1 cup Large Pearl CousCous
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 bunch kale, torn, large stems removed
  • 1 cup Coconut Milk
  • Cilantro (for garnish)
In a pan over medium heat, add cooking oil and sauté the onion until soft. Add garlic and ginger a cook for one more minute or until fragrant. Add all spices except bay leaf to pan and stir for one minute on medium heat.  Remove pan from heat.
In a crock pot on low, add broth, chicken, couscous, all vegetables (except Kale), bay leaf, salt, pepper and cook on low for 8 hours.
After 8 hours, lift slow cooker lid and stir in kale and coconut milk. Serve with cilantro garnish.

 

group of vegetables near stainless steel cooking bowl
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Warm wishes to you and yours!

Save Our Water Series Volume 3: Filtering out Fluoride

As a mother, I want to ensure that, as much as possible, what my children ingest leads to their best possible health. I am grateful to be part of a community that is knowledgeable about healthy food, sustainable farming practices, and responsible waste practices. I am also hopeful that soon we can go even farther and follow in the footsteps of some countries that are banning GMO foods and many other know toxins from their food markets altogether. But, with all this progress, I’ve still yet to hear much talk amongst mothering groups about what, for me, is a giant elephant in the room.

What about the safety of our drinking water?

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Photo of Painting by Lead Saulnier: The Painting Maniac

It’s fairly common knowledge that water in most American cities is treated with fluoride, chlorine, and other chemicals to keep it “safe.” The Environmental Protection Agency has been in charge of the safety of our water since 1978 (1). Today, the United States has some of the safest water supplies in the world in terms of preventing outbreaks of disease (1). But, let’s take a closer look at what we are adding to our water, and what that means for those of us ingesting it.

Water Processing

So what is really done to “keep our water safe?”  The details become very chem-heavy so, for brevity’s sake, I’ll sum up what is done in most city-treated water (aka not well water).  When water is collected, a chemical is added that has an extra positive ion. That ion bonds with dirt to form sediment that has a higher density (makes it heavier) than the water and can be filtered out via gravity. Then, we add another chemical, usually chlorine (Um…like bleach? Yup….like bleach) to kill any bacteria or parasites that may be lurking. While the idea of drinking bleach water is a little alarming, we also don’t get cholera outbreaks, so that’s good. THEN, we add fluoride, a mineral that exists in nature and is considered safe in small doses.

woman drinking water

The good news there, folks, is that fluoride is a great tooth enamel strengthener, decreasing cavities by up to 25%. The CDC touts water fluoridation as one of the 10 “great public health achievements of the 20th century” due to its “contribution to the large decline in cavities in the United States since the 1960s”. However, they, in the same beat, go on to say that “cavities are still one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood.” They also review all the ways you can get the benefits of fluoride if you don’t live in an area with fluoridated water, like, ahem, brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste that you then spit out. (2)

The Trouble with Fluoride

In 2014, the well respected medical journal, Lancet Neurology published this review of Neurobehavioral effects of developmental toxicity which was completed in a joint endeavor with the National Institutes of Health. They had previously warned about 6 toxins in a 2006 review. In this update, they add six additional developmental neurotoxicants to the list: manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers …..(3).<record scratch>

Hold up, I’m all for the prevention of cavities, but did you say… NEUROTOXICANTS??? 

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Yups. Yes, they did. The scientists concluded that,

Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency.
Industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence. (3)

According to this study published in The Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives in 2012, researchers found that children tested in areas where water fluoride is higher have “significantly lower IQ scores than those who live in low fluoride areas.” (4)

The National Academies Press published this review by the National Research Counsel (NRC) on Fluoride in drinking water in which they discuss research in both human and animal models showing:

  1. Fluoride has a direct effect on the brain’s areas involved in memory. “Recently, the number of receptors for acetylcholine has been found to be reduced in regions of the brain thought to be most important for mental stability and for adequate retrieval of memories.”
  2. Fluoride exposure decreases lipids and phospholipids (which coat the brain cells), phosphohydrolases and phospholipase D, and protein content of the brain. These substances are responsible for neurotransmission, regulation of sugars that the brain uses for energy potentially impairing function.
  3. Fluoride exposure also increases free radicals in the brain (nasty substances that go around damaging cells) in several ways. “These changes have a bearing on the possibility that fluorides act to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

The NRC completed this large scale review in 2006. There was also a Harvard review article published in 2012 in which the author of the study, Philippe Grandjean, concludes, ““Fluoride seems to fit in with lead, mercury, and other poisons that cause chemical brain drain”. (6)

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Holy…..Canoli

But the controversial debate that remains is this: Is preventing cavities worth the mass administration to over 70% of the population with a known neurotoxin (7)? After all, the lethal dose is said to be 5-10G for an adult and 16mg/kg body weight for children (7). The dose in the water is much below that, but the IQ study referenced above strongly suggests a dose-response. Meaning, a lower dose has less negative effect than a higher dose, but still has an effect. The CDC and other large organizations think that small negative effect is worth it.

Not to go totally Erin Brockovich over here, but… I. Ain’t. Buyin’. It. While the CDC celebrates that fluoride was great in the 1960’s, I’m gonna go ahead and ask that someone raise the bar to today’s standards.  I mean, in the 1960’s, cigarettes were also advertised by that same era of physicians. Cigarettes?!

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Photo credit: Cigarettes.Stanford.edu

 It turns out that the original dogma proposed in the 1940s and 1950s that fluoride had to be ingested in childhood to strengthen teeth before they erupt was mistaken. This 2004 review in the journal Caries Research concluded that topical fluoride (like the one you get at the dentist office) is a safer and more effective method than ingesting fluoridated water (8). Other factors also play a large role in cavity risk such as what bacteria grow in your mother’s mouth (9). This 2017 study in Frontiers of Pediatrics concluded that,

The major contributing factors for the for the high prevalence of ECC are improper feeding practices, familial socioeconomic background, lack of parental education, and lack of access to dental care (10).

The final argument proposed is that many people can’t afford to take their children to the dentist for fluoride varnishing or maintain satisfactory dental care at home due to socioeconomic factors. I would argue that it seems like it would be a good idea to ask the parents of those children whether they are more worried about cavities or the increased risk of neurological toxicity before mass public action is taken like fluoridating the whole cities-worth of water.

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Sup, Erin Brockovich….Photo Credit Take Part

While I am picking on fluoride here, the second overarching point is the introduction of more and more chemicals via pesticide and herbicide treatments of irresponsible industrial farming into our water system (See: Volume Two of Save Our Water Series for more on that). While treatment plants do their best to filter and treat it, we have to decide if that is a risk we are willing to take with the information we have gathered about the amounts of these chemicals that exist our food, water sources, and the quality of the air that we breathe.

What to do

Even if it is deemed “safe”, I cannot help but cringe when I’m thirsty and take a sip of water fountain water, or watch my kids drink a mouthful that smells like the pool at the YMCA (you know what I’m talking about). But there’s a simple solution!

If you have city water, there are filtration systems that can be used in your home for ingesting: cooking or drinking. The one I most commonly recommend is the Berkey Water Filtration System. This has fluoride filters, chlorine filters, and the test results of the filters efficacy are posted on the website. One of these filters is good for a family of two to four to provide clean, chemical free, drinking and cooking water for a span of 12,000 gallons. We have been filtering our family’s water this way for nearly 7 years.

1917041.jpgOne of the ways to filter water that has made a buzz in health food stores is reverse osmosis water.  The concept here, is the process takes water with bigger molecules in it, i.e. saltwater or water treated with chemical molecules, and pushes it through a membrane that only fits the water through and not the other molecules.  It’ll filter out any added minerals or heavy metals in your water as well, such as mercury.

Additional options from Pure Water Freedom include a variety of filters that directly hook to your kitchen sink and/or refrigerator, along with reverse osmosis systems. Take a look!

So I have to ask again… should our health goals should be prioritizing a small improvement in prevention of cavities versus the brain health of the citizens?  Just because it isn’t close to the lethal dose, doesn’t mean the dosage in our water supply isn’t still dangerous. Particularly for smaller bodies.

If you’re as passionate about this as my husband and I tend to be, another proactive thing you can do is contact your local state Representative. Voicing our concerns for public health may take a lot of noise, but hopefully the squeaky wheels will get the grease eventually.

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Photo Credit Quick Base Blog
The decision to filter out your water is categorically just that, YOUR decision. If you are drinking city water, however, the decisions are being made FOR YOU, and it was my goal of this post to make you an informed consumer. Choose wisely what you want to do, my friends….but remember that it is your right to be fully informed when you make said choice.

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Kristy is a wife, mother of 2 children, one with no cavities and one with 6 (where were you on that one fluoride?)

 

 

 


References

(1) CDC Drinking Water FAQ https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/
(2)CDC Flouridation Information page https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/basics/index.htm
(3) Philippe Grandjean, Philip J Landrigan. Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity. Lancet Neurol 2014; 13: 330–38.
(4) Choi AL1Sun GZhang YGrandjean P.Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: a systematic review and meta-analysis.  2012 Oct;120(10):1362-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104912. Epub 2012 Jul 20.
(5) Doull, John, et al. FLUORIDE IN DRINKING WATER:A SCIENTIFIC REVIEW OF EPA’S STANDARDS. pages 205-223.
(6) Dwyer, Marge. Impact of fluoride on neurological development in children. Harvard School of Public Health. July 25, 2012
(7)  Hrefna Palsdottir, MS. Fluoride: Good or Bad? Healthline. August 17, 2016
(8) Hellwig E1Lennon AM. Systemic versus topical fluoride 2014 Mar;93(3):238-44. doi: 10.1177/0022034513517713. Epub 2013 Dec 19.
(9) Chaffee BW1Gansky SAWeintraub JAFeatherstone JDRamos-Gomez FJ. Maternal oral bacterial levels predict early childhood caries development.
(10) Anil S1Anand PS2. Early Childhood Caries: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Prevention.  2017 Jul 18;5:157. doi: 10.3389/fped.2017.00157. eCollection 2017.

Respect

Motherhood is full of lessons. Starting with learning to aim your pee at a stick, then how to put on shoes with a basketball belly, how to not get peed on changing a diaper, and how to strap a screaming, squirming toddler into a car seat… it goes on and on. One of the biggest lessons for me by far has been learning to respect my body.

Respect is a positive feeling or action shown towards someone or something considered important, or held in high esteem or regard; it conveys a sense of admiration for good or valuable qualities; and it is also the process of honoring someone by exhibiting care, concern, or consideration for their needs or feelings.  -Wikipedia

Let’s break this down.

A positive feeling towards something held in high regard

Photo credit: Fiona Margo Photography

Your body, as a female, is miraculous. Dudes are cool too, but having ovaries and a uterus means you can GROW A HUMAN. Not all women do it and it certainly does not make you any less phenomenal if you don’t. The possibility and reality of your body as a mother though, is truly astounding.

Lately, I’ve seen so many beautiful stories online of women celebrating their bodies in motherhood. From Katrina Scott of Tone It Up, to Chrissy Teigen, to Bikini Body Mommy, and so many others, stories filled with positivity in celebration of the pregnant, postpartum, and amazing female body are on the rise. And that should truly be the focus of all of us. Not stretch marks, not pregnant cankles, not undereye circles or any of the other criticisms we throw at our poor bodies that work so hard for us. But a freaking cel-e-bration, people.

Hold your body in high regard.

This was a huge area of growth for me. I spent years criticizing every little bit of my poor body. If I was out of shape, I would think negatively about my arms, belly, thighs, or butt practically every time I moved or saw myself. If I was in shape, I would pick on my skin, my nose, my chin, or some other thing. Basically, no matter what I did, my body was never good enough. Becoming a mom, particularly to a little girl, made me realize that is NOT how it should be. Through the lens of motherhood, I finally recognize and appreciate that my body is strong and capable of hard things (like really, really hard things!) and deserves praise, not judgment.

The process of honoring something by exhibiting care for its needs

This was even harder for me. My first pregnancy, I was a resident physician working 80 hours or more a week. I was used to being able to disregard my body’s wants and needs, like, ahem, sleep, food, etc… But then, I was so run down I puked until I needed IV fluids and started having premature contractions. I knew exactly what I would tell my own patients, but it took me sitting in Labor & Delivery triage, watching a monitor show me the effects of my actions, to give myself the same respect.

So then, I had it, right? Nope. Decided to whip my poor postpartum bod into shape after having baby number 2. Went on a crazy diet, worked out like a madwoman and what-do-you-know, my milk supply tanked. I struggled with this, refusing to treat my body with kindness, understanding, and yes, respect. Then, I beat myself up some more about having to give that baby formula too. Guess what, she’s healthy and I eventually, through coaching and kindness and respecting my body’s needs, got into the best shape of my life.

Finally, now, with this third baby, I’m *starting* to get it. I took leave from work when my body needed it in pregnancy. I listened when I needed to change my birth expectations. And today? Today I’m spending the whole dang day resting, drinking tons of water, and nursing my baby because I did a little too much the last 2 days and I’ve learned to listen and treat my body with respect.

Photo credit: Jordan Marie Photography

Moving forward

How can you start to show your body more respect? How can you honor it, show care for its needs?

Step 1: Look yourself in the mirror and say, out loud, “My body is incredible!” Or whatever you want your positive message to be. Not only does this make a difference in how you feel, but we are also teaching our children how to view and treat their own bodies. Setting this intention will guide even your subtle, subconscious actions to show it to them, and the world.

Step 2: Treat your body how you would want a loved one to be treated. For whatever reason, I have to get all 3rd person to figure out what is best for me. My internal drive to just soldier on is not always the best thing. If this is you too, imagine your sister or best friend or even your child telling you how they are feeling. What would you tell them to do? Give yourself the same consideration.

What are ways you all treat your body with care? Tell us in the comments so we can share ideas!

Photo credit: Little Wonders Photography

Dr. Annie is a mama of 3, family doctor and lifelong learner of how to follow my own advice.

 

Life & Littles Podcast!

Exciting news!!!

Our own Dr. Annie is on this week’s episode of Doctor Mommy, MD’s podcast talking about second trimester of pregnancy. The Life & Littles podcast may just be your new favorite listen, friends!

Photo credit Fiona Margo Photography

“Imagine your best friend is a doctor and a mom, what questions would you want to ask her over a glass of wine? What questions would you text her in the middle of the night?” Sound helpful?

Grab a coffee or glass of wine and tune in on iTunes and subscribe to get all the upcoming fun times!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-littles-with-doctor-mommy-md/id1451847392?mt=2&i=1000429939961

You can also find Shelly on Instagram and Facebook @doctormommymd and should check out her gorgeous blog while you’re at it!

Xoxo!

Turn up the heat on your winter fitness routine

January, the quintessential month for fitness and health resolutions, is arguably one of the crappiest times to start a new fitness regimen. The New Year holiday notwithstanding, in much of the United States, January and February often land you right in the heart of winter when outdoor swims are completely out of the question, outdoor running and cycling can you leave you frigid (or on.your.face. – black ice is a thing, y’all), and the motivation to “just get out and walk” can be at an all-time low. Unless of course you live somewhere tropical. In which case we’re not mad, just jealous.

So,  if your are struggling with how to add some variety to your winter routine, how to stay motivated through a cold spell a polar vortex February, or how to propel your New Year’s goals past the winter doldrums (AKA February), you ARE NOT ALONE. And you can do it! We are here to tell you, wholeheartedly to

bundle up, but DO NOT give up!

Between us, we have 10 postpartum fitness recoveries, a marathoner, a couple of cross-fitters, a few yogis, and a personal trainer. Here are our favorite ways to stay on track through winter weather, whatever your fitness level or style.

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Hot Yoga

Don’t let the name scare you. This is nothing different than yoga in your living room except with a fancy heater.  There are now a variety of vinyasa or “flow classes” offered in heated studios as well as the traditional Bikram classes usually done somewhere between 84-110 degrees. Which, this winter feels about as close to a tropical vacation as we’re going to get. Several studios offer a weekly “community class” at reduced rates and offer student/military discounts.  As a former hater, “I sweat enough in regular yoga” I said… I have converted! I urge everyone to just GO. Don’t forget to pre-hydrate well and tell the instructor if you’re a beginner. Plus based on a 2018 Texas State University study, doing hot yoga can significantly lower body fat.* Which sounds on point for any New Year’s health resolution if I do say so myself. Take that, February.

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Spinning

No icy trails to hold you back, and all the calories to burn. Spinning is particularly great because you can pace yourself, and control resistance yourself, BUT still have the benefit of trying to beat everyone else in the room. (Wait, is that just us?) Spinning is an intense cardio session that will leave your heart rate high, your motivation soaring, and pretty much guaranteed… your T-shirt soaked. No snow days for spin bikes.

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Photo Credit: Sweat by Kayla Itsines

App based Circuit workouts

With great equipment-free workouts literally in the palm of your hand, your winter excuses run out. Lucky for you, there are several outstanding fitness apps that provide killer circuit routines with full equipment work-outs for the gym OR with zero equipment necessary for at-home use (Read: In your living room lunging with a child on your shoulders. Yea, it works.) A few of our favorite apps are featured in our Best Fitness App post, and lately we’re digging Kayla Itsine’s Sweat App and the free Daily Cardio App as well.  If you don’t want to subscribe to an app to do this training at home, let it be known that we fully support kitchen cardio-dance parties. (Cocktail, optional.)

three woman in assorted color sport bras holding and watching their smartphones

Phone a friend

Winter weather is much less likely to dissuade us if we know there is a friend holding us accountable for a missed workout. Ideally, we should all show up for ourselves. But especially when you are trying to set a new routine or if you know you have a tendency to sell yourself short, have a friend hold you accountable! Meet a friend at the gym or just ask someone to help hold you to your schedule by texting you to pony up when you say you will. You can also get this in a major way through class accountability. Crossfit, as one of many examples, has daily scheduled classes that help create friendships, workout buddies, and before you know it BAM….you have your accountability texts right there.

So get out there and get your fitness goals on… the cold need not bother you, anyway!

Sources

*Effects of yoga interventions practised in heated and thermoneutral conditions on endothelium-dependent vasodilatation: The Bikram yoga heart study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29349832

 

b8fd0f48-abdd-41a9-9b27-0b537b307a55We are moms to 10 kids, marathon runners, yogis, spinners, cross-fitters, gym-buddies, and kitchen dance party enthusiasts that believe fitness should always be a part of your life, even if it is -7 degrees.  And even if you dance with a cocktail.

We are Real As A M*ther.

Strong Women Series: Tackling Addiction with Compassion

Every day, millions of lives are touched by the disease of addiction. Whether personally, or through the eyes of family members or dear friends, many of us have watched and hoped while those we love fight their battle with addiction. According to the Surgeon General’s 2016 report, Facing Addiction in America, one in seven Americans will experience a problem with alcohol or drug abuse in their lifetimes, approximately 20 million Americans have current substance use disorders, and 78 Americans are dying from overdose every day.  Addiction knows no boundaries, and touches all walks of life and socioeconomic statuses, from celebrity to poverty.

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Introducing Mary Page Shinholser

It is through this lens, that I am proud to introduce an amazing woman that I most definitely look up to, despite being almost 9 years older than her.  I first came to know Mary Page Shinholser through Crossfit, about a year ago, and found the more I got to know her, the more I admired her. I had only heard bits and pieces of her story, but I always found her energy positive and relatable.

One of the many reasons Mary Page is a hero to me is because she clearly answered a call from the universe to help, and teaches from her own personal experiences with addiction and empowers people to reclaim their world from its clutches.  Another is that she follows this call inexhaustibly, never failing to touch people and remind them that they are NOT ALONE. Ever.

In her words…

Here is Mary Page Shinholser’s story, in her own words:

Hello blog world! I’m here to tell you a little about me, what I do in the addiction and recovery field, and why it matters.

My experience in this world is long and personal. I have lost count of the funerals I have been to of those who have overdosed or had an addiction-related death. Some of the most amazing people in my life are in recovery. My father, step mother, three uncles, both grandfathers, a few good friends, two cousins, and a former boyfriend all are in recovery from Substance Use Disorders (SUD). They are kind, hard working, and compassionate people that as a child, I looked forward to spending the evenings with, either at Narcotics Anonymous meetings after school in a basement church, at cookouts, campouts, or holiday parties. I used to write some of my parent’s friends letters while they were in jail.  

MP and Dad
Me and my Father

I was always proud of the world I grew up in. I had a fantastic childhood. I vividly remember my very first drug talk at the age of seven, and my first drug test. Drug tests were kept on top of our fridge, and my first one was administered at the age of 12. I knew no different, in fact I was shocked to find out that most other kids didn’t grow up the way I did.

The first time I experienced the stigma attached to the disease of addiction (yes, disease, I’ll touch on that a bit later), was in middle school. I wanted to have a sleep over and my friend’s parents wouldn’t let her come over to my house because, she said “my mom said no because your dad is a drug addict.” I didn’t understand, and my little broken heart said “my dad is NOT a drug addict. He’s in NA, he is clean, and has been clean since before I was born! HE WORKED THE STEPS!” I was distraught. I cried, a lot. I guess that is where the educator in me was first born. 

Fast forward 15 years. I’m teaching 8th grade civics and economics and loving it. When I was told by the county that I wouldn’t have a job the following school year, I was absolutely crushed. Here I was, finally loving what I do and I was damn good at it. I had a 94% SOL passing rate, (do you know how hard that is to achieve with middle schoolers obsessed with Instagram and Fortnite?) I was coaching Track and Field, and I was making a difference. 

Throughout this period in my life, the opioid epidemic was at an all time high, and it really pissed me off. I heard this little voice in the back of my head saying, “Mary Page. DO. SOMETHING.” Well, the universe heard me. Soon after that, I had a recruiter reach out to me on LinkedIn and asked me, “Have you ever thought about teaching people about addiction and recovery?”

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Me with my Dad and Stepmom

“Well, Hell YEAH!” I thought, and a few interviews later, I received an offer that I just could not refuse. I landed a Community Relations role with a treatment center that truly is on a mission to provide the best high-level treatment and care in the field. #winningforeveryone

My job is to travel around the state of Virginia, let people know who I am, who we are, what we do, and how we do it. I get to talk to people in probation and parole, inmates, counselors, doctors, lawyers, politicians, school counselors, and beyond. I not only get to teach people about treatment, but I also get to give people hope. I get to tell people they’re not alone. I get to give people a first, second, third, or fourth chance at a better life. Most importantly, however, I get to educate people into getting the right treatment options for them. And if we are not right for them, I point them in the direction of the best fit for their recovery.

What is SUD?

SUD is categorized and defined as a disorder and mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association and is listed in the most recent version of the DSM-5. There are three subclassifications (mild, moderate, and severe) that fall into four major categories: impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria.

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Photo Credit The Recovery Research Institute

Addiction is not a one size fits all disease. There is no single treatment that works for everyone who walks through our doors. There is no chemotherapy, blood transfusion, surgery, or transplant that can cure it. It is pure hard work. Tackling recovery, whether it’s your first time or your twentieth, is majorly hard. It is emotional and it is raw.

In a way, I have found my purpose in life through this new role I am in. I want to educate people not only on addiction, but also on mental illness in general. There are so many diseases and disorders out there that people know nothing about, but cast judgement upon it, which makes it so much harder for people to reach out and get the help they need. If I can reach one small group of people, or even just one person, and let them know, “Hey, I see you. I will help you. I love you, and you are not nor will you ever be alone. I will fight with you and I will fight for you,” then I can sleep soundly at night.  

I want to end this post with two things. First, if you or anyone you know are struggling or even showing small signs of SUD, reach out and ask for help. It is out there and it is closer than you think. Second, be kind and be compassionate.

The human race has mastered the art of covering things up with a smile. You never know when you’ll be faced with SUD head on, but I can guarantee you this; this community is strong, this community is welcoming, and this community is filled with fighters.

I will say it again, so you can hear it. You are Not Alone.

Feeling Inspired?

Big thanks to Mary Page for telling her inspiring story! For more resources and further reading on SUD and addiction, check out the Surgeon General’s full report on Addiction in America, or this fantastic TED talk by Johann Hari. And please, pay your knowledge and compassion forward. Share the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website and free confidential helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) with those you love. The SAMHSA offers 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Let’s commit to saying it loud, together: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Stay tuned, because Mary Page has an awesome Podcast launching later this month entitled “Ment”. It will primarily focus on mental and behavioral health issues that fly under the radar. People who have suffered from these disorders will be given a platform to share their stories, how they reached a point to seek recovery, and how their recovery is thriving. The hope behind this new endeavor for Mary Page is to pay recovery forward. To allow people to know that you are “Ment” to be right where you are in your journey.  You can look for more updates as they come on our Real As A Mother social media sites.

 

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Kristy is a birth doula, massage therapist, homesteader, mother of two, and supporter of strong women in Virginia.

 

 

Balls of Energy

I’ve gotten a few requests for more specific recipes for the energy bites from our How to Spoil A New Mama post, so here are 2 faves, adapted from this Family Circle article. These are a good project to do with younger kids if you’re looking for activities but also come together super fast, no bake, lickity split if you make them by yourself 😉

Cocoa-nut Almond

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Photo Credit: Family Circle

In a large bowl, mix together:

  • 2/3 C Chunky Almond Butter
  • 1/2 C dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 C organic old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 C shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 C cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbs maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

When dough comes together (it takes a bit of work to get it all mashed up – it shouldn’t be too sticky or fall apart, add a little extra cocoa if too sticky, or extra maple syrup if won’t come together), refrigerate covered for 30 minutes. Form into 1 TBS sized balls and roll in more shredded coconut. Makes ~20.

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Photo Credit: Better Almond Butter

If you want to upgrade this one, try making it with Better Almond Butter, toasted version. This awesome small-batch almond butter is organic, non-GMO and uses sprouted almonds which takes out the enzymes that make it hard to fully absorb all the nutrients from almonds. Plus it’s freaking delicious! Not an ad, just a personal recommendation.

Very Berry

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Photo Credit: Family Circle

In ziplock bag, crush 3/4 C freeze-dried raspberries

In large bowl, mix:

  • 1/3 of the crushed raspberries
  • 2/3 C Cashew butter
  • 1/4 C chopped roasted cashews
  • 2/3 C organic old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 C white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 C apple-juice sweetened dried cranberries
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt

When dough comes together (again, it takes a bit of work to get it all mashed up – add a little extra raspberry if too sticky, or extra honey if won’t come together), refrigerate covered for 30 minutes. Form into 1 TBS sized balls and roll in the remaining raspberry. Makes ~20.

Happy snacking!

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Dr. Annie is a mom of 3 and constant snacker in California.