Day 7 of 21 Day Ayurveda Challenge

Happy Transformation Tuesday everyone!

I thought I’d take this opportunity on this most glorious of days of the week and chat about what my 21-day challenge has been like thus far. Spoiler alert: challenging but satisfying.

So what’s been been so hot and cold about it? Well 1st I will say I’m enjoying a book on Ayurveda immensely, have learned a few lessons the hard way and continue to integrate Ayurveda more and more into my days! Here’s the scoop:

1st: Book Review

“The Ayurveda Way: 108 Practices from the World’s Oldest Healing System for Better Sleep, Less Stress, Optimal Digestion and More” by Ananta Ripa Amjera (found here on amazon:

I must say that I quite enjoy this book; it’s composed of 108 short essays around Ayurveda, the hows and the whys without inundating the reader with pages and pages of history. Each essay is short, sweet and to the point with recipes, tips and what not. This makes it easy to keep reading (you know, “oh just one more chapter…” and suddenly it’s after midnight!), these short essays also make it easy to stop and pick up where you left off without having to commit to a 40 or 50 page chunk before you stop reading for a bit.

The essays are divided into groups (Introduction to Ayurveda, food as medicine, spices, beauty, mindful eating, etc.) which makes for a nice progression from start to end. Though I must say that while this is a nice book for someone new to Ayurveda (like myself), it may not be a book you’d want to start with if you had never done any reading on Ayurveda to begin with, or if you are someone who likes to know the particulars of something before you jump in. The information is presented neatly and written with the average reader in mind; you don’t need a English/Sanskrit dictionary next to you the entire time.

The book doesn’t help you find your dosha, discuss what each dosha is, their specific foods/diets/exercises, etc. This is more of an overarching book that discusses things appropriate for everyone. (Though if you are more loosey-goosey than I, you might enjoy a book with over-arching ideas to incorporate into your life before you get to know and integrate things at a more granular level)

All in all, an easy read that I could see myself going back to when I want to get “back to basics” without going through every molecule of Ayurveda.

Pick it up from your local library and give it a read!

2nd: Mistakes Learned

So I’ve definitely made some mistakes already- unknowingly but that’s my own fault! I leaped before I looked!

  • My golden latte guffaw
    • I found a recipe for “golden milk” or a “golden latte” in which you let milk simmer with spices and enjoy warm. The issue I had is when I saw the recipe I thought the ratio of milk to spices looked off but I ignored my gut and didn’t really shop around to find other recipes to check out their ratios. The recipe called for turmeric, cinnamon, a bit of pepper all to be mixed into a big batch of spices in which you would simmer 2 tsps of spice mix into 2 cups of milk. Let me tell you 2 tsps is TOO MUCH! The milk was so bitter from turmeric-overload my mouth went yellow and I had to toss the rink 3 sips in! Save yourself the spices and overly-bitter taste and maybe try a ratio of 1 tsp spice mix to 2 cups milk to start.
  • Mix Master: some foods don’t mix
    • I didn’t realize that some foods shouldn’t be combined with others in order to promote optimal digestion; here I was, putting whatever was on the “approved” pitta food list into my mouth however I pleased. Little did I know that I was too ahead of myself and was mixing cheese with beans when they don’t go! For a nice chart of what to combine and what to avoid I found this site to be helpful:
  • Eating without my mind and other principles I missed
    • So not too far in, I’m making changes, sticking to my food list and found myself ALWAYS hungry! “WTF??” is what I asked myself and when I dug around the internet I came across others who found the same thing! It turns out there were even more principles I was missing. So now I’m following these guidelines and lo and behold! I’m not starving all the time!
      • Eat with awareness (or mindfulness) – I definitely wasn’t doing this. I would stuff my face until I was too full instead of eating until I wasn’t hungry anymore. I was also eating in front of the TV or computer which meant I was distracted the entire meal!
      • Slow down –  nope, I wasn’t doing this either. I’m a champion food-scarfer. If there’s a time-deadline to get a meal down leave it to me to beat the fastest time out there!
      • Chew well – surprise, surprise another principle I wasn’t following. In fact, I now realize I’m more of a “take 3 bites and swallow the meal” kind of gal, which is part and parcel with the fact I wasn’t eating slowly or mindfully!
      • Do not wash your meal down with a drink- another one I’ve been guilty of for year. Eat my meal THEN have a big glass of milk or cold water (both of which are no-no’s in Ayurveda. Icy water and combining milk with meals slows your digestive fire). No wonder I’ve always been such a food-maniac when it comes to mealtime; I’ve been eating all wrong for years (my mother was right…), instead I should enjoy a beverage an hour or so before my meal and then enjoy the meal by itself.
    • All of these things are a hindrance to your digestive fire which, according to what I’ve read, means your body isn’t fully absorbing nutrients from meals. When you don’t digest properly, you don’t absorb the food-goodness which means your body burns through what you’ve eaten more quickly making you hungrier, faster than you should be. Think of it like stoking a fire with gasoline instead of a big block of wood- either way the fire will burn but the fire stoked with gasoline will burn too quickly to keep you warm or cook anything over, while the fire stoked with blocks of wood will burn more consistently and slowly, allowing you to have a source of heat and coals for much longer. (others I’ve read is some sources but not in others to consider are no snacking, eat at consistent times of day and set aside specific and quiet times to eat)

3rd: Integrate the changes slowly – going “all in” when you already have a schedule that a baby wreaks havoc on can be more stress than it’s worth

Now this is one I “got” from day 1- instead of trying to do everything by the book right off the bat, I started by committing one meal a day, the largest meal (lunch) to be 100% pitta-friendly while making changes gradually to breakfast and supper. What I’ve found is as I continue to learn about Ayurveda, how I should be eating and what not, I’m more inclined to continue to integrate more and more of it into daily life. Now my breakfast and lunch are both 100% Ayurvedic-friendly, I find a smaller portion can keep me fuller, longer (which means I spend less time trying to get food into my face which means I’m not distracted by my stomach = more time to either get other things done (like write this post!) or more importantly, have extra quality time to snuggle and talk with my baby!  (nothing like baby smiles to keep my heart full!) This leads me to the next point:

4th: I find myself wanting to incorporate more and more of it; not just the food!

The more I incorporate Ayurveda into my life, the more I want to keep going. It’s not just the food; it really is a whole way of being that is neither dogmatic nor nonsensical. It’s all about balance, what makes sense for you and taking care of yourself so you’re around for the long haul 🙂 I’m being more mindful, slowing down, taking time to enjoy the little things (day to day tasks as well as a little baby!).

I’m even enjoying getting back into yoga with a short-term goal of being able to properly perform Monkey pose (AKA the splits). I’m not there yet but I’m getting there. I’ve got lots and lots more to learn and work into my day beyond the diet-aspect. Getting my groove back with taking care of me is a hard rhythm to get into, especially as a mom where the credo is “kids 1st, moms last” but I think it’s worth-while. Moms who take care of themselves are still great moms!

There you have it folks; the “Coles notes” of what I’ve learned 1/3 into this 21-day challenge. I’m happy with where I’m at and how far I’ve come! (notice that no where in this post do I mention my weight or my measurements? This entire challenge is about taking care of myself and feeling better through eating. I’m not tracking my weight or my measurements- if I lose anything then great!)

Enjoy your Tuesday everyone and we’ll catch up again later this week!

Your Love Shall Know My Boundaries

Welcome friends!

Allow me to set the stage for this week’s post: My husband and I are new parents, bringing our baby home from the hospital. We are tired, worried and find ourselves asking, “Well now what?” as we try to settle in and find a new routine at home. Our phones are lighting up like New Year’s with congratulatory texts from family and friends who are are all asking us the same things…

1- How are you settling in?

2- Do you need anything?

3- When can we come visit?

That last question is the one I should have addressed with some serious authority from day 1- but as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.

Allow me to say right off the bat that I recognize how lucky we are to have such wonderful family and friends who all reached out to us. They offered to bring us food, help out however they could and were so very excited to visit him. Our baby doesn’t know it yet but he’s got a whole tribe of people who love him to the moon and back and that’s a truly magnificent thing for a child. I love how much everyone loves him.

But with all of this love floating around I didn’t stop to set appropriate boundaries for my own health and well-being. I was so excited for our family to come see what we had made and to “ooh” and “ahh” just the way I did non-stop; I didn’t see that I was about to hit a ditch emotionally, mentally and physically, and that would be exacerbated by the flood of people coming to our door.

First I must say there is nothing that can really prepare you for postpartum depression (PPD); you can be made aware of what it is and how it’s affected other moms but nothing I read in blogs, books or heard in prenatal classes adequately prepared me for how it would personally affect me. (or what I needed to get through it).

PPD hit me day 3 of being a mother, while still in the hospital. I was an emotional wreck; we were struggling with breastfeeding (my supply sucked, my baby had great difficult latching/sucking and I was feeling like a failure from the start despite all the support I had from medical staff and my family), I was exhausted and foolishly, I was setting myself up for more meltdowns to come by not trusting my “mama bear” gut and asking for some space for our new family of 3.

So-and-so is wondering when they can come visit? How about tomorrow? Oh, and so-and-so would like to come visit too. What about the so-and-so’s on your side of the family?” my husband asked; we began scheduling people for their visits to see the baby and our calendars quickly filled up with at least 1 visit per day in addition to the scheduled home-visits from the public health nurses.

Mistake 1: I already was not looking forward to this schedule but didn’t say anything to my husband about it. (I consider myself to be an ambivert, or “performing introvert” as I often joke. I’m really great in front of a crowd, public speaking, making conversation on the fly in groups but I prefer to meet with small groups of people and absolutely need uninterrupted down-time away from people to re-charge my batteries at least 3x per week.  What I was doing was scheduling these visits as though I was an energetic extrovert.)

Mistake 2: I also didn’t set time-limits up-front with visitors or communicate to my husband that I was only comfortable with people, regardless of who they were, staying for a maximum amount of time.

Mistake 3: I didn’t set up the expectation with my husband that if I gave a certain cue that it meant I was done having visitors and it wanted him to start to usher people out the door; I needed him to be my “bouncer” to this very private and precious club that was being a new mom.

Mistake 4: I didn’t take my postpartum depression seriously. I treated it like a minor physical wound that just needed time to scab over instead of serious ailment that needed all kinds of TLC. (New moms: if you burst into tears after visitors leave because you are so tired of people you need to say something to your partner and get those boundaries up now!)

To give you an idea of my circumstances here was a typical cycle, repeating non-stop, looked like those 1st couple of weeks:

  • Baby is hungry
    • Spend 30-40min total trying to get my baby to latch
    • spend 30min total nursing once latched
    • spend 30min total pumping (single pump machine)
  • Baby needs burping (10min minimum effort)
  • Baby needs changing (2-4min depending on the contents of the diaper)
  • Baby sleeps for 2 hours
    • meanwhile while baby sleeps….
      • I have a bath to soak my stitches (20min 2-3x a day)
      • Go to the bathroom, eat and drink something prepared (20min)
      • try to sleep for at least hour and half until this cycle starts all over again!

Notice that nowhere in this cycle is me cleaning, cooking, doing laundry or anything remotely non-baby? (MANY MANY MANY THANKS TO MY HUSBAND FOR TAKING CARE OF ALL OF THOSE DOMESTIC TO-DOS!!) Something else of note about this cycle is that the only place where I could make time for visitors was from my bath time, when I would eat/drink/use the washroom or the time I would be sleeping. And going through this cycle non-stop meant that the little time I had to take care of myself was VERY precious to me. When visitors arrived I felt obliged to be present to chat and show off baby which in turn meant while they were visiting I wasn’t taking care of myself.

We had so many people coming in succession that one day (after about two weeks of having visitors coming 10 out of 14 days) I sat on the couch holding the baby, I looked at my husband and started crying. I had enough visitors and now needed serious me-time. Between nursing being such an up-hill battle, feeling like a failure all of the time because of my PPD and supply issues and having almost no time to be alone and rest, I had finally hit that proverbial ditch I mentioned earlier. I broke down and told my husband I was sick of seeing people, I didn’t want any more visitors for a while and if people wanted to visit when I was ready we would have no more that 3 scheduled visits per week. No more. I explained how having all those people coming and going all the time affected me and the lack of rest I was experiencing alongside with the postpartum depression was giving me a run for my money. (I don’t know if he truly understood but he agreed- this was clearly hard on me and I wasn’t getting enough time to take care of myself so visits were off-limits until I said so.)

Following that ban (about 5 days) and the permanent visitor maximum set, not only was I getting more sleep (oh glorious and precious sleep!), but I had more energy and patience to work through my supply issues, helping my son develop a better latch, stronger suck and actually enjoyed being a mom MUCH more than I had before. You know what else happened? My PPD was much more manageable- not entirely gone like magic, but manageable. I didn’t burst into tears when someone left the house. I didn’t feel like such a flop of a mom. I was actually getting some rest fairly consistently!

So looking back on these 4 BIG mistakes what would I have done differently? I would have talked to my husband about what I needed and would start with something like:

1- Tell my husband that this is a HUGE change for me, my body healing, working through PPD which meant no over-crowding of visits and what seems like a reasonable amount of visitors one week may be too much the next. And ask him to communicate that with the people wanting to visit so they know up-front what I need.

2- Communicate that each visit comes with a maximum time limit (45minutes for me) and when the buzzer on my phone goes off I would be taking the baby to our room to nurse/burp/have baby/me time.

3- Decide on a “magic word” or visual cue with my husband so that he knows if I sneeze twice, or ask him to make me a cup of tea or mention the queen of England then regardless of how much time has passed in the visit, I’m about to hit a wall. He would need to steer them out the door in a nice way.

4- Pay attention to how PPD was kicking my butt and be more open/honest with my husband about how it was affecting me instead of having to explain myself through tears to him.

Notice a theme of my “if only’s”? COMMUNICATION!!! I just sat on my feelings, wants and needs until my hand was forced and I broke down. If I could go back I would have set some expectations with my husband around what I needed.

Now I know advice and opinions are like a$$holes- everyone’s got ’em, but hopefully you new mamas can save yourself the trouble I went through. Or if you have already gone through this or something similar, find comfort in knowing you aren’t alone in your experiences.

Take care of yourselves mamas; you are worth it!