Holistic Health & Nutrition When We Need It Most

Jen, it was such a pleasure speaking with you regarding your company, Thrive Hive Wellness and I’m so excited to share a little more about you and what you’re doing to help moms remember the importance, first and foremost, of taking care of themselves

You are such a force in the postpartum world, offering holistic health and nutrition to moms when we need it most. It is so easy to forget about our needs when the focus is naturally shifted to the tiny human we (moms) just created. Tell us a little about how your personal experience led you to this resurgence of career entering the world of nutrition and wellness consulting. 

Thank you Amelia. I’m excited to be able to share my story with the amazing Brooklyn Bump community. 

As with many people in the wellness industry, my decision to pursue a career in holistic health and nutrition was birthed from my own health crisis and search for answers. 

After years of suffering with undiagnosed digestive issues and cystic acne, only to be offered repeated rounds of antibiotics and invasive testing (which never yielded answers), I gave up searching for the cause of my ailments. I was tired of being told “everything was normal” when it clearly wasn’t. After the last specialist offered me a medication for an unrelated disease because the side effect might help my digestive issues, I decided to wave the white flag and accept that I had to live with my uncomfortable symptoms. It wasn’t until I had a miscarriage and a subsequent year of infertility in my late 20s, that I began searching for answers again and looked to alternative medicine. Through my fertility acupuncturist I discovered the root cause of my mysterious digestive and skin issues, which was also the reason for my fertility issues – major hormone and gut imbalance. My high-stress event planning job was the cherry on top of that high cortisol sundae, messaging my body that it was no place for growing a baby and keeping me from ovulating. It was a long path to healing, but I ended up getting pregnant naturally and so began my holistic journey into integrative/alternative medicine, nutrition and the mind-body connection. Those were really challenging times in my life, but they opened my eyes and ignited my passion to help others heal. 

My decision to focus on supporting mothers came a little later when I was 2 kids deep (2 years apart) and physically and mentally depleted. Both children were horrible sleepers so I was running on fumes and trying to manage them and the household stuff without any help. My husband was a hands-on dad, but he had a very demanding job that required long hours and he could only offer to hire someone to support me, which I was resistant to. The subconscious story I told myself was that I chose not to go back to work so I “should” be able to handle it all, right?! I felt tired in my bones and began to feel overwhelmed by every.little.thing. The pile of dishes in the sink felt like climbing Mount Everest….in heels. I was no longer present – I was no longer the spouse, friend, mom or person that I wanted to be. I felt like a shell of my old self and my body was sending smoke signals that it too was breaking down. When I finally hit rock bottom, I had to face (head-on) the subconscious stories keeping me from asking for and getting the help I desperately needed. I had to break through the mom guilt and take care of myself – mind and body. I worked hard to build the skills required to get myself more in alignment and prioritize my own health and happiness.

As a result, I’m super passionate about helping other mothers do the same and avoid having to get to that physically and mentally depleted space. 

You and I spoke about the slippery slope that many of us mothers face, where our self-care and priorities become last and the person we were, no longer mirrors the person we have become. When you meet a mom who is feeling this exact way and comes to you for help, what is the first thing you two work on? 

I like to get to know my client first – what are their goals, the things/activities that bring them joy and find out where the road blocks are that are keeping them from achieving those goals. 

Once I have a general sense of who this mama is, one of the first exercises I do is create a list of Stories I Tell Myself. We all have them… “I’m a procrastinator; I should be doing more for my kids; I have no time to exercise; I have no will power; self-care is selfish….” Whatever your stories are, we all have a subconscious belief system that serves as the foundation for how we see the world and how we make decisions. Very often though, we have self-limiting stories that aren’t necessarily true and are often the very things keeping us feeling stuck and out of alignment with who we are or who we want to be. Once we work through those stories, we are in a better space to achieve our goals and feel more in alignment and more like “ourselves.” 

That’s such a helpful perspective to take and something I personally, don’t acknowledge within myself enough. What advice, process or method do you find is the anchor to getting back to you? 

You have to first start by believing that your health and happiness is a priority, for you and your family. That sounds like a simple thing, but as mothers we’re so used to sacrificing (our bodies, our needs, our ability to use the bathroom by ourselves etc.) that we often lose touch with the fact that being a mother isn’t our whole identity, but rather a piece of who we are. Add to that the generational and societal messaging of what a “good mother” looks like and one can see why it’s hard for mothers to believe that they deserve to be high on their own priority list. 

From there it’s like creating any other lifestyle change, once you get in the habit of carving out time for yourself and setting healthy boundaries, it becomes second nature to do it.

One thing I find particularly helpful is scheduling joy into your calendar. 

The way back to you is doing those things that make you feel more like yourself, those things that get you excited and energize you. As mothers, we are constantly pouring from our cups and so it’s essential for ourselves and our families, that we make sure those cups remain full. 

Nutrition does not always come easily – I know it’s something I struggle with, particularly while pregnant and immediately postpartum. What do you recommend a new, overwhelmed mom focuses on first regarding her diet postpartum when there’s little time to prep, shop and clean? 

Nutrition isn’t one-size-fits all and part of my role as a coach is to work with my client to design a plan that incorporates the foods that they enjoy eating, the nutrients they need to support their bodies to heal and take into consideration their time/scheduling/cooking limitations so that they’re set up for success. 

That said, there are some basic rules that hold true for everyone when it comes to hormone balancing and nourishing the systems in your body that keep you well. Generally I recommend that your plate has 1⁄3 healthy protein, 1⁄3 healthy fat and 1⁄3 healthy carbohydrates. It’s not always going to look perfect, but this is what will help keep your hormones balanced, your adrenals supported and your energy levels optimal. I also have my clients focus on getting as many plant-foods in their diet as possible. Plants have so many antioxidants and other healing properties and are super important to help our bodies recover from pregnancy and the stressors of motherhood. 

As for the “implementation” of healthy meals immediately postpartum – it really depends on what resources you have. If you have a family member willing to cook some meals for you to freeze – amazing! If that’s not an option and you’re able to swing a meal stocking service for the first two weeks postpartum, that will be invaluable to you. When I explored this with my second child, I realized the cost worked out to be not as much as I expected and was a great investment in our family’s physical (and in my case mental) health. Nowadays you can even register for meal programs like this. When it comes to cooking, I suggest really simple and versatile meals — things like a rotisserie chicken (which can be purchased pre-made) can turn into 3 different meals in one week. Batch cooking can also save you time and ensure that you have some food that you just have to heat up. Let’s be honest, when you’ve got a baby who needs to eat or be held or changed every 5 minutes, you don’t have time to be “cooking” anything. Aim for the path of least effort and most nutrient density and be realistic with what you’re able to do without overstressing or underfeeding yourself. 

Right? No time at all! And from there, what would you suggest she (we) do to maintain a healthy lifestyle while in this new routine of changes, feedings, and naps (on repeat!)? 

Life as a mom, is perpetually in flux, especially in the younger years. As soon as you think you have a routine down, your child has a developmental change, often throwing your schedule a curve-ball. That said, once you establish a healthy eating and movement regime that makes you feel good and gives you the energy required to keep up with your little one/s, it becomes second nature and a priority that is able to withstand whatever scheduling changes that come your way. 

Feeling fulfilled in every stage of life is so important but not always easy, especially as major life changes occur. Becoming a mom for the first time, second or beyond is beautiful and yet challenging in it’s own ways. When you meet someone who is struggling to find the balance of it all, at times with her personal joy on the backburner, in what ways can a visit with you help turn things around? 

The motherload can be paralyzing. Sometimes we’re so overwhelmed that we feel that small changes won’t make a dent, but they can really make a big difference. It can be something so small like carving out 10 minutes to read a magazine by yourself. I don’t know about you, but I secretly get a pedicure just to read a magazine quietly without being interrupted every 30 seconds. It sounds so silly, but it makes me happy and I get to relax and be present. When you start showing up for yourself and nourishing yourself, you feel such a difference in how you show up for everything else in your life and little by little strengthen that muscle of prioritizing your happiness. 

Everyone comes to the table with a different set of circumstances, pain points and desires and I help my clients identify what small shifts they can make right now to start prioritizing their happiness in a sustainable way, no matter what stage of motherhood they’re in. 

Yes! I am with you! Pedicure hour is a saving grace and the perfect escape to relax and reset.

I personally had trouble feeling motivation to move in the months following my son’s birth. Something about the routine of doing “nothing” (and everything) that carried on from day to day and month to month bled on. What advice do you have for moms who know that exercising would help regain normalcy into their routine but have zero motivation to do so?

Between the exhaustion of pregnancy and birth coupled with the sleepless nights of having a newborn, it’s no wonder that we all feel like melting into the couch and going into hibernation. Immediately postpartum it’s important to focus on healing and a big part of that is resting or doing gentle movement like going for a walk. Once you’re able to engage in more forms of exercise, it’s really a matter of what you enjoy doing and not what you feel you “have to do.” Sometimes that takes experimenting with a few different exercises/instructors to find what you feel “motivated” to do. Sometimes it means doing it with a friend or investing in a trainer to help keep you accountable. There are a million different options, apps, online videos at every price point and I help clients figure out what work best for their individual needs/desires. Movement is really essential to decreasing our stress levels, balancing our hormones and increasing our energy. I find that when you show up in that way for yourself, it has a positive ripple effect on everything else you do that day. 

As for the motivation component – there is so much that goes into motivation. Sometimes it’s emotionally based, but it can also be the result of lack of proper nutrients, lack of sleep, hormone imbalance, dysregulated circadian rhythm, to name a few. Once we fuel the body in a way that it’s operating optimally, the ability to invest your energy in other things becomes much easier. 

What do you see as the biggest challenge for moms postpartum as a whole? And if there was one thing you could tell moms to lift their spirits who are feeling the weight of the world in those beginning months and years, what would it be? 

Be kind to yourself! Try to be in the present moment as much as you can. Don’t worry about what you’re doing right/wrong, when you’ll be able to exercise or “get your body back,” whether you’re feeding your child the right things or agonize over the sleeve of cookies you just ate in search for an endorphin boost. Take any help that is offered and learn to ask for help… man that was a tough one for me.

I hear time and time again this message of compare and despair – this disillusion that other mothers are somehow figuring it all out. I call BS on all of it. Your circumstances, desires, limitations are unique to you – meet yourself where you are, jilt the mom guilt and do your best. Don’t forget you’re important too! 

I love that message. We would all be a little stronger if we could eliminate the innate comparison we unknowingly define.

Lastly, I can’t thank you enough for being a positive source for our community to turn to when we need a little boost of energy, light and joy. In your own words, what would you say fulfills YOU most while working with women in this particular stage of motherhood? 

There is so much that I love about working with women in this field. I love seeing a woman make space for herself and the joy that floods in when she feels empowered to make her health and happiness a priority. Being able to witness the transformation that a woman goes through when they shed their old stories and their old habits for healthier ones that make them feel good inside and out is a privilege and I am honored to be along for the ride. 

The icing on the cake for me is knowing that when I help a woman change her relationship with herself and how she nourishes her body and mind, it has a generational ripple effect and has the potential to help her children’s children lead healthier and happier lives. It doesn’t get much better than that for me! 

Jennifer Khalaf, Founder of Thrive Hive Wellness, is a Certified Holistic Health and Integrative Nutrition Coach working with mothers to improve their health in a simple and accessible way. Jennifer offers one-on-one coaching programs to help mothers break through the mom guilt, lighten the motherload and nourish themselves mind and body.  Jennifer also serves on the board of Tournesol Kids, a non-profit organization empowering children to lead healthy and resilient lives. Jennifer lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two young children .  For more information, follow her on Facebook and Instagram. For a complimentary discovery session, contact her at  jen@thrivehivewellness.com.

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