Nourishment is at the heart of what I teach my clients as a nutritional therapist. All mums. All knackered. All putting their family above themselves. The result? Never feeling your best and wondering if this is just how it is. Mum life.
As mums, it’s not in our nature to put ourselves at the top of our never-ending to-do list. If you have 20 minutes to yourself in the day, what do you do? Cuppa and feet up? Maybe, but guiltily? Or ‘just’ do a load of laundry, make beds, and empty the dishwasher. How about a meal you sit down to eat, happily, rather than bolting between jobs?
Let me tell you a secret. I really believe that what we eat impacts how well we mother. I’m talking day-to-day brass-tacks mothering. Your fuse. Your level of tolerance for, “Muuuuum! He touched my SOCK!” kind of sibling bickering that can just nudge us over the edge by dinner time. Rest assured, nourishment doesn’t need to be kale and quinoa all day every day. But eating BETTER not worse makes all the difference. Not falling face first into sugar is a common challenge. I don’t know about you, but when I do that, I end up grumpier. I lose my patience faster. I’ll feel a deep dose of mama guilt once my children are tucked up in bed, but it doesn’t change. So, I’ve learnt to give my body foods that are nourishing, too – and everyone benefits.
Here are my top tips for nourishing yourself as a knackered mum....
The Big Breakfast
When it comes to tackling tiredness, it is not an exaggeration to say that your first meal of the day will dictate what you eat for the rest of the day and THAT will set your energy levels and how you cope if you’re knackered. If you’re an all-or-nothing kind a gal, this can be a big sticking point. You grabbed some biscuits mid-morning because you skipped breakfast getting everyone else fed and watered, so what’s the point of a healthy lunch? And if lunch is a grab-and-go job, might as well carry on and eat the chocolate your body is screaming that you absolutely NEED at 4pm. And so, it goes on. Those dips in energy through the day are our weak spots when we’re most likely to feel overwhelmed. Don’t underestimate the impact on mood of low-blood sugar.
So, try let’s reframe that first meal of the day. A nourishing breakfast is going to be your new go-to. You’re not just refuelling; you’re offering your body an act of kindness so it can accomplish the bazillion tasks ahead of you. And it needn’t take more than five minutes.
I’m going to let you in on a little Nutrition 101. The magic trio for every meal or snack you have is simple – protein, fibre, healthy fats. Protein is a mum’s best friend because it fills you up. Get enough each meal and you will see your cravings fall away and your energy improve. Add some healthy fats into the bargain and you’ll slow down how long it takes your body to digest the protein, which keeps you full for even longer. If you’re hungry within two hours of a meal, you need to work on getting this balance right.
Fibre is essential too and most adults in the UK don’t get enough. So, how about scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast – great for you and the kids. Have a handful of blueberries afterwards. Or a summer favourite – overnight oats – add some protein and good fats by stirring through some nut butter or a tablespoon of ground almonds, for example. Add some frozen berries, top with any milk, and put in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, ready to grab when you’re hungry.
The Power of Sleep
As a nutritional therapist, lifestyle guidance is integral to how I support my clients. Prioritising sleep, however, is hard to prescribe to my knackered mums. We crave it more than sugar and yet have no control over how much we get. If only we could have banked those endless pre-kids lie-ins.
For those years when we cannot rely on unbroken nights, quality can be easier to achieve than quantity. There are lots of ways to do this, but sugar, booze and caffeine are key.
Firstly, while a glass or two of wine might help you to relax when the kids’ lights are finally out, alcohol disrupts our circadian rhythm. If you tend to pour yourself an alcoholic drink each night, try and go booze-free for at least three nights a week and see if you sleep better. You might also try to not have caffeine after midday – caffeine has a half-life of 5-6 hours, so that post-lunch latte may be affecting how well you sleep, even if you don’t realise it. If you’re someone who recognises that caffeine makes them a little wired or jittery, try forgoing it for a week or two and see how you feel. Or perhaps just swap out one cup of caffeine for a different hot drink and go from there.
Then there’s sugar… Most mums tell me that after dinner is when they most crave something sweet but if your blood sugar levels are sky high because you’ve just demolished a tub of ice cream, it’ll affect your sleep.
Keeping in mind the same guide to breakfast as for your evening meal will help. Aim to have some protein (meat, fish, tofu, or pulses, for example), some complex carbohydrate (opt for brown rice, not white; whole wheat pasta, not white – also all good sources of fibre) plus some healthy fats (some olive oil dressing on your vegetables perhaps).
If you still fancy something sweet, opt for some Greek yoghurt with a honey, or homemade banana ice-cream (freeze and then blitz bananas in a food processor. So good!)
What’s self-love got to do with it?
I think this phrase needs a rebrand for mums. Self-compassion is more on the money. Self-care can be a bath with a face pack though frankly, when your kids are toddling, me-time is having a wee without an audience. More than time alone, however, self-care is about a broader intention.
Recognising small acts of nourishment each day make a big difference. Nurture yourself a little, and you’ll have more to give. Cherish yourself as much as the people you love. Nourish you, too. Now, nourishment comes in many forms, and sometimes that’s a slab of chocolate cake or a glass of bubbly, but if you rely on sugar, caffeine, and booze to get through the day, I gently suggest that you’re not as nourished as you could be.
So, make just one small change next week and try and do it every day for five days. Even if you only manage two days, that’s brilliant. What’ll it be? A five-minute breakfast perhaps or setting an alarm so you spend thirty minutes less scrolling through social media and crawl into bed a little earlier.
Try it and see if you feel a better. A little better is not nothing, and it’s a great foundation to build on. And if it helps you get a handle on that mamma fatigue, even at all, it’s worth it.
About the author:
Thalia Pellegrini is a registered Nutritional Therapist (FdSc DipION BANT CNHC) and mum of two. Known as the Knackered Mums’ Nutritionist, she creates bespoke nutrition plans that work for a mum’s busy lifestyle, whether she wants to improve her energy, resolve hormonal imbalance, lose weight or just have a better relationship with food.
Head to www.thaliapellegrini.com where you can download your free copy of her Fantastic in Five: Breakfasts for Mums in a Hurry recipe collection.
Thalia offers free 20-minute Discovery calls to mums who want to find out more about nutritional therapy, which can be booked here: https://thaliapellegrininutrition.as.me/letschat.
She is also hosting The Mother Retreat in October 2022 in Somerset. Last few spaces available. More details https://discover.thaliapellegrini.com/the-mother-retreat/.
Plus, she shares recipes, health tips and her mum life in her private Facebook group The Nourished Mum Meet-Up: https://www.facebook.com/groups/nourishedmummeetup