What I’ve Learned About Ambitious 21st Century Women From Writing 10 Articles for The Huffington Post, Notable Life, & Healthy Living Magazines…

Over the years, I’ve been called on for my expertise in nutrition, stress management and mindfulness to write articles that will help women have an edge in their busy lives.

As a result, I’ve talked to a lot of women in the comments and through PMs and gained insight into the lives of what’s causing ambitious women in North America to struggle with burnout and exhaustion.

I’ve put together a list of 5 things that are keeping women from achieving everything they want in life.

So, if you want to know what’s been holding you back, take a few moments to dig in because here’s what I learned…

1. Women are portrayed as “Superwoman” in the media creating an impossible standard we try to (but never really can) live up to

We’re the sexy wives, nurturing mothers, attentive daughters, and the powerhouses that our teams depend on at work… and that’s it on a good day. 

Women see themselves portrayed in the media as Superwoman and it creates the belief that we need to live up to that image. We stress ourselves out trying to be everything to everyone, and when we feel we’re running out of steam, we’re hard on ourselves because we think it shouldn’t be that way.

Trying to do it all is burning us out. Only by facing the limitations of our energy can we be purposeful about where we spend our time and attention. Slowing down is a blessing that allows us to be intentional about how we spend our time and what we commit to. 

2. Body image issues affect women of every size

One of the secret devastations women go through is reaching their “goal weight” – only to find they still look in the mirror and still hate what they see.

The thought “once I reach my ideal body size I’ll be happy” leaves them crushed when they realize that the body image issues they face are present no matter what size they fit into.

Feeling comfortable and confident in your skin is an inside job, and it comes from developing self-compassion and healthy habits to back it up.

3. It’s hard for women to slow down… 

Because hustle and productivity are praised in our culture. 

The idea is “I’m only valuable when I’m productive” – therefore resting is seen as a weakness that makes us question our worth. 

The result? Women push through, ignore their body’s needs and sacrifice their health for their work, their families, and their figure.

As long as we believe the messages that tell us to always be “doing,” our bodies are the sacrifice we make for our worthiness.

4. Saying “no” is harder for women in the workplace than men 

Women feel they have something to prove at work, like they have to earn their place at the boardroom table. It wasn’t that long ago (my great-grandmother’s generation) that women were given the right to vote, so it’s no surprise that in some circumstances women still feel they’re not taken seriously.

This is heightened when they come back from mat leave. 

Women feel pressure to please and prove they’ve still got it and can be on par with their colleagues, instead of honouring their bodies and their needs.  

5. All women diet and then get fed up with dieting

I’ve yet to meet a woman who hasn’t tried in some way to alter her food intake to change her body. 

Yet,there comes a time when we realize that dieting is not the answer (it just takes some of us longer to get there than others. No judgment). 

That’s when we start to look for something sustainable. It’s just a matter of how long we stay on the train trying before we decide to get off.

Women realize they don’t know how to eat properly when they finally give up the diets and look for something sustainable.

We’re steeped in these thoughts and beliefs culturally so we don’t see the patterns we play out, or ourselves clearly. 

Tools like self-awareness, active eating, and practicing presence are the critical keys necessary for women to overcome the unconscious biases that they act out daily.

Which one of these insights do you recognize the most in yourself?

Is it not saying “no” when you wish you could?

Feeling like you have to work twice as hard as the men at work to get the same recognition?

Having to be “superwoman” all the time (even when it’s too much to handle)?

I’d love to start a conversation here that helps us explore what’s caused us ambitious, capable women like the ones in the Practice Presence group to end up in a cycle of burnout.

So please, share your thoughts. 

This is a safe space with zero judgement. 

And hopefully we can start to undo some of the damage and obstacles that have kept you from becoming the confident, accomplished woman you strive to be.

Can Lack of Sleep Cause Weight Gain?

It’s cute that we’ve come up with ways to make fun of the weight many people have put on during this global pandemic. The quarantwenty, the covid 15 are just a few of the ways I’ve heard it described.

Fact is, unwanted weight gain is not fun. It doesn’t make you feel great in your skin, or about your body. Additional pounds add stress to your body, makes it harder to move around and more challenging to exercise.

First of all, there’s no shame in having gained weight during a global crisis. Stress levels have been high for months and we’ve all had to do what we’ve had to do to be able to cope. But given that it’s the new year, it’s likely on your mind to make some changes for the benefit of your health.

So, let’s dive into one of the most overlooked factors affecting your weight – sleep.

Weight Loss Resistance

For some people, the reason they’re up a few pounds will be clear. But if you’ve been struggling to lower the number on the scale for a while, it’s time to look at all the factors that could be in play.

If you’ve been stuck trying to figure out how to shed the pounds seemed to sneak up on you despite not changing your diet or exercise habits, you might be dealing with Weight Loss Resistance.

It’s exactly how it sounds: weight that just won’t budge no matter what you do.

One surprising reason why you might be gaining weight or experiencing weight loss resistance is lack of good quality, restorative sleep.

There are plenty of science-backed reasons why a lack of sleep can be a strong contributing factor to not being able to maintain a healthy weight.

Why Lack of Sleep Causes Weight Gain

If you thought unsightly dark circles under the eyes were the worst outcome from cutting corners on sleep, you may want to think again.

Sleep is of the utmost importance to nearly every bodily system and losing out on it, even just a little, creates a vicious cycle in your body.

For example, the more sleep deprived you are, the higher your levels of stress hormone (cortisol) will be, which tends to increase your appetite.

Then, once the appetite is increased, a lack of sleep also thwarts your body’s natural ability to process sugar and carbohydrates – which of course is what you’re craving when you’re exhausted.

Additionally, when you’re overtired, the mitochondria (little cellular factories that turn food and oxygen into energy = metabolism centers) actually start to shut down. This causes glucose to stay in your bloodstream, and you end up with high blood sugar levels.

Insulin is a hormone whose job it is to signal the body’s muscle, fat, and liver cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream to be used for energy. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that skimping on sleep can cause fat cells to become less insulin-sensitive by up to 30% – meaning they lose their ability to use insulin properly.

Yet another reason you might pack on pounds when you’re lacking in sleep is because your body goes into survival mode – much like when we deprive our bodies of too little energy & calories. Therefore, survival mode = extra fat storage.

It doesn’t have to be hours of sleep that you missed out on…

Research says that just 30 minutes of lost sleep per day could make you more likely to gain.

Sleep could arguably be the most important thing you can focus on if you’re ready to start a new health optimization plan – and the first step is to make sleep a priority.

Sleeping isn’t just a time to rest — you’re actually nourishing your body just as you are when you’re eating healthy foods. It may require some behavioral and mindset shifts on your part, but your body (and waistline) will thank you.

Tips to get a good night’s sleep

Sleep is one of the best free resources that will help you improve your health and manage your weight. Try these tips to help you get the most out of your night’s rest:

  • Avoid screen time for 2 hours before bed
  • Aim to sleep between 10 – 10:30 pm
  • Black out your bedroom so there’s no light coming in
  • Try meditation or a deep breathing exercise before bed to help your body relax and prepare for rest 
  • Drink a calming herbal tea before bed (see recipe below)

Do you think sleep could be the missing piece in your weight loss goal? Tell us in the Practice Presence group here.


RECIPE

DIY Sleepytime Herbal Tea Blend

Ingredients

  • 3 parts dried chamomile
  • 2 parts each: dried peppermint and dried lemon balm
  • 1 part each: dried lavender and dried passion flower
  • 1/4 part valerian root (it is important to only add this much valerian root)
  • Fresh, filtered water

Preparation

  1. While heating water on the stove or in an electric kettle (up to 160 degrees F is optimal for herbal tea), lightly mix herbs together in a bowl.
  2. Place up to 1 Tb of herbal tea mixture into a tea infuser ball.
  3. Place the infuser into your favourite mug, and fill it with hot, but not boiled water.
  4. Let your tea steep for up to 5 minutes before removing the infuser ball.
  5. Save any extra dry tea blend in an airtight container, and store it in a cool, dark, dry place. Will keep fresh for several weeks.
  6. Enjoy your cup of warm DIY Sleepytime Tea, and get more quality zzz’s.

REFERENCES

Eureka Alert: Losing 30 Minutes of Sleep Per Day May Promote Weight Gain

How to Find Time for Healthy Eating – Batch Cooking 101

It’s no secret, we lead busy lives. As the world speeds up, one of the first things to suffer is our self-care. Often busy weeks mean making unhealthy choices, like skipping meals, or grabbing something quick to eat while on the go.

Eating well is a habit you build your life around. It doesn’t just happen, it takes intention and advanced planning, which means it takes time.

But you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen each night just to eat well.

Plan for Healthy Eating

When starting a new healthy eating regime, it’s important to start slow and set realistic expectations.

Look at your schedule and decide what is realistic for you to do. When you’re starting a new routine, you may need to plan to eat out for some meals, or have convenient options on hand.

It takes momentum to really get in the swing of meal prep and planning. When you enter a busy week with the intention of being prepared and cooking regularly, things can snowball in a positive way, or quickly become out of control.

What keeps it all together is forethought and advanced planning. Your meal plan is part of your overall strategy which includes other areas of your life.

Think about it – a meal plan is made up of tiny habits that you take throughout the week. It might mean getting up earlier to make breakfast, shopping at a new grocery store to get your ingredients, or breaking the habit of swinging by the drive thru on your way home from work.

Sticking to your plan will take some discipline, so be gentle with yourself while you get your new habits set up.

Ultimately, your meal plan sets you up for success so you have a solid foundation to build from. One thing that will keep your plan intact throughout the busy workweek is planning to batch cook your meals so you can spend less time in the kitchen.

What is Batch Cooking?

Time management experts recommend batching like tasks together so you can do similar things all at once. For example, washing laundry and changing the bedding are two tasks that can be batched together to save time.

Batch cooking is a similar idea because it has you cooking for a few condensed hours on one day, as opposed to throughout the week. The time this saves in clean up alone (because you’re only making one mess to clean) is a game changer.

There are three different methods of batch cooking:

  • Batch cooking staple ingredients
  • Batch cooking large meals
  • Batching freezer meals

Each method has different benefits. If you’re planning to be away or you know you have a busy week coming up, batching for the freezer is a good option. On the other hand, if you’re looking to have multiple meals ready for the week (a great option if you have picky eaters at home) cooking large meals in advance can help.

If you’re reading this and you’re one of the people who can’t stand the idea of leftovers, you’re in luck. Single ingredient batch cooking has you making a large quantity of one item and then repurposing it throughout the week to create different meals.

Cook Once, Eat Twice

The best time to cook is when you can set aside the time. Not when you’re staring into the fridge at 6 pm and you’re hungry and tired from a long day at work.

Batch cooking means you cook once in a large quantity, giving you food for days (or weeks) to come. One pot meals like chili, soups, and stews can be made ahead of time and frozen for a few weeks at a time.

You can even batch prepare snacks – energy bites, guacamole, hummus, and homemade muffins are great snacks that can be frozen for later.

Start with a meal plan and organize your week around cooking in batches. A few hours in the kitchen on the weekend can mean you’re only cooking once during the week. Doesn’t that sound like a more relaxing evening? 

Batch Cooking will:

  • Save you time in the kitchen. Keep your schedule efficient by allowing you to focus on one task at a time. 
  • Reduce kitchen clean up (cook once, clean once!). 
  • Allow you more free time in the evenings (reheat and eat, instead of cooking from scratch). 
  • Save you in a pinch— this is a guarantee! Nothing blows your meal plan faster than a time-strapped empty stomach.

Meal Prep That Works for You and Your Schedule

Many of us are working long hours and, let’s face it, we have other things we love to do besides spend our time in the kitchen. It’s time to make your meals work for you. This chart gives a simple example of how you can cook one healthy ingredient in a large quantity and use it to create meals for the week. Try it with your favourites.

Not all recipes work well for batch cooking. Some are best to eat the day you make them. Others don’t freeze and reheat well.

All the recipes in the Everyday Eats Cookbook are designed for batch cooking. The recipes throughout the book use similar ingredients so it’s easy to batch them together and work them into your meal plan.

Get your copy of the Everyday Eats Cookbook today to save time in the kitchen and fuel your family with meals that are healthy and satisfying.

8 Tips to Meal Plan for the Work Week

You’re at work and your stomach growls. It’s mid-day and the numbness in your backside is telling you it’s time to take a break from your desk.

Feeling a little past the hungry mark, you’re disappointed to remember that the healthy groceries you have stored at home did not make it to work with you.

Enter the cafeteria…

This scene is so common. Day after day you find yourself at work, hungry, with no lunch and no plan. Things generally go downhill from there.

The logical way to avoid being caught with a sad desk lunch is to plan ahead.

Meal planning is a skill (check out my video on Why Most Meal Plans Fail and What to do About it).

Here are some tips to meal planning for the workweek to make healthy eating easier when you have a busy schedule.

  1. Gather your recipes – the Internet is flooded with healthy recipes (some better than others). Print them out and dust off your stack of cookbooks to find recipes you like and will actually want to eat. Knowing what your options are goes a long way toward being prepared.
  2. Create a meal map for the week— this is a visual meal planning tool I use with my clients. Map your eating pattern according to your daily tasks. Will you have 3 meals? 2 and some snacks? Or does your schedule require you to have a big breakfast and graze throughout the afternoon? Mapping your meals helps you to plan ahead so you know what to bring along for your work day.
  3. Plan similar items— the week starts with great intentions (of cooking several complex dishes) but once the week hits it’s a different story. Plan similar dishes with similar ingredients so you can make things like rice in large batches ahead of time. Think about ways to create variety by adding different vegetables and side dishes to batch-made protein and grains.
  4. Create a shopping list— face it, there’s no such thing as running to the store for “just one thing.” Make a list ahead of time and stick to it. Try the Our Groceries app to create separate lists for different stores, and never worry about leaving your slip of paper at home.
  5. Set a designated shopping day— during your busy week the last thing you need is to have to stop for groceries 2-3 times. Create a routine and shop on the same day each week. You can plan this around when the produce at your grocer is the freshest.
  6. Batch cook & prep ahead— a classic time management tool is to batch similar tasks together. The same goes for cooking. Do simple meal prep; chopping, washing produce, etc. in advance so food is ready-to-go in your fridge. Cook meals in large quantities for the week and store them in airtight glass containers. Note: make-ahead meals typically last about 4 days in the fridge.

The recipes in my Everyday Eats Cookbook contain common household ingredients and are designed for batch cooking (and to make your life easier). Get your copy of the Upgraded & Expanded edition of Everyday Eats with over 50 whole-food recipes that are ready in under 30 minutes here.

  1. Cook once, eat two (or three) times– even if you’re cooking for one, it takes about the same amount of effort to cook a little or a lot. Make it a habit to cook in larger quantities so you’ll have some of your favourite meals on hand with little effort. Your future self will thank you.
  2. Use your freezer— the freezer is your friend, especially if you batch cook. Use glass storage containers to freeze homemade soups, stew, vegetables and meat. Thaw them on the counter and reheat on the stove top for a quick weeknight meal.

The best way to be prepared for the workweek is to have a plan for your meals at the start. If it’s not practical to eat a home-cooked meal every night, that’s ok. Make healthy takeout part of the plan – my favourites are Thai or Mediterranean grill with veggies. You’ll get the satisfaction of sticking to the plan, instead of finding yourself at the drive thru.

Stop Sugar Cravings with Magnesium

Magnesium is one mineral that we hear about in relation to muscle health, but not too much for its other properties. Yet it’s one of the most abundant minerals in our bodies.

In fact, magnesium is used in hundreds of different chemical reactions in the body every single day. That means it’s in high demand so if you aren’t taking in enough there will be some warning signs popping up.

It’s tied to sugar cravings because magnesium helps regulate glucose (blood sugar) and insulin (helps the body use and store glucose). If you don’t have enough magnesium, you’re bound to see a difference in your sweet tooth.

Let’s take a closer look at how magnesium can help manage sugar cravings and how it contributes to the health of your body overall.

The Many Roles of Magnesium in the Body

Magnesium helps lower our stress levels. In fact, magnesium is often referred to as the “relaxation mineral.”

Serotonin, which is a natural mood stabilizer found mostly in our digestive system, requires magnesium for its production. Therefore, it is recommended that we take magnesium to help manage our stress, anxiety, and mood disorders. In turn, a magnesium deficiency can affect our stress level and emotional state.

Magnesium is necessary for numerous chemical reactions in our body, including making DNA.

Magnesium helps maintain brain function by relaying signals between our body and our brain. It prevents overstimulation of nerve cells, which could result in brain damage.

Magnesium helps regulate muscle contractions – it opposite to calcium to help our muscles relax. Magnesium is commonly recommended for treating muscle cramps.

Magnesium has also been linked to helping reduce the risk of many diseases, including arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. Several studies have shown that migraine headaches are associated with low levels of magnesium.

Magnesium is used in the regulation of blood sugar, insulin and dopamine which makes it an essential mineral for managing sugar cravings.

Despite magnesium being so abundant in our body, a lot of people don’t get enough of it.

How Much Magnesium Should We Consume?

Adult men should consume 420 mg/day.

Adult women should consume 320 mg/day.

There could be consequences from consuming too much magnesium or not enough magnesium:

  • Too much magnesium can cause various symptoms, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and irregular heartbeat.

    Therefore, you might not want to take a supplement that contains magnesium if you are already getting enough magnesium through your food and other sources.
  • A magnesium deficiency (called hypomagnesemia) could lead to various health conditions, including muscle twitches and cramps, osteoporosis, fatigue, high blood pressure, asthma, heart disease, and diabetes.

It’s more than likely that you sit somewhere in the middle of these two. A low level of magnesium can increase sugar cravings, especially for chocolate.

Other mild deficiency symptoms could include constipation, tight muscles, high stress levels, difficulty sleeping, clenching teeth at night and more.

Foods That Contain Magnesium

If you think low magnesium is playing a role in your sugar cravings, there are plenty of magnesium-rich natural foods you can add to your diet:

  • Pumpkin seeds (check out the recipe below for making Sweet & Creamy Pumpkin Seed Butter)
  • Raw almonds and cashews (raw nuts are better than roasted nuts – roasted nuts lose magnesium during the roasting process)
  • Dark chocolate
  • Black beans, peas, and soybeans
  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach)
  • Whole grains (oat bran)
  • Herbs (coriander, chives, dill, sage)

Magnesium can also be absorbed through the skin. An Epsom salt bath can increase your magnesium level, as can a magnesium oil or lotion.

If you’re looking to supplement with magnesium, start with 150 mg of Magnesium Bisglycinate per day. It can be especially helpful for women to take magnesium around the time of their period to add some magnesium to help their bodies manage blood sugar more efficiently.

Summary

Eating sweets occasionally isn’t a bad thing. If your sugar cravings are taking over your life it can mean that your body is looking for something, like magnesium. A lot of people are deficient in magnesium because it’s used widely in the body for so many processes.

There are several ways to get your recommended amount of magnesium. One of the easiest (and yummiest) ways of getting daily magnesium is to include plenty of food sources. Here’s a recipe for pumpkin seed butter to get you started.

Recipe

Sweet & Creamy Pumpkin Seed Butter

Ingredients:

2 cups raw pumpkin seeds

1-2 tsp. oil (grapeseed or olive)

1 Tbsp. honey (optional)

¼ tsp sea salt

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden.
  4. Cool for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Put the pumpkin seeds, honey and salt in a blender or food processor.
  6. Run the food processor for approximately 4-5 minutes, until the pumpkin seeds begin to have the texture of butter. If necessary, stop the food processor and scrape the sides.
  7. Continue running the food processor for another 2-5 minutes until the pumpkin seeds have the texture of butter. Add some of the oil, as needed, until the desired consistency is reached.

REFERENCES:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-does-magnesium-do

http://www.magnesium.ca/