To Live & Diet in L.A. is a fitness and nutrition blog written by Entertainment Correspondent Whitney English. It follows her experiences working with celebrities, trying to keep up with fitness trends, and navigate her way through the plethora of fad diets. Whitney provides recipes, tips, and anecdotes from her daily life to help others decide what's healthy and what's Hollywood b-s.
When I was pregnant, I wanted to hear as many birth stories as I could – as if somehow that would help prepare me for my own delivery. It didn’t.
There’s no way to predict what your labor and delivery will be like, and despite your best intentions, plans don’t always pan out. But they’re still fun to hear! So if you’re interested, here is mine. If you’re not, come back for the food next week :)
Warning, this is going to get a little graphic.
Baby Caleb’s Birth Story
People always tell you that when your water breaks, it not like the movies. There isn’t a huge, embarrassing gush of water that requires you to rush out of a public place and book it to the hospital. So when my water broke in the middle of the Trader Joe’s produce section, my first thought was, “Do I have time to finish my grocery shopping?”
It was Monday, May 14th around noon, one week and one day prior to my due date, and I was driving home from an OB appointment. I decided to stop at TJ’s to look for healthy frozen meal options to stock up on for after the baby came when I knew I wouldn’t feel like cooking. In the parking lot, I shot a quick Instagram story that I intended to upload after the trip, updating my followers on my prenatal status and asking for frozen meal recommendations.
I was checking the bananas for brown spots when it happened. I felt a pop and then a gush and in about 15 seconds, as the water began to pour down my legs, soaking my Lululemon leggings, I realized, “No. No, I do not have one second to spare. I need to get out of this store – stat.”
I ditched my full cart and ran to the parking lot as fast as I could, waddling along the way and wondering if people noticed that I was drenched from the waist down.
When I sat down on the car seat, the amniotic fluid began to pool up between my legs. As I drove up to the parking ticket machine, I realized that in my hurry I hadn’t gotten my parking validated. Frantic and frazzled, I tried to explain to the 70-year-old parking attendant what was happening – “Sir, I am nine months pregnant and my water just broke and I forgot to validate…” The man furrowed his brow, “Well, next time you need to get it validated,” he grumbled as he turned to open the gate for me. Hmm, I’m guessing he didn’t fully appreciate the situation at hand!
I drove home as quickly – but safely – as possible, with water continuing to gush out and over the front of the driver’s seat like Niagara Falls.
Luckily at this point, I wasn’t having contractions. I remembered my doctor had said that in the case my water broke and I wasn’t having contractions, I had six hours to get to the hospital. So I managed to stay focused and make a mental checklist of the things I needed to do when I got home: call Abe, walk Mr. Chow, post that sponsored Instagram, pack the car, eat something!
While walking the dog and trying to get a hold of my husband, the contractions began, very mild at first. Within about an hour though, they’d progressed to the “4-1-1” point and I knew I needed to get to the hospital (every four minutes or less, for one minute, for one hour). Abe, unfortunately, was at work, in a very important deposition, and unreachable.
Looking back we laugh because that morning he’d told me, if you really need to get a hold of me, you’re going to have to have my secretary track me down and pull me out of this depo because otherwise, I’ll be out of pocket all day. “Why would I need that?” I told him. “The baby’s not coming today.”
Eventually, I reached Abe and by three hours post-Waterworld, we were in route to Cedars Sinai.
When we got to the triage department of labor and delivery, I was in serious in pain. My contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes and they were more painful than anything I’d experienced before.
The nurse checking me in asked if I had a birth plan. “Well, I’d like to have an unmedicated birth, if possible,” I said, before sharing the pain management tools I’d brought along – essential oils, a calming playlist, a stability turned birthing ball, and my husband, aka Doula Abraham.
She gave me an incredulous look, “Have you prepared? Taken any classes?”
“No,” I responded, getting concerned. “But I do yoga.”
Another nurse standing nearby laughed. “She’s not getting an epidural?” she asked the first nurse. “OK (insert eye roll).”
I suppose now would be a good time to discuss the stigma around pain management – both for and against.
Throughout my entire pregnancy, I felt an extreme amount of pressure over this choice. The judgment is real folks, and it’s not pleasant.
On one side of the fence, you’ve got pro-“natural” birthers espousing the virtues of going med-free and warning of the complications associated with drugs.
On the other side, you’ve got pro-epidural advocates insisting that there’s no reason to not take drugs and thinking that those who don’t are either pseudo-science hippies or self-righteous masochists with something to prove.
I was caught in the middle. Never one to back down from a challenge, I wanted to prove to myself that I was strong enough to endure this biological rite of passage – something my crunchy birthing books told me I was “born to do.” On the other hand, I’d done my research, and the only evidence-based downside to an epidural (for mom or baby) was possibly an extra hour of labor. Although, what’s another pain-free hour when you’ve already gone 18?
I decided to play it by ear and make a decision in the moment.
Well, when that moment came, between the all-consuming agony radiating throughout my body, the dispiriting lack of confidence from the nurses in triage, and the fact that I was only at 3 centimeters despite back to back contractions and insane pain, I immediately gave up hope that I would make it through this challenge without a little help.
We were eventually transferred to L&D and after about two more hours of bouncing on my ball, hunkering down on all fours, and trying to calm myself with my breath, I caved and got what’s called a “walking epidural.” Basically, it works like an epidural but isn’t so strong that you lose control of your legs, so you’re still able to walk around.
It worked like a miracle and I was immediately pain-free, able to relax and walk around the hospital.
However, I was emotionally defeated. I obviously wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. While my husband and I lay in my hospital bed watching a pregnant Ali Wong describe the horrors of birth in her Netflix special Hard Knock Wife, I couldn’t even laugh. I felt like I’d let myself (and those rooting for me to have a “natural birth”) down.
Fast-forward ten hours. I was still only 6.5 centimeters and extremely grateful I hadn’t spent that time trying to fight the pain. We decided to get up and walk around to try to get the baby moving. My husband and I began strolling the corridors, laughing doing squats, lunges, and football shuffles (you can watch on my Instagram highlights) while holding the rolling pole with my IV drip.
By about 4 am the following day the pain had returned with a vengeance, as they warned me it would, and I was at 8 centimeters – still not ready to call in the doctor. That’s when I made the decision to get a full epidural. It didn’t feel much different than the walking epidural, but I was instructed not to attempt to stand up. I really wasn’t in the mood to cruise the halls anymore at this point, however.
After the pain subsided, I fell asleep for about two hours. When I woke up, I knew it was time. I felt the pressure of the baby pushing down and I had the nurses check my cervix – 10 centimeters. My doctor arrived shortly after and by 8 am I was pushing.
She said it would be a quick delivery – apparently, all my yoga squats were paying off. But an hour later, I was still pushing, so hard that they gave me oxygen and told me to relax my face. Later, I’d realize I popped a blood vessel in my eye – hot.
My doctor asked me if I wanted her to give me a teensy snip (aka an episiotomy) to speed up the process. Having witnessed my sister’s gruesome 4th-degree “snip,” I politely declined.
I bore down and did what needed to be done, and in 20 minutes she pulled a terrifyingly white and silent little being out. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck three times but the doctor expertly whipped it off in one second.
After a bit of poking and prodding, our little guy gave his first cries and was placed on my chest for the climatic skin-to-skin moment.
Caleb Gabriel Tabaie entered the world on Tuesday, May 15th, 2018 weighing 6 lb 10 oz and measuring 19 inches. He had a full head of hair and was the spitting image of his father. Well at least we know one of us is the parent, I joked.
Typical of a food-obsessed dietitian, I immediately requested a Starbucks latte and oatmeal and reminded my husband of the promise he’d made to me months before of Sugarfish for our first postnatal dinner.
As I enjoyed my sashimi in bed that night with my precious little boy next to me, I was overwhelmed with happiness and any prior disappointment about the birth process was a faded memory, replaced by joy and gratefulness for my healthy baby.
This process taught me my first valuable lesson about motherhood. What works for one family doesn’t always work for another. As a health professional, I’m hardwired to seek objective answers to all problems. But in this case, and already in many issues I’ve had during our first month, I see that the answers aren’t always black and white.
You just have to do what works for you — do whatever it takes to get through this challenging process.
Your carefully laid plans may not come to fruition and you may have to veer off course or try things you vowed you’d never do. As long as baby is safe and healthy, it’s all good.
A few things I swore I wouldn’t do that I’ve already succumbed to: giving baby a pacifier, using “normal” non-eco-friendly diapers, and co-sleeping. I’m sure this list will get longer and longer as time goes by.
One thing I know for sure, I will NEVER judge another mom again for her choices. We’re all just doing the best we can.
Thanks for reading my birth story. I hope you enjoyed it!
Weigh in: If you’re a mom, did your birthing process go as planned? What things have you done in motherhood that you vowed you never would?
Looking to eat plant-based on a budget? Try these 20 cheap vegan meals from some of my favorite Registered Dietitian Nutritionists!
One of the things I intended to do before baby Caleb arrived was make and freeze a bunch of healthy, budget-friendly meals for the early weeks when I wouldn’t feel like cooking. Well, that didn’t happen as C showed up a week early, right before I got around to my good intentions. Procrastination strikes again!
As a new mom though, how I’m going to feed my family is something that’s been on my mind a lot. From the planning to the budgeting — things are going to have to get a lot more streamlined around here than the fly by the seat of my apron cooking I’m used to doing for my husband and I.
I know, I have time. Caleb is just one month old. But I’m a planner (aside from the aforementioned failure). So recently, I reached out to my favorite fellow Registered Dietitian Nutritionist foodies for their advice on how to eat plant-based on a budget and get some cheap vegan meals to incorporate into my repertoire.
I know many of you are moms, dads, and moms-to-be, interested in providing your family with nutritious, predominantly plant-based recipes as well, so I thought I’d share them with you!
20 Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Meals via @whitneyeRDN
This vegan kale Caesar salad is made with crunchy kale and red cabbage, crispy roasted chickpeas, and a delicious dairy-free Caesar dressing. Makes for a great side or main dish!
My husband loves Caesar salad — and he’s been racking up quite the bill at Sweetgreen lately with his multiple weekly purchases of their Kale Caesar.
I, on the other hand, am not the biggest fan of this popular salad. Maybe it’s the eggs and anchovies in the dressing? Maybe it’s the croutons that remind me of an all you can eat salad bar? Maybe it’s the fact that many Caesar salads are limp, nutritionally devoid piles of iceberg lettuce drenched in way too much dressing. Alright, I’ll stop my tirade.
The thing is, when I eat a salad, I want to know that I am packing in nutrients and flavor at the same time, something a traditional Caesar doesn’t often offer.
The Sweetgreen salad, however, does achieve this with a base of kale and the inclusion of tomatoes. But I really don’t want the hubs blowing $15 a day on it, especially when we’ve now got another mouth to feed! That, and I knew I could make a better one ;)
My vegan kale Caesar salad includes an extra component of cruciferous deliciousness: red cabbage, which adds color, fiber, calcium, and major vitamins.
The pepitas and crunchy baked chickpeas add a dose of plant protein, making this salad worthy of a well-balanced main dish.
And the creamy, lemony vegan Caesar dressing adds an incredible flavor without any eggs, anchovies, or animal products.
I scooped up all of the beautiful produce for this tasty salad from my favorite farm to doorstep delivery service Milk & Eggs.
Milk & Eggs is such an awesome service for busy people who want to eat well but don’t always have time to make it to the grocery store and it’s been an even bigger lifesaver for me lately since I’ve been posted up at home with my little bundle of joy.
Getting my greens (and reds, oranges, purples, whites, etc.) in daily has been much more challenging since baby Caleb came home. When you’re tired and frazzled, you’d much rather warm up a microwavable meal or order Postmates than whip up a nutritious, veggie-packed dish from scratch. Having fresh veg delivered straight to my door, however, removes at least one step from this process.
So this week, I’m making a huge batch of this salad so we’ll have fresh greens ready to grab at all times.
Btw, the husband loved it as much — dare I say more — than Sweetgreen, and even I am coming around to Caesar salads (when they’re made like this at least).
Toss chickpeas with oil and spices and distribute on a baking sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
While chickpeas cook, prepare the dressing by combining all ingredients in a high powered blender or food processor.*
Assemble salad ingredients and toss with desired amount of dressing (you will likely have some leftover).
Top with roasted chickpeas and serve.
*Add a splash of water for a thinner consistency. The dressing will also harden up a bit in the refrigerator, so feel free to add a tablespoon or two of warm water to thin it out after it's been refrigerated. **Dressing modified from Minimalist Baker .
These 3-ingredient cookies are made without any of the top 8 allergens but are still jam-packed with flavor! They make a delicious breakfast, snack, or healthy dessert option.
This week is National Food Allergy Awareness Week.
As a mommy-to-be, food allergies are an issue on my radar as I begin to think about how I’m going to feed my baby and introduce him to new food.
Unfortunately, childhood food allergies are on the rise. According to FARE, 15 million Americans face food allergies, including eight percent of children under the age of 18. That means one in every 13 children or roughly two students in each classroom are affected by food allergies.
Luckily, families with children suffering from allergies have so many options these days.
One of these is to swap nut butters for allergy-friendly options like sunflower seed butter. It’s equally creamy and delicious and packs and as much protein and more micronutrients, like magnesium, Vitamin E, zinc, and iron than traditional nut butters like peanut butter and almond butter.
This week I’ve partnered with SunButter®, the maker of premium allergy-friendly sunflower butters — free of the top eight food allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, soy, dairy, eggs, wheat, fish, and crustacean shellfish) — to bring you guys a delicious recipe that can be enjoyed by kids, adults, and allergy-sufferers alike.
I love SunButter because it can be enjoyed as a standalone snack paired with fruits and veggies, spread onto a sandwich, or incorporated into a favorite recipe, like this one! You can find SunButter at major grocery chains, specialty food stores and schools throughout the U.S.
These 3-ingredient cookies are made simply using oats, SunButter Organic sunflower seed butter, and banana. From there, the sky is the limit. Based on you and your family’s individual needs or preferences, you can add as many or as few additional mix-ins as you like.
For this batch, I jazzed things up with some vegan chocolate chips and chopped dates. Other favorites of mine include walnuts, pistachios, goji berries, dried apricots, coconut shreds, and cacao nibs.
3-Ingredient “Allergy-Free” Cookies – no nuts, gluten, or dairy! via @whitneyeRDN
I sat down with celebrity trainer and sports nutritionist Harley Pasternak at this year’s Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival to chat about all things nutrition, fitness, and wellness. Read on for Pasternak’s three tips to instantly upgrade your health regimen. *This post is sponsored by Propel.
The Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival was back in Los Angeles this past weekend for the second year in a row and let me tell you — it was bigger and better than ever!
From workouts with the top fitness trainers coast to coast to live performances from headliners like Ludacris and Icona Pop, the weekend was packed with non-stop action.
As I am now 38 weeks pregnant, I took things a lot more slowly this year, opting for a massage, meditation, and sound bath in the “Wellness Zone” the first day.
The second day, I was feeling pretty energized from all of my restorative sessions and ended up participating in my friend Katie of Love Sweat Fitness’ dynamic stretching session, an incredible yoga flow led by my pal, Playlist’s Nicole Sciacca set to the crooning of Yuna, and an unbelievable dance workout with Nicole Winhoffer and Ludacris.
I was a major Ludacris fan in high school and college so it was pretty surreal to get to dance and sweat it out just a few feet away from him.
After the workout, my husband and I got the chance to meet him and he praised my enthusiast albeit somewhat spastic pregnancy dance moves.
It was another incredibly fun weekend with my friends at Propel!
Prior to the actual festival each year, Propel also hosts an “Industry Day” for professionals in the health and fitness field with sessions geared at helping them build their business and work better with clients.
At the event, I had the opportunity to host a discussion with celebrity trainer and sports nutritionist Harley Pasternak (you know, the guy who trains Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, etc). We chatted about my favorite topic — bogus nutrition trends — and myth-busted many of them for the audience. Once we’d dispelled several myths about nutrition, we moved on to habits that contribute to good health that are actually research-based.
Harley shared three simple tips that he immediately implements with his clients — aside from exercise — to upgrade their wellness routine, and I wanted to share them with you!
Harley Pasternak’s 3 Simple Habits For Good Health
1. Eat breakfast.
It seems simple to get in your daily steps, but far too many of us spend the majority of our day sitting. Hey, I’m guilty too. Harley recommends using a Fitbit or other step tracker (FYI, the Health app on iPhone does it automatically) to make sure you’re continuously moving throughout the day.
3. Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
Again, it’s obvious that a good night’s rest is important for our health, but how many of us are actually getting in our Zzzz’s? Studies show poor sleep is associated with poor health and may contribute to weight gain and disease risk.
Make sure you’re doing everything you can to support a healthy sleeping regimen by keeping your bedroom free of both natural and artificial light, blocking out sound, and setting the air between 65-68 degrees.
A big thanks to Propel for inviting me to this amazing weekend of events!
Weigh in: What simple health habits do you swear by?
*This post is sponsored by Propel but all opinions are my own. I thank you for your support of Whitney E. RD-approved partnerships that make this website possible.