Mark's Daily Apple is the go-to destination to learn how to lead a healthy Primal life in this hectic modern world. A completely irreverent, bold take on the latest in health, diet, fitness and supplement news. Daily health tips and breaking information. Recipes, fitness and health coaching.
It’s Memorial Day weekend, and we know many of you will be celebrating with friends and family. To that end, we’ve got a perfect addition to your Primal and Primal-keto menu: the cowboy burger. With tender portobello mushroom caps, grass-fed beef, bacon, BBQ flavor (you know we’ll be using our very own Primal Kitchen® Classic BBQ Sauce), crispy onions, cheddar and more, it’s so much more than your average burger. Enjoy—and have a Happy (and Healthy) Memorial Day, everyone!
Preheat the oven to 350 ºF. Mix the coconut milk and lemon juice together and toss the onion slices in them. Allow them to marinate for 30-45 minutes at room temperature.
Roast the bacon at 350 ºF for approximately 30 minutes. Reserve the bacon fat and 4 slices of bacon. Roughly chop the remaining bacon. Allow the bacon to slightly cool and combine the beef, chopped bacon, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper in a bowl. Form the meat into 4 patties. Heat a small amount of the reserved bacon fat over medium-high heat in a skillet and add the patties to the pan once hot. Sear the burger patties for 1 minute on each side and then transfer the pan to the oven. Allow the burgers to cook until they reach your desired internal temperature. Place a slice of cheddar on each of the patties and place back into the oven for 1 minute until they melt.
Heat the oven to 375 ºF. In a dish or shallow bowl, combine the almond flour with a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove the onions from the coconut milk mixture and dredge them the almond flour mixture. Lay them flat on a parchment covered sheet pan so they are barely touching and bake at 375 ºF for 15 minutes. Flip the onions over and spread them out before letting them bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until they are well browned and starting to crisp.
Clean the mushroom caps with a damp towel. Remove the stem and use a spoon to remove the gills on the underside. Toss the mushroom caps in the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Place them gill side down on a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes at 375 ºF, or until soft.
Assemble the burgers by placing a portobello mushroom on the bottom, followed by the burger, bacon slice, BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato and crispy onions.
Nutrition Information: (1 Burger Patty, ¼ cup portion Onion Pieces, 1 cup Portobello)
Cool summer fare means more than just Big-Ass Salads. Nothing is off the table, including soup—particularly gazpacho. A perfect summer classic, this gazpacho recipe is a keto lovers dream: loads of flavor and lots of healthy fats, thanks to the goodness of extra virgin avocado oil.
Plus, we gave this dish a spicy kick and cool boost with Medlie’s Organic Kale Avocado Drink. Add jalapeno peppers, garlic and cilantro, and you’ll love this tasty starter soup or full course meal.
Time In the Kitchen: 15 minutes (plus 30 to chill)
Each week, select Mark’s Daily Apple blog posts are prepared as Primal Blueprint Podcasts. Need to catch up on reading, but don’t have the time? Prefer to listen to articles while on the go? Check out the new blog post podcasts below, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast here so you never miss an episode.
One of the most common complaints people have as they age is poor quality sleep. They get less sleep than younger people, and, despite what you may have heard, their sleep requirements do not decline with age. A 70-year-old should still be getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The problem is that, for many different reasons, older people usually have issues getting the amount of sleep they need.
The popular approach is to accept poor sleep as an inevitable part of aging and find workarounds, ideally workarounds that require a lifelong prescription to a name-brand pharmaceutical. That’s not my way. I accept that the conventional approach may be warranted in certain cases, but it should be a last resort. A person should exhaust the diet, lifestyle, and exercise options before turning to the prescription pad.
What about that central position of the conventional wisdom: Declining sleep quality is a necessary function of age. Is that actually true?
Why Do We Equate Getting Older With Sleeping Poorly?
Age is a predictor of poor quality sleep, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. Not every older adult suffers from poor sleep, which means the passage of time alone cannot explain the loss of sleep quality. In fact, when you drill down deeper, you find that there are many health and lifestyle-related predictors of poor quality sleep among older adults.
In older Taiwanese adults living in a retirement community, 42% reported sleep disturbances. The best predictors for low quality sleep were being sedentary, suffering from nighttime urination, using anti-hypertensive drugs, and having poor mental health.
In older Korean adults, 60% reported sleep issues. The best predictors for low quality sleep in this group were depression, pain, and poor self-rated health scores.
In older women, menopause can make getting good sleep harder. The night sweats and body temperature fluctuations (the body tends to drop its temperature in preparation for sleep, and heat flashes can interfere with this) are notorious sleep disruptors.
These are all modifiable risk factors. Even menopause. Menopause will happen, but the symptoms can be addressed and mitigated (though admittedly not easily). I actually wrote a post about this.
There is one specific cluster of neurons called the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus that acts as a “sleep switch”—releasing GABA and other inhibitory neurotransmitters that inhibit wakefulness. The ventrolateral preoptic nucleus has been shown to degrade with age, actually getting smaller over time; further research shows that the size of a person’s VPN correlates closely with their sleep quality. But there’s no indication that this is an inevitable consequence of aging. After all, the rate of VPN decline varies between individuals. Maybe some of that rate variation is genetic. Maybe some is environmental—based on how you live and eat and exercise. We do know that light and sun exposure during the day boosts serotonin levels, and serotonin is one of the precursors for VPN sleep activity. What if a lifetime of inadequate sun and daylight exposure causes the VPN to “atrophy”? There are many unanswered questions, but even if the VPN turns out to follow a strictly chronological decline, there are improvements to be made.
Other “inevitabilities” of aging are often a function of accruing compound interest on one’s failure to lead a healthy lifestyle. If we’ve neglected our health and wellness for our entire lives—often because we were following bad advice from the “experts” who were supposed to know better—that’s going to come to a head the older we get. The older we are, the worse our body will work. The more negative interest we’ll have accrued.
Okay, Sisson, that’s all well and good, but what if I’m already an older adult, I’ve already accrued a lifetime of suboptimal health, and my sleep is bad? What can I do?
5 Easy Ways To Improve Your Sleep (At ANY Age)
You can start addressing the issues right now, right today.
A few years ago, I noticed that my nightly glass or two of wine was messing with my sleep, so I gave it up and my sleep improved immediately. I’ve since re-introduced Dry Farm natural wine—lower in alcohol and sulfites, higher in antioxidants and complexity—and have no issues. If you drink on a regular basis and have trouble with sleep, try giving up alcohol for a month. It’s a potentially very easy fix.
5. You can get more natural light in the morning and daytime.
In older adults, getting more natural light in the daytime hours has a direct effect of improving sleep quality.
Hey, it’s almost like everything in our lives is connected. Some people find this overwhelming and depressing—”how can I possibly fix everything?” I find it empowering. It fills me with optimism because addressing one piece of the chain can get everything else moving in the right direction. Just look at the study with depressed older adults who had trouble sleeping. All they had to do was start lifting heavy things a few times a week and all their major issues began resolving, or at least improving. That’s powerful.
Now imagine if you tried everything. Imagine if you started lifting weights, walking, reduced your alcohol intake. Imagine the changes you could see. Now imagine if you did this from early adulthood and never stopped. Imagine how you’d sleep. Oh, and don’t neglect the power of a consistent routine.
What I Do (and One Thing That’s Made the Biggest Difference)
I live in a condo now that has a great spa. I do “fire and ice” before dinner almost every night”—usually 7-10 minutes sauna, 3-4 minutes cold plunge at 50 degrees, repeat a few times. So, no longer right before bed. But it has the effect of making me relaxed and sleep-ready a few hours after a light dinner.
But there’s one tool I began using a couple years ago that has probably made the most difference of any particular strategy: controlling the temperature of my bed.
Ambient temperature matters for sleep quality. My chiliPAD has become indispensable. (Disclosure: I became such a fan that I eventually invested in the company.) Carrie uses one, too. We have different ideal temperature ranges. Mine cools to 65 at bedtime, but with the app I can set it to rise to 68 at 3:00 A.M. (otherwise I get a little too much heat loss), 70 at 5:00 A.M. and then 75 at 6:45 to help me wake up. It makes a huge difference and has real evolutionary antecedence; humans spent many millennia sleeping on a cold surface (the ground) covered with animal skins. It’s what our genes still expect from us.
How’s your sleep, older (or not) readers? What’s worked, what hasn’t? If you have any questions about sleep, drop them down below and I’ll follow up!
Now For the Giveaway…
Whenever I find a product I truly love, I want to share it. Today it’s for two lucky winners.
The great folks at ChiliTechnology have offered two of their cooling systems for MDA readers (the two Carrie and I use): a chiliPAD system and their new OOLER system. Both offer the same fully programmable cooling technology to help you manufacture your best night’s sleep. Plus, I’m throwing in a Primal Essentials Kit (Damage Control, Primal Omegas, Primal Sun, Primal Probiotics and Adaptogenic Calm) because good health and great sleep go hand-in-hand.
One winner will nab the chiliPAD, plus Primal supplements package.
The second winner will enjoy the OOLER system, plus Primal supplements package.
Tennis elbow, Achilles tendinitis, osteoarthritis, and other connective tissue injuries are on the rise. Athletes have always gotten them, but it’s only in the past few decades that regular folks are getting them too. For some connective tissue injuries, non-athletes outnumber athletes. That shouldn’t happen if the conventional wisdom—injuries to tendons, ligaments, and cartilage occur only because of overuse or overloading during intense physical activity—were true.
Now, of course the way we train affects the health and function of our connective tissue. Acute injuries absolutely occur. Overuse injuries absolutely develop. But that’s to be expected. Athletes put their bodies through a lot, and there is going to be fallout from that. Where those injuries shouldn’t be happening is in regular, everyday folks who don’t train for a living or engage in intense physical competition on a regular basis. And yet that’s exactly how it’s going down in the world today. In one recent study, the majority of patients with Achilles tendon injuries couldn’t attribute their condition to working out or playing sports. In other words, they just got it.
Part of the problem is our nutrition. We eat too many of the inflammatory foods which contribute to connective tissue degradation and deconditioning, like grains and refined seed oils and sugar, and too few of the nutritive building blocks our bodies use to buttress and repair damaged connective tissue, like collagen. For over a decade, I’ve sought to address these deficiencies in the modern diet by laying out the Primal eating plan and creating non-inflammatory versions of existing products (like mayo and salad dressings) and products that replace some of the foods we’ve been missing. This is why I started selling collagen powder—because it’s the greatest source of gelatin, provides the necessary building blocks for collagen construction and repair, and provides the glycine that balances out the methionine in our meat-heavy diets and makes them less inflammatory.
This is all standard stuff at this point. It’s no surprise to most of you. Eat healthy, exercise, sleep, and most other things fall into place, including the health of your connective tissues. But it can’t explain everything. There’s more to it.
I’ve been suspicious of stretching in the past, especially static stretching. You don’t see Hadza tribes people doing the downward dog, hitting the couch stretch, or doing toe touches every morning. They simply move around a lot and avoid sitting in chairs for ten hours a day, and it’s enough. Right?
But over the past few months, I’ve become acquainted with Matt Wallden, the Global Head of Education for the Chek Institute. Like me, he’s obsessed with taking lessons from human evolution and applying them to humans living today to help them thrive. We really hit it off, so much that we collaborated on a pair of papers that appear in the April edition of the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies that discuss the power of “Archetypal resting positions” (several positions depicted in the article) and the crisis (and solution) of “Modern disintegration and primal connectivity.”
In the papers, we posit that it’s not just our tendency to sit in chairs way too much that’s destroying our health, movement quality, and tissue quality. We’re also failing to utilize the archetypal resting positions that humans have been using for hundreds of thousands of years. Sitting in chairs isn’t ideal, but far worse is our neglect of the dozen or so permutations of ancestral floor positions.
The full squat, with heels down.
The high kneel.
The low kneel.
The side sit.
The long sit.
The cross-legged sit.
In each of these positions, some tissues are lengthened (stretched) while others are compressed.
The squat stretches the back, glutes, quads, and calves.
The high kneel stretches the quads, Achilles’ tendon, and foot fascia.
The low kneel stretches the feet and quads.
The long sit stretches the hamstrings and wrist flexors.
The cross-legged sit stretches the hip adductors and rotators.
The side sit stretches the external and internal rotators of the hip.
If you alternate between all the positions, every limb will receive the stretch/compression treatment that has been shown to improve tissue healing and maintain tissue viability and function.
Many of these positions also restrict blood flow to specific areas of the body, a practice that has been shown to enhance connective tissue healing. You restrict the blood flow and then restore it, and the tissue gets a “rebound” effect.
Now imagine doing this all the time, whenever you’re at rest. Imagine not having any chairs at all. Imagine how you’d feel—and move, and perform, and recover—if instead of spending 10 hours a day hunched over in a chair you spent 2 hours a day exposing your body to these archetypal stretch/compression positions.
Not only that, but sitting in these archetypal resting positions may even improve glucose tolerance.
We cite research showing that a gentle passive stretching program (10 different stretching positions, 4 30-second “reps” each for a total of 20 minutes) lowers blood sugar in diabetics. That’s a possibility, but I’ve always found dedicated stretching or mobility routines to be the hardest to maintain. And I’m not alone—pretty much everyone hates stretching. A more evolutionarily-congruent method would be to integrate these resting positions into your daily life.
Hanging around at home or at the park or beach? Sure, getting down into these positions on the floor is cinch. You could easily make that work. But what about at work? What if you work in front of a computer? I’m picturing a floor-based workstation that enables the archetypal resting position as you work, sort of a low-lying modular “desk” that can be manipulated into various shapes to adhere to your particular resting position. That would be very cool and very interesting. We haven’t done the research on the cognitive effects of chair sitting vs archetypal resting positioning, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they offered some performance-enhancing effects for knowledge workers.
In the next couple weeks, Matt and I will be releasing a podcast discussing the archetypal resting positions and other topics in full.
For now, why don’t you make it a point to spend the next month doing at least one hour of archetypal floor sitting every day? See if you notice any improvements to your tissue function, and report back. I’d love to hear your results.
Have food ready and on the table in under half an hour with these keto-friendly weekday meals!
One of the hardest parts about sticking to any diet is the amount of time you have to dedicate to preparing food. Gone are the days when you could run through the drive-thru on a particularly crazy day—at least, not without ketosis-wrecking consequences.
The next time you’re in a pinch, forget the fast food and check out this list. If you have a well-stocked pantry, you’re guaranteed to be able to make many of these 30-minute, keto-friendly meals at any given time. In other words, you can feed yourself in the amount of time it would take to run through the drive-thru.
You’ve got options for every meal of the day. Whip up delicious keto breakfasts like bacon and avocado burritos or stick-to-your-ribs keto “oatmeal” first thing in the morning, assemble a satiating Tex-Mex salad or three-ingredient salmon zucchini pasta for lunch, make a Korean beef bowl after work and indulge in a creamy bacon and shrimp skillet for a post-workout dinner.
Whatever time of day, there’s a keto meal on here for you.
Psst: If you’re looking for low-carb munchies in between meals, look no further than these 23 keto snack ideas!
Last week I launched the beginning of my Primal + Keto Cooking Series. (Check it out here if you missed it.) Today I’m back with Lindsay Taylor for another great Primal + keto snack that will take you less than a minute to prepare and less than ten to cook.
One of the things people seem to miss the most when they give up grains is crackers—cheese and crackers especially…. But what if the cheese could be the cracker? (Mind blown, right?) You can pay a premium for ready-made versions in the store, or you can spend less than ten at home making your own for a small fraction of the cost. Just see how easy is it.
Cheese Crisps - Quick and Easy Keto Snack - YouTube
Cheese Crisp Recipe
Servings: 6 crisps
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 7-10 minutes
1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400 ºF/205 ºC.
Line a metal baking sheet with parchment paper.
Finely shred a cup’s worth of cheddar cheese (or use bagged finely shredded cheese). We’re using cheddar here, but this recipe works for other hard cheeses such as Parmesan, colby-jack, etc. Note: finely shredded cheese will melt more quickly and evenly.
Take a generous pinch of shredded cheese and spread out in an individual circle on the sheet. Gently press down. Repeat until parchment sheet is full, leaving a couple inches between cheese circles.
Heat in oven for 7-10 minutes. Take out and let cool at least 5 minutes.
Serve with your favorite salsa, guacamole, sliced meats or sauces.
Thanks for stopping in, everybody. Be sure to check back next Monday for more Primal +Keto Cooking Made Easy. Have an awesome week!
Teriyaki is a classic accompaniment for salmon, but concerns about soy may have kept you away from enjoying this combo. No more. Primal Kitchen® No-Soy Teriyaki brings the taste to new life. And it goes perfectly with this Primal- and keto-friendly cauliflower rice mix. Scallions, carrots, garlic and orange add all the nuance and brightness you’d expect from this Asian-inspired bowl. It’s a perfect dinner any night of the week (or leftovers lunch).
Preheat the oven to 350 ºF/176 ºC. In a small bowl, combine the Primal Kitchen Teriyaki Sauce and ½ tablespoon sesame oil. Brush the salmon all over with the sauce and allow it to marinate at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.
Place an orange slice on top of each pieces of salmon and place them on a parchment covered sheet pan on top of the crushed salmon. Bake until the salmon is just opaque in the center. The length of time will depend on the thickness of the salmon pieces, but estimate around 15 minutes. Remove the salmon from the oven and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
While the salmon is cooking, whisk the eggs together in a small bowl. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add the avocado oil and shortly after the whisked egg. Use a rubber spatula to carefully flip the egg over once the omelet sets. Once the egg has set, remove it with the spatula, place it on a plate and cut it into make small strips.
In the same pan, add the remaining ½ tablespoon of sesame oil and the chopped carrot over medium heat. Saute until the carrot starts to soften, then add half of the green onion. Stir for 30 seconds or so and add the garlic and ginger. Heat until fragrant and add in the cauliflower rice. Heat over medium-high heat quickly for 2-3 minutes, until the rice begins to soften. Add the coconut aminos in 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring in between so the cauliflower can absorb some of the liquid. Once the cauliflower is browned and has softened, add the remaining green onion and the chopped egg and toss. Remove the pan from the heat and add any garnishes you like. Serve alongside the salmon.
Each week, select Mark’s Daily Apple blog posts are prepared as Primal Blueprint Podcasts. Need to catch up on reading, but don’t have the time? Prefer to listen to articles while on the go? Check out the new blog post podcasts below, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast here so you never miss an episode.
“Ok, so it’s not exactly Keto popcorn, but our local movie theater offers an appetizer called, ‘Buffalo Cauliflower.’ It’s toasted bits of cauliflower with salt and oil. Totally works for me and I’m not tormented by the delicious aroma of popcorn when I see a movie, anymore.
I like it so much that I adapted a recipe on Cooks Illustrated called Roasted Cauliflower. I cut the cauliflower in smaller bits than it suggests, then make sure each piece is covered in plenty of olive oil and salt. So delicious. I think we eat it once per week. And, my husband and son never really liked cauliflower until I made it this way.
We all have to order our own dish at the movie theatre these days because we like it so much.”
– That’s amazing to hear. Where is this place, Barb?
Today’s post was inspired by a question that came in from a reader who is struggling with depression and body image issues after having children. I asked my colleague Dr. Lindsay Taylor, being a psychologist and a mother herself, to step in.
Having witnessed all the wondrous changes that women’s bodies go through during and after pregnancy with my wife Carrie, I’d like to add my support and encouragement to my readers who struggle with these issues.
This post is for all the mamas and mamas-to-be who are struggling with the ways in which their bodies have changed, grown, stretched, and been marked by pregnancy. For you mothers who have suffered a loss, I see you, and you are included here.
It’s really a shame, but not a surprise, that so many women are plagued by negative body image around pregnancy. A strong predictor of negative body image during and after pregnancy is negative body image before pregnancy.Body image is, of course, something so many people struggle with every day, women in particular. Volumes have been written about the ways in which our cultural standards of attractiveness, media and social media, and social factors conspire to make us feel unattractive, unworthy, and dissatisfied with our bodies. That doesn’t need to be rehashed here.
Then when you’re pregnant, you and everyone around you is hyper-focused on your body. Are you gaining the “right” amount of weight? Eating the right things? Moving in the right way? Strangers are commenting on your size and shape, and probably touching you too. (PSA: Don’t do this.)
Some women love this time and revel in the changes their bodies undergo. Other women feel completely alienated from and even disgusted by their bodies. Probably many women feel different and conflicting emotions at different times. No matter what your experience has been, let me assure you that it’s normal. The whole gamut of experiences is normal and valid.
If you feel confused, conflicted, sad, disappointed, or discouraged about the ways your body has changed because of pregnancy, it’s OK. Your body is different, your relationship to it is different. There is no right or wrong here. My goal for today is to help if you do feel distressed by persistent feelings of negative body image and self-worth after pregnancy. It needs to be addressed. Poor body image correlates with symptoms of postpartum depression (it’s not clear that one necessarily causes the other, but some data suggest that poor body image predicts later depression). This can interfere with your relationships with others, including your partner and, very importantly, your baby.
Sometimes when we talk about this, the first reaction is, “Great, I already feel like &%$! about myself, and now I feel worse because my feelings are going to mess up everything.” That’s not it. Most of all, you simply deserve to feel good about yourself. You deserve to have peace with your body. You don’t need to waste your precious mental energy on tearing yourself down. For many women, their postpartum body image issues are extensions of lifelong feelings of insecurity. Let’s interrupt the cycle now.
Accepting Your Postpartum Body
Most people who want to change how they feel about their bodies take the approach of trying to change their bodies. This rarely works. Postpartum bodies (and bodies in general) often don’t respond how we want, and anyway many of us have constructed ideal body images in our minds that aren’t realistic.
If you want to change how you feel about your body, you should be working on how you feel about your body. There is a lot of well-meaning messaging in the meme-o-sphere about how you should love your body, but I prefer to start with appreciating your body and practicing self-compassion and self-care. If you’re ready to jump right to self-love, by all means go for it! However, this can feel daunting for some women who are stuck in a cycle of self-deprecation and even self-loathing.
The first step in all this is acceptance: accepting the fact that you probably can’t control the size and shape of your body right now, not like diet culture tells you that you can. Yes, there are some women who “bounce back” and flash their postpartum abs in magazines and on Instagram, but they aren’t the norm. Your body is in recovery. If you’re nursing, it’s focused on continuing to keep another human alive. You probably aren’t sleeping, and you might be finding the transition more stressful than you anticipated. Even months or longer down the road, these can still apply. This is hardly the ideal scenario for controlled weight loss.
Moreover, the truth is that your body probably won’t look the same ever again. Even if you go back to wearing your pre-pregnancy clothes, your shape will likely be different. You’ll probably be sporting some new stretch marks. The idea that you can and should “get your body back” is unrealistic and unfair for most women. (Health is something different here.) Your body has done something new and fabulous. It’s not the same body it was.
It’s O.K. to feel sad about that at first. It’s O.K. to mourn the loss of your pre-baby body even while you also appreciate and respect the hell out of your body for growing another human. Denying those feelings or, worse, feeling guilty for them and spiraling into self-criticism and shame doesn’t help. Be open and honest with yourself, and talk to other people who will listen non-judgmentally.
I can’t stress enough that you should ask for help if you need it. If your partner or your friends can’t give you the support you need, or you just feel like you need an impartial ear, find a therapist who specializes in body acceptance and postpartum issues (including depression, even if you don’t think you are depressed, since they are so often linked).
I hear some of you saying, “There is just no way I could ever get to a place where I accept, let alone like, this body.” If you’re feeling too mired down in self-negativity to believe that this is for you, consider this: Self-acceptance allows you to care for yourself and the other people in your life. Imagine if you could model a healthy, happy self-image for your baby as he or she grows. Which of your friends would benefit from someone who speaks in body-positive language and who models self-compassion? How would your partner respond if you could believe that you are sexy and deserving of physical affection?
You don’t owe it to other people to work on yourself if you’re not ready, but sometimes a little outside motivation is what gets the gears turning when the inner motivation is hidden under layers of fear, shame, or self-doubt.
Steps You Can Take
Have I mentioned that I strongly advise anyone who is struggling with mental health and well-being to seek professional help? Good, and I’m saying it again for the record. Therapy rocks.
Quit Negative Self-talk: As I’m sure you know, we are usually our own worst critics. We say hateful, belittling things to ourselves that we would never say to someone else. If you want to deal with negative body image, this has to stop.
When you find your inner voice saying something self-critical, interrupt it and replace the disparaging comment with one that expresses kindness and compassion. Mantras and affirmations can be helpful here. (If you think they’re cheesy, humor me and give it a try.) The trick is to find one that feels authentic to you. One that I like, which I found here, is: I will accept that my body may never be exactly the same as it was before I had the baby, just as my heart will never be the same. Some others you might try are: I deserve to treat myself with kindness and respect, I am learning to be gentle with myself, or My body is beautiful and deserves all the love I can give it. It’s O.K. if you don’t quite believe it yet; still say it whenever a negative thought intrudes.
You can also actively redirect your attention from how your body looks to how it feels. Maybe you actually enjoy the feeling of softness is new places. Maybe pregnancy and childbirth made you feel powerful. When a negative thought appears, crowd it out with Hell yes, this body is strong and capable and awesome.
Again, if this feels forced at the beginning, that’s all right! Body positivity and self-acceptance take work. Many things feel awkward when they’re new, but over time they become second nature.
Negative Body Talk with Others: As a veteran member of multiple moms’ groups, I know that when a group of moms gets together, more often than not we end up kvetching about our bodies. I think social support from other moms is hugely important, but if I could go back in time to when my kids were babies, I’d really try to shut down the self-deprecating body talk.
If you have friends who do this, speak up! Honestly, this is a gift to the other women as well. Complaining about our mom bods is such a common form of bonding, sometimes we need permission to break the cycle. Try, “I’ve noticed we spend a lot of time criticizing ourselves, but I think we are all strong and beautiful rockstar moms. I’ve started a personal project to try to stop negative self-talk and replace it with compliments. What if we tried that here?”
And by all means, if there are other people in your life—family, your partner, co-workers—who try to engage you in body or diet/exercise talk that perpetuates your bad feelings, shut it down. Boundaries are fantastic; draw them often.
Of course, I’m not suggesting you suppress your emotions. Find a friend or counselor you can talk to about your feelings, one who won’t respond with, “Ugh, I know! My belly button looks like a Shar Pei too, I hate it. That’s why I started this new diet, have you heard of it?” Processing and dealing with your feelings is one thing. Using language that keeps you stuck in a cycle of body hatred is something else altogether. You can tell the difference.
Curate Your Social Media: Think about the images you see on your social media. Are they mostly #fitspo accounts that depict a narrow range of what it means to be “healthy” and “fit?” If so, consider seeking out the many people who are spreading the word that bodies of different sizes and shapes can be strong, healthy, and attractive. Find other women who are at your stage of motherhood and who are also promoting positive self-image.
Move Your Body: Your body is so much more than what it looks like! Move for the joy of movement and to connect with your body on a physical level. Exercise to feel strong and powerful, not to try to force your body to “lose the baby weight.” Movement should be self-care, not punishment.
Wear Clothes That Fit: Dress up your body in clothes that fit rather than hiding in too-big clothes or squeezing into uncomfortably small clothes.
Step Off the Scale: I know this is a hard one for a lot of people, but if your daily mood depends on the number on the scale each morning, this is bad for your well-being. You don’t need to be aware of the daily fluctuations in order to take care of yourself.
Other Forms of Self-care: The sky’s the limit here! Let someone watch the baby while you take a nap or go for a coffee date with your partner. Get a pedicure. Ignore the laundry and watch a TV show. Taking care of your emotional well-being and feeling more positive overall can help you avoid the negative self-talk trap.
How You Can Help Support a Mom
If there’s a mom in your life whom you want to support, a good way to start is by not commenting on her body, period. (This is a good policy in general.) “You’ve lost weight!” is generally considered a compliment, but sometimes people lose weight because they’re ill or depressed. Plus, it draws attention to her body and reinforces the notion that she must be hoping and trying to lose weight. Better ways to engage her in conversation: Ask how she is feeling, and express excitement about the baby. Ask her if there is anything she needs. Offer to bring her coffee or a meal, go for a walk together, or watch the baby so she can shower or run to the store.
Resources for Finding Help and Support
If you feel like you could use help or support in this area, please don’t be afraid to ask. Below are some resources that cater to postpartum women specifically. There are also some great individuals and organizations that promote body positivity and self-care more generally.
“It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now… with its aches and it pleasures… is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.” – Pema Chödrön
“Treat yourself as if you already are enough. Walk as if you are enough. Eat as if you are enough. See, look, listen as if you are enough. Because it’s true.” – Geneen Roth
Thanks for stopping in today, everybody. Comments, questions, experiences to share? Include them on the comment board below, and have a great end to the week. Take care.