Did I really just write the truth, that I’M TURNING 40, in a headline? YES, I DID!

And proudly so, because I think that if they say that 60 is the new 40,
40 must be… well, A WHOLE LOT YOUNGER!

I remember thinking, as a kid, that if you were 40 you were (dare I say it?) “old.” Now, in 2017, my perspective is that 40 is anything but old. My thirties have been about building a business and a family. My husband and I were blessed with three healthy children – Luca (9), Matteo (6), and Capri (2) – after a devastating miscarriage between Matteo and Capri.

As every mother knows, motherhood is a journey that no one really prepares you for. It is a love so selfless, so caring, and unconditional, that if someone had told me I would feel this way, it might have been hard for me to believe. The joys and challenges are immense – the highest of highs, mixed in with the lowest of lows. It truly is the hardest job in the world. For the better part of the past decade I was pregnant, breastfeeding, or in a hormonally induced haze of sleep deprivation and emotional fatigue. Yet, I know that motherhood is by far the greatest gift I have ever been given. My three children are my best and proudest accomplishment; they have taught me more than any self-help book, leadership program, or business course ever could. I also learned about my body and its health; that I needed more energy than ever before; that sleep was essential, and that I had to figure out how to fill my own cup with patience, without forgetting to nurture myself so I could be the best mom I could be. And still be me!

Is work-life balance possible for moms?
Whether you’re a mom who works outside of the home or are at home full-time, it’s not easy. I often get asked if there’s such a thing as work-life balance, or is it a myth? To be honest, I haven’t achieved true balance. What I can say, though, is that I try to be strategic with my energy and always carve out time for pleasure and self-care, like my aromatherapy bath at the end of the day. Ultimately, the balance is mine. I’m passionate about both my work and my family, so by and large it works. As the co-founder of Sea-licious, an omega-3 nutrition company, I am inspired to share my expertise in natural health, especially when it comes to kids’ nutrition and bringing the best tasting and highest-quality omega-3s to the market.

I work primarily from a home office, heading into our offices only a few times per week. It helps that I’m a very early riser. While the house is still quiet, I’m up with my coffee, first taking a moment for myself, and then getting some work done before my littlest one is up. The gift of owning your own business is flexibility. When you’re trying to balance everything, as most of us are, it’s a lifesaver to be able to flex as needed.

I hope that my kids will see how hard their parents work and learn by our example. Fortunately, though, it’s not all work and no play for us! The pendulum always swings back and lets me and my husband devote more of our time to personal concerns and family life. I also want our kids to notice that our work is fuelled by passion – a passion for good health. Indeed, we try to teach our children that if you’re passionate about your work, you will never “work” a day in your life!
 
The gift of remarkable health
Nothing makes you appreciate your health more than not having it. In my early adulthood, I suffered some serious health setbacks, but I was able to turn things around and help my body heal itself. To this day, now at age 40, I don’t let a day go by without checking in with my body. What is it missing? What does it need? We are our own best health advocates.

So, check in with yourself. Ask yourself, what would vibrant health look like?

My list of characteristics includes:

  • Energy
  • Beautiful skin
  • Pain-free and restful sleep
  • A fit body
  • Balanced hormones
  • Clear eyes (the eyes say a lot about a person’s health)
  • A healthy sex drive
  • Balanced mood
  • A lack of anxiety – overall, a zest for life!

Achieving your Best Health {at Any Age or Stage}

Gratitude

The practice of gratitude is a powerful one. The benefits of being thankful and showing appreciation and kindness are nearly endless. As I began 2017, I made a pact with myself that each morning I would awake even earlier than usual to allow time for journaling, prayer, and gratitude – even if it’s just gratitude for having coffee in the house! Every day I am grateful for my health, for without my health, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of the other gifts in my life.

When we are on our journey to improve our health or enhance certain aspects of our lives, we tend to focus on what isn’t right, or why we aren’t feeling good. This can leave a person feeling a little down or negative, just recognizing that things aren’t exactly how or where we would want them to be. But this is where gratitude works wonders:

Nutrition

What you put in your body every single day influences how you feel. It really is impossible to talk about health without zeroing in on food first. Food is power. Food is fuel. Food is health. And to truly improve your health, you need to make better food choices. Of course, keeping track of what to eat and what not to eat – it can feel overwhelming at times, especially at the beginning of a new regimen. To keep it simple I recommend focusing on just three nutrient groups: protein, good fat, and fibre. Making it extra easy, many of the foods in the protein and fat categories also contain fibre.

Good Fats

Good fats are essential nutrients that our body can’t make, but definitely need. We rely on food to provide them, but much of our food is seriously deficient in good fats, especially omega-3 fats. Did you know that our entire cell structure is made from good fats? It’s true! These fats nourish joints, muscles, hair, skin, nails, the gut, the brain, the nervous system, the retina of the eye, and more.

After following a low-fat diet for years, my body was left literally starving for good fats, so I had a quick and impressive response to supplementation with omega-3s.

Each time you eat, choose from the following good fats:
•  Avocado
•  Olives
•  Coconut oil
•  Fatty, cold-water fish (the best sources include wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, black cod)
•  Green leafy vegetables
•  Nuts (cashews, walnuts, and almonds)
•  Seeds (flax, chia, hemp)

In addition, I recommend supplementing with 1500 mg of EPA and DHA each day. These are the two most important omega-3s for health.

Set Boundaries. Learn to Say “No”

This was something I came late to; I just started working on it this year. I had to learn how to avoid overcommitting myself. By learning the art of politely, but firmly saying “no” when I don’t have the time or the interest to take on a task, I have improved my own life and helped our entire household find more balance as a family.

But it’s not just about commitments. Another boundary I have set involves electronic devices. At 9:00 each night I plug my phone into a charger in a different part of the house and set it to airplane mode. The Wi-Fi gets shut off in the house, too, to give all our brains a chance to relax. I really believe that one of the keys to becoming more grateful and mindful is learning to set boundaries and disconnect.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice whereby you learn to focus on things happening in the present moment; the sounds, smells, and thoughts going through your mind. These are not to be judged, only acknowledged. When we start to turn inward in this way, it has been shown to relieve pain, illness, and stress.

Mindfulness translates into food and eating as well. There is a cornucopia of food available to us. Choose the freshest food, and savour it. Unfortunately, due to an over consumption of boxed and processed foods, the pleasure and enjoyment of food is too often lost.

When we are in too much of a hurry we can’t sit long enough to enjoy, much less savour – and, believe me, I get it! More nights than not, I am quickly preparing our family’s food in between after-school activities, homework, and evening commitments. It’s stressful and, in fact, many nights I don’t even taste what I’m eating. How awful is that? So, this is one of the things I am working on in 2017: the act of mindfully sitting down, enjoying my food, and listening to the chatter of my family; taking the time to notice the different tastes, smells, and flavours. This will improve digestion and nutrient absorption.

It promotes gut health and the release of serotonin, a feel-good hormone. All in all, mindfulness promotes a decrease in stress and, with that, enhanced enjoyment of life.

Protein

We often associate protein with its power to build lean muscles. And yes, it is important for that, but the benefits may be much greater than you imagined.

Protein is important for:
•  Boosting metabolism
•  Balancing blood sugar
•  Nourishing adrenal glands
•  Supporting the immune system
•  Building and repairing tissue
•  Producing hormones
•  Improving mood
•  Increasing energy

The other misconception about protein is that it must come from meat. Yes, lean meat is a great source of protein, but there are many other sources including:
•  Eggs (choose free-range and organic)
•  Nut butters and nut milks
•  Dairy (full-fat is best, including Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and goat cheese)
•  Legumes and beans (lentils, chick and green peas, black beans, kidney and pinto beans)
•  Ancient grains (such as quinoa, amaranth, spelt, and teff)

Protein powders provide us an easy way to boost protein intake. I can honestly say the addition of protein powder into my diet 15 years ago was transformational. I felt I had a more focused kind of energy, and it helped to boost my metabolism, which resulted in a leaner body. Not to mention the support it gave for my adrenal glands!

Every morning I start my day with a green smoothie containing about 25 g of additional protein. I favour a whey protein isolate from organic New Zealand grass-fed cows, but there are numerous vegan proteins that can be used in the same way.

Fill Your Own Cup First

As the friendly flight attendants remind us, in case of emergency, we’re to secure our own oxygen masks before attending to others. Prior to having my babies, I don’t think I really understood the meaning of this message. Post-babies, it resonates loud and clear with me, because my first and most immediate intuition is to help my kids before helping myself. That’s just more proof of how truly selfless motherhood is! But we all need to heed the advice and first care for ourselves.

Fill your own cup in ways that refresh and renew you so that you always have plenty of energy and passion with which to care for your family. A coffee date with a friend. Date night with your spouse. Perhaps a yoga class on a Saturday morning.

It does not matter what activity you choose, so long as you can feel the good it is doing for you. Everyone in your family will reap the benefits of a happier, healthier mom.