How to Feed Yourself While You Care For Kids to Enjoy Your Motherhood
Do you find yourself eating the leftover scraps on your child’s plate and count that as lunch?
Do you find yourself ravenous at the end of the day and overeating after the kids have gone to bed?
Are you the last one at the table with your family? Or is it rare that you even sit down to eat because you’re helping everyone else?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are absolutely not alone.
How can something as simple as eating and feeding yourself become so much more complicated in motherhood?
Moms usually take a back seat when it comes to eating because we’re always taking care of everyone else.
It can be hard to do things that were once simple - like feeding yourself - when you’re making sure your kids are fed and staying on top of the overwhelming demands of motherhood
Suddenly, even your most basic needs to nourish your body can seem out of grasp when there are other little people depending on you to meet their own needs.
This is not intended to guilt you or make you feel bad, mama, but rather, to empathize with you and acknowledge a very real challenge that you and countless of other mothers are facing everyday.
Many mothers find themselves in survival mode as they learn how to navigate caring for themselves and their kiddos.
It can be frustrating going from a place where you had more freedom and independence with your choices to finding yourself struggling to meet your own basic needs.
Eating and feeding your body consistently should seem pretty straightforward, but raising kids can bring a constant flux of challenges that you never foresaw or anticipated.
Let me be the first to say that you’re NOT failing if you find it difficult to feed yourself while caring for your kids. You’re absolutely normal if you find yourself in a season of life where caring for yourself has become challenging.
Whether you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom or anything in between, the reality is that we often put our children’s needs before ourselves.
But how would things change for you and the capacity you have to care for your children if you were able to better meet your own needs?
You may be able to better position yourself to care for your family when you regularly making the effort to care for yourself, rather than constantly putting vital needs aside.
By doing this, you are also setting an example for your kids that shows them you matter too, and caring for yourself models a healthy mindset to the rest of your family.
Poor Physical Nourishment and Not Eating Well Symptoms
You may have been eating this way for so long, that it’s hard to remember anything different. Or it may be hard to imagine that things could be different for you.
You may be desensitized to some of the basic signals your body is giving you that shows you that your body needs more help and attention.
Constantly ignoring your body makes it easier to disconnect from the signals your body is giving you and what your body needs.
It’s kind of like driving a car with the “Check Engine” light on: you may know there is a problem, but you continue driving because you need to get somewhere.
However, how you get there MATTERS.
If you ignore the issue, it means potentially bigger problems and issues await you down the road.
The issues can start when you become desensitized to what your body needs. It’s easy to get stuck in a “survival mode” with eating.
This might look like going long periods without eating or not eating enough food, followed by episodes of overeating or even binging.
Many women assume these patterns are a failure on their part or lack of “willpower” or self-control, but it’s actually quite the opposite.
Basic hunger needs will drive you to eat, and periods of restriction may create a pendulum effect of overeating as your body works to get the food it needs to survive.
Symptoms of inadequate nourishment and erratic eating habits may be experienced in the following ways:
Lack of energy, feeling sluggish
Dips in breastmilk supply (if breastfeeding)
Disordered eating behaviors (like recurring cycles of restricting/overeating)
Poor body image
Increased preoccupation or obsession with food
Increased risk for mental health conditions, like depression
Recurring or increased susceptibility to illness
Changes in disposition, including irritability and mood swings
Disruptions in normal sleep cycles
Irregular menstrual cycle
You may think this is the new normal of motherhood, but many symptoms may actually be a result of physical neglect and inadequate nourishment.
It’s easy to ignore these symptoms and just keep pushing forward. This may be because you feel like you don’t have any other choice, or because other things are constantly competing for your attention.
Sometimes there are other influencing factors that interfere with feeding your body.
This could be internal/external pressures to lose weight or manipulate your food intake to intentionally change the size of your body.
(On a separate note, please hear me out when I say that the desire to lose weight or improve your health is not in itself inherently a “bad” thing. What’s more important is to understand your motivation for doing so. If you’re dieting or restricting food that your body needs to function in an effort to lose weight, this in itself can be a detriment to your physical and psychological well-being.)
We typically have increased nutrient needs that go unmet, which can create a domino effect for other aspects of your life.
We can’t be a model of health for our kids if we’re continually denying or ignoring our own needs.
Putting off the basic physical need to eat and nourish your body comes not only at your detriment, but to the detriment of your entire family, as your physical and mental well-being become compromised.
So with all that’s at stake and the challenging obstacles that make it difficult to feed yourself while you feed the kids, what’s a mother to do?
Enjoy Your Motherhood With Intuitive Eating
This is where intuitive eating can come into place and be a guiding approach for how you feed and treat your body.
If you are a mother who has struggled with chronic dieting, erratic eating habits can further put you out of touch with your body and the physical nourishment you need to enjoy your kids and family.
You may have heard that intuitive eating means eating when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full - but there’s a lot more to it.
Intuitive eating is not another set of rules to follow - it’s about relearning to be the best expert of your body.
Intuitive eating is combining innate wisdom coming from your body with practical knowledge about eating in a way to best sustain and nourish yourself.
Many moms that I talk with feel frustrated with the concept of intuitive eating when they feel it is not something that can reasonably fit in their everyday life:
For example, how can you tune in and listen to what your body wants and needs when you are constantly caring for the needs of your own children?
Or maybe you’re spending your lunch break responding to emails or pumping for your nursing baby and can only scarf down whatever is in front of you?
I can assure you that intuitive eating is for YOU too: for the mama that is rushing to feed others and hardly has the chance to eat herself, for the mama that is too tired to plan or prepare a meal for herself because the baby was up all night, for the mom that feels like food is too much effort after cooking for and cleaning up after her own kids.
I am you, too - and I can tell you that intuitive eating is meant to serve you where you are at and help nourish you for motherhood.
Why Intuitive Eating in Motherhood?
Intuitive eating is a gentle approach to food and nutrition that puts you in the driver's seat of your health and wellness.
Intuitive eating combines mind knowledge of what feels best in your body alongside the innate physical cues that your body is giving you to know what and how much to eat. This is a self-care framework to caring for your body that puts you in charge of your own health and wellness
You can moving from a place of survival mode and dragging yourself across the finish line each day to a position where you’re able to better enjoy motherhood because you’ve prioritized your physical and mental wellness
Intuitive eating is also an approach to eating that helps you honor your individual physical and mental needs, not sacrificing mental well-being for the sake of physical health (because PSA: having physical health without mental health is not true health).
The beauty of intuitive eating is that it empowers you to be the best expert of your body, no matter how the seasons of your life are unfolding.
As a mother, you can likely attest to the fact that your physical, mental, and emotional needs have varied through multiple life changes, like pregnancy and postpartum.
Learning to be the expert of yourself means that you are equipped with the mind and body knowledge to know how to best navigate these seasons of change and support yourself continuously.
It means being able to let go of the outside clutter and rules about what you “should” and “shouldn’t” be doing to have the mental space and capacity to actually listen to what your own body and mind need.
It’s treating your body from a place of respect, compassion, and care, which is essential to mothering and feeding your own children.
As you learn to trust yourself when it comes to food and your own health, you will feel more confident in other aspects of your life as well, including how you feed your kids
What Does Intuitive Eating Look Like in Motherhood?
I’m sure you’re thinking, “This might all sound great in theory, but how do I actually apply this in real life?”
I hear ya, mama.
What does this look like when you’re a busy mom who hardly has time to feed yourself during the day? Or when lunch may have been the leftover sandwich and goldfish from your child’s plate?
As a working mom myself who has recovered from an eating disorder and a difficult relationship with food and my body, I understand firsthand the importance of prioritizing physical and mental health, as well as the various factors in life and motherhood that can compete with these priorities.
So what are some practical steps for getting started toward better caring for your body?
Here are some ideas to help you, mama:
Begin With Awareness
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to begin with awareness of these areas in your life that you may potentially want to change.
Are you feeling run-down because you’re always the last one on the list? Is your physical and mental health compromised because you’re caring for others and not yourself?
While these types of issues are influenced by a variety of factors (some that may even be out of your control), it’s necessary to start by focusing in on the areas that you do have influence.
You don’t have to drag yourself through motherhood, barely surviving. Be real with yourself to understand the areas of your life that might need more attention, such as taking care of your physical health and nourishment.
2. Understand What Aspects You Want to Change and Start Slow
Let’s be real: there’s an overwhelming amount of information about there about every topic you could possibly research.
Remember - you don’t need another set of rules or a book of “shoulds and shouldn’ts”. Everything you need to know about caring for your body is already within you.
You simply need to clear out the clutter to give yourself space and room to tune into and listen to your body’s innate wisdom.
When you’re wanting to change something about your life, it can feel daunting. My encouragement is to start slow. Climbing a mountain happens one focused step at a time.
Think about the areas that you’d like to focus on, like eating more consistently, eating with your kids, etc, and stick with that until you feel like you’re ready to move on to something new.
3. Start With Your Non-Negotiables
When something is not a priority for you, it becomes easier to compromise, especially when push comes to shove.
If respecting your body hasn’t been a priority for you, then it’s much more likely to take a back-seat to other things that have become more important.
Sometimes the different seasons of life we’re in push aside critical priorities unintentionally (hello, #momlife).
When your priorities feel out of alignment, it’s necessary to reassess what has shifted for you and determine if you need to make any readjustments.
If you’re not sure where to begin, try starting with your values and what’s important to you.
As an example: It’s important for me to feed my body well so I can have the energy to be present for my family and my work. Since this is something I value, it will help me prioritize my schedule accordingly.
I’m guessing as a mama, you may have similar priorities. But I know it won’t always be this easy. And yes, sometimes, late night TV binges take precedent because mama needs a break.
But overall, when you have your priorities at the forefront of your mind, it will be easier to make choices that reflect these values and the things that are important to you.
Maybe this looks like cutting down on some activities during the week so that you can have more time to eat together as a family. Or taking your lunch break to actually eat at work rather than tackle your inbox.
There’s no right or wrong here, mama. It’s a matter of taking an honest assessment of your life and asking if you’ve compromised in areas that should be more of a priority to you.
I know it feels like everything and everyone are demanding your attention, but there is only ONE you. You can’t replace your body and/or mind if it’s broken or run-down.
If you’re not doing well, physically and mentally, life will be much more difficult.
Real Life Example of Intuitive Eating for Moms
So with these first steps in mind, I’d love to share with you what a day-in-the-life looks like for me, as a navigate feeding my body and my own intuitive eating journey while raising 5-kids and working.
I know some of these concepts can sound good in theory but can still feel far-fetched if you’re uncertain how to apply these things in your own life.
I get it, mama. I am you, too. I want you to know that this is possible for you in your journey.
Please keep in mind that this is just a snapshot of a day for me.
While I have some general guidelines that help support my food decisions (more about this below), my food choices vary each day according to what foods I have available, my own unique physical and mental needs, how this serves me as a working mom and what is going on with our family.
In sharing this, I also want to recognize the enormous privilege I have to have regular access to a plentiful amount of food for myself and my family.
For many mothers and families, simply getting enough food on the table is a tremendous feat that causes insurmountable stress each day. Countless more mothers are juggling multiple jobs while raising kids just to see to it that their children are fed; they may be sacrificing their own physical needs just to make sure there is enough to go around for everyone.
This post and information is in no way meant to create shame or ignore the lived experiences that are unique to every mother and her family.
If you have found yourself in this position, I acknowledge you and your courage. You are doing the best you can with the resources and information you have. Your body deserves care and respect, too.
This also is based on my own experience of eating and listening to my body and understanding what foods feel good in my body, what foods help satiate me, etc.
Some of the things that I’ve learned through my own intuitive eating journey are as follows:
Our bodies need fuel and nourishment frequently: In order to stay satiated and nourished, our bodies need fuel about every 3-4 hours (sometimes more frequently). It’s easy to do this for our kids and offer them meals/snacks frequently, but for some reason, we think we’re an exception to the rule. If you’re used to going long periods of time without eating (5+ hours between meals), then you may be less likely to be attuned to your body’s earliest hunger signs. Hunger should be more of a subtle feeling, like an emptiness in your stomach or when you find yourself thinking about food. Eating more consistently throughout the day can help keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable, which is crucial for moms. It can also help you avoid erratic eating patterns. When you go long periods without feeding your body, your body is more likely to “make-up” for what it didn’t get earlier in the day. This may cause periods of overeating and binging.
Combination of carbs, fat, and protein to help stay satiated and satisfied: Using this framework can help build meals and snacks that can offer your body the combination of nutrients that promote satiety. What I love about this framework is that virtually any foods can fit here to offer your body nourishment. It really doesn’t have to be complicated.
Mental health shouldn't be sacrificed when feeding your body: Sometimes, we hyperfocus on the minutiae of health that we miss the bigger picture goals. If what to eat and feed your body creates stress or anxiety for you, that could potentially be worse for your health than any one food you might eat. Remember that your health is so much more than the food: it involves your mental well being, how you manage and deal with stress, and so much more.
Eating experiences provide learning opportunities: Because we are human (and mothers), we can’t expect eating experiences to be perfect. Far from it. What we can do is approach our eating experiences from a lens of curiosity, rather than judgement or from a critical place. When you do this, you are better able to gleam the wisdom from your body to help you make informed decisions about future eating experiences and troubleshoot any areas that may need more attention. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, you may go a prolonged time without eating because life happened. Maybe you overate, which left you feeling uncomfortable in your body. Or you ate foods that didn’t make you feel great afterwards. Whatever the issue, know that your body can be trusted to help you navigate those instances that didn’t go according to plan. What can you learn to help you move forward?
As you read through this, remember that food is a nuanced thing: meaning, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and every individual is unique in their own needs.
What I need to eat in a day should be different from what you need, and vice-versa. This is strictly for example and educational purposes only and is not meant to be prescriptive or provide individual recommendations in any way whatsoever.
For me, I am currently breastfeeding, and I understand that also puts increased nutrient needs on my body. So I try to be mindful of this component that can sometimes cause appetite fluctuations and plan for them accordingly.
With that said, here is a snapshot overview of a day of eating and how I navigate some of the challenges that come with eating while raising kids:
8am - BREAKFAST: Eggs scrambled in butter with cheese, blueberry waffles with peanut butter, honeydew, green tea latte.
My youngest was up at 7am to nurse. I crawled back into bed, desperate to get a few more minutes of sleep before the rest of the family is up.
By 8am, my kids are usually ready to eat and will be rummaging through the fridge and pantry if I don’t get food on the table. I’ve found that if I can eat within 45mins to an hour after waking up, this feels best in my body.
I wake up feeling a slight pit of hunger, and I know I need to eat soon. Breakfast is simple: eggs scrambled in butter with cheese, frozen blueberry waffles that have been toasted with peanut butter, some leftover honeydew from last night’s dinner, and my green tea latte (milk, matcha green tea powder, honey).
I’m not a coffee drinker but enjoy something warm in the morning. I would sit at the table, but I know the baby will crawl in my lap and pick at my food, and I'm just not in the mood this early in the morning.
I take hurried bites of food from my plate between spills of milk and requests for more waffles! More peanut butter! More milk!
Sometimes, even with the best intentions, I’m not able to eat to a level of fullness that is satisfying at breakfast when the morning is chaotic attending to all the kids.
That’s okay. I do the best I can in the moment, and frequent snack times through the day helps me feed my body enough, especially if I wasn’t able to get everything I needed during a meal while taking care of the kids.
Choosing foods with staying power also helps me fuel my body with energy I need, even if I’m not mindfully enjoying every bite.
10:00am SNACK: Trail Mix (nuts, seeds, dried fruit), Pirate Booty Cheddar Popcorn
I packed some snacks in my bag for me and the kids before taking them to appointments before lunch.
Having a snack between breakfast and lunch helps me steady my energy levels and prevents me from getting hangry.
These are snacks my kids also enjoy that are portable and convenient for on-to-go.
This combination offers carbs, protein, and healthy fats - which helps hold us over to lunch, so the gang’s all here!
12:30pm LUNCH: Taco salad, cheese quesadilla, chocolate.
If we had any leftovers from last night’s dinner, I love to use those to put together a quick lunch. We had some leftover taco meat from dinner, which I used to make a taco salad. I also make some cheese quesadillas that the kids and I share.
We usually eat lunch together. Sometimes, I try to eat outside with my kids to break up the monotony, but it’s hot out, so we’re stuck indoors.
The kids are fighting over who gets the pink cup. I go to quickly switch out the laundry while the kids are sitting down at the table and come back to find the baby eating off my plate.
I sit down to finish eating with the baby sitting in my lap. The older kids finish lunch and start playing while I’m still at the table.
Suddenly there’s an argument that needs mediation, so I need to step away from my lunch. But who am I kidding; this happens a couple times over the course of the meal. What can I say? This is real life with 5 kids.
Eventually I get back to my food but not without a couple detours.
Because meal times won’t always go in my favor (in terms of time and space to eat and enjoy my food), I need to lean on some outside tools.
This is where I turn up the volume on my knowledge of what feels good in my body to help me navigate situations where I can’t always listen to my body (because with 5 kids, it’s hard to hear anything sometimes).
I purposely choose to eat foods that I know will be filling and have staying powering for satisfaction. Even though it may not be an ideal situation for eating, I try to check in with myself and gauge how I am feeling, but sometimes, I’m not fully tasting my food while I’m tending to the kiddos.
Briefly pausing after the meal can help me assess if I need anything else. Chocolate sounds good, and I find myself craving something sweet, so I’m intentional about having some with my meal.
Similar to breakfast, I know I will have other times to feed myself during the day if I didn’t get to fully enjoy my meal or eat to a point of satisfaction.
At this point, I have been able to feed my body a variety of foods that will sustain me and prevent my blood sugar and energy levels from dipping.
3:30pm SNACK: Turkey Sandwich, handful of tortilla chips with guacamole, Greek Yogurt and Berries
Afternoon snack is more of a meal because I’m working tonight and seeing clients this evening back to back. This means tonight I won’t be having dinner at home with my family while I work.
Even though I’m not totally hungry and ready to eat, I still feed my body, knowing it will be a few hours before I am able to eat again.
I’m able to eat this while my younger kids nap, so it gives me a chance to sit down and enjoy a meal without the normal, usual mealtime chaos. I ignore the mess around me. I finish my meal at a point where I’m slightly overfull but not uncomfortable. Feel satisfied and content.
I bring water and a fruit/nut bar in case I get hungry between clients.
6:30pm: SNACK: Fruit/Nut bar, String Cheese
Have my snack in my office between clients because I feel slightly hungry and found myself thinking about food. I choose to fuel my body proactively by eating something when I’m able at the earliest signs of hunger.
8:30pm: After coming home from working, I nurse the baby and put kids to bed. I finally have time to sit quietly with myself at the end of the day. I use this time to check in with my body.
Sometimes, if I didn’t get enough to eat earlier in the day due to all the noise/chaos/etc, my body might “catch--up” and need more to eat toward the end of the day.
I use times where it is quiet/still to really check in with my body and use mind knowledge to feed myself foods that are satisfying and nourishing.
8:50pm : DINNER - Leftover lasagna, side salad and roasted veggies
Kids are asleep. Plate myself some leftover lasagna that I made for the family earlier with a side salad and roasted veggies.
Using this quiet time to enjoy my food, check in with my body, and gauge how much food I need to eat to feel satisfied. I stop at a point where I feel content, even though there is still food left on my plate.
10:30pm : SNACK: Mint n’ chip ice cream with slivered almonds, Sliced banana
Still awake finishing some work. During the week, I usually am up a few hours after the kids go to bed to spend some time with my husband and wrap up some work related things. We share some mint n’ chip ice cream because we’re craving something sweet, and it’s something we both enjoy.
Eating Enough is a Basic Form of Self-Care
I don’t think there is a “typical” day in motherhood; the truth of the matter is that raising kids is often unpredictable and can bring with it the most unexpected turns and caveats.
But I have learned that when I prioritize feeding my body and see to it that I get fed, I am much better able to enjoy motherhood.
It’s easy for moms to forgo eating in the name of self-sacrificing love for our children (AKA - pushing our own needs to the backburner so that we can attend to our children).
While it might seem like a short-term solution, it is not without long-term problems.
Committing to meeting your own basic needs, like feeding your body, is not a selfish pursuit. It’s acknowledging that you matter, too.
There is no one right way to do this.
Ultimately, I think it comes down to learning how to reconnect with your body and honor your physical, mental, and emotional needs.
It also involves some foresight to help you know how to best navigate situations that may make it more difficult to feed your body so you can plan accordingly.
As you learn through this process, keep these tools and resources in mind.
These are some things I’ve learned from my own journey that have helped me feed myself throughout the different seasons of motherhood that can make it challenging to stay nourished.
10 Self Care Tools to Help You Stay Nourished in Motherhood:
1. Meal planning to have food choices:
The phrase “meal planning” can trigger images of hours spent in the kitchen batch making a bunch of different ingredients and portioning out meals in little glass containers.
If that is something you are able to do and enjoy doing, more power to you, mama.
But if this is not necessarily your cup of tea, that’s okay, too.
That’s what I’m getting at here: meal planning is not the same as meal prepping, nor does it mean having a rigid plan for eating that you have to be married to.
Having some idea of what you’re eating or feeding your family during the week can be a saving grace and help you feel better prepared when 4pm rolls around and you’re looking into the fridge wondering, “What’s for dinner?”
If you don’t have any options on the table that you can choose from, food will feel more chaotic.
You’re more likely to put less thought into what you’re feeding yourself and your kids, eat whatever you can get your hands on, or just not eat anything at all because the choices overwhelm you.
It’s like packing for a trip: you have wardrobe options, but you won’t necessarily wear everything you pack. You make in-the-moment decisions based on how you feel, the weather, etc, but you have things to choose from. Same with food.
There is freedom within structure around food. From the choices you have available, you can decide what sounds good for your body and what works best for your family.
2. Keep food with you so you’re not going long periods without something:
As a mother, you are most likely on your feet and juggling multiple things throughout the day.
It’s easy to get into task mode and do multiple things throughout the day for your family while going hours without feeding yourself.
To help prevent yourself from going long periods without food, try setting alarms on your phone if needed.
Keep non-perishable foods/snacks in the different places that you’re likely to be so you have options of things to eat wherever you are, like your car, work/home desk, etc.
3. Eat with your kids when possible:
It’s easy to feed your child consistently because you know they need that nourishment.
Use the times you feed your kids as reminders and times to feed yourself as well. Sit down with them to enjoy a snack, drink some water, and take a break to feed yourself, too.
This also sends the message to your kids that taking care of yourself is a priority and feeding yourself is an important part of self-care.
If we want our kids to be able to do the same things for themselves one day, we have to teach them by modeling these behaviors for them.
You can also talk with your kids about how food feels in their bodies during meal times to support their intuitive eating abilities.
Doing things TOGETHER with your kids and involving your kids when possible, can help you simplify mealtimes and make it easier to eat yourself.
Having your kids/partner help you get food on the table can also make sure you have a seat at the table for meals, too.
4. Using quiet pockets of time to reassess what my body is needing - physically, mentally, and emotionally:
Let’s be real. Being a mom doesn’t come with a whole lot of down time.
We can’t always wait for those periods of down time to happen to finally feed our bodies - that is a sure recipe for crashing and burning.
Instead, use any pockets of down time as they come to check in with yourself and figure out what you’re needing to best support YOU, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Checking in with your physical needs is the best place to start, because you’re less likely to be able to deal with the emotional stuff until your basic physical needs are met.
If you have babies or little ones, use nap times or any down times to check in with yourself physically and to see what your body needs, troubleshoot - if you need more food, more water, etc.
Try to take a few minutes to sit quietly with yourself (even if it’s in the bathroom - take what you can get!) to figure out what your body is needing.
While eating with kids (especially with kids in your lap, kids making messes at the table, etc), can make it more challenging to have mindful eating experiences, it doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected to what your body is needing or enjoy your food.
Having periodic meal times away from your kids can help create eating experiences that allow you to be fully present and mindful.
This is where you might want to take advantage of date nights, or schedule a date with yourself or some girlfriends to enjoy something you really like (but maybe don’t get to regularly have at home).
5. Give yourself grace, especially with eating experiences:
Food and eating experiences are not meant to be perfect. A big dose of parenthood will quickly bring this truth into reality.
The beauty of the imperfect and messy are the gleaming nuggets of wisdom we can take away from eating experiences that didn’t go the way you may have wanted them to.
For example, if you ate too much at one meal or not enough at another, approach this from a place of curiosity to help you learn from the experience.
Learning how to eat intuitively and trust yourself as the expert of your body is not something that is meant to be done perfectly.
However, you can trust your body to help you troubleshoot when things don’t go according to plan.
Whether you ate too much or not enough, approach these experiences from a place of curiosity to learn about yourself rather than a place of judgement or criticism.
You can absolutely honor your own unique lived experiences to help you better tune into what your body and mind are needing to thrive.
6. Honor Your Hunger and Emotions:
As mothers, it’s important to have a tool belt of effective coping mechanisms outside of food.
Because food is tangible, it can easily become something that is used in maladaptive ways, especially if there are minimal ways to cope with stress available.
If you find yourself escaping into food or rigidly approaching food to find some sense of control, take an honest look at why you may be doing these things. I
If you’ve struggled with maternal mental illness, such as anxiety or depression, having effective coping skills is even more essential to your self-care and to thrive in motherhood.
Does this mean that food can’t be emotional at times? Absolutely not!
But if food is the only way you know how to cope, that this may not be healthy for you.
On this topic, it’s also important to note that stress eating or emotional eating often stems from restrictive diets or overall calorie restriction.
This means if you’re experiencing food deprivation, whether intentionally for weight loss, or even unintentionally, this is more likely to trigger deprivation-driven emotions.
An example of this can be seen in studies on childhood hunger, which has been associated with anxiety and depression among children.
This gives evidence to the strong connection between food deprivation and mental/emotional health.
Remember that your body doesn’t know whether it’s being deprived of food intentionally or not - all it knows is that it’s not getting enough food to function at its best, and this will have both physical and psychological consequences.
So if you’re wondering how to stop emotional eating or how to stop stress eating, an important first step is to make sure that you’re eating enough.
In a weight loss society that is driven by diet culture, it’s more likely that your tendency is to minimize your calorie intake, when in fact, you may be putting yourself in a food deprivation state.
A healthy diet starts with feeding yourself sufficiently. You will be better able to handle the many stressors that often come in motherhood if your body is fed adequately and not in a food deprived state.
7. Using convenience foods to help build healthy snacks with simple framework:
Convenience foods can be an easy way to see to it that your body is fed, especially on the go or when you’re needing a quick option to feed yourself.
One thing to keep in mind is to ask yourself: “What would make this food more satisfying?”
Sometimes, snack foods may not keep you satiated for a very long, but adding other food components can give you more bang for your buck.
Adding a food that might be higher in fiber, protein, and fat can create a more nourishing option with convenience foods.
For example, we might have various crackers on hand for the kids (goldfish, grahams, etc), which are convenient for taking on the go.
I know that eating these alone usually won’t be very filling. But having some crackers with a cheese stick or a handful of nuts and a piece of fresh fruit will have much more staying power.
Have easy, ready-to-go options that you know are satiating and satisfying.
Use a simple framework to help you build meals and snacks that are nourishing and satisfying (pairing carbs/protein/fat together). The nice thing about using this type of framework is that you can include any foods that you might have available, even all the snack foods that your kids love to eat.
Snacks can also be a way to include fruits and vegetables to boost your overall nutrient intake, as these can be easily paired with other foods for a satisfying snack. Examples can include fruit with nut butter, veggies with hummus and guacamole, etc.
Again, having positive meal time experiences goes back to combining mind knowledge with your body’s cues to create flexible outcomes as you learn to feed and care for your body through the challenges and demands that motherhood can bring.
8. Automate and delegate what you can to make cooking/shopping easier:
Sometimes, seeing to it that you get fed is a logistical thing.
It can be so difficult to find time when you’re responsible for so many other things or if you’re running a one-woman show.
Remember to go back to your non-negotiables.
Feeding yourself needs to be a priority in order to care for yourself and prevent a burn-out.
If you’re looking at your current tasks and responsibilities, what can you reasonably automate or delegate from your list to create a little more margin for you?
Maybe this means having your groceries delivered to help save you time on shopping. Maybe you can delegate some cooking or shopping tasks to other family members.
If you can’t let go of the cooking/shopping, what are other areas that you can get help in to help free up more of your time?
Team up with another mom friend to do some babysitting sharing, where you can swap an afternoon of watching the kids to help give you some time to get some things done.
It takes some creativity, but it’s totally possible to create a simpler system for managing your home, meals, and family.
9. Serve meals family style to simplify mealtime:
If you want to minimize the mealtime chaos, try serving your meals family style.
This means putting out the available options for your family on the table and allowing everyone to serve themselves.
Wait - I know what you’re thinking. How does this not add MORE chaos?
But the truth is, if you’re micromanaging how much and what everyone is eating, it’s only going to add more stress and chaos to YOUR plate.
Depending on the ages of your kids, you made need to modify.
Obviously younger kids will need a little assistance. But over time, your kids can independently learn how to serve what they need on their plates.
This is also an empowering skill for your children to support their intuitive eating abilities and to learn what foods and amounts of foods feel best in their bodies.
Remember that you’re not in charge of what your kids eat or even how to get your picky eater to eat.
Serving your meals family style can help simplify mealtime and take any unnecessary pressure off your shoulders.
10. Give yourself permission to eat:
In order to honor your body and hunger, and to feed yourself appropriately, it’s necessary to first give yourself permission to eat.
Diet culture has created so many stipulations as to when it is “acceptable” to eat; but excuse me?
When did a basic, biological need become something negotiable?
Do you need permission to breathe oxygen, use the restroom or drink water? Heck, no!
So why should eating be any different?
As a mother and HUMAN BEING (First and foremost), you NEED to eat to live and enjoy your life.
No matter if you haven’t worked out today, ate too much yesterday, or just straight up don’t feel like you deserve to eat - please push these rules and mind clutter aside to feed AND honor your body!
Unique Challenges That Can Make Eating More Difficult
Motherhood is an intense transitional time of a woman’s life and can dramatically change everything.
For some mothers, dieting can create an artificial sense of control and can become something that women hold on to intensely, especially if it feels like everything around her or her surroundings are out of control.
For women who may have struggled with an eating disorder, the transitional times of motherhood, especially pregnancy and postpartum, can be a trigger that causes an eating disorder relapse.
In other situations, motherhood can be a trigger that causes new eating problems that a woman has never faced before. The eating challenges faced in motherhood can further compound a chaotic relationship with food that may have stemmed from chronic dieting or an eating disorder.
If you have found yourself in this position, please know that you are absolutely not alone. There is help available to support your healing and recovery so that you can enjoy your motherhood and help create a different future for you and your family.
It’s important to understand that if you’ve struggled with an eating disorder or chronic dieting, it will be extremely difficult to jump into intuitive eating. In fact, this is not recommended.
Realigning your body with its basic nutritional needs is an important first step toward healing and recovering.
Eating disorders and/or chronic dieting can make it confusing to understand what your body is telling you, as there is often a disconnect between body and mind. I often describe it like trying to drive a car with broken gauges.
It would be really hard to try and drive a car when you couldn’t see how fast you were going or how much fuel you have in your tank, right?
Trying to eat intuitively while in the midst of an eating disorder can feel similar.
So what’s the first step?
Get those car gauges fixed. In other words, healing your body FIRST can help you reconnect with your body’s innate hunger and fullness cues.
We’re all born with these innate eating signals, but sometime along the way, we can get disconnected from them when we put more value on what the outside world is telling us, rather than what our body is telling us.
If you have found yourself in this position, please know that there is absolutely hope for your healing and recovery.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, be sure to connect with quality and professional help for a comprehensive eating disorder treatment plan. If you’re not sure where to start, begin with the National Eating Disorder Association for more help and free resources.
If you are a mom who is wanting to learn more about how to eat intuitively while navigating motherhood, please connect with me today. I would love to hear your story and learn more about how I can help guide you on your journey.
You Deserve Care and Nurturing, Too
The most effective way to self-nurture is to feed yourself well and consistently.
Caring for your body and mind through gentle nutrition is one of the most compassionate forms of self-care available for mothers everywhere.
Balancing your own nutritional needs with caring for your kids is not always easy.
But learning how to trust you body as the best expert of what you need is possible and essential to taking care of yourself while navigating motherhood.
Know that by doing this and investing time and effort into this, you’re setting an example for your children so they can also learn to trust their bodies as the best expert of what they need.
Meals are not going to be perfect ALL the time or even some of the time, but just remember that this doesn’t need to be your criteria for feeding yourself.
There is grace, even in the chaos and messy.
Now is always a good time to treat your body with the kindness and respect it deserves.