this Mother's Day, find a quiet moment for self-care

Mom, Reinvented: Lessons from Detox

Jaime Tollas

Most weekday mornings I am up before 5:30.  I go to the gym, make the lunches, pound the coffee, put on the shoes and the sweaters and the backpacks and whatnot, make the PTA meeting, hit the grocery store, change for work…  Before the clock strikes nine and I power up the computer I have probably made, oh, 50 decisions: what to make for lunch, whether or not to run the dishwasher, whether my daughter needs leggings under her dress, whether or not I want to pick the battle about my son finishing his applesauce, whether I should volunteer for the Book Fair, whether I have time to get gas before my 9:30 meeting or if I can squeak by until 3:00…  The list goes on and on.

But there are other decisions I never really thought about until 21 days ago.

Back in April, nutrition & health coach Michelle Pfenninghaus wrote an article for postmodyrn about no-cook meal solutions for busy 4th Trimester mamas.  Michelle and I got to cyber-talking about future contributions, and she suggested that before we move forward I participate in her flagship program, the Reinvent 21 Clean Living Immersion: a three-week “detox” with an online support group, designed to hit the reset button on your overall health and digestion by systematically eliminating toxins from your diet.

I like to think I am a pretty healthy woman.  I make an effort to buy organic.  My husband and I home-cook 95% of the meals our family eats.  I work out six days a week, wear a Fitbit.

That said, I have always had a healthy suspicion of “detox” programs and their promises.  I suffered from a fairly serious eating disorder as an adolescent which forever altered my relationship with food.  It has taken me 20 years, two pregnancies, and the driving need to be a positive role model for my young daughter to heal from these wounds.  The thought of restricting — or worse, eliminating — my nutritional intake is like looking back at a deep and scary wood that I’ve only just fought my way out of.  Self-love, self-forgiveness, and balance are my jam these days.  (Or at least that’s what I strive for.)

Lucky for me, it turns out Find(ing) Your Balance is Michelle’s jam too, and perhaps the first pillar of the Reinvent21 is FEED YOURSELF.  Michelle provides participants with a 100+ page cookbook and three weeks of detailed meal plans.  (Participants are not at all required to use these but they serve as a helpful guide, and necessary inspiration when you’re staring down yet another batch of quinoa on Day 17.)  She sends motivational emails each morning, most boiling down to: Take care of yourself.  Enjoy this process.  Be empowered.  Find flavor.  Learn to love your healthy fats, your spice cabinet, your food processor.

AND.

Think about it.  Think about what you are feeding yourself.  Make conscious decisions around food rather than mindless ones.  And really, that’s how the program works.  Over 21 days of slow, systematic elimination you have no choice but to ask two questions before you eat: 1. What is in this?  and 2. (in Michelle’s words) Will it serve me?

Which brings me back to mornings.  I never realized the creep of mornings on my overall diet.  A scoop of Nutella and a handful of raisins from my daughter’s snack would pass for breakfast.  Stopping by the kitchen at the office on the way to my desk I might grab a chunk of bagel leftover, I don’t know, maybe from yesterday?  A mini chocolate bar at 10am.  Dinner at home was always healthy but days were decidedly catch-as-catch-can.  Sure, I was liberated from years of obsessing over food — and that’s a good thing! — but I was eating mindlessly, and that is not.  I was just putting food in my body, rather than fueling myself for the demands of my life.

Enter the Reinvent 21.  For a week, I carved out ten minutes for breakfast at the table at home.  I made myself a wholesome lunch to take with me every morning.  But at the beginning of the second week, I turned to the Facebook support group (a shout-out to them, by the way!  THANK YOU!!).  “I’m feeling high anxiety this week,” I confessed.  “I’m used to being sure my family has what they need to get through the day, but I’m not used to prioritizing myself in that way.  On this program, I’ve suddenly made myself one more person for me to worry about.”  

Michelle wrote back: “It sounds like you need to ask yourself if there is something else you can let go of.”

Whether we are new moms or seasoned moms, whether we are 24 and bouncing back quickly from childbirth or 39 and fighting against age and hormones for a new normal, we are MOMS first.  And unfortunately, that often means we come last in the pecking order of care.  I learned over the past month that prioritizing myself in the mad rush of daily life was actually kind of scary.  Cooking a hot lunch might mean I didn’t finish a work project!  Stopping at Whole Foods to make a salad rather than grabbing a frozen yogurt might not be popular (ahem) with my kids!  Or, simply: I don’t have time!

For 21 days, I made time.  And I’m here to tell you: it’s worth it.  It’s worth it to take care of ourselves, mamas.  We are worth it.  Our kids, our partners, and our friends will benefit from seeing us take the time to nourish ourselves, breathe deeply (yes, that’s part of the detox too), and get centered.  

This experience wasn’t about hitting the reset button on my body.  It was about hitting the reset button on my mind.

I am now four days into a post-detox world and it’s surprising how un-tempted I am to go back to the old way.  Sure, I’m having coffee again…but it’s not because Oh my God this day is already insane and I need caffeine.  It’s because I like the smell of it brewing when I come into the kitchen, I like the rich taste of the cream against the bitterness of the coffee, I like pausing to sip it as I bustle through the morning.  I’m appreciating my meals as ritual rather than fix.  And rituals deserve respect.  They deserve my attention.  They deserve to be conscious.  

I’m not saying everyone reading this should go out and detox for three weeks.  But I’m saying that you deserve to take care of yourself.  If you find, as you dive further into the sea of motherhood, that picking off a sectioned Elmo plate has come to represent “dining”, you might need to step back and think: Don’t I deserve more than this?  

You do.  

This weekend is Mother’s Day (but you knew that!) and my wish for you is that you take even 21 minutes to practice self-care.  Search your best self and give her what she needs to blossom, whether it’s rest or exercise or alone time.  A date.  A laugh.  A long shower.

You’re a mom!  You are already reinvented.  Now, Be Well. 

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