Wednesday, March 7

12 ways that helped me get in the best shape of my life post 3 babies in 3 years

Sometime between wanting to write this post, being asked to write it by so many sweet people, and actually writing it, my mama passed away.  For a while before she passed and still now, I was stuck in a place of sadness of her illness and joy in the beauty of my life and not really being able to think of much more than taking care of my family and finding a second somewhere in there to take care of myself.  This is kind of how it all started if I'm being really honest with you, and with myself.

I needed an outlet where I could practice some sort of self control because a lot of my world felt like it was falling apart.  Up until now, it seemed silly to talk about anything beside my amazing mother and how her death is a turning point in my life.  I realized though that talking about my health and wellness journey has just as much to do with my mama as it has to do with me.  So here it is.

I took out my frustrations in the gym.  I took my sadness to the stair master and my pain to the weight machines and my lack of control to my nutrition.  I *think* this was/is somewhat of a healthy way to cope.  Coping is something that I am still re-learning how to do daily so I hope you will bear with me.

I feel like some people want to know what my magic secret is.  If you came here to read about a pill that curbed my cravings or a machine that blasted the fat off my love handles or a diet that I followed, I am sorry to tell you that I have none of those things here for you.  It's ok to not be focused on the long-term, I didn't used to be either.  In fact, one of the biggest things that I have learned the past few years is how to truly live in the moment, so I get it.  I'm not here to ever judge you and I hope you can do the same for me.  What really changed me though is thinking about the quality of the hopeful years with my darling and our beautiful babies.  I didn't get more years with my mama but I did get 32 incredible ones, and it was because of the way she took care of herself.  I'm sure some of you are thinking oh but your mom died of cancer so she must have done something wrong.  First of all, $%&* you hahah forgive me Lord for I have sinned.  I know someone out there is thinking that right now and it's one of those things that irks me about the wrong things that people say to a grieving person.  Goodness, I'm glad I can laugh about that!  The way my mama died has nothing to do with how she lived, you better believe it.  Her lively spirit, strength, continuous determination, healthy living, regular exercise, and a heart full of love is why she lived as long as she did.  So yeah, I want to be just like her.  Ok I'm crying now and as soon as I can see again I'll keep going.  Also this will likely be long because I have a lot to say and want to be as transparent and real with you as possible.

5 month progress

So here are 12 non-magic ways that helped me reach my fitness goals:

1.  Figure out your why.
I want to be an example to the little girls that I have been called to lead, that call me mommy.  I will take care of my joints that felt like they belonged in the body of a 90 year old because of 3 years of elastin build up from subsequent pregnancies.  No more feeling like I might fall down the stairs.  No more negative thoughts.  No more being the human trash can of cheddar bunnies and macaroni and cheese because of the fear of throwing food away haha or was that just me?! My husband and our girls became my accountability, and I don't really think they even know it.  My grief became my accountability.

Whole30 2017 and Whole30 2018

2.  Start somewhere.  Anywhere.
 "A year from now, you'll be so glad you started."  When Florence was 6 months old and I felt confident that my body and my mind were ready and more importantly, confident that I could feed my husband meat and vegetables for 30 days haha, we embarked on a Whole30 Program journey together.  (We actually just finished our 2nd Whole30 month a couple of days ago.)  My priority is breastfeeding so I knew that if anything, my milk production would be richer with more wholesome food and I was at a point where my milk supply had stabilized for quite some time.  Lets face it, up until then, I was happily surviving on coffee and cheddar bunnies off the hardwood floor.  I did zero calorie restriction and focused solely on what I was eating and not how much or when.  I will go more into detail on how Whole30 changed our life in a future post but I mainly did it for my husband because he felt like he needed to get a grasp on nutrition since he is over 35 and so sexy and all (mm hmm).  I didn't realize it would also change me as well!  Then on a random day in June of 2017, the girls were playing with their grandmother and I just felt like I had to go outside for a walk or something.  I accidentally started running that day and incorporated exercise into my life again.  It became my therapy.  I'm totally ok about telling you that I was in a place where I knew I needed some serious therapy.  I wanted to go see someone but when you're married to a psychiatrist, walking into his clinic to see a therapist just didn't feel right at the time.  I don't think I was clinically depressed but I had major anxiety and knew I *might* need medications but I wanted to try natural ways first because of breastfeeding.  I support therapy and medications 100% and mental health is something that I am SO passionate about.  Another thing about being married to a psychiatrist is that while I provide a lot of therapy for him, at this point in my life, he was working not only at the clinic, but also at home with me.  I am so thankful for you my darling.  I cried a lot on the StairMaster and while weight training.  I loved the way strength training made me feel and the high that it gave me so I dedicated about twice a week to therapy.  I wrote this post on balancing self-care and motherhood if you're struggling with that like I did.  This self-care slowly changed the way I thought about food and at this point it felt like I had lost about 30lb.  I love how my entire family benefited so much from being more intentional about the food that we ate together, which was mostly paleo.  I could definitely see changes in my body but I never weighed myself.  This process happened from about February to September, so it took 7 or so months.

3.  Focus on the inside.
My mama took such good care of herself and she is an example of strength and health to me.  She was beautiful in her life and just as beautiful, if not even more so, in her death.  It had nothing to do with what she looked like on the outside and everything to do with her amazing spirit.  No one is going to talk about your amazing 6 pack at your funeral ok.  Trust me.  Death is going to happen to all of us, sorry to break that to you haha!  I decided that I want to live my best life every single day that I get to wake up and kiss my husband and our beautiful daughters.  I started with reading about how the Lord thinks about me.  And if I may me bold, if I love God and believe what He says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that I am made in His image, then I will love myself exactly as I am right now.  Right now.  Right this minute.  Fifty pounds overweight and love handles and stretch marks and giggly arms and everything that some people might tell you was undesirable.  Stop using negative words, speak life into yourself!  You are worthy.  If anything at first, I pushed away negative thoughts.  I don't even like to say this but it's true that I faked some of it until I made it.  "You're fat."  "No, you're soft and lovely.""Your arms are big."  "No, they are strong and can hold 3 babies 23 out of 24 hours in a day." "Your hips are too wide."  "Well these hips didn't lie when they birthed 3 babies vaginally with no medication right in our bedroom so get behind me Satan because you're the liar."

  Love yourself unconditionally- The only jeans I wear are @goodamerican

4.  Find a person who inspires you.
For me it's my husband, our children, and a sweet friend who also happens to be a woman of god, a mother, and fitness trainer.  We had a playdate and photoshoot last year and she changed my life in one simple conversation.  She is a friend who believes in God, and believes in me.  She has 3 children as well, scars and pain and triumphs and failures.  She told me that I can make my body look any way that I want, even being post-partum with three beautiful baby girls in three years.  I realized that being post-partum is a power that I have, to be a strong mother.  She told me all I had to do was make the decision.  I could work out all day but was I feeding my body properly?  She asked me to track my food and send her the journal and I was kind of embarrassed to be honest.  Her belief in what I can do and what my body can do was a catalyst in trusting the process and truly believing in a clean/whole/nutritious lifestyle and not some diet that works for a few months or years.  She inspired me to keep going.

5.  Keep a log.
I found the MyFitness Pal app and started logging my intake in October, right as my mom was getting really really sick.  I could barely eat so I started doing this to make sure I could try to eat enough.  My biggest issue was eating meat, I have unintentionally become a vegetarian because starting around July, I had the most severe aversion to meat.  Every time I ate it, I would vomit about 10 minutes later.  I'm sure a lot of people thought that it was just a thing I was doing to lose weight and all but I can assure you that is not the case.  I meditated a lot on what was going on and realized that my aversion was because meat reminded me of dead things and henceforth, my mother dying.  That's almost too much to bear to even talk about here so I'm just going to leave it at that.  I'm not sure when/if I'll be able to eat meat again.  I consulted with my friend Devon and this stemmed from her asking me to send her a journal of about 3 days worth of logs of what I'm eating.  I would say that logging my food was the single most effective way that has revolutionized my physical fitness journey.  I log everything, and I still do.  The cool thing about MyFitness Pal is that it has these very non-individualized general goals that you can try to achieve to start out and that's what I used.  It gave me a general calorie goal which I added like 500 more calories to since I'm nursing and I just liked to see the health info in the foods that I logged.  It's a great and effective tool and you can always get a trainer later that can give you specific goals made just for you.

6.  Learn about your nutrition.
Knowledge is power is the truth.  I went to school for 18 years of my life and have a doctorate and I had to google "what are macronutrients."  It's a bit of a travesty how we aren't taught these things.  I mean they show you a food pyramid once but we all know it's a lie these days.  Macronutrients are your Fat, Carbohydrates, and Protein.  Logging was so neat because I could see exactly what the food that I ate was comprised of and how it helped me reach my goals for the day.  I love this because I didn't deprive myself and still ate dark chocolate cake and could control how much so much better when i knew how it fit into what I ate for the entire day.  Also, this helped me with sort of the instant gratification part of a healthy lifestyle because I could decide how to reward myself every single day, with a sweet Algerian date or some delicious cheese or whatever I was craving that was whole and nutritious, or what Devon calls "clean cheats."  When you eat clean for a while and change the way you think about food, you rarely want the nasty stuff anymore and ultimately, your palate and taste buds change and cheetos start looking like death in a bag and you can't fathom ever eating that again, regardless of what you weigh or where you are in your goals.  I think they call this flexible dieting but I don't diet so...

7.   Strength Training.
I had been running now for a while and one day I forgot my SPF 50 sunscreen (I am obsessed with my skin care, read it here if you want to know what I use) and the whole time I was running I was imagining getting cancer and leaving my family behind and while I know this is truly catastrophizing, that was one of the things that led me to start strength training in the gym.  The other part is that I wanted something that I could do at home with the girls in the days that I couldn't run.  I am 32 years old and bone health for me has started becoming really important.  When I started lifting a bit of weights, I realized that working out my muscles was probably more important for me right now than running a bunch of miles and potentially hurting my knees again.  I googled weight workouts for women and I started with this workout and then moved to this one both from SHAPE magazine.  I took screenshots of those workouts and made an album on my phone and put on my noise canceling headphones and went to work.  It was scary at first, and I was intimidated by the machines and looking silly trying to figure them out, but it became my next challenge to conquer.  Before I knew it, I had the workouts memorized and was confidently working in with the beefy sweaty guys haha.  They are still what I do at the gym now even 8 months later, I just upped the weight as I've gotten stronger.  One concern I had at first was I loved that running high so so much and wondered if I could get it while training, and the answer is absolutely!  Especially when I starting kicking my own booty on the StairMaster, and honestly, any desire to run went away.  I do an intense HIIT (high intensity interval training) StairMaster workout thing that I made up with back leg kicks and side kicks and curls and stair skips as a warm up for the endorphin high, then I keep it up on the weight floor *so many people have come up to me after my StairMaster workout telling me how they have never seen anyone do something like that haha, this is kind of what it looks like if you're curious, SO hard and SO good!)

8.  Abs really are made in the kitchen.
hahah this might be like the only thing "they" were ever right about.  I didn't really trust this concept at first and while I focused a lot on my eating, I still stressed over making sure I made it to the gym as much as possible.  Then when my mama got really sick and we were traveling a lot, the gym or even workouts at home became fewer and far between.  So I focused deeply on proper and balanced nutrition and logged every single day in MyFitness Pal, and then the weirdest thing happened.  I lost more inches and pounds over this 2 month period than I had over the period where I was obsessing over workouts!  It's still kind of crazy to me but I am now a believer!  I still only workout a couple of times a week, not more!  I don't stress over it because I know my biggest power and thing that I can control is eating properly.  I share a lot of quick recipes, meals, and products and ingredients we love on my Instagram @city_of_hearts if you're curious so make sure you follow me.  I also have highlights labeled "Healthy Eating" and "Whole 30" here on my Instagram profile if you want to see past meals and snack that I made.

5 months after I started focusing on nutrition

9.  Focus on consistency 

I read about a man's weight loss story the other day where he loved cookies so he incorporated eating a cookie a day into his macro counting and he lost 100 pounds!  I loved that story because I don't believe in dieting because it never lasts, coming from a chronic yoyo dieter in my youth.  This is basically what "clean cheats" means.  My husband and I love dark chocolate and it's really healthy and so you better believe we eat it frequently.  It's clean and organic and I look forward to indulging to be honest, whether it's cake or bars or whatever.  The fact that I know I can and will eat my favorite things means that I don't have to binge eat an entire cake in one sitting as restrictive dieting so often leads.  I enjoy my slice with some tea and love having conversation with my husband.  It's an experience and we plan on experiencing things for the rest of our lives.

10.  Be prepared. 
I am a busy mother to 3 young baby girls and a wife and so I don't pretend to be one of those people that carries her meals around from ballet to gymnastics to the park.  However, since I am always prepared with snacks for the girls, I also carry around my favorite clean protein bar for me called RXBAR!  We have been eating these since our 1st Whole30 back in 2016 because they make Whole30 approved bars and we LOVE them, my favorite is the dark chocolate sea salt.  It feels like a cheat but it's really not.  They even have a RXBAR Kids now as well and our girls love them!  I save them for when we are out and I need a quick and clean snack.  Have you read the nutritional info on so called protein bars, they have tons of sugar, no thank!  RXBARS are sweetened only with dates and my date loving Arab self is quite happy!  I also love them as dessert in the evening with a cup of tea, oh my so yum! I order them in bulk either from Amazon (here), Target carries them as well (here), and also from the RXBAR website (use this link for 25% off and free shipping!)  I also make a nut mix with walnuts, almonds, cashews, raisins, unsweetened coconut flakes, and really just whatever I have lying around like dried fruit as well.  I keep it in a glass jar and my whole family snacks on it. 

11.  Intermittent fasting.
This is not something that you have to do, but I couldn't write this post about sharing a little bit about intermittent fasting.  So most people don't even know that I do this, I don't really talk about it because I don't want anyone getting the wrong picture about what you have to do to live a healthy lifestyle and/or starting something that they are not truly ready for.  I started learning about intermittent fasting when my trainer Devon said that she fasts and I was intrigued.  Now if anyone here knows anything about Ramadan, then you know I know a thing or two about fasting!  But intermittent fasting is a bit different, and about changing not what you eat, but when you eat.  I googled it and read this blog first about what it actually is and then about the long-term benefits and was hooked!  It's also easier for me because I don't have to worry about breakfast for myself since I have 3 little hungry babies to feed first!  I started in October, intermittently fasting every other day and continue to do so now and will probably do it for the rest of my life.  I am very flexible with it like if we go out to brunch with friends and other fun food filled things but generally, I stick to it very consistently.  I love that I get to have so much food in a relatively short period of time so it keeps me really in tune with what how I'm fueling my body.  So the things is I'm not telling you to do this.  I'm just saying that if you start doing this, you will probably never go back to eating the way again haha!
*sidenote* Yes, I'm STILL nursing and have a better and richer supply of milk now than I probably did before I started this!

12.  Trust the process.
"fall in love with the process, and the results will come."
I think this is so true, and also remember that slow progress is better than no progress.  Good and permanent progress takes time, don't buy into the I want it now culture that we all have to so actively go against.  Honestly, I have loved what we have experienced and how we have changed and are changing as a family through this journey.  Spiritually, mentally, physically, we all continue to benefit from trying to be better, even as we fail. The truth is, it's so much more than just about food.  Grace, love, forgiveness, these are all things that God has shown me through my mother's illness, and then her passing and this journey as a whole.  I'm so far from perfect, I'm still grieving and hurting and coping the best way I know how.  I recently realized that self-care is a huge part of the process of grief, and I was kind of amazed at how God opened my eyes, my heart, and my mind to what I needed before I ever knew I needed it.  For this, I will continue to praise Him through my hurts and joys and failures and successes and my triumphs.  

I am strong.  I am feminine.
Please leave me a comment if you have any questions or if there is something that you would like for me to elaborate on, I love to connect with you.  Thank you for being a support system for me and my family during this difficult transitional time. Also, I know some of you might look at my befores and say but you looked better then, I liked your cheeks, and so on.  I just want you to know that this isn't about which I like best as I have loved all of myself, and I am so proud of what my body has done through every single one of my transformations, my favorite will always be the babies that I was privileged to grow and birth.  This is about the change that happens on the inside.  That our mind, body, and spirit are one and I want to live my entire life growing in all of those aspects.  So much love to all you. xox

*my post contains affiliate links to only the products that we use and absolutely love.  I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you because I believe that knowledge should be free and accessible to all <3*

*While I am a (retired) medical professional with a doctorate in pharmacy, I am not YOUR medical professional.  Please consult with your physician before starting a nutrition or weight training program* 


  1. Mad, I love you. I love your honesty. Your strength. Your transparency. I have been your online friend for what, 5 years? 4 years? I can't even remember, but watching you evolve and change has really inspired me. I need to be able to control SOMETHING and I think I need to embark on whole30.....wish me luck. Especially since I like wine. :) Love you mama! XO

    1. I love you Kali! Thank you so much for encouraging me by being encouraged. You are amazing. I can’t wait to hear about how Whole30 changes your life, let me know if you need any tips!!!