Podcast Episode #59: Healthy Living For Preconception, Pregnancy, and Beyond
Laura from Real Food Wellness talks with us today about how she helps women through preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum with healthy living, mind and body. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, and today, we have my business partner Alyssa, and Laura Burkett is joining us from Real Food Wellness. Welcome, Laura!
Kristin: So Laura and I met maybe three years ago at a postpartum women’s class that I took, and you spoke about nutrition and wellness, and my friend Amber Kilpatrick ran the series. We recently reconnected because our offices are in the same space, so it’s good to see you again!
Laura: Yes, it’s great to be here with you!
Laura: Sure! I have been in private practice since 2009. My business is called Real Food Wellness. The bulk of my work is with women, and I work, really, in the realm of holistic nutrition and the psychology of eating. So basically, I’ve taken two separate disciplines, nutrition and psychology, and found a way to really bridge them together. It tends to be really good work for women because I’ve noticed that just printing out lists of things you’re supposed to do and not do doesn’t really get us so far. So that’s really the core of my work is one-on-one.
Kristin: It’s amazing! So obviously we work with women as well, so we have some overlap. Today’s episode is focused on getting your body and mind ready for pregnancy, and we have a lot of clients who struggle with fertility or who hire us and then miscarry, unfortunately. Or they may have had an easy time with fertility with baby number one and then struggled the second time. So tell us about some of the work that you do with clients to prepare for a healthy pregnancy.
Laura: Yeah, so I have worked with a handful of women who have come in really wanting to be ahead of the game in terms of how to create an ideal environment or as ideal as they can when they’re trying to conceive. There’s so many variables, but I think just in general for women, how do we create a low-stress state in the female body? Of course, a lot of that has to do with how we’re caring for our bodies, and of course we’re multidimensional beings, but if we’re working from a really practical standpoint, you know, you can think of basic things just for all women: an anti-inflammatory diet, making sure that you’re getting good omega-threes in the diet. If you get really fixated on minerals and nutrients, it can start to be kind of overwhelming, but in general, if you’re eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, plenty of fruit, and good quality protein for those that eat animal protein, you generally are in a good place. So for some women, if that’s a real edge, like if they’re not used to working with their diet, that’s a perfect portal in to just start working with how do I improve it now and get my body in a place where inflammation is down and that sort of thing.
Kristin: So what else goes outside of nutrition? How else can a woman prepare for a healthy pregnancy?
Laura: I mean, if we stay in the same vein as caring for the physical body just for a moment, it’s basic things like exercise, 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise, just for health, most days of the week. Anything that she loves to do; you know, they say the best kind of exercise is the kind you’ll actually do. But I also notice outside of that with several of the women that I’ve worked with, part of the reason that they’re coming in is they’re also trying to reconcile what this means in terms of their identity in relationship to their body. In trying to conceive, there are changes with the body and their relationship with eating, so if the relationship with eating feels a little strained or challenged, it’s often a very wise thing in preconception to start working through these things now so that they aren’t thrust into panic or chaos as the body is undergoing a lot of change. So I find that half of the work can be really practical, but then you really can see that half is the heart and soul of the woman who is already deep in the process, even with the idea of conceiving. So it can be really beautiful work, and mothers are living examples to their children, so it’s so important that we learn how to get in a right relationship with eating and with our bodies.
Kristin: So true! I taught a Sacred Pregnancy class for many years, and it’s an eight-week series where women connect with each other. And one of the sessions was focused on body image and nutrition and women were raw and real with each other, and there were so many women that had eating disorders in the past, and it was affecting how they viewed themselves in pregnancy. They wanted to have a healthy pregnancy and were worried about eating the right things but also potentially not gaining too much weight, and there were a lot of underlying issues behind that.
Laura: Yeah, it’s wildly common. It’s good to talk about. It’s good to shed light on, and I’ve found that there’s three different ways you can work with it. One is prior to conception; one of it is, of course, during pregnancy, and then, of course, after you’ve given birth, new stories and new edges arise in that, and it can be difficult when you’re going it alone, but when there’s space to really process, it helps. I’ve talked to a handful of women who have found that it was actually through their pregnancy that they were able to transform much of their relationship with eating because they almost had to be forced, and I’ll say in a really beautiful way, to learn how to — what it means to nourish, like to really, really nourish. So that is such a core theme for any woman at any stage in life, but particularly important for mothers or mothers-to-be. What does it actually mean to really care for myself? And when we ask it in a way that’s really sincere, we do kind of drop back into our center and somewhere in us we actually already know, and we already know the ways that we’re forcing or yanking ourselves through things. So there’s a responsibility in that, and it’s quite lovely, too, if you’re willing, if you’re up for the task. But I love that there’s groups out there and locally that are supporting women. The work that you’re doing; sometimes it’s not easy.
Kristin: Alyssa, any last thoughts?
Alyssa: One thing you said about a woman’s relationship with eating: we didn’t really talk about the postpartum end of it, and I do sleep consultations. And I sometimes see when I ask — because feeding goes hand in hand with sleeping with a baby, so if they’re older and eating solids, sometimes I notice that mom could be giving almost like diet foods to their baby. You know, as an adult, I don’t want to eat too many carbs. Sometimes I feel like you’re looking at the mother’s relationship with eating through how she’s allowing her child to eat, and a 12- or 18-month-old can’t have a no-carb diet. They need carbohydrates for brain development and for proper sleep. So I just wondered about if you had thoughts on that.
Laura: I do! Oh, my gosh; it’s so important. Yes, as a practitioner, even if it’s not explicit, what I’m kind of sniffing out for is where does an intellectual intervention need to come in? Like, what I’m tracking is what does my client believe about eating; what does she believe about weight? What even regulates weight? So is it okay to eat at night? Can I combine proteins and carbs? This is stuff that people are Googling constantly, so that’s why I’ll spend an hour with people is because it’s not as simple, like I said, as printing out a list. We really have to understand the context in which a woman is eating, so it’s such a good point. It’s interesting; I hadn’t even thought about it in that way, but yeah, we certainly can project our eating beliefs onto our children, no doubt. So it’s just wise to keep an ear out for that sort of thing.
Kristin: Yeah, I can definitely see how psychology and nutrition interplay in a lot of this, so it makes complete sense. So tell us about how women can connect with you, work with you, and fill us in a bit for those who have not been on your website and seen your newsletter and blog and so on.
Laura: Yes, so I can be found at my website. You’ll find a blog that I’ve written for several years, so there’s lot of content there. You can reach me there, and then also if you’re just interested in following my work, you can find me on Facebook and also on Instagram, and those would probably be the best places to find me. I post upcoming events and also just information on working one-on-one together.
Kristin: And your office is in East Town in the Kingsley Building. As far as events in the community, do you have anything upcoming or anything in the works?
Laura: Let’s see. I do have a few things coming up. Next week at Refresh Wellness off of Cascade in Grand Rapids, I’m giving a community talk on the psychology of eating and body weight. It will be a one-hour class, so hopefully people that kind of want a doorway in will go to that. And then later in the winter, I will be teaching some Ayurveda workshops, so for those that have an interest in more of those ancient nutrition theories, it’s really a fun, engaging class. So you can also find that information online, too.
Kristin: And they can go to your website for that info, or do they need to go to the studios directly?
Laura: Their best bet is going to social media. I’m a one-woman show, so I do need to update my website, but yes, the information is always up to date on social media.
Kristin: Well, thanks for sharing tips with us today about how to have a healthy preconception stage to ensure a healthy pregnancy! It’s been great chatting with you.