Pregnant? Is Exercise Right for You?

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Many women worry about the weight gain that is inextricable with pregnancy. You often hear women talking about their bodies before and after baby, and how pregnancy really wreaked havoc on their body’s shape and their ability to lose weight. Since we live in such a body-image obsessed world, in which flawlessly skinny celebrities are often held as the ideal, weight worries can be a major danger zone for pregnant women, especially for those who worship at the temple of diet and exercise. This body-image mania can lead to under-eating and over-exercising during pregnancy. Let’s take a look at the ways that exercise can healthily be practiced during pregnancy in order to help you avoid doing any harm to your developing baby.

Regular, light exercise during pregnancy can help you feel good and keep your body moving and healthy. Light exercise such as stretching, yoga, and taking long walks can be really helpful and keep your muscles loose and your body and its metabolic processes running smoothly. Light exercise can also help prevent gestational diabetes, relieve stress, and build the stamina needed for the eventual labor and delivery.

Cardio during pregnancy can be ok, but you have to remember that cardio raises your core temperature, and your baby already has a higher body temp than you do-thus, too much cardio can overheat you and baby and lead to exhaustion and fatigue. When it comes to cardio, only you can know your limits, but you need to be aware that however you are feeling, your developing baby feels the same way only ten-fold. This is why it is best to limit your cardio workouts during pregnancy-you don’t want to overdo it and put yourself and your baby at risk.

Some women are actually not allowed to exercise during pregnancy. This includes women who have experienced recurrent miscarriages, are prone to pregnancy bleeding, have a weak cervix, a low placenta, or a history of premature births. Exercise can disrupt these women’s delicate bodies and cause miscarriage and premature birth. If you fall into one of these risk categories, limit your pregnancy activity to easy walks and simple stretches, but be sure to consult your doctor on what is safest for you.

Fitness during pregnancy is not a no no-you can definitely exercise and keep your body in shape while carrying your developing little one. The important thing is to know your own body, know if you fall into any of the exercise risk categories, and have a good rapport with your doctor so that you can get advice about the best pregnancy exercise route for you. However, remember that your life is not only about you anymore-everything you are doing is now affecting your baby. If that means you have to gain a little weight and it puts a little wear and tear on your figure then so be it. Your baby’s health should be the only driving force behind your pregnancy habits, plain and simple.

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Healthy Eating Pitfalls For Teenagers

Louisa Stokes /

Do teenagers need to eat more or differently than adults? In short: yes. The teen years are a time of rapid body development and physical activity, so teenagers need a daily increase of calories, minerals, and vitamins. Teenagers have raging hormones and resultant mood swings, so it is important that they do not miss out on any of the vital nutrients they need. However, what teens should be eating doesn’t vary that much from adults: they still need to consume a healthy, balanced diet comprised of grains, vegetables, fruits, and proteins. The biggest nutrition challenge during the teen years isn’t that they need a special diet that differs from adults, but that they need help avoiding the many dietary pitfalls that can shape the formation of life-long, unhealthy eating habits. Let’s take a look at two of the major issues teens struggle with in terms of healthy eating:

  • Junk Food: Teens are especially prone to overindulging in fast food and unhealthy treats. Gangs of teenager often congregate at McDonald’s and other fast food centers—junk food is a part of the social fabric of Teendom. Since teens have high metabolisms, coupled with very in the moment thinking, they cannot always see the negative impact that junk food has on their future and it is easy for them to form bad eating habits. As parent of a teen, you can mitigate teen junk food consumption by not falling into the junk food trap yourself—make your home a health food haven and model healthy eating habits—sooner or later, they will probably sink in for your teen.
  • Weight worries: Many teenagers, particularly teenage girls, are extremely worried about their weight, and it is no wonder why: super skinny models and celebrities are everywhere, plastered across billboards and beaming out from TV screens. The teen years are a time when eating disorders are a risk, as teenagers are susceptible to peer pressure, low self-esteem, and an unsure sense of self. As a parent, be open and honest with your children about weight worries, and never under any circumstances comment on their weight in a negative way.

As you can see, there are many impediments standing in the way of teens developing healthy eating habits. Teenagers need guidance from their parents in all areas of life, including health and nutrition. As a parent, this means you have an obligation to your children to model healthy habits to your children so they can mirror them. Make sure that you plan meals that stay away from trans fats, sugars, and processed junk food. Make it a priority to have a home that is focused on wellness and nutrition—it will benefit everyone in the long run.

Is Health A Choice?

Health is a term that is constantly referenced in modern society. It’s most basic definition is the state of being free from illness or injury, according to Merriam Webster, but it has become a very flexible adjective for describing a multiplicity of things: we can talk about healthy people, healthy animals, healthy relationships, governments that function in a healthy way etc. So what does health really mean? Going a step further, what does it mean to be a healthy person?

The World Health Organization, the UN’s special agency on health, defines health as being a ‘state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. If you think about it, this is a pretty loaded statement, and it goes far beyond simply being free from physical ailments. According to the WHO, being healthy means achieving a kind of harmony with all of the major factors in our lives: the social, physical, environmental, and psychological/spiritual. So how do we achieve the kind of health that the WHO promotes?

First, it is crucial to acknowledge that the WHO’s definition of health in some ways mirrors Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. You can only be as healthy as the environment around; if you are a Somalian refugee that has been affected by terrible famine, your primary health concern is meeting your physiological needs for survival, not worrying about whether you have the right fad diet, clothing brands, or if you are happy in your career. Those kinds of worries are luxuries.  Plain and simple: Environmental/physiological health is the basis of achieving social and psychological/spiritual health. In this light, many of us living in the developed world seem to have lost our way—we take our physical health and environmental resources for granted, and instead of searching for healthy balance in our lives, we indulge in overeating and vices like cigarette smoking and drugs. So how do we get back on track and keep our health and wellness holistic and integrated? The answer is easy in theory and hard in practice: we make a choice to be healthy.

A lifestyle that keeps you physically, socially, and psychologically/spiritually healthy is about making the choice to be healthy and then building the habits that support that choice.  Contrary to popular belief, we are in control of our feelings, desires, thoughts, and habits. If you want to be socially healthy, choose to surround yourself with loving, stable, and caring people. If you want to be physically healthy, do your best to stay active, eat right, and get enough sleep. If you want to be psychologically or spiritually healthy, take the time to learn your strengths and weaknesses as a person and work to bring your mind into a positive, loving, and happy place—however that manifests for you, whether through meditating, prayer, or a long walk in nature.

Health is difficult to define yet at the same time we all know what it means, because we can all sense when things are unhealthy. You may not have the power to control everything in your life—you can’t control whether or not you will get cancer, you can’t control whether or not you will be born into a dysfunctional family. But you do have the power to control how you will react to adversity and how you will pursue a healthy lifestyle built on healthy habits, and that is the key—we don’t have to achieve perfection, but we can continuously pursue balance and happiness.

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What role should fast food play in our lives?

Grant Cochrane /

Junk food, fast food, processed food—whatever you choose to call it, it is everywhere. The proliferation of fast food across the globe has caused a sharp increase in obesity, particularly in the Western world, and according to the Australian government nearly 25% of Australian youth are considered overweight.

Whether or not fast food is good for us, it is omniscient and we are confronted by its smells and advertising daily. So how do we realistically approach the fast food leviathan in our daily lives? Here are a few ways to wrestle successfully with the junk food beast:

  • Don’t be too rigid: While fast food should in no way be a part of your daily diet, there is nothing wrong with indulging yourself every once in awhile. Whether it is to satisfy a craving or to save time when the family needs dinner at the end of a long, stressful day, give yourself the green light to stop at Hungry Jacks every once in awhile.  A healthy diet means balance and balance means it is ok to swing in the bad direction every once in awhile.
  • Plan you meals: Most people choose the fast food option because it is super convenient in our time-strapped world. One way to avoid falling into the pit of junk food is to plan your meals. Make a list every weekend of dinner’s you want to eat the following week—dinner’s that are healthy and balanced. Take the weekend to then shop for your supplies so that you are prepared during the week. An added benefit planning healthy dinners is that they can turn into healthy lunches the next day.
  • Exercise: What does exercise have to do with the role of fast food in your life? A lot, actually. Exercise requires you to be more conscious about what you put into your body. If you exercise, you will need to build healthier eating habits, and you may find that you aren’t so interested in processed foods. Exercise also keeps you healthy and in shape for when you do have your occasional junk food slip up.

Fast food should play a minor role in your life, but not best supporting actor—more like one of the names that flashes up on the credits at the end of the film. You don’t have to be dogmatic about avoiding fast food, but if you are conscious about what you eat and work to build healthy eating and exercise habits, then junk food will naturally be relegated to its proper place—movie nights and stress overloaded days.

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Parenting Methods for the Modern Parent

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For the majority of human history, parenting was an intuitive process, but in the modern world parents want to know how to parent. Many people approach parenting the same way they approach school and careers: with a manual. This has made child development and psychology a lucrative filed, as evidenced by the never ending lists of parenting books and websites. We want to know how to parent, but we want someone to tell us how.

Since parenting strategies and child development became popular in the 1940’s when Dr. Benjamin Spock introduced his seminal work Baby and Child Care, there have been a myriad of methods promoted for best raising your progeny. However, over the past ten years, many child psychologists have come to agree that parenting styles can be boiled down to three groups: Authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of these parenting method in order to get a better idea of how to parent and the styles that are out there:

Authoritative/democratic: Authoritative parents are all about balance: they are interested in producing well-adjusted, hard-working, well-educated kids. However, they also want to make sure their kids get some enjoyment out of their lives in addition to learning to be structured and well-behaved. Authoritative parents value combining discipline and boundaries with love and warmth. They value their children’s feelings and input but are the ultimate decision makers. They are not their children’s friends but they are not their children’s masters either.

Permissive parents: Permissive parents let their kids sit in the driver’s seat. They feel as though all members of the family are equal and do not like to create a hierarchy of authority. Permissive parents feel that kids can make their own choice and they try not to interfere by setting up structures of discipline or boundaries. They want their children to grow up with a high-sense of self-esteem and self-worth, and they feel that harsh punishment interferes with this process.

Authoritarian parents: Authoritarian parents use discipline and structure to create an efficient household, and an authoritarian household is not a democracy: children simply do as they are told. A very strict, clear system of rules and regulations rule the authoritarian home and these types of parents believe that children can only mature properly when tightly controlled.

So which of the parenting styles above is the right one? That all depends on how you look at life, but many child psychologists agree that authoritative parenting produces the healthiest children because it is all about creating balance. Children need to be loved, heard, and mirrored in order to grow up with an intact self-worth and overall sense of self, but they also need boundaries and discipline in order to learn empathy and that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Permissive parenting concentrates too much on developing self-worth and individuality, and authoritarian parenting concentrates too much on discipline, and both of these methods can actually lead to low self-esteem. It is ultimately up to you to decide how to parent, but choosing the authoritative style is likely your best bet.

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Healthy Eating Habits for Healthy Moms and Babies

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If you have just welcomed your little one into the world, then it is important that you remember to eat healthy in all the hullaballoo surrounding a new baby. A nutritious diet is crucial for breast-feeding moms because they are the vesicles of nutrients at a time when crucial physical and psychological developments are taking place in their babies. The less toxins and preservatives you allow into your system while breastfeeding, the better your baby’s chance of developing into a strong child and later adult. If you are a new or expecting mom, here are a few tips for maintaining an optimally healthy diet and baby:

· Stay hydrated: It is important to stay hydrated when (if) you are breastfeeding. Drinking lots of water will help you replenish the fluid you lose from breastfeeding. Drink at least 8 if not more glasses of water a day.

· Eat your fruits and veggies: All of the vitamins and nutrients we need to support physical development and maintain our immune systems are found in fruits and veggies, and the greener the better. Babies need as many nutrients as they can get, so you need to make sure your body is a vitamin temple.

· Avoid the processed food trap: Processed food is a major danger to new mothers because it is an easy alternative when they are tired and lacking energy, but it can be very harmful both to mom and baby. Processed food drains you of energy, fills your body with unhealthy preservatives, and weakens your immune system. All of these negative health benefits are then transmitted to your breastfeeding baby.

· Make a plan: Healthy eating requires conscious planning, and this is especially true when you have an infant. A new baby can be a new set of stresses that you have never experienced, and this can throw you off and make you susceptible to developing bad eating habits. Work with your partner to develop a grocery shopping and meal plan of action that facilitates nutritious eating. Make lists, use a weekly meal planner, or make healthy food in bulk and deep freeze it. However you decide to do it, being organized about your eating habits will help you eat healthier.

Newborn babies are completely dependent on their mothers to provide them with the nutrition that they need. If you have a newborn baby then healthy eating should be your number one priority. Nutritious eating is a lifestyle choice that takes a conscious effort and good planning, but it is worth it and it makes both babies and the family environment healthier.

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How Important Is Healthy Eating During Your Pregnancy?

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If there is one time in your life during which it is crucial to have a healthy diet it is during pregnancy. Fetal development depends on not only the health of the mother, but also what she is putting into her body. Toxins and preservatives hinder the fetuses ability to develop healthily during pregnancy, and they contribute to birth defects and other medical problems. If you are pregnant, then it is crucial that you take your diet very seriously. The quality of life of your baby depends on it. Let’s take a look at some healthy eating habits moms can develop during their pregnancies:

· What to eat: When you are pregnant, your body uses nutrients to nourish you and your growing baby. Increasing your intake of iron, folic acid, protein and calories will help your baby grow and develop with a lower risk of birth defects and complications. Fruits, veggies, grains, and protein from nuts and poultry should be the staples of your pregnancy diet.

· What not to eat: Just as it is important to know what to eat during your pregnancy, it is equally as important to know what not to eat. Many foods are good to avoid because they have no nutritional value, but some foods are actually dangerous to the newly forming baby. Avoid raw eggs, raw and undercooked meats, fish that contain mercury, and unpasteurized milk.

· Vitamin supplements: When you are pregnant, it is a good idea to use prenatal vitamins as a means of complementing your diet. There are many pregnancy supplements on the market, mostly high in folic acid, that you can take to strengthen your baby’s developing body, and they are worth checking out.

· Don’t diet: Dieting is not a good idea when you are pregnant. Diets often take you away from healthy, balanced eating, and will negatively impact the development of your baby. If you are worried about your weight, just know that baby weight comes off with proper eating and exercise after pregnancy and keep in mind that the foods you should be eating while you are pregnant should not contribute to excessive weight gain in the first place.

Eating right during your pregnancy will keep you healthy and give your developing baby the best chance for a healthy future. Don’t spend your time worrying about your figure and don’t spend your time over-indulging on junk food-both will have adverse effects on fetal development. Pregnancy is a good time for you to re-evaluate your own eating habits and gives you a chance to develop healthy eating habits that you can carry into the future, long after you have delivered your bundle of joy.

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7 Housekeeping Tips for Busy Parents

Stuart Miles /

In the modern world, housekeeping has become an incredible hassle, not only because both mums and dads have entered the work force, but also because consumerism has made a wide array of material items accessible-our homes are usually crammed full with a stunning variety of things from TVs to toothbrush holders. Running a household is a stressful, full-time job, and for working parents it really can be the second shift. If you are a mum or dad and you feel like keeping your house in order is making you want to tear your hair out, here are a few housekeeping tips to lower your stress and make your home a more efficient and comfortable place to be:

1. Enlist your kids: Get your kids involved in cleaning your home-after all, they live, eat, and make messes there too. Giving your kids chores will take a lot of the pressure off of you as a mum and will teach your kids valuable lessons about how to keep a home organized and clean that they can carry into their adult life.

2. Do a little bit of cleaning each day: Instead of saving all the cleaning for one overwhelming chore day, take a few minutes each day to tidy up the house, or at least certain rooms in the house. Little cleaning projects each day will keep the house from getting too messy.

3. One room at a time: When you do embark on larger cleaning projects, take one room at a time and be as thorough as possible before moving on to the next room. Trying to everything all at once can be overwhelming and will likely cause you to miss a lot of the messes that you wanted to clean in the first place.

4. Pick up after yourself: Don’t leave items lying around the house with the attitude that you will pick them up later-leaving items lying around is what leads directly to clutter.

5. Make a cleaning schedule: Make a schedule of cleaning days and cleaning tasks that need to be done. This will help you be more organized and will allow you to optimize your time in a no doubt busy schedule. Make sure the whole family is included in the family cleaning plan.

6. Keep your kitchen and bathroom clean above all else: If you are strapped for time because of a busy week, make sure to pick a few rooms/spaces that you always clean no matter how hectic you schedule has become. Bathrooms and kitchens are good rooms to put on the top of this cleaning priority list because they are bastions of hygiene-good hygiene and bad hygiene. You want to make sure the hygiene in your home is good, no matter what.

7. Don’t be a perfectionist: Cleaning is not about having the immaculate house of a Stepford Wife; it is about making your home comfortable and relaxing to be in. Don’t obsess over every little spot or out of place towel-accept that things can be a little messy and simply have a motto that you clean for comfort and clean to keep messes from getting out of hand.

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Build Better Connections With Your Foster Kids

Louisa Stokes /

Being a foster parent is a demanding and rewarding job. You take vulnerable, delicate, and often sad and hurting children into your home and try your best to provide them with the love, security, and support they need to have a chance for a better life, a life that is characterized by the aforementioned values. But foster children may also harbor a lot of anger, sadness, and resentment, and thus it is not always easy for the foster kids and foster families to get along. If you are or are thinking about becoming a foster parent, here are a few tips to keep in mind that allow you to build better connections with your foster kid(s):

Develop strong communication skills: Communication is what keeps a family going, and healthy communication means being able to express both good and bad feelings to those you love without fear of neglect or retaliation. Be open to your foster children and show them that you are there to communicate with them and teach them to openly communicate with you.

Know yourself and the rest of your family: If you are bringing a foster child into your family and you already have kids, it can be a tricky situation. Make sure you have a solid understanding of your own family unit first in terms of each individual member’s identity and emotional needs before introducing a new family member into the mix.

Ensure health and safety: As a foster parent, it is crucial that you provide a healthy and safe environment for your foster kids, as well as for anyone else in the family. Healthy relationships with good boundaries are the key to helping young people mature into responsible, self-respecting adults.

Help your foster kids grieve: It is ok to talk about loss and grief with your foster kids because they are likely struggling with the loss of their own parents, whether to drugs, death, or neglect. Provide your foster kids with a safe space to share their sadness and fear without fear of judgment or criticism.

Boost self-esteem: Help your foster kids see how valuable their thoughts, opinions, and talents are and let them know how worthy they are of love and goodness in their lives. This will help them to value themselves more and contribute to a more positive sense of self.

Building connections with your foster kids is about building boundaries, love, safety, and self-esteem. Re-evaluating how you relate with your foster kids can also help you to strengthen the bonds you have with the rest of your family, as well as with friends and colleagues. Being a foster parent is a challenge, and it is important that you assess whether you or your family are up to the task before you sign-up for the task, but if you are, the love and security you will bring to a foster child’s life is invaluable and precious.

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How to Be a Good Step-Dad

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These days, blended families are the rule and not the exception; many children are growing up in homes that feature some conglomeration of step-parents, half-siblings, full siblings, step-siblings, and biological parents. Yet despite the widespread social acceptance of blended families, the fact remains that there is often tension between step-parents and step-children; no matter how politically correct we try to be, step-parents and biological parents are not interchangeable-and they shouldn’t be. The relationship between a step-parent and a step-child is a whole different parenting ball game. This fact doesn’t undermine the value of the step-parent, it just acknowledges the diversity of family relationships and helps us recognize the need to work with the challenges that come with blended families in order to achieve a greater sense of love and security and avoid major relational problems.

There are many blended family dynamics that we could address, but let’s focus on one specific role in the blended family: the step-dad. Step-dads often struggle to understand where their step-children are coming from emotionally, and are often unsure of how to proceed in a leadership role among children who aren’t biologically his-especially if it s during their teenage years. If you are a step-dad, here are a few tips to help you navigate the rocky emotional that comes with taking on a child-rearing role in a blended family:

Accept your step-children’s emotional wounds: Take the time to see where your step-children are coming from emotionally, and do not take it personally that they may harbour resentments towards you about the loss of their father. Children have a right to be hurt and grieve the fact that their biological family is no longer together, and you have to respect this right to grief as a step-parent.

Display calm, consistent behaviour: The best thing you can do to win your step-children’s trust is be calm and dependable. Treat them consistently with kindness, respect, and authentic concern. Don’t be too bushy and don’t disrespect their boundaries.

Don’t try to replace dad: A step-dad is not a replacement dad, especially if step-children still have a good relationship with their biological father. Your job as a step-dad is not to pretend that you are the new dad, but to offer your step-children love and warmth as a positive male role model.

Be firm: While it is important not to push your step-children too hard, it is also important that they know you are still an authority figure in the home and that you require respect. Be firm and consistent in enforcing the rules of the house-if you are too much of a push over your children will resent you just as much as if you were to be totalitarian.

Step-parenting is tricky, and taking on the role of step-dad can be emotionally challenging, but it is also rewarding: blended families give their members opportunities to explore new avenues of personal growth and help them develop their capacity to love others outside of the traditional biological unit.

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