It’s Hot Mom Monday again, and we can’t wait for you to meet Spa Week’s Hot Mom Spa Squad do-it-all spa mama Rachael Pontillo, who has not only mastered the art of living the wellness lifestyle, she has made it her career to help others do the same. Our kinda girl! Rachael is holistic health coach, licensed aesthetician, certified level II Reiki practitioner, certified Wull Stone therapist, and freelance writer for prestigious sites such as Blogcritics.org and Technorati.com. You can also find her right where we found her – blogging at holisticallyhaute.com. It’s not just a blog – Rachael owns skincare and wellness company Holistically Haute, LLC where she works with clients one-on-one and in groups, in person or over the phone to provide customized programs to help people reach their health and wellness goals. For any mom out there struggling with her weight in any capacity, we’re turning it over to Rachael who went from THIS to THIS. Her tips are practical, doable, and clearly very effective. We’re especially loving #8, wink wink. Take it away, Rach! By Rachael Pontillo So many moms have experienced difficulty losing their pregnancy weight, or managing to maintain a healthy weight after having kids. I was one of them. I was always a very thin person and never had problems keeping weight off, but after my second pregnancy that changed completely. I don’t know why I wasn’t able to lose the baby weight the second time like I was able to… it was probably a combination of being exhausted, being overwhelmed, hormones, stress, and who knows what else. Anyway, not only couldn’t lose the pregnancy weight, I ended up gaining more. By the time my younger daughter was 2 years old, I was up to 200 pounds (a far cry from my pre-pregnancy weight of 135). I tried exercising, eating certain “diet foods,” trying different popular diets, praying, etc. There really are no “magic pills” or short cuts to weight loss. If you want to lose weight, you have to do it the good old fashioned way: with diet and lifestyle changes over time. Rapid weight loss from fad dieting and diet pills is not healthy and it is not sustainable and I do not recommend it to anyone. Slow and steady is the way to go. Since we all have different health histories, body types, lifestyles, and goals, there is not one “prescription” for weight loss. However, after finally achieving my own weight loss goals (70 pounds!) while being a busy mom and helping clients with different needs reach their goals with gradual diet and lifestyle changes, I have come up with some strategies that can benefit anyone. Here are my Top 8 “Rules to Live By” if you trying to lose weight but still have to feed picky little eaters. Have them help you shop. Kids love being involved in anything “grown up,” and this includes food shopping. I know that food shopping with small children is not the most fun or efficient way to shop, so plan ahead. Bring snacks or small toys/activities to pacify the little ones if they start getting rammy and put the older kids to work. Make separate lists ahead with specific items (don’t just say to get “cereal,” specify “whole grain” or a certain kind so they don’t bring back boxes of Lucky Charms) for each kid to find and send them off with baskets. Have the little ones help you pick the prettiest apples and other brightly colored fruits and veggies. Have them help you cook. I know this is a tip you see a lot, and again it is not the most calm or efficient way to prepare meals, but it serves several purposes: it occupies their time so they are not nagging or tugging on your shirt while you are trying to cook, it helps them form an attachment to the food so they are more inclined to want to eat it, it provides a solid, stable routine and quality family time, and you (and they) will know exactly what is going into the food: no mystery meat, special sauce, or questionable chewy bites. So form an assembly line and give everyone a specific job no matter their age (unless they are infants… in that case stick them in the baby carrier/wrap so you have both hands free). You will be surprised how fast the prep time goes. Learn to read labels. I’m not saying you have to go out and take food science or chemistry course or buy one of those dictionaries of chemicals/ingredients added to food (although the latter wouldn’t hurt). It’s as simple as this: if you don’t know what it is, you probably don’t want to be eating it yourself or feeding it to your kids. Getting rid of processed and packaged foods and going back to real, simple, whole foods was a huge part of my own weight loss. Find ways to work fitness into your existing routine. The thought of joining a gym or taking a class can be really overwhelming to a busy and tired mom. It is great if you can do that (and use the babysitting services at the gym as long as they provide quality services), but if you can’t then try to find ways to use any downtime you have at home or time outside of the home that the kids are occupied to exercise. I personally found it helpful to do stretches while watching TV in the evening, or doing a short Pilates DVD right after putting the kids to bed. I also joined the local Y and moved my kids’ lessons there instead of other places so that I could exercise while they were in their after-school or weekend lessons. I still speed-walk or job around the track during my daughters’ dance classes. Only do exercises that you enjoy. We are lucky enough to live in a time where “working out” can mean many different things. We can do anything from jogging, to Pilates, to belly dancing, to martial arts-aerobic fusion classes, to being suspended from a crazy scaffold-like apparatus (TRX), to rebounding, to parkour…seriously lots of cool things here! If you force yourself to do something you hate doing, you will just make fitness a negative experience, which it is not. I can’t stand lifting weights so I don’t lift weights. I don’t like the elliptical trainer so I don’t do it anymore. I have found really fun ways to get my fitness into my very busy life and it has been very effective. Eat more greens and whole grains. Greens and whole grains are some of the healthiest foods on the planet: high in antioxidants, “good” carbs, enzymes, and protein. More and more studies are showing that when consumed in large amounts, they can really change people’s lives for the better. I suggest eating greens with every meal. For example I have a green smoothie for breakfast, a big salad with lunch, and usually a cooked green with dinner. You can even blend greens in salad dressings and sauces… my kids love basil in salad dressing and parsley and kale blended into my pesto (which we use on our homemade pastas and pizzas). You can even make greens into snack and finger foods… you can make delicious dehydrated or lightly baked kale chips and use collards as wraps for sandwiches instead of bread or flour tortillas. For whole grains, try sweetening rolled oats with yogurt and maple syrup for breakfast or having lightly seasoned brown rice or quinoa as a side dish instead of fries or pasta. Have these foods before the rest of your meal…they will fill you up and you may even find that you don’t want the rest. Don’t assume they won’t eat what you cook. Don’t make the mistake of becoming a short order cook so you can have your “healthy food” and they can have their “kid food.” That attaches a negative stigma onto healthy food that they will carry with them as they grow. Stop buying processed kid foods like chicken nuggets and cheese sticks and fries and junk foods like chips and cookies. If it’s not in the house, they won’t be able to eat it (and neither will you!). Instead, focus on preparing the foods properly so they taste the way they should and put a condiment tray (with different things like ketchup, mustard, relish, hummus, sesame oil, mirin, tamari, lemon juice, etc.) on the table so the kids can try different flavors with their foods. They will enjoy the opportunity to personalize their foods. The founder of my holistic nutrition school once said something like this “it doesn’t matter if they dip their broccoli into ketchup as long as they are eating the broccoli.” Get thee to the spa! Moms are often stressed out. We cannot eliminate the stressors in our lives completely, but we can make the choice to try to manage how it affects us. It is a known fact that stress interferes with many of the body’s vital functions necessary for weight loss. If you are walking around all wound up, you will have a much harder time losing weight despite your best efforts. Diet and exercise can certainly help with how the body handles stress, but regular relaxing spa treatments can take it to a whole new level. Many spas now offer holistic treatments like shirodhara, detoxification, and Reiki in addition to massages and facials. Prioritizing Mom-me time by getting these therapies will support and enhance your weight loss goals. If you enjoyed Rachael’s tips, you may also enjoy her new Holistically Haute™ Salt Bath Ritual, exclusively available at Holistically Haute. Spa time is invaluable to your sanity, even if it’s just in your own bath tub!