Fitness · Motherhood · Postpartum · Wellness

My Branding Photography Session Experience

After struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, I knew that I wanted to use my skills and knowledge to support women during this very trying time of life. I started reading everything I could about safe postpartum fitness, diastasis recti, and body image during the fourth trimester and beyond. Thus was born: Strong Mama Fitness.

My classes were going well, but I wasn’t having much luck getting any new clients. When a very respected photographer in the birth community was having a giveaway on her page for branding photography, I entered. I was beyond thrilled when I won a branding photography package from Tavia Redburn Photography!

We had our consultation and I felt like Tavia was an old friend. She understood my style, my passions, and my insecurities.

As the date approached, I got more and more nervous though. Who did I think I was getting branding photos when I have less than 100 followers on my page? Who did I think I was posing as some sort of fitness expert when I haven’t lost the baby weight? I almost cancelled and told Tavia to award the prize to someone more deserving.

Thank goodness I didn’t listen to fear.

The photo shoot was a surprisingly comforting experience. Tavia gave me expert pointers to look my best. I told her I was self-conscious about my glasses and my chin; she made sure every shot was flattering. Tavia has great ideas and allows you to feel natural (even when the poses feel silly – just trust her!)

Fast forward to yesterday when I got the final pictures. Oh. My. Gosh. Y’all. To see myself in these photos affirmed for me that I have so much to offer my sisters, my friends, my clients. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t “lost the baby weight.” It doesn’t matter that I’m not the skinniest, the prettiest, the whateverest. I am passionate about motherhood, fitness, breastfeeding, supporting other women, redefining postpartum, nutrition, raising a healthy family, and being REAL. These photos are real. They are me.

Strong Mama Outdoor Workout With Baby

The experience of the photo shoot and the pictures I received will support me in building my brand through the new year. The photos inspired me with ideas for challenges, blog posts, groups, and more. The photos allowed me to see myself and what  reflect to my customers and followers – confidence, happiness, health, commitment.

To see a few more of my branding photos and check out what Tavia has to offer, click here!
Motherhood · Wellness

What I Learned Hiking 30 Miles With My 7-Month Old

Back in April, I participated in my first Hike It Baby 30 challenge and I wrote about what I learned from that experience. Participating in that challenge encouraged me in my postpartum recovery, taught me I could still “hike” with baby, and helped me get back in the swing of things. Most of those miles were paved, and it didn’t feel like true hiking to me. So when the September challenge rolled around, I knew I was going to step up my game. Though in April, I barely scraped together 30 miles on the last day of the challenge, this month I completed my 30 miles in just over a week, most of them actual hiking miles in the glorious dirt.

What I learned this challenge is twofold: one very practical piece of advice and one revelation that allowed me to really turn a corner in my postpartum recovery.

First, the practical: cotton socks make for wicked blisters. To avoid blisters, invest in merino wool socks – they make lightweight and heavy for all seasons. If you stumble on that tip too late and already have blisters, apply aloe directly to them. I got the world’s worst blisters on an 8-mile walk and the aloe plant cleared them in 1 day!

Second, the revelation: everything is energy and energy is everything. As a self-proclaimed semi-crunchy mama, I subscribe to more natural ways of living and healing when and where possible. I’ve been receiving chiropractic care my whole life, and I’ve starting echoing my mom’s one true solution for all ailments, “have you had enough water today?” At the beginning of this month, I was right on the brink of healing and feeling like myself again. But I had some low back pain that wouldn’t go away. I saw a physical therapist who gave me exercises that I was already doing. She confirmed that my hips were a bit weak. I went to my chiropractor for an adjustment and told her about my back pain and the visit with the PT. She adjusted me and recommended that I come back for a BEST (bioenergetic synchronization treatment) session as she felt that the back pain was much more emotional than physical.

So I went. And in our session, she taught me what I am calling “magical breathing” which starts below the feet, draws energy up into your root chakra, exhales up through the crown of the head, draws energy back into the heart, and exhales out through the bottom of the feet. Through this breathing, I felt like my energy getting stuck right in the place where my back pain always radiated. Then Dr. April encouraged me to connect to my 8th chakra – your spiritual connection to your higher self and divinity. The moment she spoke those words, I felt a complete release and my energy flowed freely.

In the days after that session, I felt more motivated and energized than ever before. I woke up, laced up my shoes, and went hiking or walking. I walked farther and swifter. I felt happier. I breathed in nature. I felt the energy moving through me from the earth to the sky. I talked to God. I saw butterflies and knew that Granna was walking alongside me. I listened to the voice of my heart.

I am energy. I feel energy. I do energy. I love energy. I speak energy. I see energy. I understand energy. I believe in energy and energy believes in me.

Motherhood · Postpartum · Wellness

Don’t Be a Mombie: Ways to Combat Exhaustion

The contributors over at OKC Moms Blog have a private Facebook group in which we discuss extremely important blogging-related topics like ta-ta towels and cookie butter oreos. A few weeks ago, I asked this group of new and seasoned moms from all walks of life if I would EVER not be tired again? (I’m eight months into this mom gig.) Although these moms were full of support and encouragement as always, no one came back with a resounding “YES! On this day. In this amount of time. You will have all your energy back.” Not exactly the reassurance I was hoping for, but it did inspire me to reflect on what I can do to get through this season of life in one piece.

Lack of sleep is part of mom life, but being a mombie doesn’t have to be! Here are my best tips to combat exhaustion:

  1. Exercise.
    I know, I know, I know. You don’t have time to workout. I’m not asking you for two hours at the gym every day. I’m talking about just 20-30 minutes of walking, lifting weights, swimming, something you enjoy. You’re too tired to work out. As Elle Woods reminds us, “Exercise makes you happy, and happy people just don’t kill their husbands.” Exercising helps get you into a good cycle – it provides you with happy hormones and energy for your day and helps you fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep at night, resulting in having more energy the next day!
  2. Avoid caffeine.
    I know, I know, I know. You can’t mom without coffee. I’m not asking you to give up lattes forever. Try giving up caffeine for 3 weeks, and you may find that you really don’t need it. Much of our beloved caffeine addiction is just a comforting habit – try switching to decaf or half-caff and keep it all before noon. outdoor tea
  3. Stay hydrated.
    Mild dehydration contributes to fatigue and headaches. Be sure you’re getting plenty of high quality, filtered water.
  4. Focus on nutrition.
    Exhaustion makes us crave the quick fix energy that comes from sugar & processed carbs – think donuts, bagels, & cheese fries. These foods may taste great in the moment, but they send our bodies into a vicious cycle of crashing and cravings. For your best energy, focus on anti-inflammatory foods and get plenty of protein and healthy fats.
  5. Practice meditation.
    Meditation is not only super relaxing, it helps you develop the skills to turn your mind down before bed each night. We spend so much time teaching our babies how to fall asleep, yet we often rely on television or cell phones to help us fall asleep! Mediation is a game changer for sure. When I was very early postpartum and had tons of heavy anxiety, I would use the Headspace app to help me fall asleep for naps during the day.
  6. Go outside… and take your babies with you.
    Not only does Vitamin D help ward off depression, the natural rhythms of the sun help our bodies develop a good circadian rhythm. Taking kiddos outside at dusk helps them get mentally prepared for bed time! woman outside
  7. Turn off those screens!
    You’ve probably heard this before, but maybe you’re not convinced. Let me be the one hundredth person to tell you that taking your cell phone to bed is a bad idea. The National Sleep Foundation warns that the blue light from screens suppresses melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall asleep and recommends 30 minutes of screen free time to unwind before bed.


What is your favorite restful ritual?

Marriage · Motherhood · Wellness

The Opposite of Kindness

I went to my first ever yin yoga class this week. If you’re not familiar with yin yoga, it is essentially a 90 minute meditation practice where you do a few simple poses for long lengths of time. Toward the end of the class, we were in our second side of pigeon pose and as they often do, tears started to fall from my eyes; from my heart. Yoga helps you to soften. In that practice, the tears weren’t of sadness. They were of conviction.

In our practice, Darci often asks us to choose one thing we want to invite in and in that moment I knew: kindness. It is the trait I admire most of my mother and grandmother. I believe it is the secret sauce to the ever-elusive happiness. I need to invite kindness. I need to learn kindness. I need to cultivate kindness. I need to be kindness.

The opposite of kindness is not pure evil. It is impatience. It is rudeness. It is ungratefulness. It is brattiness. It is pettiness. It is shame. It is anger. It is apathy. It is passive aggression. It is too tired. It is distracted.

I am embarking on a kindness adventure. I’m not sure what valleys and mountains I will cross, but I am going.


Featured Photo Credit: Jeanye Mercer

Fitness · Motherhood · Wellness

What I Learned Hiking 30 Miles With My Newborn

This April, my son and I completed the Hike It Baby 30 Challenge! Hike It Baby is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families get outside and get moving! There are local groups all over the country! The challenge consisted of logging 30 miles within the month of April. Before having a baby, 30 miles could have easily been logged over the course of 3-4 days. This April, I barely scraped by, hitting 30.17 miles on the last day, but I loved the challenge and I’m looking forward to the next one in September!

Here’s what I learned hiking 30 miles with my newborn:

1. Babies LOVE to be outdoors!! My son is happiest outside. This is a huge motivator for me to get outside every day, even in the rain.

2. Every mile counts. Some days, I would just strap him on and walk to the stop sign and back, logging just under a mile. I rarely was able to log more than 2 miles in one day. This was good though, because it required me to be consistent and get outside every single day.

3. The right carrier matters! I wish I had done more research about baby carriers before I had my little guy. I probably would have purchased a LilleBaby All Seasons carrier, but my Boba 4G worked out just fine and I’m looking forward to using my Onya Pure when he gets a bit bigger.

4. Motherhood doesn’t mean the end to your hobbies and adventures. Sure, it’s a little harder to squeeze in a hike and I worry much more about the heat and I have to pack three bags just to go to the local park for an hour, but it’s worth it to share the outdoors with my son. I hope he continues to love it as he grows older!

Motherhood · Recipes · Wellness

If You Ever Get Tired of Tacos

You guys, I am bad at cooking. I burn everything, mainly because that’s the way I like it. I also have an unusual disdain for trying anything new. I’ve been ordering the same meal at the Cheesecake Factory (and every other restaurant we frequent) for 10 years. My usual weekday meals consist of eggs for breakfast and taco meat for lunch with a side of potatoes and avocado. Seriously. Every day. I really don’t mind repeating meals over and over throughout the week – it cuts down on cooking/cleaning time, wasted food, and decisions.

Honestly, I think my dislike of cooking is more of a lack of confidence, so I jumped on google and found some recipes that I thought I could try out. I found this recipe from Paleo Hacks and knew I could work with it. I am so excited to share, because it was delicious, free (we had ALL the ingredients on hand), and fun to make!

easy sushi recipe

Sushi Towers

1 filet mahi mahi (I pan-fried mine)
1 can salmon
-Mix each of these with a dollop of paleo mayo
1 cucumber
1 large avocado
1 cup cooked white rice
Makes 4 Sushi Towers

Layer a measuring cup with chopped cucumber, mashed avocado, the fish of your choice, and fill to the top with rice! Put a plate on top, flip it over, tap the measuring cup, and you have a super fancy meal!





Breastfeeding · Nutrition · Postpartum

How to Whole30 With a Newborn

Whether it is your first or your thirtieth round of Whole30, having a newborn throws a kink in the best laid plans for success. There are a number of reasons new mamas might want to complete a Whole30. My main reasons were more energy and less anxiety.

If you’re ready to jump in to the Whole30, here are my best tips for doing it with your mini-me in tow.

  1. Find recipes that you enjoy cold.
    Not only will you have to eat on-the-go, but even when you’re at home, reheating food is a luxury with a newborn. Leftover steak is delicious straight from the fridge. Believe me.
  2. Get a handy lunch carrier.
    You will be out and about with your little one, and we know everything takes longer than you think it will. Do yourself a favor and pack a mini-meal any time you’re leaving the house for more than an hour!
  3. Eat breakfast. No. Matter. What.
    It doesn’t matter if it’s not “breakfast food” – just eat a meal that follows the meal template.
  4. Keep a “treat” on hand.
    Without breaking the SWYPO rule, keep something on hand that you can reach for in the difficult moments. A favorite treat of mine is grapefruit La Croix in a wine glass.
  5. Plan around growth spurts.
    This is the BEST advice I have for you. Basically ALL of the newborn stage is a growth spurt, and the first three leaps come at 5, 8, and 12 weeks. Do your best to have extra food on hand, especially if you are breastfeeding your little one.
  6. Don’t be afraid to quit.
    Consider your goals and whether or not a Whole30 is right for you! Do you simply need to be more mindful of your eating habits? Do you need to become more comfortable with your postpartum body? It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and we don’t need one more reason as mamas to be hard on ourselves. Maybe commit to just giving up sugar and dairy and not worrying about grains. Maybe work really hard toward 80/20.

Whatever you decide to do, get plenty of support from your partner and and the rest of your tribe and know that with each healthy choice you make, you and your baby are reaping the endless benefits found in choosing to eat real food!

Have you Whole30d postpartum? How did it go? What tips would you share?