This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Katie- The Wellness Mama. In her own words:
“I’m Katie, aka: the Wellness Mama. My goal and primary objective in writing is to help you sort through all the
conventional bad health advice and live a healthier life.
So who am I?
These are always the toughest questions to answer… like when you get asked to describe yourself in one word during a job interview. Let’s see…I’m a wife, mom of 5, amateur chef, real food crusader, kettlebell junkie, scuba diver and coffee addict who can finally do a pull-up (according to my twitter bio). I’m also a chronic abuser of ellipses… (and asides) and dorkily enjoy reading medical journals in my free time. I love creating new recipes, DIY projects, and gardening. I do not love dishes, laundry, or paying bills. Enough about me… I want to know about you! Come say hi on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+! (all places I spend way to much time!)
Why Wellness Mama?
If you’re new to Wellness Mama…start here! My goal is to provide my family with the healthiest foods and lifestyle possible and help you do the same. My pursuit of health for my family has led me to some conclusions that go against the grain – pun intended. This blog is a fusion of my passions for my family, for health and for fun. I attempt to combine science, common sense and humor to explain the pillars of my “Wellness Mama” lifestyle. You won’t find a lot of posts about me or my family, because Wellness Mama is for and about you. My goal is to help each of you become a “Wellness Mama” or “Wellness Dad.” I give you fair warning that many things on this blog will go against conventional wisdom. Things I write will go against what your mom taught you, what you learned in school and what you have always held to be true. Bring on the cognitive dissonance! If you are new, drop in and browse some yummy recipes, find solutions to your health woes, say hi in the forum or browse some popular posts. I’ve compiled my favorite real food, healthy living, fitness, and blogging resources and all of my favorite products are available in my store. I’m here to support you on your health journey, so if you have questions or comments along the way, please ask on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. You’ll also get support and advice from the wonderful Wellness Mama Community.
Some Additional Randomness:
Taking a cue from Jen, I figured that a few additional facts about me will help some of the craziness on this blog make more sense:
- I met my husband walking across the country. Literally. We walked 20+ miles a day each and eventually made it from the west coast to Washington D.C. It was the hardest and best thing I had ever done until I had kids…
- We now have five kids under seven and while life is
usuallyalways crazy, I wouldn’t trade one second.
- Though I’m naturally a somewhat cautious introvert, I married a spontaneous and very athletic husband who has thankfully challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things like scuba diving, martial arts, and many others. He is definitely my better half!
- I will occasionally (or not so occasionally) post about baseball on social media- in our family baseball is our favorite sport. This is because baseball is the greatest sport ever- this is fact.
- Both of my parents have some hearing loss. I have tremendous respect for them and have learned a lot from them over the years. We used sign language pretty often at home growing up and our house was usually pretty quiet for this reason. Fast forward ten years and I’m now raising five kids in a small house and it is LOUD. That is probably the hardest thing about having young kids for me- the noise!
- I often forget that I am “weird” by “normal” standards but our family does go against the norm in things like: cloth diapering, natural birthing, GAPS dieting, homeschooling, not eating grains, making my own toothpaste, drinking the fat and more…
- I am a doula (in my free time) and absolutely love helping women have positive birth experiences since I know first hand how deeply birth can affect women (in good and bad ways).
- When I was in middle-school, I taught myself to speed-read. It is by far the most valuable thing I’ve ever learned and far surpasses anything I learned in my 18+ years of formal education.
- The only food I absolutely will not eat is.. bananas. I don’t know if it is a taste or texture thing or if I ate too many as a kid, but I’d gladly eat boiled spinach or raw liver before touching a banana. I actually hate being around bananas too…
- I married in to a family of talented musicians. I am not a very talented musician.
- I think I have more shoes than clothes and I don’t even like wearing shoes…. they are just the only thing that fits through pregnancy and nursing without changing size.
- I’m working on a book about living naturally – with all my free time, I expect it to come out in about 2025
- As cliche and corny as it sounds, my real goal with the blog is to help others.
The Slim Is Simple.org Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort
Jonathan: Hey, everybody. Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim show. Very excited about the guest joining us today because she is just radiant. If you go on her website, she is always smiling. She’s just beaming out healthiness and positivity. And it’s also reflected in her online pseudonym. She is known as the Wellness Mama. Her first name is Kate, and she is just so passionate about helping people sort through all the bad health advice that we have out there. And her life is a bit of an open book. She’s a wife, she’s a mom of five, she’s an amateur chef, she’s a real food crusader. She can actually finally do a pull up, which is exciting, and she is a chronic abuser of elliptical trainers. And she just likes reading medical journals, like me, in her free time. She’s just a crusader to help people live better lives and that’s why we’ve got to share her story.
Katie, the Wellness Mama, welcome to the show.
Katie: Thank you so much for having me.
Jonathan: It’s absolutely my pleasure. Katie, and should I call you the Wellness Mama, or should I call you Katie?
Katie: Katie is great.
Jonathan: Okay. Well, can you tell us a little bit about your story and how Wellness Mama, and then the website Wellness Mama came to be?
Katie: Sure. It was actually sort of an accident. My degree was in nutrition, and I was doing one-on-one nutrition practice with clients for a long time. And then once I had five kids, that got really difficult, and I was having a lot of trouble being away from them to do consulting, but I still loved working with clients. So since I had taken a step back from the one-on-one practice, I started putting recipes and articles and different information online for clients so that I wouldn’t have to recreate that every time they asked a question or every time they had a problem. I could just send them what was already there.
And it was never really the plan to have a huge online presence or anything. I just wanted to put that information out there to help people. I think I kind of hit Facebook and Pinterest when they got huge, and so things took off. I’m having to go backwards and figure out all the tech side and the business side because I never really said, I want to build this huge online presence. It just kind of happened. It’s been wonderful. The reason it’s worth it to me and the five a. m. mornings getting up to write is I love getting the emails from people I never met that hopefully something on my site has helped them.
Jonathan: Katie, you’re a great example of – you put the mission and the content first, and often we can be surprised as to how quickly things blossom when we have that mission in focus. And your mission is very clear. You have a goal to provide your family and really everyone else’s family with the healthiest foods and lifestyle possible, and your effort to do that and digging into the research rather than just what we’re all told in popular press has led you to what some may think are counter-intuitive conclusions, but those who are versed in the science know to be quite obvious. So can you share some of that with us?
Katie: Yeah, that was a big aha moment for me, realizing a lot of the stuff I was taught in school was not actually backed by the science we have now, and seeing what I was taught in school was not helping people and in some cases it was making them worse. I had a whole run of clients in a row with autoimmune issues and hormonal imbalances and things like Crohn’s disease, and I was realizing that my normal advice was doing nothing for them. And so I really started researching and delving into the medical journals.
And then another aha moment for me was our third son – I had placenta previa, and we didn’t know it. So he ended up being an emergency C-section, and he and I both almost died. But he was in a NICU for a week, and the first things that ever went in his body were steroids and antibiotics. And I’m sure you know from a gut bacteria standpoint that’s about as bad as it can get. So I had to really delve into the research on gut bacteria and how that could affect his mental health and his attitude and his digestion and once he started eating real food was having allergies to a lot of different things.
So that started a whole journey for me of reversing his allergies, which thankfully we’ve done now, and he’s completely recovered and he’s doing wonderful. But that was a whole new world that I had never been exposed to. Having my own child go through that gave me the motivation to really research it and to help him, and I realized this information could be so helpful to a lot of other parents especially because a lot of them are just not being given the information on how much food can impact every aspect of their lives, their children’s lives. And so I really wanted to get that information out there, especially to other moms, that there is hope for a lot of these things. They’re not a lifelong diagnosis.
Jonathan: Katie, that is such an inspirational message, and at the risk of maybe getting you amped up, because it might be hard to not get amped up here, but you talk about the importance and the power we have when making choices not only for ourselves, but potentially even more importantly for small, developing people who really need good nutrition. We live in a culture where kids’ foods and children’s menus are defined by – correct me if I’m wrong – the processed garbage that is toxic for anyone, let alone those who are most in need of good nutrition, aka growing people.
Katie: I definitely agree. It drives me absolutely nuts, and I think that’s one of my big points that I always try to make with moms is we assume that kids aren’t going to like healthier foods and so we cater to them with these kid-friendly foods that, like you said, are complete junk. There’s no nutrition in them whatsoever. And we expect that kids aren’t going to like vegetables and they’re not going to want to eat protein. They’re just going to want chicken nuggets and French fries.
I’ve had the exact opposite experience with mine, especially my younger ones. I’ve known more about this when they were little and just learning how to eat. They started off with things like bone broth and avocado and even coconut oil and grassfed butter, just really, really nutrient-dense powerhouses, so even if they were just taking a few bites a day, learning how to eat, I knew they were still getting a ton of nutrition from it. Most of the kids’ foods that are marketed, everything in the grocery store, it’s just chemicals and food dyes and artificial fats and artificial colors and artificial flavors.
That zero-to-five age is when they’re developing their entire nutritional foundation for the rest of their lives. That’s pretty much set in stone. Dr. Cate Shanahan talks about that in the book Deep Nutrition, which I think is a great read for moms. But what they eat at that age can literally determine their gene expression for the rest of their life. Whether they’re going to have genetic expression of certain diseases they may be predisposed to, or whether they’re going to have genetic expression for being obese. And so their diet in those early years, and their mom’s diet when they’re pregnant is extremely important for that.
So I go to great lengths and probably get a little obsessive with focusing on my kids’ nutrition because I realize whatever I feed them when they’re young, especially before they’re five, is going to be ten times more important than what they may eat when they’re in college. If they have a horrible diet then, if I can give them that gift now that I may not be able to give them later, hopefully that’s still building their strong foundation.
Jonathan: So Katie, it’s hard for anyone to argue with what you just said. I mean, it is obviously true, and it’s so encouraging that we can give our children this gift, but I know you must deal with this every single day, and that’s the pushback of “I agree with this in principle” – I’m not saying this for myself. I do agree with this in principle, but you must have people who say, “I agree with this in principle, but I just don’t have time or I don’t have the money.” What do you say to those individuals?
Katie: Well, I often have to give a little bit of tough love and ask them, well, do you ever go out to eat? And do you ever spend money on superfluous things? Because the food you’re eating is so important for your overall health that you can be reducing medical expenses or other expenses if you’re focusing on the food. And we’ve been on very tight budgets at times, and you can still make stir-frys out of frozen vegetables and buy meat and just stretch it. And you don’t have to feed them the processed foods. And it doesn’t even have to take that much more time if you plan it. So that’s always my biggest tip for moms is that you have to have the structure, and you have to have the plan.
And when we went through the really intense, restrictive diet with my son to heal his allergies, I realized that the only way I’m going to survive this is if I have a really detailed plan. So I found seven meals that were allergy-free and that I knew were fine for him. And I cooked those on a certain day. So Monday was this, and Tuesday was this, and so I knew ahead of time. There was no stress about planning it. My shopping list was exactly the same every week, I made sure I always had the foods on hand, and the kids just got used to eating it. And so they were fine with it, and they would look forward to soup day, or whatever day they liked the most. But the structure is what got me through that.
So that’s what I tell moms, especially if they’re on a really tight budget, is find seven meals that fit your budget, that are healthy, that don’t take forever to prepare – a lot of times stir-frys and soups are great for that, and just alternate days of the week for as long as you have to to get your family adjusted to it or until your budget is a little bigger at some point. But if it really is priority for you, just make that plan and stick to it.
Jonathan: Katie, I love that advice about that a little bit of structure, little bit of consistency, and cooking in bulk can really – because I think the challenge we sometimes face is oh my god, what’s for dinner? And when you don’t know, then it’s this panic, okay, just grab that processed mac ’n’ cheese off the shelf. But if you just spend even twenty to thirty minutes just saying, okay, what will work? And maybe there’s a rough patch that week, so you refine it the next week. You spend thirty minutes a week for three weeks evolving this approach, and then you’re good. Then you’ve got the plan and you don’t even need to think about it any more if you don’t want to moving forward. What’s for dinner tonight? is answered.
Katie: Exactly. And that also lets you not waste any ingredients so you can stretch your budget farther. For us, we do roasted chicken on Monday nights, with vegetables. And then I save the bones. They go in a crock pot with the leftover vegetables and become bone broth, then we keep going all week and drink the bone broth with eggs in it for breakfast as egg drop soup, or just a mug of it at lunch, and that’s so nutritious and it costs nothing because most people just throw the bones away. So you’re reusing something that most people would not even use, and you’re getting all that added nutrition.
Jonathan: And it simplifies your life so much because I know sometimes when I go visit my hometown, and I watch my mother, who doesn’t necessarily practice this lifestyle as much – she’s definitely getting better, but not yet – it’s always, what am I going to get at the grocery store? There’s all these decision points and it’s worry about – oh, what am I going to do? What am I going to do? Whereas if it’s my wife and I, we have – here’s what we buy at the grocery store every single week. Here’s what we get off Amazon Subscribe & Save, every single month. And it’s just easy. It’s simple. It’s just simple.
Katie: Exactly. And I think that’s why a lot of these weight loss plans you see that people use or different nutritional plans – I don’t necessarily agree with the foods they’re recommending, but a lot of them do work because they’re providing the structure. And that’s what a lot of people need, that structure, that consistency, to be able to stick to it. I think that really the challenge is not even that – knowing what to eat or the eating of the healthy foods. It’s consistently sticking to that, like you said, those times when it’s “what’s for dinner?” You only have half an hour, and that’s when a plan then comes in.
Jonathan: And Katie, as a mother of five, you certainly have a relatively large sample set of kids to speak about here, so what has been your experience with – you’ve created a structure in your home. But obviously your children are not always in your home. How do they then act outside the home? How do you deal with things like trick-or-treat or like sugary, processed snacks being brought into school, things like that?
Katie: Well, I think you have to differentiate a little bit. Like if you have a child with food allergies or if you’re working on intensively healing gut problems, I treat that differently than a child who doesn’t have those issues. Because for those children even just a little mistake or a little cheat can be a big problem until they reverse those. But for children who don’t have those severe issues, my focus is – I don’t do the 80/20. I do 95/5. So at home I know that everything they get is going to be solid and allergy free and organic because they’re getting a ton of nutrition in every meal at home.
And I also go to great lengths to educate them. We always try to make, especially dinnertime, but usually breakfast too, a family activity, even my husband. And let that be bonding time and time spent with the family, and teaching them eggs taste good but they also have choline in them. They have good cholesterol and they have healthy fats. And helping the kids understand, because I think a lot of times we don’t really give kids credit. They have the ability to understand a lot. So teaching them from a really young age that food is first for nutrition and health, and secondly for taste, we need to try to learn to love all these healthy foods, even things like liver that most kids would be like, “Ew, I’m not eating it.” But teach them all the vitamins that are in that and why it’s so good for them, and let them start making that choice to learn to like it themselves.
And so by educating them, when they’re in situations away from home that I’m not in control of, sometimes certainly they might choose the unhealthy choice, but a lot of the times I’ve seen my kids say, “You know, I know that I don’t feel good when I eat that. So I’m going to stick with the veggie tray or hard-boiled eggs.” Because there’s usually at least one good option they can find, and I make sure to pack healthy snacks for them. But I think really the key’s education, and just teaching them that food is about the nutrition first and the enjoyment second. And not just letting it be a reward for everything – if they good grades, they get ice cream, and on their birthday they get all this sugary junk – and just starting with the education really young.
Jonathan: Katie, what you just described is so transformational and empowering, because if I’m hearing you correctly, we can – what a lot of people do is indirectly communicate to their children that healthy food is “bad” and unhealthy food is “good.” What I mean by that is “you can’t have this until you eat your vegetables” is basically like saying, “vegetables are devastating and the negative connotation put upon them just persists throughout the rest of the child’s life. And then the dessert or the ice cream or the candy bar, that’s “good” food while the vegetables are “bad” food. But what you’re saying is you can actually teach and involve your children in saying, you know what? No, healthy is delightful. That’s the good stuff. That’s the stuff that makes you feel good, and then you don’t need to restrict them or reward them because they want to be healthy and happy.
Katie: Exactly. And not creating those emotional connections – I see a lot of kids that, like, food’s always a reward. So anything good they do, any birthday, any happy moment is rewarded by sugary food. And that’s creating that association in their head that any time – a good feeling is associated with junk food. And so I’ve seen people in college, when I was in college, if they were upset or they were stressed, they turned to junk food. That was that mental connection in their head. Those things made them feel good. Those were happy times, so when they wanted happy times, they thought about junk food.
And I just have been really cautious that I don’t want to create that association with my kids. Just teach them that healthy foods can be delicious, but the other day I had to laugh because my kids asked what was for dinner. And I said broccoli and other stuff, and they were like, “Yay! Broccoli!” I mean, I have a three-year-old who’s excited about broccoli. It’s totally possible. They’re just normal kids, and I think teaching them and letting them be part of that planning – another thing that since we’re on as strict of a diet, I have a lot of meals on index cards, and I let them help pick, or we’ll talk about, “Hey, who knows a food that has vitamin A in it? What could we find that has vitamin A in it?” And let them just be part of the planning process too, so they feel invested in it. In the summer, we have a garden, and they help grow it. So they have a vested interest, because they helped make that food.
And I think we just need to give kids more credit, because they really will, a lot of times, make the healthy choices if they’re taught the importance of why to make them, and not forced to eat the vegetables and not given all these negative connotations, like you said, with healthy food, whereas the junk food is considered the treat, or the good thing. I think that creates a really unhealthy mental attitude about food.
Jonathan: Brilliant. Kids like feeling good just like adults like feeling good. That makes a lot of sense. Well, Katie, we could totally talk all day. This is just a wealth of helpful information for some situations which I know most people find to be the most challenging. I can make this work for me, but how do I make it work for my family? And I know you have a bunch of additional resources on your website, WellnessMama.com, that individuals can check out.
But what’s next for you and for Wellness Mama?
Katie: That’s a good question. Like I said, I’ve been trying to figure this out kind of backwards. I am in the process of redesigning. I have a meal plan subscription that I’ve in the past offered mainly to my clients, and I’m in the process of having it built from the ground up so it can be used by anyone. There will be preplanned meals each week like I talked about with the very structured – for certain allergies or for certain diets that people need to follow. But then it also has a meal planner that they can plan their own. Just drag and drop and it’ll give them a shopping list that’ll show up on their phone. They can just check it off. So that’ll be a resource for planning. I’m hopefully launching that the first of the year.
And then we’re also in the process of creating wellness media, because my ultimate mission is I want to change the health of Americans and of the world. I realize obviously no one person can do this, so I’m trying to gather a network of other bloggers and other nutrition professionals and health experts to give us a collective reach that’s bigger. And so it’s going to have resources for bloggers to help them grow their presence, because the more of us out there spreading this message, the more people are going to hear it. So that’ll be totally free, just for bloggers to help them get bigger.
From that, we’re going to be creating a website that has a resource of just all this helpful information that they can find through these other people’s sites. So that’s an exciting project that we’re launching really soon. I’m so excited to see the changes that will come from these other bloggers, because there are so many wonderful new bloggers. I just can’t wait to help them get big, because they have such great messages.
Jonathan: Well, Katie, I’m curious. Do you have a blue spandex suit with a red “S” on it? Because that’s a ridiculous amount of work for a mom of five to take on. So kudos to you. It’s very clear that this is much more to you – this is a mission, this is why you’re here on the earth. I can’t imagine anyone else being able to put that much of themselves into something unless they believed it with their heart in addition to their mind, so kudos to you, madam. That’s awesome.
Katie: Thank you.
Jonathan: And where again can folks go to stay up to date on all things Wellness Mama?
Katie: My website is WellnessMama.com, and there’s a place there that they can sign up for my email list if they want to get updates on all the new projects that are going to be coming out or just my articles that go out each week. And it’s still in beta, but Wellness-Media.com is the one for other bloggers, health professionals, and that should be hopefully going live within about a week.
Jonathan: Brilliant. Well, Katie, thank you so much for joining us today for these awesome tips and insights, and for being just a wonderful example of that we can all change and improve the lives of so many people, and no better example of that are the little people that we create and that we’re responsible for. So, Katie the Wellness Mama over at WellnessMama.com, thank you so much for joining us today.
Katie: Thank you so much for having me.
Jonathan: Listeners, I hope you enjoyed this wonderful conversation with the Wellness Mama as much as I did. And please remember this week and every week after: eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Chat with you soon.