Are you a Shattered Mum who is fed up of feeling knackered and out of control with your eating? So many Mums tells me it helps to hear they are not alone… which is why I wanted to share Meghan’s personal journey.
In this blog post, Meghan Douglass-Ellis bravely and honestly describes her own journey on my Shattered Mum Recovery Programme, and how it’s helped change her life for good. She also tells us how she plans on passing down the knowledge she’s learnt to not only her daughter, but her grandchildren too. Thank you Meghan for sharing your journey.
If you want to book a place on the next course, then please do get in touch and I’ll add you to my waiting list. You can sign up here to the waiting list here.
Meg’s Journey on The Shattered Mum Recovery Programme: What lead you to sign up?
I wanted to take part in The Shattered Mum Recovery Programme after a Facebook post brought tears to my eyes. There, listed on the screen, were reflected so many of the struggles which I had been going through….
- You feel knackered and you don’t know why
- You’re tired of feeling tired
- You don’t feel like your body is your own anymore
- You’re anxious for no reason and worry about the silliest of things
- You feel completely out of control with your eating (even though you feed your kids really well!)
- Your hormones are all over the place
- You keep going back to your GP and have had lots of tests, but there’s nothing medically wrong
- You’re putting on weight around your tummy for no reason and often feel bloated
- You just can’t stick to a good eating plan and keep falling off the wagon
- You’re addicted to sugar, carbs and never have enough energy to exercise
- Sex drive… what sex drive?
The thought that I could achieve my parenting goals, without having to experience this kind of total exhaustion filled me with hope… hope that I could recover some of what I thought I’d sacrificed in becoming a Mother. The idea that the solution could lie in nutrition seemed so simple it was almost unbelievable, but the stakes were so high that I signed up and waited eagerly for lessons to start.
What happens when you join the course? Lesson One…
You enroll on the course with a group of other Mums. From the outset, this was a really amazing component of the programme for me, because I felt like I wasn’t alone in my hope for a life with more energy. All these other women, with children of different ages, from across the world and with different jobs and goals had all read Catherine’s promise of a less shattered future and rejoiced. I wasn’t alone. I felt less embarrassed to be my grumpy-binge-eating-self, and my confidence in my ability to change grew.
Then, there was the simple joy of Catherine’s presence, even before we had started in earnest. She allowed me to go into the programme so optimistically, comfortably and confidently. Catherine is also a mother, and had so many anecdotes and was so understanding and encouraging of our respective journeys, that I was able to trust in her knowledgable advice. And, in line with my hopeful beginning, I was one of several people to feel a big change from the first little tweak.
We started with increasing protein and water intake, and for me, this has been the most dramatic change, because it set me up really nicely for the other changes which followed. I realised in the first hour of the programme that it really was my eating that had been letting me down. Despite having an interest in healthy-eating, without the right advice I had been giving myself all the wrong fuel, and was left wondering why my engine was stuttering.
Another thing which Catherine began to guide us towards was self-care, which made a big difference to my mindset for the rest of the course. As a single, relatively-young parent, I think I have often told myself that my little girl has to be the one and only priority in order for me to succeed as a Mum: often comparing myself to people who seemed more well-established or affluent in some sense, and thinking that self-care was the sort of thing which only those people had time for. However, thanks to guidance from the programme, I was able to begin some activities which bought me into the moment, into the present, and allowed me to recharge myself. Rather than hindering my goals as a parent, or taking my attention away from my daughter, it most certainly improved our shared home life. My energy levels had already improved and I felt empowered as a person, and as a parent, to charge on with the programme full-steam ahead.
“I realised in the first hour of the programme that it really was my eating that had been letting me down. Despite an interest in healthy-eating, without the right advice I had been giving myself all the wrong fuel, and was left wondering why my engine was stuttering.”
Lesson Two… dealing with the sugar cravings
I expected sugar to come up at some point throughout the programme, as I have been well aware since my teenage years that sugar has a terrible effect on me. I’ve tried an awful lot of social-media inspired detoxing and cutting it out cold-turkey; but I’ve never truly researched the cause behind the spikes and troughs of energy, the spots, the mood-swings; and I hadn’t even realized my anxiety and stress were related to my sugar intake.
In this lesson I finally received a simple, but comprehensive explanation which allowed me hit the ground running with beating my sugar addiction. Having already built a better foundation for change (in terms of my energy levels) thanks to our last lesson, I decided I wanted to cut sugar out completely. With an approach more based on science, than on instagrammable-smoothie-recipes (my guilty pleasure), I was able to understand what was happening to my body when I was experiencing small energy spikes, and why I needed to keep feeding my sugar habit to avoid the energy slump which followed.
A breakthrough for me was also that I needed to cut out other foods which spiked my blood sugar levels too, in particular, starchy veg and white carbs. Although initially I was worried that I would struggle to manage this on my benefits-budget, I was really surprised at how simple and affordable managing my blood sugar-levels could be. For me, as a parent and a consumer, giving up sugar and empty calories shifted my perspective of food from being something which I would use to fill myself up, satisfy my cravings, and provide a little pick-me-up; to food being something which should nourish me, fuel my body and support my health.
Lesson Three… dealing with overwhelm
I never realized how intimately related my nutritional intake and my stress levels were until this lesson. Of course, in hindsight it makes sense that when provided with improper nourishment, the body dips into panic mode, and the mind slips with it; but for me, this was a revelation. I had spent a lot of time thinking that my anxiety and high-stress levels were beyond my control; but Catherine really empowered me, and enabled me to take control of my tendency to become overwhelmed at the drop of a hat (or more likely, at the drop of a toddler tantrum).
As I’m expecting another baby in November, I have been learning amazing hypnobirthing techniques, and these, combined with some similar guidance from Catherine, gave me a wealth of valuable relaxation techniques to help control my stress levels. We also kept a gratitude diary (which, in general, we didn’t share as a group), where we recorded something to be grateful for every day. A big part of this lesson was also establishing a positive morning, and bed-time routine.
My daughter and I tried ending the day with a turmeric latte for me and a warm milk for her, followed by story time with amber-lighting, absolutely no screens and some breathing exercises. She would fell asleep (relatively) peacefully, I would sneak downstairs, have a bath with added magnesium and read. While this routine really made the evenings more pleasant, and my stress-related nightmares stopped; the real change came in my morning routine. I am, and have always been, the kind of person to hold on to every possible moment of sleep: most mornings my daughter will wake me up by screaming “hungry!” into my face and/or ears. I have been known to feign deafness on these mornings and pretend to be unmoved for an extra few seconds of shut-eye. However, after this week’s lesson I decided to really follow Catherine’s advice to “start the day as you mean to go on”. I started getting up 45 minutes before my daughter, which allowed me to do some deep breaths, and start the day with some pregnancy-friendly yoga sun salutations.
Starting the day calmly and with sunlight on my face allowed me to turn preparing a warm and nourishing breakfast for me and my daughter into a kind of mindfulness activity. I feel this experience really marked a shift in my perception of myself as having control over my life; my perception of food as being something to nourish and fuel my family; and my perception of my time as being worthy of filling with activities which would enrich my life, and not distract me from it.
“In this lesson I finally received a simple, but comprehensive explanation which allowed me hit the ground running with beating my sugar addiction.”
Lessons Four and Five: learning about simple food prep
These lessons consolidated the move from diet to lifestyle metamorphosis. Catherine taught us that every meal can be improved, and that there will always be times where your ideal meal doesn’t quite materialise. Even then, with slip-ups and cheeky sugar spikes hidden inside, you can always make it better. We also all exchanged emergency meal plans to prevent this happening, so we each had a reliable, quick mid-week rush meal, that wouldn’t destroy our progress.
Thanks to a maternity appointment and a public transport mishap, I quickly needed to put this into play. For those who haven’t been stuck at a hospital at dinner-time with a hungry toddler, the outlook is not great. The pre-packed sandwiches are full of sugars, the hot food is mostly white-carb based, and even the salad is questionable, smothered in sauce and packed with pasta. The best option I could find was some steamed vegetables, and chicken for my daughter with whole wheat pasta, and a couple of pieces of fresh(ish) fruit. Luckily, thanks to the course and the recommendations from Catherine, I had in my bag a packet of oat cakes, and a bag of mixed nuts. Although it certainly wasn’t my proudest meal, I did feel I had taken control of the situation and really made the best of the opportunity for nourishment.
We were also introduced to the concept of good gut balance. Thanks to yaccult adverts, and a curiosity having seen fermented drinks and foods pop up in my favorite health-food shops over the last year, I was vaguely aware of the concept of ‘good bacteria’ in your digestive system. However, Catherine’s easy-to-grasp scientific explanation allowed me to really understand the method for getting this balance right. Similarly, an in-depth understanding of hormone balancing foods has been a more subtle, but long-lasting and notable change to my diet and health.
“Catherine taught us that every meal can be improved, and there will always be times where you cannot manage your ideal meal, but most of the time, you can improve a meal.”
Lesson Six: fueling the right exercise
In our final lesson with Catherine, we were able to build upon the foundation we’d set up so far with diet and mindfulness to bring exercise and a connection with our bodies into the mix. Exercise has always been a bit of a spooky word for me. I am definitely not an athlete, and it’s only since pregnancy with my toddler that I was able to use yoga to build a connection with my mind and body. However, again Catherine’s expert knowledge and non-judgmental demeanor allowed for a calm introduction into walk exercise. I actually found that a really nice way to fuse all the nutritional information I’d gained, with a sustainable form of exercise was to walk up to the city-center marketplace from my house with my toddler in the buggy, spend a morning (and possible even a picnic) in the park, followed by a food-shop (much less plastic on the marketplace too!) and then walk home. I managed to squeeze in about an hour of walking per day by choosing play-options for my little girl which were further from my house, and finding little ways I could get out and enjoy a walk in nature, without impacting my life very much at all on a practical basis.
The difference to my outlook and mood has been huge, though, and since the programme I find I challenge myself to fit more (pregnancy suitable) movement and exercise into my life, as the reward for this is potentially so high.
Life after the Shattered Mum Recovery Programme: how long did the results last?
My life since the Shattered Mum Recovery Programme has been improved immeasurably. I’ve been empowered to take control of areas of my life which I thought were necessary and permanent effects of parenting. I’m less grumpy, less tired, no longer craving an afternoon nap, and I’ve been able to stop taking medication prescribed to even out a hormone disorder.
I view food in a new light: as something which nourishes and supports, and the rewards for nourishing my body are energy and good health.
While I often have to consciously think about how I can maintain a nourishing lifestyle, I am aware that I am teaching my daughter habits that will make tiredness and sugar addiction a battle that she (hopefully) never has to fight. I think this programme offers Mothers an opportunity to respect their minds and bodies, and reinvest in their personal identities as a Mother, and as a person too. The best thing about these skills being taught to Mothers, is that I feel certain these are gifts of wisdom we will all pass down to our children and families.
Are you a Shattered Mum in need of support? You can sign up or register your interest for your place on my next course here. Or get in touch via email to ask me any questions firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you Meg for sharing your story. x