Looking after number one

Nutritionist Fiona Kirk helps working mums keep healthy and fit. Here she talks to WM magazine about the best ways to ensure you keep firing on all cylinders while dealing with the demands of a busy lifestyle.

The run-up to Christmas is perhaps one of the most energy-sapping of times for working mums. Not only does work go into overdrive as colleagues act as if you are going to be off work for months, but there’s all the Christmas holidays to plan plus the shopping.

It’s a time when you need to keep going and the temptation is to gorge on Christmas chocolates to give yourself an energy boost. But that’s the direct route to new year’s diets.

Nutritionist Fiona Kirk says it’s far better for mums with flagging energy to eat little, healthy and often.

Fiona, who is based in Glasgow, knows what she’s talking about. She has a grown-up daughter, but recalls 15 years ago when her daughter was young and she was studying nutrition plus juggling a couple of jobs and converting her house. “I wonder now how I managed all that,” she laughs.

“The most important thing I try to say to working mums is that you have to be a bit selfish and put yourself first so you can look after everyone else,” she says.

She recommends what she calls quick fix rescue plans that you can carry around in your handbag for when your energy levels dip.

“It’s hard coming home from work and having to feel you need to smile and tackle the huge amount of things to be done when all you want to do is sit down,” she says.

She gives advice to women who want to lose weight and feel fit.

“I often get questions from people who want to wake up feeling fresh and raring to go in the morning and to have enough energy to keep working through the day, be still smiling at the end and have enough energy for sex. They want to stay lean and fit and keep their kids nourished.”

Keeping energy levels up

Fiona says you need to fit a well balanced diet round your lifestyle so that you have enough energy to be able to cope and so your energy levels do not plummet to such an extent that you reach for the nearest sugary thing or eat the kids’ leftovers. “This is where a little bit of planning helps,” she says.

She recommends having snacks full of proteins and fats in your handbag as these release energy quickly so you can bounce back immediately. That could mean a hard boiled egg, baby oatcakes with nut butter, apples, carrot sticks, a block of cheese or nuts and seeds. “It’s about keeping your blood sugars balanced,” she says.

She adds that beany soups are a good lunch choice as they have a good mix of proteins and carbohydrates and also boost your fluids.

“Often working mums forget to keep hydrated and eat instead of having a glass of water,” she says.

She also recommends eating something small, like a salad or some soup when you get home as it takes around 20 minutes for the message to get to your brain that you are full. This could mean you avoid heading for the biscuit tin later and will make you feel better able to face the bedtime routine.

“If we watched our kids more we’d see how obvious it is that they are much calmer when they are nourished. You can see how quickly it happens,” says Fiona.

She also recommends to people she speaks to who are trying to lose weight that they study thin people. “Most eat regularly and eat small portions and exercise. They understand that food is fuel,” she says.

She is against faddy diets, but has devised her own two-week diet which she says works very well. “If you want to lose weight you want to see results quickly. It keeps you positive and makes you want to continue,” she says, “but they have to be properly balanced and fit in with your family’s requirements, not be any silly foods that you have to get off the internet.”

Her last recommendation is to get enough sleep – which might mean going to bed at the same tinme as your kids every so often. “Studies show that people who get less than six hours sleep regularly tend to put on weight more easily,” she says. “Lack of sleep plays around with your appetite and feeling of satiety. It gives a message to your brain that you have not had enough food to satisfy your energy needs.”

*Fiona Kirk is author of ‘So What The F*** Should I Eat?’ and ‘2 Weeks in the Fast Lane’. To purchase her books at the special Workingmums.co.uk reader offer price visit www.fatbustforever.com and quote the following at checkout:

Ref: WML1 for ‘So What The F*** Should I Eat? (£12 plus p+p)

Ref: WML2 for ‘2 Weeks in the Fast Lane’ (£7 plus p+p)


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