Do you identify with either of these types of mothers?
- The busy mom – who is busy juggling work and family and is always on the go
- The stressed-out mom – who at times feel at her wit’s end because of all the demands that are put on her and can’t find the time to recharge her batteries
- The balanced mom – who has all her ducks in a row and manages to make everything seem so easy
Regardless of which of these you identify yourself with, I think you’re going to LOVE this week’s podcast. Being a mom is a huge privilege. You are raising this little wonder who, one day, will grow up and contribute to the world. But, being a parent has a lot of challenges that contribute to many mothers feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. Being a new dad myself, it was quite a shock to me to see just how much it changes your life (in both amazingly beautiful, but also very stressing and challenging ways) and how much demand there is on a parent. But I think the stresses and demands are two or three times (maybe even more) greater on the mom.
How do those mothers who seem to have everything under control manage to do it all? How do you change your daily routines so you no longer identify yourself as the busy or stressed out mom?
In this podcast, I am talking to Katie Wells, owner and founder of the popular health/parenting blog Wellness Mama. She will share how she manages to run a business, homeschool her 6 children, and find time in her day to recharge and mitigate stress. (And to be honest, I’m still amazed that she somehow manages all this. My one son is already a handful! I can only imagine having 6 kids!)
For any moms out there (or husbands looking to better understand and help the woman in your life), this podcast is fun and definitely a must-listen! Enjoy!
In this podcast, you’ll learn
- The power of rituals with your kids
- How to get your kids eating healthy foods
- The biggest needle movers for Katie in her personal recovery from Hashimoto’s
- The only thing nutrition experts can agree on
- How Katie manages to cook healthy while being a busy mom of 6 kids
- How the stressed out mom can give herself time to destress
- Why Katie and her husband chose to homeschool their children
- How to help your kids develop healthy eating habits
- The shocking truth about how often we eat throughout the day
- The unique and powerful breakfast routine Katie has with her family every morning
Download or listen on iTunes
Listen outside of iTunes
How To Get More Energy As A Busy Mom │ Balancing Stress, Health, And Energy While Raising A Family With Wellness Mama – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Hey everyone. Welcome back to The Energy Blueprint podcast. I’m your host Ari Whitten and today I am with Katie Wells who is the owner and operator, CEO, founder of Wellness Mama which is one of the top health blogs on the internet. And it’s devoted to helping families and mothers stay healthy and get healthy and be energetic which is what we’re all about here.
So this is a unique conversation, one I haven’t had before on the podcast and I’m really excited to talk to you.
So welcome Katie, it’s really a pleasure and an honor to have you on.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Thank you. It’s an honor to be here. You are actually the reason that I pretty much gave up caffeine and now just cycle it versus drinking it every day. So I’m a huge fan of your work as well.
Ari Whitten: Nice. Thank you. This is a topic near and dear to my heart. Especially now because I have a 16-month-old son, so I’m a new dad. And my wife is a new mom. And so we’re navigating this whole parenthood thing and so there’s a bunch of parenthood questions I have for you that I know a lot of my listeners also want to get the answers to.
And also just navigating life with a family and with the stress of having children and the sleep deprivation.
There’s just so much to talk about here and so much as it relates to energy levels and health more broadly. But I would love to talk about your story of how you became Wellness Mama. I’d love to just hear about how that happened because you’ve been around a really long time. I actually remember years and years, I don’t know how many years ago, but I remember reading articles on your site and my wife geeking out about recipes and do it yourself deodorant stuff and do it yourself cleaning stuff, I’ve been watching your work for so long so how did this start for you?
How did you actually become Wellness Mama?
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: It has been a long time. I realized the other day we’ve passed the 10-year mark which is wild to think about. It’s been a long and amazing journey. For me, it started the way it does for a lot of people who get into health which is having your own health crisis.
They say jokingly that, but seriously, that most people go into psychology to try to figure out what’s wrong with themselves and a lot of people go into health for the same reason. And that was certainly the case for me.
Basically, if you go way back I’ve always been super type A, push myself to the max. In high school was in like 26 activities and extracurriculars and had to had to have a 4.0 and didn’t sleep and that got worse in college. My worst semester I had 26 or 28 hours of classes plus activities that I was in plus I was dating my husband at the time so I was driving overnight to see him some days and then just eating cafeteria food on the run. Cafeteria sushi in between classes.
Turns out those are all the perfect ways to create autoimmune disease. If you want one, you just super stress yourself out, never sleep, eat crappy food. It’s a perfect storm.
I knew something wasn’t right but also you probably have experienced, or maybe not in your case, but when it’s just you, it’s always a little bit harder to get the motivation to figure out how to fix it but once I got pregnant with my first son, I got this really intense motivation to want to be as healthy as possible.
Let’s figure out what was wrong with me so that I could be the best for him and it was actually when he was six weeks old, I was sitting in the doctor’s office for my followup appointment and I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience but doctors tend to take forever to actually get you in the office.
And so I’d been sitting there for a long, long time and I was reading through pretty much every magazine there and the last one I picked up was Time magazine and I flipped through to an article that said the opening line was that for the first time in two centuries, the current generation of American children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
And at the time I’m nursing this perfect six-week old baby and it just was such a striking moment for me to realize his perfect, tiny body and that all these statistics of what they’re predicting for our kids. And I’ve also always been the personality type of if you tell me I can’t do something or whatever I’m like, hold my beer, I’m going to do it.
That moment I was like, okay, my health issues even aside, this is not happening to my child. This is not happening to any of these children. This is ridiculous. So I got this lofty idea that I was going to somehow figure out my own health, figure out how to fix that and help all these moms to change that for their kids and it was a very slow process.
It took years of me trying to figure out myself for one and also just writing very small baby steps for moms because moms are some of the busiest people on the planet so it’s not like we have time for a 150 step comprehensive plan. We need little things that we can implement.
So I just started writing at the recommendation of my husband who was a tech early adopter and who designed websites. So I started writing and just the community sprung up and I realized there were a lot of moms that were in that similar situation.
Struggling with something on their own health probably and also really wanting to be the best they could for their kids and to do the best for their kids.
That’s how it all began and I’m so grateful now that it’s an amazing community that’s so much beyond me. There’s a lot of moms who would consider themselves Wellness Mamas and I love that and I love that there are millions of moms who are doing this across the country for their own families and that’s what makes it so amazing and I’m so glad to be a part of the community not just to be the original Wellness Mama.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, yeah, the impression I get is almost that you’ve started a whole trend of wellness, I don’t want to say Wellness Mama, but mommy health bloggers. And there’s a whole bunch of mommy health bloggers now. And there’s a community, I’m even aware of, I heard recently that there’s, forget who told me this, but there’s a mastermind group of mommy health bloggers where a bunch of you guys get together and talk about things and connect with each other.
I get the impression that you’re the original of all of those people.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: I like to hope at least I contributed to it. There were a lot of other voices too and all of us together and that’s the amazing unifying factor. There are so many divisive things in today’s world and all of us parents, moms and dads, can get behind the idea of wanting to leave a better world for our kids. And as a friend of mine also says, also leave better kids for our world. It’s an important two-part thing.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, beautiful. I’m curious on a personal note, how has your health improved over, since you originally started Wellness Mama have you seen big improvements as a result of your journey into this whole health realm.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Yeah, absolutely. It took me eight doctors and seven years and actually finally get to the bottom of what was going on with me, which was Hashimoto’s. And after finding amazing doctors and working with great practitioners I’m finally able to say that’s in remission and I’m still not quite to that level where I feel like I’m still overworking addict. I would admit, over workers anonymous that I work too much and I sleep too little. Stress and sleep are the nemeses for a lot of us. Those are I’m still very much admittedly a work in progress. As far as my numbers, my good levels, all of that is perfect and thanks to people like you I have a ton of energy which is awesome even when I don’t drink coffee like most days. Yeah, I’ve seen huge improvements and more importantly I’ve seen my kids skip a lot of stuff that I thought was just part of normal childhood.
By the time I was five years old I had been on antibiotics, I can’t even remember how many dozens of times because of strep and I had at five years out, my tonsils out and adenoids out and tubes and pretty much a lot of my early childhood memories were being held down for blood tests and stuff and I didn’t know what was going on and getting ear infections and just all of it. And none of my kids have been on antibiotics and they never have something we couldn’t just deal with at home and they never had really serious illness of any kind which I’m so grateful for but I also think it’s largely it’s from the very beginning we were doing the best we could to provide them with a solid foundation and I love that there’s so many parents doing that. I really do have hope that we’re going to reverse that statistic.
The biggest needle movers for Wellness Mama in recovering from Hashimoto’s
Ari Whitten: Awesome. There’s so many different things we could talk about, I actually even reached out to my Energy Blueprint members and got a bunch of questions from individuals after I told them that I was going to be interviewing you. I specifically wanted to reach out to moms in the group and ask what questions I should ask. So we’ll get into that but one question I have still on your personal health issues, I’m curious what types of things you’ve found most helpful for Hashimoto’s just in this process of eight years or seven years or eight years? Eight doctors, seven years?
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Yep, yeah.
Ari Whitten: And just over that process of getting into remission, what kinds of things were the biggest needle movers for you.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: I’ll go through all of them. I will say though to preface, and I think you’d agree, that there’s such a personalized and variability aspect to this. I’m happy to share what worked for me but at the end of the day what actually worked for me was experimenting with a ton of things, ton of ideas from really brilliant people and figuring out which ones were my needle movers. I like to say that for other moms ’cause I did a lot of things that were supposed to work but didn’t work for me and I tried a lot of things that weren’t supposed to be good for thyroid patients that were awesome. So I’ll start with that.
Early on, just knowing I thought I had thyroid issue, for instance I would start taking iodine ’cause that was the recommendation at the time. It was thought if you had Hashimoto’s it was really actually can be really problematic to take too much iodine. So that was a definite not helpful thing. I did the autoimmune paleo protocol for a while just to gauge what my sensitivity was to a lot of different foods. Now I was pretty good at figuring out what I wasn’t handling well. Now ironically there’s tests like biome that just can tell you that right away which I wish we’d had back then. But really just dialing in my diet. And it wasn’t so much being able to follow any protocol but just doing the elimination diet and then introducing and seeing how my own body responded.
And thankfully I’ve been able to add most foods back in. I still don’t do great with gluten and I pretty much avoid that. I don’t do most processed dairy but I will occasionally drink wine and eat cheese with my husband once in while for date night. It’s also moderation is a key. Also things like eating tons of vegetables. It’s easy to think of taking away all the bad things but also it really helped me to shift the focus to adding in the good stuff and keeping that the focus. In any given meal, my plate will be 90% green veggies and that’s something whether you’re paleo, vegan, whatever, we can all agree vegetables are good for you.
The only thing that nutrition experts can agree on
Ari Whitten: That’s the one thing. The one thing that pretty much all nutrition experts can agree on. But I think it’s the only one.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Exactly. Even the keto people say green veggies are cool. And so that’s a great place to start and that’s something we do as a family not just me but we all eat a lot of vegetables. A tip for moms, we don’t start out in the morning with even bacon and eggs. We start out with a huge vegetable scramble and we’ll add protein in. Just starting the day with that kind of sustenance and all those micro nutrients is a huge energy boost. More than coffee used to give me. So back to your protocol.
Ari Whitten: 100%.
How fasting helped Wellness Mama boost her energy
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: That’s been huge. Also they say fasting is not good for thyroid patients and so I was really curious to test that ’cause there are so many benefits of fasting from an autophagy, they say stem cell reproduction at certain levels and just the mental clarity. I was like, I’m going to test it and I’m going to do my blood levels before and after. I’m going to monitor my thyroid levels throughout any fasting protocol and I’m going to watch my ketones and my glucose and then follow up with tests after and make sure I’m not seeing any decline.
For me, fasting was amazing and not only skyrocketed my energy and gave me great mental clarity, helped me lose weight but also my thyroid numbers stayed perfect. It’s again back to, experimenting what works for you and a lot of moms it’s not going to be the silver bullet it was for me at all and a lot of people can’t fast like that and that’s great. But that was for me something that was really helpful.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, very interesting to hear you say that. Fasting is one of these tricky areas because on the one hand you’ll hear a lot of warnings of contraindications for people with various diseases but actually if you can get beyond that, fasting may actually be one of the most helpful things for even many of the diseases you find people warning against. Like hey, maybe if you have so and so condition, be careful with fasting. A lot of this is just because, a lot of it’s honestly legal stuff. You just gotta protect yourself from making claims that could potentially be harmful. But in many cases it’s those people with those conditions that maybe stand to benefit the most rather than the person who’s already quite healthy.
The truth about how we consume calories througout the day
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Right, and exactly. Also I finally just had to think about it logically. We have more thyroid problems now than we’ve ever had. We eat more now and more often than we ever have. They say we eat, people think they eat three meals a day but we actually eat 17 to 18 times a day ’cause every time we put almonds in our mouth or drink tea that has cream in it or whatever it is, it’s technically a digestive event. And just realizing that people throughout history haven’t had access to food three times a day and every major religion includes fasting in some form. So maybe it’s at least worth experimenting with.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, and they haven’t had that consistent access to food. At least consistently every day. Maybe some days you were grazing all day and then maybe other days you were fasting all day. But this era where you have constant food availability, there’s even research to show that people basically consume food almost throughout their entire waking hours. The only hours that people are not eating in the majority of cases are the hours they’re actually in bed. And there’s been research by a researchers it’s funny an Indian name, Satchidananda Panda.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: I’ve read his stuff. Brilliant guy.
Meal prep and cooking tips for the stressed out and busy mom
Ari Whitten: And he’s did some time restricted feeding interventions that have shown remarkable benefits. Let’s dig into some of the specifics here of mommying and some of the unique challenges that arise there. One is just being short on time. When you have a kid or multiple kids, there’s just constant demands on you. I didn’t really understand this until I became a parent myself. I was like, oh yeah, people are exaggerating. But now having a son myself I’m like, no it’s really like a constant thing.
You have to pay attention to your kid almost at every moment, at least during certain ages. What do you do when you’re trying to balance that the time demands with also cooking and making healthy food and not resorting to eating processed, pre-prepared junky stuff? And I guess there’s two parts of this, maybe cooking and meal planning. And I don’t know if you want to treat those as two different subjects or integrate them but do you have any tips around cooking and meal planning for moms and parents?
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Yes, absolutely and I will say, it does get easier when they’re older than sixteen months. Like my older four are pretty self-sufficient completely at this point. But, for me, what I realized was, like you said, mom’s have so much on their plates, parent in general, we have so much on our plates and it’s all like the stress of trying to figure it out. So, for me in the beginning, once I, when I had three kids in three years, they were all three and under, I was a little bit stressed to say the least and I had to stake as step back and go, “OK my stress is not actually originated form any single event like feeding my children or bathing them or meal planning. It’s from the fact that all of this is on my plate.” Like, there’s been great articles written on how mom’s how all this emotional responsibility basically for the family.
So even when we’re not doing something we’re thinking about like what size clothes do the kids need and do we need to get he next season’s clothing out or are their shoes getting too small. What about school and homework. All of that is in our brain all the time. So, I took a step back and thought, “How can I reduce that, the emotional responsibility stress?”, because the physical things have to happen. We have to feed our children and to me it’s non-negotiable that I have to feed them real food and they have to get enough sleep and I have to keep a reasonably clean house. It doesn’t get perfect most days, but it’s reasonably clean. Things like that they have to happen. So, how can I reduce the stress?
And, I’ve always been a checklist and system person. So, for me this meant putting systems in place where I knew like laundry happened on certain days and I didn’t have to think about the laundry when it wasn’t those days. It wasn’t taking up any mental bandwidth, whatsoever. Now with older kids they actually all do their own laundry and the baby’s learning. So that has taken a huge …
Ari Whitten: That’s a processes and systems. You enlist the kids in the processes and systems.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Right and I think that’s a huge key. Especially when it comes to real food and meal planning. I have found and I know a lot of moms would echo this. The more you get the kids involved at every level of that, the more likely they’re gonna be, for one to eat the healthy foods, but also as they get older, they truly can prepare meals and be helpful. So, there’s an awesome course called Kids Cook Real Food, and we did that with our kids and now our older ones are completely capable of making a meal from scratch. And they love the ownership of that and that they get to help. But, that hasn’t always been the case either and I realize that most moms are not starting from a place where your kids are cooking dinner yet.
So, for me, meal planning was huge. I have an app that I use on my phone that lets me meal plan everything and grocery shop. That way I can, back to the whole mental and emotional bandwidth, I only have to shop once a week and I can pre-make most of the food once a week. Including, things like, I will pre chop tons of vegetable, fruits and just have those in metal containers in the fridge. So then, lunch is pretty much always a huge salad at our house with some kind of protein and good fats. I just take everything out and throw it on a plate. There’s no thought there. Breakfast, we like a scramble of vegetable we just cook in a pan. Just take them out and dump them in.
So that gets the mental stress of two meals completely out of the way and then that just leaves dinner and we just have rotating plans that are recipes that I know how to cook without having to look them up and they rotate by seasonal vegetables. So, I just, they’re easy like, usually thirty minute or less meals. They can be made in one pan and I can pre-prep most of it so I’m not spending all day cooking. As you know, to eat healthy foods, you literally could spend your whole life cooking if you tried.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, it can be remarkably time consuming. For sure. Yeah, beautiful. So, you know, kind of a follow up in a similar vein to that, just kind of the demands on you, time demands, of being a parent. How do you stay stress free? How do you mitigate psychological and emotional stress and make time for de-stressing and just stay calm in the midst of what must, I have one kid, I can only imagine what it’s like have, what do you have five or six kids?
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Six, yeah.
How to stay calm and mitigate stress as a busy mom
Ari Whitten: Wow, I mean I can only imagine the maelstrom of having that many kids around and just the chaos of that and the time demands of it. How do you stay calm and mitigate stress?
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Not perfectly every day. But definitely something I’ve improved on the last few years. Part of it goes back to the systems. Just not having that become a stress in the first place. But also kids fight and there’s chaos and noise and things don’t get done in time or dishes get broken so things inevitably happen that lead to stress. For me it’s been a very slow process of realizing I have to schedule in time for myself to recharge or else I do hit that wall and emotionally done and that’s not a place I want to be with my kids. Sometimes that’s things like we have a small sauna in our house so I’ll just sauna which has a ton of benefits and I know they’ve written about the heat shock proteins and how they affect your body positively.
Sometimes it’s physical things like that. The biggest ones honestly that keep me really grounded that really help are it’s nonnegotiable but I get sunshine everyday. I go outside even if it’s cloudy then you get more sunshine than you do inside. So I spend at least half an hour outside no matter what. Period. Either just reading in the sun, walking, something. I’m outside every day.
Ari Whitten: Do you have a specific time that you do that? Time of day that’s your sunshine routine?
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: In the morning. And I usually try to make it homeschool recess. Whenever we take a break for recess and go outside with the kids and they have a slack line and a ninja line which is like crazy monkey bars where they’re hanging upside down and stuff and a trampoline. So we’ll all go out there and jump on the trampoline or try to balance on the slack line or just things like that. So it’s also bonding time usually with the family. Or even if it’s just my husband and I sipping tea while the kids play or whatever it may be. That’ll be usually in the morning.
How to teach your children to connect dots
Also in the morning we try to, this was a recommendation of a friend as well, since we homeschool, but even if you don’t homeschool you do this, during breakfast we watch three TED talks as a family and the logic behind this that our friend explained was that kids naturally can connect dots and they’re so much more creative than we are. So if they’re watching TED talks, assuming they’re child appropriate, they’re getting basically someone’s entire career, the best of the best, their entire career distilled down in 15 minutes.
If you watch three unrelated TED talks, kids are going to naturally start to try to relate those things in their head because it’s what kids do. And so they’re going to be relating robotics and emotional intelligence and why there’s plastic in water and maybe one day that’ll yield them connecting those dots in a way that gets the plastic out of the water. Things like that. We do that and that takes about half an hour, 45 minutes depending on, that’s while we’re eating breakfast.
Ari Whitten: I love that.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Then we talk about it. That and our family gratitude practice of saying what we’re grateful for first thing in the morning. It’s simple stuff that we just, we instituted really for our kids but it’s amazing how profound it’s been for us as adults too just to start the day with that. With the mental clarity of the gratitude and the family time.
The decision of homeschooling and how it affects Katie
Ari Whitten: Yeah, that’s beautiful. I’m going to steal some of that routine from you. Well when my son’s able to understand TED talks. Maybe in a couple years. So homeschooling. You mentioned that you’re homeschooling. As if the stress of kids is not already enough and having them around constantly is not already so time demanding, you’re also homeschooling. I’m curious what made you make that decision and how it’s going. What your feeling is about homeschooling. Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you wish you did something different?
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Most days I love it. It has it’s moments where any aspect of parenting I don’t love it. For the most part I really do love it and I will say I think parents who have kids in school who are driving all over, they have a ton of respect from me because every, no matter what schooling option you choose, it comes with its own stress. And I also know that it’s its own kind of stress getting kids there on time and picking them up and all the extracurriculars ’cause I did that as a kid. For us it was really just that we had very specific things that we wanted to be able to impart to our children and to accomplish with them and the schools that we have available just don’t fit into that plan for us.
What I mean by that is, my husband and I are both entrepreneurs and we both come from the belief that entrepreneurs have the ability to change the world and like I said in the beginning, I also think moms have the ability to change the world. But we wanted to raise kids who would have that mindset and who would be entering adulthood with the idea of how can I improve the world and how can I change the world. We just felt like a lot of the school paradigm is kind of geared toward an outdated model. Meaning down sit down school kind of originated during the industrial revolution when we were going to need adults to able to work a job during the day and to be, have an attention span that required that and that kind of fit perfectly.
But now with technology and how quickly everything’s advancing, it’s so difficult to learn a skill before it changes and new information emerges and we didn’t want our kids to just be taught to sit down and there’s a single answer for every single problem and you have to follow the rules all the time. Certainly yes they should follow the laws but we wanted to raise kids who would think outside the box. We just felt like it would be really difficult to do that in a literal actual box. Because you go to school in a box. Like a lot of things in life, it means we took the hard road in some ways and it means a lot more time and stress on some days but we’ve been able to create that model where we’re learning by discussion and we’ll go through history and then we’ll talk about it and we’ll try to think of alternative solutions. Just in science it’s super fun to do with homeschooling. Things like that.
It’s been amazing ’cause their creativity hasn’t shut down. And I saw that in my own childhood and I’ve seen it in other children, they enter a school and their creativity starts going down over time. By the time they’re in high school, at least in my experience, I was a machine at taking tests and I was awesome at it. Turns out taking tests is not a real life skill and it hasn’t really served me that well in my adulthood. So we’re trying to impart practical physical skills. On any give day they’re doing things like coding or learning the ukulele or having discussions about history or we’re experimenting with robotics or things like that. Our hope is, we’ll see how it plays out in another seven years when our oldest graduates that’s it’s going to lead to more critical thinking outside the box thinkers who will hopefully improve some of the problems we’ve got in our world today.
How to ensure your children eat healthy
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. I love that. I want to dig into a couple specific parenting questions. One is given that you’re Wellness Mama and you put such an emphasis on eating and preparing good wholesome, whole foods, how do you keep your kids off of junk food? Because I grew up in a relatively health conscious family but I still when my parents were at work and I got home from school, my lunch or my after school snack would be Captain Crunch cereal. Two bowls of Captain Crunch cereal or I’d go to a friend’s house and they had Pop Tarts or whatever, what are those? Hot Pockets. Stuff like that. Even growing up in relatively health conscious family, my childhood was still filled with lots of junk food. So do you have any tips or strategies to keep your kids away from that stuff?
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Yeah, definitely. And it’s a two prong approach. The first part being that at home we don’t have any of it in house period. Which makes it easy for all of us to not eat it because it doesn’t exist. And we have this thing with our kids where it’s developed over time, we encourage them to try one bite of everything before they get seconds of any food that’s at a given meal but we also don’t force it. I’ve never forced fed a child food. And more often if they truly think they don’t like something or more importantly if they are actually are not hungry, we don’t force them to eat.
So the kids occasionally will skip a meal if they’re not hungry or they don’t like, like we have on that adamantly hates tuna. So if there’s tuna he just would rather fast. But we also educate a lot about what different foods have in them and how different foods affect the body in different ways and why we need nutrients which is a great, it pours over into homeschooling. That’s a good hands on lesson. And so part of it is that.
Just having the structure at home so it’s never there and we always have good options available. That also means I don’t make any different food. They don’t like an option at a meal, they’re not getting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich it’s just that’s what there is. And then the flip side which also kind of …
Ari Whitten: They can choose to fast.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: They choose if they’re …
Ari Whitten: Oh I love that. Instead of, ’cause I’ve seen so many kids get super picky about what they eat and then the parents are trying to make different stuff for every kid at every meal and it just becomes a horrendous hassle to do that. I love setting those boundaries around here’s what we have you either eat it or you don’t eat.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Exactly. It’s my responsibility to cook for you and provide food and it’s your responsibility when you’re hungry to eat food. And I feel like hunger is an amazing teacher and contrary to whatever, I don’t know what caused this modern belief, kids will not in fact die if they don’t eat for three hours. It’s okay. They’ll be fine.
Ari Whitten: Yes, thank you. I cannot stand that either. People think it’s neglectful if your kid doesn’t eat every three hours or something. I’m like, relax, it’s normal. Humans evolved to go sometimes without eating for six hours or 24 hours or whatever. I’m not saying intentionally deprive your kids when they’re hungry and asking for foods and to withhold it from them but to just understand that it’s okay not to force feed them all the time.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Right. And that’s the key, like you just said, respecting their choice. I’m never telling them not to eat. They’re saying, “I’m not hungry.” And I’m saying, “Okay, it’s good not to eat when you’re not hungry.” That’s good to listen to your body. And it also teaches them subtle lessons. We just don’t get what we want in life the second we want it and sometimes we are presented with options that aren’t the best and we have to figure out what to do with that and things like that but the other half of the coin, the choice side that came from my childhood was realizing I had the two extremes. One parent side all the relatives, every party there was nine types of candy and every time we went to their house it was Fudgesicles and soda. And then the other side was these very thin, food adverse women who were like, you should never eat too much when I was three. You should never eat too much because you’ll get fat or all these things.
And realizing both sides were not balanced when it came to the relationship with food. And I didn’t want to create that in my kids. So I also did not want to be like the mom who said you can never eat sugar and then when they turn 18 all they want to do is eat sugar. So our policy is in our house that there’s no junk ever. But when they’re out somewhere absent of an allergy, I’m not going to be the food Nazi, I’m not going to mandate what they can and can’t eat. I’ll educate them and I’ll explain to them what different foods have in them and what choice they, what they may want to consider when they make their choice but I’m not going to be the mom to dive in and keep them from eating birthday cake at a party or from eating Halloween candy.
It’s interesting because I think we don’t give kids enough credit, we’ve always just educated this objectively as possible about food and this year we moved to a new neighborhood and had the first time ever that we were really presented with the Halloween thing ’cause we always just skipped it. And this year all their friends were trick or treating, the neighborhood does this huge party, it’s a really big deal and they wanted to dress up and they wanted to hang out. And so I just swallowed my anxiety, didn’t stress about it and was like and was like, “Okay you guys can hang out with your friends and we’ll talk about it later and just have fun.” And that night they all come in and it turns out none of them actually went trick or treating for candy. They walked around with their friends and just said, “No thank you to the candy.” And I was shocked ’cause I knew that they understood food but also I know it’s a big temptation for kids at their ages to say no to candy. It really brought home to me, we don’t give them enough credit sometimes.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, that’s shocking. Actually the next thing is was going to ask you when you mentioned that you’ve spent a lot of time educating your kids about the nutrition and qualities of various foods, that’s kind of my plan going into it but since I haven’t already done it I wonder in the back of my mind, well will a kid really get this? Will they really care about preventing diseases 30 years from now or extending their lifespan? Or do they just want that pleasure in the moment and they don’t give a crap about whatever education you’re trying to give them. It’s great to hear that it actually works.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: It does. And also if they aren’t eating it at home, the few times they’ve tried sugar, they’ve felt pretty bad and that was also a great teaching opportunity ’cause when you’ve watched a TED talk about fatty liver disease and how sugar impacts fatty liver disease, it’s easy to tie that back in and they’re like, “Oh, so my liver doesn’t feel good.” They can actually start making those connections. So the education and the freedom to actually choose it and fail a few times are the keys there.
Wellness Mama’s take on healthy parenting
Ari Whitten: Yeah, beautiful. So another parenting question separate from food. I’m curious on your thoughts on like attachment parenting and there’s it’s interesting now that I’ve become a parent and I’ve read some books on different styles of parenting and there’s really pretty radically different schools of thought on things like co-sleeping versus letting your baby cry it out when they’re three months old. And physical touch and being there to support your baby when they’re crying versus letting them learn independence. It’s actually crazy just to see how not on the same page we are and how there is really no consensus around this, which I think there should be.
There should be like, as science that says, “Here, based on all this body of literature, we know that this is the right thing to do.”, but there isn’t. We just have these radically divergent schools of thought, on parenting and all this sort of sleep training and so on. So, I’m curious what you personal philosophies are and what direction you went as far as attachment parenting versus, I forget what they call the opposite of attachment parent but, I guess, neglectful parenting.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: I’ll try and tackle with the most respect, ’cause there are certainly definite different viewpoints and I feel like I should say to begin with, because any time you get into these issues, like what we chose is in no way a judgment of what anyone else chooses, and me choosing these things, I’m not putting down anyone who chooses differently. I will say we never had these mythical babies that I hear about that sleep through the night at, like three months old, that you hear about. I have a friend who has one of those and I’m like, “Huh, Wow I don’t even understand.”
We’ve always had very active babies from a very young age and they did not love to sleep. So, I kind of had to figure out that balance for myself and I think I agree with certain aspects of attachment parenting. For instance, you can’t spoil a baby. Like I don’t, it’s physically not possible to love a baby too much, hold them too much, hug them, any of that. And before about six months I agree with the whole not letting them scream and cry. Personally just that’s what’s worked for us. We have slept with ours in the bed for the first four to six months just because with other kids that was the only way I got enough sleep. If I was up sitting in a rocking chair all night, nursing the baby our kids liked to eat every hour and half to two hours, so it was either they were in our bed or I didn’t sleep for six months.
But after that, we start transitioning them into thinking of them as children, not babies. And it’s a slow transition. But kind of tied in with our home schooling idea is we want to raise adults. We don’t want to raise children and I don’t want to raise adults when they get into adulthood are like some kids that I’ve heard recently where they’re having to take adulting classes because they don’t know how to fold laundry or operate an iron or cook food. So, that part of the process we try to evaluate. One of our core things is, we’re not going to anything for a child that they are capable of doing for themselves. And that includes doing their laundry. So our four year old does her own laundry. She’s ruined a few shirts but she does her own laundry. Things like that, like I don’t tie their shoes once they’re capable of tying their shoes and I don’t get them dressed once they’re capable of getting themselves dressed.
And so part of that is when they psychologically are able to start sleeping for the health of the whole family, I help them do that and I’m not one to ever just, like, put them in their bed and let them scream all night. But I will transition them to a crib when I fits for our family. And we always just used the method of putting them in there, soothing them staying there for a little while, leaving, if they cry coming back in, soothing them but not picking them up. Just reassuring them, “We’re here, we love you, we’ll pick you up in the morning.” And it usually take like two nights of that and they’re sleeping through the night, just fine. It does help that we have other kids, so they’re never alone in the room by themselves. They’re usually with a sibling. So that’s helped.
I think at the end of the day, it’s a very obviously personalized thing and all of our kids have shown independence really early. I don’t know If that’s because we’ve really tried to foster it or that’s just their temperaments. We had one that walked at seven months and climbed at nine months. She crawled at three and a half months, it was insane. And if I had tried to attachment parent her and put her in a sling at nine months old, she would have physically revolted and climbed out. It wasn’t going to happen. So there is an aspect of each child is different. But I also think you have to, I worry a little bit with some of the more extreme version of attachment parenting that they don’t actually take into account the family dynamic or the couple, it’s all about the child.
And that’s something we’ve always thought is, they know psychologically kids are the most secure when they know that they’re not the center of the universe and that they’re part of a bigger unit but they’re not the center of it. And so we’ve always tried to keep the focus on mom and dad are here, we’re the couple, we love each other, you guys are the most important visitors we’re ever going to have in our house but you’re not permanent members here. We do want you to fly away one day. When something starts impacting negatively the rest of the family, we want to make sure we figure out that balance. Long way of saying I think it’s very personal and you have to find what works for your family.
Ari Whitten: Well said. Another question that I have for you, kid specific question and a very controversial topic is vaccines. I’m curious and I’m sure running Wellness Mama you’ve looked into this extensively and having six kids you’ve had to make lots of decisions around this. I’m curious what you’ve arrived at and you don’t have to talk about your personal decisions that you’ve made but what kinds of things have influenced your thinking on this subject?
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Yeah, absolutely. It’s definitely, it is something we’ve decided I won’t publicly say what we’ve done until the kids are all grown just ’cause I feel like in a lot of aspects that’s something that isn’t necessarily needs to be public knowledge and we just feel more comfortable not saying what we personally do.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, you’re going to either way whether you’ve done all the vaccinations or done none of them, you’re going to attract heavy criticism from some segment of a very polarized population on this subject, I think it’s smart to not say that. Either way you’re going to be attacked severely.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: That said, I would say probably of all the health issues including my own thyroid condition, vaccines are probably the issue I’ve researched the most. And I mean I have talked to hundreds of doctors both in the U.S. and out of the U.S. and I’ve talked to immunologists and PhD’s and just everybody across the board and grilled them for actual answers.
And what I’ve come to is I think we’re having the wrong conversation. When everything got turned into the do vaccines cause autism question we lost the ability to have rational conversation. What I mean is they can definitively quote unquote that vaccines don’t cause autism and my theory is that like a lot of things it’s the whole bathtub effect that you hear that analogy that you could patient a lot of things in bathtub but once it reaches the top it’s going to overflow no matter what you put in.
When it comes to more complex things like autism, vaccines and the things in them are one of the things that go into the bathtub along with whether they got probiotic exposure at birth along with what toxins they’re exposed to on a daily basis. Along with sleep and genetics and everything else and whenever for that individual it reaches a threshold it’s going to overflow. But when you narrow vaccines down to one single conversation like that you lose the ability to have a rational conversation that involves all the other things that matter.
So for instance when I was looking at the data, we know and nobody would argue that autoimmune disease is drastically on the rise. In the U.S. especially but also in other parts of the world. That’s unquestionable and they’re tracking that in various metrics along with a lot of other diseases.
Also along with that in the last 30 years we’ve added so many new vaccines and that increase kind of matches up perfectly with the graph of autoimmune diseases on the rise and certainly correlation does not equal causation but there’s a difference between when you’re talking about the seven vaccines I got as a kid and the 36 that most kids get these days. If you’re trying to say those are the same thing when you’re talking about almost a four X multiple, it doesn’t work like that.
There’s a huge difference. And so we need to talk more about the autoimmunity aspect because by the nature of vaccines, they are supposed to cause an immune reaction, that’s how they work. And when we’re injecting so many in such a short amount of time and increasing that number every year, it’s logical to at least look into the fact that maybe these are having a negative immune consequence down the road that we’re not seeing til later that doesn’t show up in that two week window that they usually track and isn’t mitigated by Tylenol and maybe we need to look deeper.
There’s some fascinating research coming out of a lot of different parts of world about this. And I will also say as moms, no matter what our opinion of the issue, it’s one area all of us can step back and like maybe take a little bit more kindness when it comes to this. Most moms approach this as a truly life or death issue and I have seen people who have lifelong friendships never talk to each other again because of the issue of vaccines. At the end of the day if you want to look at data, community and friendship is the biggest predictor of how long you’re live and reduction in all cause mortality.
Ari Whitten: 100%.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: It’s more important than even vaccines. If you are cutting people out of your life because they have a different opinion with you, first of all, I’ve always said in my life, if there’s a hill you’re willing to die on you should perhaps consider that you could be wrong about it because when you are that adamant about something usually it’s coming from an emotional fear versus an informed reality. But also if you’re willing to cut people out of your life, family and friends because they disagree with you, that might be something to reconsider.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, yeah, beautifully said. I completely agree with what you said about this conversation around vaccines has become way too myopic, way too focused specifically on autism, specifically on mercury and on the periphery of that conversation, like you said, there’s all these other things that are going on. There’s actual research on aluminum in vaccines not just mercury but looking at that and certain neurological consequences. There’s is actually some data, some actual research on this that’s pretty concerning.
There’s also you mentioned autoimmune disease, unbeknownst to a lot of people there’s also huge links with cancer that really people don’t, I’m not just talking about one study or two study, I’m talking about literally dozens of studies that have been done showing that getting certain infections in childhood and creating, developing the immune system in such a way that it can confers protection against various types of cancer later in life as adults.
They’ve actually shown that getting certain vaccinations that prevent those infections increases risk of those types of cancer later in life. And this is not controversial and I’m also not trying to argue for a blanket avoidance of all vaccines or anything like that. I’m with you that there needs to, we need to walk this middle ground and actually understand the data. But there’s really a lot of ideologues who are not aware of those things. Who are not aware that there actually are lots of pieces of research, of studies that have shown links that are of concern that are not directly related to this question of mercury and autism.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly like you said, it’s realizing on both sides that people who chose not to vaccinate don’t want to infect the whole world with measles and every child die anymore than those who chose to vaccinate want to forcibly inject small children with lethal doses of heavy metals.
But I think you’re right, we go to the extreme in both of those cases and people won’t even listen to the data a lot of the time. So that would be my encouragement at the very least, don’t just say you did the research ’cause you asked one doctor. Actually look at studies and actually do the research and ask the hard questions ’cause we owe it to our kids no matter what side you’re on. We owe that to that.
Questions for Wellness Mama
Ari Whitten: Well said. So change of topic, we’ll get away from vaccines so people don’t hate our guts after this. And I have a few specific questions from some of my members of the Energy Blueprint. One is from Sandra Brooks and very specific question, hopefully you’ll have some kind of answer for this, but said, “I perform a lot of outdoor chores and crafts and fingernails are a disaster, what can I do to improve the skin around my nails and my cuticles? And what can I do to strengthen my nails?”
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: So twofold approach ’cause I’ve had that too. One year we had a garden that 50 feet by 25 feet and I was in it hours a day and my nails cracked ’cause the minerals in the soil. Two prong approach is make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats and micronutrients in your diet which most people hopefully are. I also found that collagen and bone broth were helpful just ’cause we know that those are good for nails. I also though found it helped to rub my hands with raw Shea butter because it’s so thick and waxy before going in the garden and that’ll stop some of the moisture drawn from the soil drawing the moisture out of your hands. And then conversely after you’ve come in and clean up your hands, put Shea butter back on which is super thick. It’s almost hard to rub in but it really does protect your fingers. And if that doesn’t help try melting down Shea butter with some beeswax and the beeswax will protect from any water loss and that helps. And you can do it at night too while you’re sleeping.
Ari Whitten: Excellent. Love that. I was worried you weren’t going to have an answer to that and sure enough you have the best answer ever.
From Cathy Thomas, she said, “I’ve used virgin coconut oil as a base for do it yourself lotions and deodorants but it’s drying to my skin and it doesn’t absorb. Should I be using fractionated coconut oil instead of virgin or extra virgin? What are your thoughts on do it yourself lotions and deodorants for people that coconut oil doesn’t work well for?”
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: It’s a good question and there does seem to be a subset of the population that just doesn’t interact with coconut well at least topically. For that usually those people from what I’ve seen in a lot of years of answering this question in blog posts, they tend to have skin that responds much better to either jojoba oil or olive oil. Even just olive oil is amazing for your skin. In Mediterranean countries they use it all the time as the base for everything.
You can absolutely substitute olive oil. It’ll have a little bit of an earthy taste or flavor if you don’t like that, put some lavender in whatever you’re using. I always say if you’re going from a solid oil to a liquid oil, just reduce the quantity by a third and you should get the same consistency.
Ari Whitten: Excellent. From Jane Roseborough, she said, “I would like to know if she has any wisdom or referrals about incontinence, a not too discussed common problem among women.”
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Yeah, interesting question. So I have a whole post you can Google Wellness Mama kegels and also Wellness Mama pelvic health and it should come up. But basically the theory of what I’ve seen from talking to a lot of people is that it’s not just your pelvic floor. That’s what the focus is typically on but it’s actually much more of a core issue. So there’s some really good programs out there that address complete core strength and pelvic floor strength all together and those tend to be much more effective ’cause the lead researchers right now are saying that just kegels on their own without any kind of actual resistance is not going to be enough to fix the pelvic floor and to reverse incontinence. I would start there. Sometimes there can be cases where you do actually need a physical therapist it’s been the result of a traumatic birth or an injury but a lot of times those alone will fix it.
Ari Whitten: Awesome. And last question that I have for you, do you have any advice for new moms?
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Yes, but not like a practical to do list because new moms have enough on their plate. I would say if I could go back and tell myself as a new mom or what I wish someone had told me was that it’s normal, whatever you’re going through is completely normal and it’s normal if you can’t take a shower every single day and you’re not a failure as a mom if the house is a mess and if all you did is feed your baby, that’s enough and to give yourself a huge amount of grace and a break and drink a lot of water and don’t stress because it’s so, so sappy and cliché to say but it really will pass extremely quickly and you’ll wish you had slowed down and slept more and enjoyed it more versus trying to keep up with everything.
Your life will change when you become a mom, you can’t keep up the exact same level of everything you did before ’cause you just won’t have the same amount of time but just give yourself some space and a break and take a little time for yourself if you can. Maybe hand baby off to dad once in a while. But just realize you’re doing an amazing job and sometimes that just means you put pants on and that’s awesome.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Well Katie this has been an absolute pleasure to have this conversation with you and get all this feedback. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with my audience. I know people are going to absolutely love this and this is also super unique, I’ve never had a conversation like this with someone and this is just such vital information and perspective to especially for new parents and moms in particular. So thank you so much, it’s been a real pleasure.
Katie Wells – Wellness Mama: Thanks Ari. It’s been awesome. Thank you for having me.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, take care.
Hey guys. This is Ari again and one more quick thing before you go. I just want to highly recommend that you go over to wellnessmama.com and subscribe to Katie’s newsletter. Her website is just a really wonderful resource for quality information on everything from health to motherhood to do it yourself home cleaning supplies and do it yourself home beauty recipes and moisturizers and it’s just a really great resource for all kinds of health related information and especially for parents and especially for moms in particular. Highly recommend that and I hope you guys enjoyed this episode and I’ll talk to you again very soon.
How To Get More Energy As A Busy Mom │ Balancing Stress, Health, And Energy While Raising A Family With Wellness Mama – Show Notes
The biggest needle movers for Wellness Mama in recovering from Hashimoto’s (8:15)
The only thing that nutrition experts can agree on ( 10:42)
How fasting helped Wellness Mama boost her energy (11:00)
The truth about how we consume calories througout the day (12:55)
Meal prep and cooking tips for the stressed out and busy mom (14:19)
How to stay calm and mitigate stress as a busy mom (19.08)
How to teach your children to connect dots (20:59)
The decision of homeschooling and how it affects Katie (22:09)
How to ensure your children eat healthy (25:37)
Wellness Mama’s take on healthy parenting (32:05)
Questions for Wellness Mama (44:08)
Check out Katies website Wellnessmama.com