Local mom and wellness expert Jessica Blanchard shares how she stays healthy.
Jessica Blanchard is a yoga teacher, registered dietitian and longtime practitioner of Ayurveda, an ancient system of alternative medicine. She’s also a new mom — and she knows it can sometimes seem impossible to balance motherhood with perfect nutrition and fitness.
“To me, living well is finding a healthy balance: eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet, cooking most of my meals, finding the time to do yoga, taking care of my business and also spending time with family,” Blanchard says.
Mom’s Health Comes First
Blanchard prioritizes her health both for her own benefit, and her family’s. “I’ve noticed that if I don’t do any yoga or exercise, I’m a lot more edgy and don’t feel as peaceful, or even creative,” she says. “It’s very simple — if I eat well, exercise and get enough sleep, I feel great and have tons of energy.”
She also gives herself a break when she needs one. “I try to spend some time outside, even if it’s just 10 minutes breathing fresh air and connecting with nature,” she says.
Eating Simply and Well
“It takes time to shop for and prepare healthy foods — but not as much time as most people think,” says Blanchard, who offers nutrition resources and counseling through her business, Your Balanced Plate. Recently, she’s been on a baked vegetable kick. “Chop cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and asparagus,” she says. “Lightly coat with olive oil, salt and fresh rosemary, and bake at 425F for 15 minutes. Delicious!”
When she indulges her sweet tooth, Blanchard chooses healthy options like dark chocolate, nuts and home-baked sweets. “My baby’s nutrition is impacted by how I eat — so I don’t eat processed foods or junk,” she says.
Yoga for New Moms
Sore chest: As a yoga teacher and owner of Balance Yoga and Wellness in Mid-City, Blanchard has a few tricks up her sleeve when it comes to alleviating the physical stresses many new moms face. “As a mom, I use my arms a lot, holding my little one,” she says. “As a result, the pectoral muscles in the chest and my upper back get very tight.” She recommends simply clasping hands behind the back and gently lifting them to stretch tight chest muscles. “Another posture, full wheel, is great too,” Blanchard says. “Lie on your belly, bend your knees and try to clasp your toes, feet or ankles with your hands. Gently lift your feet, stretching your arms behind you.”
Aching back: A mom’s lower back is stressed by holding or breastfeeding her baby. “Child’s pose, where you sit back on your heels and rest your forehead and torso on your yoga mat, is great for releasing the lower back,” Blanchard says. She also suggests downward-facing dog to lengthen and decompress the spine.
Fatigue: Knowing that lack of sleep is one of the most common issues affecting new moms’ health, Blanchard recommends resting in savasana, also known as corpse pose. “You lie on your back, eyes closed, and completely relax for 10 minutes, trying not to think of your to-do list,” she instructs. “Deep breathing while in savasana is important. When you lengthen the exhale portion of the breath, you activate the body’s relaxation response. This helps act as a natural stress relief.”
Blanchard encourages anyone suffering from fatigue, sickness or hormonal imbalances to give a mostly vegetarian, whole-foods diet a try. “I love the way I eat and don’t feel deprived,” she says. “Never think deprivation; think energy, optimal health, longevity. Start by adding things to your diet, rather than taking them away. Make sure that you get lots of fiber and antioxidants from your food. These are keys to great health.”