Finding Fertility Balance in 2011
By Carolyn Gundell, MS RMACT Nutritionist
Have you been thinking lately that your New Year’s resolutions are starting to take a back seat to shoveling, cleaning up after leaky roofs, and work-life commitments? Despite your best intentions, by now, do you keep reminding yourself of the resolution(s) you have yet to accomplish—lose weight, exercise, stop smoking, get pregnant? It is your time to try a fresh new approach to 2011 resolutions without the added stress, pressure, and sense of failure that infertility patients too easily put upon themselves. Researchers agree infertility causes a great deal of psychological and physical stress and more recent scientific evidence reveals that this stress can also delay conception. 1
Why should it take a new year to make a resolution? Well, I think that some of us may need this ritual to set intentions that bring meaning to our lives. It is a time to remember what we have learned and to make promises to ourselves to make better lifestyle choices. So, why do millions of Americans find that by February their New Year’s resolutions have become distant memories? Research conducted at Harvard Medical School reveals that failure to follow through on New Year’s resolutions might have more to do with the actual goals chosen and the strategies we choose to try to reach these goals. Many resolutions ask us to do better than we have in the past.
On the flip side, wouldn’t it be nice if your New Year’s resolutions could help you catch your breath, help you to remember your desired purpose in life, help you to recognize your successes, and help you to have a baby? I believe that we have a greater chance of turning our goals into success if we recognize that with each breath comes new opportunity. Throw the old resolutions out the window and start practicing self compassion and look for different ways to reinvent yourself. Stop the self evaluation and criticism. This can be a great year to rebalance mind and body—to improve health, fitness, peace of mind, and fertility—and to have a baby.
The following listed resolutions and resources aim to help you create fertile balance, reduce stress and to help support your RMACT physicians with your fertility treatment plan.:
Eight Fertile Resolutions for 2011
1) Make an Appointment for your Annual Health Checks—When women become very busy with their fertility treatment visits, often times these very important medical visits get postponed. Maintaining regular dental, gynecological, eye care, and physical exams is very important for pre-conception care and your healthy and successful pregnancy. 2
Ogle, Amy and Lisa Mazzullo. Before Your Pregnancy-A 90 Day Guide for Couples on How to Prepare for Healthy Conception. New York: Ballantine Books, 2002.
2) Don’t Count Calories, Count Healthy Fertile Foods. --Restricting foods can lead to feelings of frustration, food cravings, and deprivation. Eating balanced and structured meals made with nutritious foods will decrease stress, fat %, diabetes and cholesterol risk, and at the same time, increase immune response and fertility. Practice mindful eating and fertility diet recommendations. Pre-conception is not the time to go on fad and restricted diets or herbs and supplements without MD approval. Eating should be enjoyable and not stressful. So drop the calorie counting approach and count the colorful fruits and vegetables on your plate instead. There are no good and bad foods. Come to one of my seminars or individual sessions to rebalance your nutrition and your body.
Willet, Walter and Jorge Chavarro. The Fertility Diet. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
Ward, Elizabeth. Expect the Best-Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During & After Pregnancy. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
3) Get Moving Daily—10,000 daily steps can reverse diabetes risk and that means gestational diabetes as well. 3 Physical activity can also lower stress levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight. Activity does not need to be intensive, just consistent and enjoyable. Pregnancy is not a time to start new activity so find realistic ways to enjoy daily movement now and throughout your pregnancy. Try tennis, swimming walking, snow shoeing, zumba, or biking.
4) Practice Self-Compassion—When we accept ourselves just as we are, we are able to accept change. Eat to nurture and be physically active without self-judgment. Change is often challenging. Remember to love yourself first and change will follow. Be realistic and recognize every small step as positive. Choose goals that match your own interests and values rather than responding to outside pressures. If you are a perfectionist this may be helpful in staying on track, but be careful to not set a goal with too high expectations. If you procrastinate don’t punish yourself, start with baby steps and acknowledge your progress.
Fain, Jain. The Self Compassion Diet. Colorado: Sounds True Inc., 2011.
5) Be Aware of Stress and Respond to It—Prolonged stress increases risk for hypertension, diabetes, overweight, sleep disturbances, and infertility. Practicing stress reducing techniques such as Tai Chi, Fertile Yoga, exercise, meditation, and seeking out mental health suppport can be very helpful. 4
Cheung Lillian and Thich Nhat Hanh. Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. New York: Harper One, 2010.
Domar, Alice and Alice Lesch Kelly. Conquering Infertility. New York: Penquin Books, 2004.
6) Changes, One at a Time—Small steps reduce anxiety and move us forward. Break larger jobs into smaller ones. Several small, practical changes add up to be big behavioral progress that lasts long term. Pick a resolution carefully and back it up with concrete change strategy.
Harvard Medical School, Simple Changes, Big Rewards. Harvard Health Publications, www.health.harvard.edu
7) Jump into Life-- “Life itself is the proper binge.” Julia Child Remember to laugh. Be spontaneous. Don’t forget date night with your spouse. Listen to music, dance, and be mindful.
8) Reach For Support & Be An Active Participant in RMACT—Connect with RMACT services. We are here to support you and your fertility plan with MD and nursing support, acupuncture, Fertile Yoga, individual and group nutrition education, health seminars, and individual and group therapy support. Connect with friends. Sometimes it helps to find a buddy or let someone know that you are working on a resolution
So here I go, my New Year’s resolution is….. I have always wanted to take up Tai Chi and I have decided this is my year. Doesn’t this just sound great? “Experience the gentle flowing, movements of Tai Chi and treat your whole body to a gentle and relaxing workout. Say hello to feeling cool, calm, refreshed and energized. Just 15 minutes a day is your passport to better health, fitness, peace of mind and so much more, as your mind and body work in harmony for superb results.” 5 Hello Tai Chi!
1. Shapiro, Connie. “New Research on Stress and Infertility.” Psychology Today.com 20 August 2010.<http: //www.psychologytoday.com>
2. Pre-conception Health & Nutrition Seminars are available for all RMACT patients. Please check with your RMACT nurse for an appropriate seminar topic and date.
Open to the Public and RMACT patients—Saturday Fertile Nutrition workshops and weeknight Grocery Store Tours will be scheduled in National Nutrition Month of March. Please watch the RMACT website: www.rmact.com for details.
3. Bumgardner, Wendy. “Top 9 Best Pedometers.” About.com. 4 July 2010 <http://walking.about.com/od/measure/tp/pedometer.htm>
4. Available for all RMACT patients—Check www.RMACT.com for Mind-Body Seminar info on Thursday evenings.
The holidays can be really painful when you are struggling with infertility. Many reminders of what we do not have that we are wishing for; that others have seemingly effortlessly. Here are a few of the efforts that we are making at RMACT to help our community and other communities through a time that can potentially make us all feel left out.
For our infertility community, this Wednesday is:
LADIES NIGHT IN
COPING WITH THE HOLIDAYS
Wednesday-December 8, 2010
Anyone who has ever suffered with infertility knows that the holiday season is usually one of the most stressful times of the year. Holiday cards splashed with baby pictures, the media and just spending time with family and friends may leave you feeling like there is no end in sight. That is why we have organized this special Ladies Night In. We will discuss and share with you the different ways to cope and even handle some challenges you may face in the next few weeks.
You are not required to join in on the discussions, and sometimes just listening helps more then you could ever know. This group is free of charge and will be facilitated by Jane Elisofon, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., Lisa Rosenthal & Carrie Van Steen. If you have any questions, call Carrie at 731.2520 ext 289 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
DINNER IS PROVIDED!!!!
CLOTHING NEEDED !!!
Instead of a food drive this year, we are collecting gently worn or new clothes for men, women and children. We are asking for your help in providing warmth to our extended community who are struggling with the basics in life; food and shelter. If everyone brought in just one piece of clothing, we could make a difference in someone else's life. Perfect opportunity to give something in a season of supposed abundance and a beautiful opportunity to receive a feeling of having helped.
If you have never tried Acupuncture, perhaps this Holiday season is the time for extra help. Amy Matton MS, LAc and Jing Zhang, MS, LAc have both been with RMACT for years with proven results for both traditional and laser acupuncture. Many women from our practice are finding their treatments to be both helpful and re-energizing. With everything else that is swirling around this time of year, perhaps a time to slow down and try something new. Amy and Jing would love to hear from you!
FERTILE YOGA AND PEER SUPPORT GROUP
Class in Norwalk (9:30-11:00) and Brookfield/Danbury (4:15-5:30)
Peer support groups have evolved into evenings out, lunches together and true friendships. If you are feeling isolated or alone, especially this holiday season, come join this group of compassionate, fun women. Fertile Yoga meets right afterwards, with gentle, restorative poses and guided meditation designed to help you relax.
If a spa day or retreat is of interest to you, either contact me through the blog by pressing and leaving a comment or come help plan it on Saturday. We are planning a fun day!
The holiday season may be most difficult in terms of eating and drinking. As the emotional pieces of the season become overwhelming we often turn to food and drink for comfort. Then we are upset with ourselves when the results are that there is weight gain. Carolyn Gundell, MS can help you address these issues so that you don't have to feel totally out of control. Best thing about a session with Carolyn is that you will not feel judged or feel that you need to be deprived afterwards. A session with Carolyn may be the best holiday gift that you ever give yourself
MEET Wednesday's our day to hear from others in the Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut practice (RMACT). Today, meet Carolyn Gundell, who I've spoken of often on the blog. I have learned many new things from her about food. You will too!
I am Carolyn Gundell, MS and I have been with the Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) team for 3 months and am enjoying every moment. Family and friends will comment, "How interesting! What do you do at a fertility center?" So I will answer this question in my first blog article by introducing myself, my eating attitudes, and my counseling approach to you.
I agree with Ellyn Satter, RD, who states, "The key to nutritional excellence is variety growing out of genuine food enjoyment." Far too many people associate so called, correct eating with food restriction. "What, enjoy our food?!" Yes! Ms. Satter makes the point, "If we have to break our rules to eat what we like, we are being too strict and withholding. In the long run, we will come out behind, not ahead." I witness this theory more often than not in my patients.
My most successful patients are meeting with me every 2-3 weeks. They are experiencing increased energy and desired weight loss by not skipping meals, reading food labels differently, and planning balanced meals ahead of time. Most importantly for those who are working on losing weight, they are learning how to eat without feeling restricted. My educational sessions are meant to teach eating competence that will last a lifetime, without dieting.
I am here to listen to my patients and understand their different food preferences, concerns, and experiences-all influenced by culture, religion, values, health, and emotions. I find pleasure in helping people develop positive relationships with food and in finding new food and lifestyle behaviors and attitudes that will support their RMACT physician's treatment plan.
Can meal structure, balance, and food choices help to improve fertility? Yes!
Nutrition can play a role in weight loss and weight management. All women need an essential and appropriate amount of body fat to regulate reproductive hormonal efficiency. For some, weight loss of 5-10% can improve fertility. For others, weight gain can help.
Nutrition can play a role in the management of insulin resistance. I help patients restructure their meals and find new foods that will improve insulin sensitivity at a cellular level, improve glucose uptake into muscle cells, and decrease fat percentage. This in turn will support weight loss and help to regulate ovulation and improve fertility.
Do pre-conception health and nutrition and lifestyle choices matter? Absolutely!
Overall good health of a woman prior to conception will decrease her risk of obstetrical complications and increase the health of the baby. Healthy eating and daily activity decrease the risk of conditions in pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and premature delivery. Many patients have received nutritional counseling from me for one or more of the following: high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, supplement advice, anemia, acid reflux, constipation, PCOS, insulin resistance, weight loss, weight gain, vegetarian diet, allergies, pregnancy meal planning and weight management, vitamin deficiencies and/or other concerns.
Anyone is welcome to come meet me by attending one of our monthly RMACT nutrition and lifestyle seminars that are held in the Norwalk and Danbury offices. These seminars are open to the public. Seminar announcements are listed regularly on this blog and the RMACT website. The next seminar is in Norwalk, CT on May 13, 6:30-8:00 PM-Sleep:Its Impact on Weight Gain, Diabetes Risk, and Fertility. My bio can be found on the RMACT website as well.
I am also available for individual nutrition and lifestyle counseling to RMACT patients in the Danbury and Norwalk RMA office locations. If you would like to schedule a nutrition office visit, please contact your RMACT nurse to arrange an appointment. I look forward to meeting and working with you.
Keep an eye out for more of my educational posts and information on our seminar series, co-conducted with Monica Moore RN and Diana D'Amelio, PA.
Our Fertility Seminar series this past weekend had a packed room, full of people looking for infertility support. "Preconception Considerations: Getting Ready for Pregnancy", led by Carolyn Gundell, MS (Certified Nutritionist) and Monica Moore, MSN, RNC, was a topic that many were deeply interested in. Patients and non-patients alike found the topic compelling enough to brave the intense rain and wind. We are very proud at RMACT to be offering this information to support efforts of those of us trying to conceive and seeing so many people there convinces us that we are on the right track discussing these topics.
What do you do to support your infertility treatment being successful? A few reminders this morning. Caffeine, smoking, and recreational drugs are all choices to avoid. True of life in general, in my opinion, but especially true if you are in the middle of an IUI or IVF cycle. Avoiding very intense exercise is also considered counter productive when trying to conceive as it can throw your cycle off. (Check with your infertility doctor or reproductive endocrinologist about what exercise is ok for you.) Getting enough sleep is very important on all different levels; not the least of which is that you will feel better able to manage those things that come up as you are not exhausted.
Food gets its very own category here. Most of us are confused at best at all the different media information that we get about making choices that are truly healthy. Added to that is the fact that we are each individuals with specific challenges and it can truly be overwhelming to create a food plan that is healthy and sustaining. If you have not had a chance to make an appointment with Carolyn, consider doing so. Here is what she has to say, "My passion is working with patients to understand how their bodies work," says Gundell. "Many consumers are misinformed about health and nutrition from misleading information which often promises quick and unsafe results verses reinforcing life-long healthy behavior change."
Additional information about Carolyn Gundell. She earned her M.S. in Nutrition from Columbia University and completed her undergraduate studies in Biology/Nutrition at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT. She is trained as a Research Associate in Clinical Skills Training, and is certified in HIPAA, CPR, First Aid and Food Safety & Sanitation.
Carolyn also works as a Nutritionist at Pediatric Endocrine & Diabetes Specialists and The Center for Advanced Pediatrics-both in Norwalk and formerly at Yale University Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, PCOS, and Fertility Clinics.
We hope that you are taking advantage of all that Reproductive Medicine Associates of CT has to offer. Our programs are designed to support you on your fertility path.
Needless to say, that includes this blog. Read this week about infertility in the news and choices that we all make to survive the challenges of infertility. How to get through the work day. Who to tell. How to answer a question while still preserving your privacy.
We're here to help.
If weight loss or weight is a challenge in your life, in general or because of infertility problems, do consider coming and joining us for the seminars that we have planned for 2010. Research suggests that a 10% weight loss can dramatically affect your health and your chances of conception.
What about when losing weight is not as simple as fewer calories in and more calories out through exercise? If you've been struggling with weight, you know that this is not about will power, but a much more in depth understanding of how calories work in your body.
Read below for the seminar that we are holding this evening in Danbury.
Healthy Eating Strategies, Nutrition and Their Impact on Fertility
Join Carolyn Gundell, MS, for an interactive seminar to discuss healthy eating strategies, nutrition and their impact on fertility. Carolyn has her M.S. in Nutrition from Columbia University and has over twenty years of experience, with a specialty working with patients with insulin resistance, Diabetes Type1/Type 2, and metabolic disorders including Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Monday February 8th 6:00 PM - 7:30 P
67 Sand Pit Road, Suite 300, Danbury, CT
If the Danbury area is more convenient for you, here's your opportunity to participate in a seminar in your backyard. The other seminars in our series will be meeting in Norwalk. Carolyn can offer information in a way that feels very easy to understand and implement.
My suggestion? Come here what she has to say.