How to have a healthy family - THE FIT MUM FORMULA

How to have a healthy family

healthy family

Having a healthy family isn’t easy when you’re a busy Mum, working or otherwise. I’m lucky in that since nutrition and fitness are my profession I’ve at least got a headstart in knowing some tricks for how to keep everyone healthy when life is hectic.


Treat Trunk founder Sally interviewed me for some tips on how to stay sane and happy while keeping the family healthy. You can find part one of the interview series here. 


Treat Trunk is a subscription box of healthy, portable snacks for all the family. Most are gluten, dairy and refined sugar free, and in the two boxes I tried there wasn’t one item left after we’d fairly distributed them among myself, hubby, and our two young kids! Read my review (plus hilarious box opening video) here. 


Here’s Sally’s interview to me:


How do you juggle the demands of working and family life?

The Fit Mum Formula is all online so as long as I’ve got internet connection, I can work anywhere, anytime, and have tried to contain it within school hours as much as possible. But I’m also naturally an early riser and most creative first thing so often you’ll find me writing blogs or working on books at 5am when the house is quiet before everyone wakes up! Very occasionally I’ll go away for a meeting or event but I rope in my parents of husband if possible as I never wanted to put the kids into after school care or use nanny’s which is just a personal choice.

What are the biggest benefits of running your own business as a parent?

Freedom. My life is my own and while yes things have to get done, I can rearrange my life so I can do all the school and club runs, take holidays or breaks any time I like, and not have to ask permission to do anything. When the Queen visited our town recently the girls and I bunked off school to go and meet her! And more recently we had an insanely warm February day and my husband (who’s also works for himself in property) suggested we go for a walk along the beach, so we had 2 special relaxed child free hours in the middle of a weekday, because we could.

What benefits to your mental health are there by creating a business around something you love?

Well this is interesting because I think having your own job is actually so much more stressful in some ways! Everything is your responsibility and it can be really had to switch off mentally. Websites crash at 2 am, customers want answers at 11pm, and postal orders go missing, and it’s all up to you to fix. But when you create systems to manage these things it makes them more streamlined, and the benefits to me to be creative and have freedom of my life and time are worth it. It’s not for everyone though and I remember life being simpler, if not as satisfying, just ‘turning up to work’ each day!

Can anyone start their own business?

Of course. You don’t even need a huge financial investment depending on what the business is. And you can learn so much for free these days by reading blogs and books, listening to podcasts, and networking both on and offline with other business owners and learning from them. And there’s courses and mentorships you can pay for too, but be extremely careful with these as there are a lot of sharks preying on enthusiastic but vulnerable start-ups.

What’s your best piece of advice for mums thinking about starting their own business?

Write down what your idea day would look like then work backwards. Want to do the school runs every day without fail? Don’t start a café that serves breakfast! How much money do you need to live your ideal life? How much time can or will you dedicate to it? How will you make sure you have enough money until the business is bringing in enough? What other business are there like yours who are doing really well you can learn from? Be always learning, always reading and listening to advice to keep up with what’s going on in the business and social media worlds. And create systems and schedules to keep you accountable, such as spreadsheets for when and what you’ll post on social media, and how you’ll collect client testimonials. And definitely start collecting email addresses into a CRM system (I use Aweber but there are lots out there) as even if you get a good social following, Facebook can shut down your account at any moment as you don’t own that data.

What’s your biggest challenge in keeping your family healthy?

Fussy eaters! I know what I want to feed them, and they know what they will and won’t eat, and the two don’t always collide! So it’s about finding compromises. They might refuse plain natural yoghurt but there are brands of fruit yoghurt that are more natural and lower sugar available. They’ll accept real, properly made, seedy wholegrain bread provided I take any tough crusts off. And I’ve never bought things like those processed cheese dip snacks and they rarely eat junk. Even the ice cream in our house is proper whole milk ice cream from a local farm, and biscuits and snacks for after school are either home made or healthier versions. Anytime they’ve been given, for example, really cheap ice cream or chicken nuggets, they don’t like them as they’re not used to them. My girls had were given whole chicken legs to hold when they were baby-led weaned!

How hard is it to keep teens healthy and do you have any tips?

Set the foundations right in the early years so eating healthily becomes normal and they know that main meals come with vegetables on the side as standard, and that fizzy drinks are for parties and treats and not something you drink every day. Make sure you have really easy, healthy snacks in the house. I grew up with teenage brothers and they were constantly on the hunt for quick tasty food while they were growing so fast. Flapjacks, yoghurts, sliced meats to make sandwiches with (and good quality bread!) and of course fruit are all things they can grab even when they’re being too lazy to cook. And on that note, teach them to cook! Knowing a few basics like how to make spaghetti Bolognese, a tomato sauce to use on pasta or meat and fish, how to throw together a casserole or make a quick soup – this will be invaluable once they leave home.

What’s your best piece of advice in keeping your family healthy?

Set standards and stick to them. The girls have to have some sort of fresh fruit or vegetable with their breakfast, and I let them choose. It might be completely random like some raw sugar snap peas but who am I to argue?! Make most meals and snacks healthy, which doesn’t have to be complicated – nothing wrong with an omelette! But don’t ban junk or treats or they’ll only complain and want them more. Rather, everyone needs to understand there’s a time and a place for less nutritious foods, and if they want to buy some sweets on the weekend with pocket money, or collect buckets of sugary treats on Halloween, I’m not going to be a tiger Mum. But these are foods we eat less often, and most of the time we eat foods that give us energy and help us grow into big clever happy people. It’s about approaching it from a positive standpoint rather than simply saying no to every request without them understanding your reasons as a parent.

how does your business/product/service improve the lives of its customers?

I help Mums have more body confidence, feel fitter and healthier, have more energy, and lose weight and tone up, but within the context of family life. By that I mean, Mums don’t always have childcare to go to the gym or classes, and we don’t want to be making separate meals to the rest of the family. Not having biscuits in the house when you have kids and a partner who’ll buy them anyway is unrealistic. And mentally, all our energy goes on everyone else meaning we’re bottom of the priority list. As a Mum of two young kids I understand all this and I know what it’s like when you’re so stressed all you want to do is finish the last of the chocolate cake, watch TV in the evening instead of workout, and have a partner who sits in front of you eating ice cream out of the tub! But there are ways of getting round these things, and sugar cravings and hunger can be kept under control. A good support network is really important too, to help when you’ve run out of willpower and just want to give up.

What’s one thing not many people know about you or your business?

It’s more well known now, but the reason I’m so passionate about good health is because I was very ill with anorexia for many years when I was younger, and losing your physical and mental health makes you realise how valuable good health is. Being strong, vibrant and happy make everything in life seem better, as you’re more resilient to anything that life throws at you. Most people muddle through and life feels like one long battle of days to get through which is really sad. When you can really live life to the full, that’s what its’ all about.

What’s been your biggest challenge in motherhood and how do you manage it?

For me it’s time to myself, time to think and do things for me that aren’t business related, as for years I was going between kids and work and keeping a home and chores and my own needs didn’t get a look in. I eat well and I managed to fit in workouts at home, but that was it. So last year I made a commitment that I’d get my life back and start doing more fun things, just because. I’ve been to music concerts, met up with old friends and have started pole dancing classes! I forgot how valuable all that was, just having fun with no agenda. The tricky part is sorting all the childcare to make this happen and even if I’m out all evening it will still be my responsibility to sort the book bags the next morning! But it’s been worth it.

What motivates you to make healthy choices?

Feeling good. Having energy, feeling fit and strong, being able to do all the things I want to do, and the mental clarity you get from being healthy. Once you feel that, it’s addictive and I can’t imagine not looking after myself now. Too much junk food makes me feel lethargic and sick, and exercise is the best mental therapy there is for me. Those endorphins are powerful!

how should parents help children who refuse veg/fruit/healthy options.

Compromise. Give them choices and options so they retain the control they’re looking for, because usually it’s a battle of control rather than the food itself. Most kids do really like sweet tasting fruit, even if they pretend not to. And you might not get your child to eat more bitter vegetables until they’re older, like brussels sprouts or spinach, but you can’t win every time! If cucumber and blueberries and fruit yoghurts are it, then go with that and try new things gradually. Children won’t starve themselves by choice, so eventually they’ll start eating something so long as you don’t give in with other options.

What has been your darkest moment since having children and how did you find your way out?

Recently my 6 year old Bella was admitted to hospital suddenly with terrible sickness and diarrhoea as well as a rash and excruciating stomach pains and no one knew what was wrong. We ended up staying in Southampton hospital for two weeks while she was on drips, steroids and intravenous nutrition until they diagnosed her with an autoimmune condition called HSP. It was horrific and she’s still under ongoing care at home but doing well. I had to stay strong for her the whole time when all I wanted was to cry and scream for someone to help her.

What’s your best piece of advice for new mothers?

There is no perfect, or right or wrong way to do things. Only what’s right for you. While it’s great to hear experiences of what’s worked for other parents, not all advice will work for you and that goes for things I say too! Stay connected to friends and meet other Mums, try and get out every day even for just a walk or a mother and baby group. And don’t neglect you. While on maternity leave have something to do non-baby related like a new book to read a page of each day, or start a little hobby like sewing or making photo collages. Get some fresh air each day (5 minutes in the garden will do if that’s all you can!) and stop worrying about a messy house and piles of washing. That stuff really isn’t that important.

Can you share a life hack that has helped improve your family’s health?

We talk a lot about where food comes from and how it’s made, which the kids find really interesting and as foodies my husband and I love eating real wholesome food and popping to farm shops if we have time (which isn’t often but we try!). They know how fruit and vegetables are grown and that we’ll choose meat that’s come from a good farm where animals live happy lives. They’ll eat whole fish off the bone and see it’s a real fish, and school have been pretty good with trips to dairy farms and covering Fair Trade, so we talk about those at home too. They can even bake cakes themselves with real flour and butter and sugar so they can see all the ingredients.

How do you keep your family healthy as a busy parent?

Keep it simple. Omelettes, stews, jacket potatoes with beans or tuna, batch cooking things like Bolognese to have in the freezer, and roasting a large chicken at the weekend to use as leftovers during the week. Believe it or not I’m a lazy cook and don’t want to spend ages in the kitchen, I’ve got other things I want to do! I can throw a meal together in 15 minutes I’m happy. Easy food doesn’t have to be unhealthy food.

What’s the biggest barrier to staying healthy in your family?

My husband as a tendency to buy more treat foods than we really need and once they’re in the house it becomes much harder to restrict them! But it’s about balance, so you could do a lot worse than a little bit of real whole milk ice cream with some fruit for pudding on a weekday.

What’s the biggest benefit to you eating healthily?

Having loads of energy, sleeping well, having good digestion and being able to think clearly.

Do you notice a difference in your mood when you eat well?

Definitely. There’s so many other things that affect mood like sleep, sunlight and social surroundings but if I eat for example too much sugar I’ll be buzzing then crash, neither of which is helpful when you have a right schedule and long to-do list to get through! I’ll have treats but not all the time or my quality of life would be affected.

Do you find that healthy eating enables you to parent better?

Yes because when I feel good in myself I’m less stressed, more patient, and have the energy to keep up with the kids!

What’s your greatest challenge in life and how does healthy eating help with that?

I’ve struggled with mental health problems all my life. I’m on the bipolar spectrum but manage to stay not just functioning well but I don’t even need medication which I largely put down to a healthy lifestyle. I have my ups and downs (literally in my case) but I’m extremely strict with sleep, sunlight, walking, exercise, fun, and of course good food as those things are my medication and my mental state suffers if I don’t get them.


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