Author of three hugely successful cookbooks (her latest, Nourish & Glow: The 10 Day Plan, is out now), nutritional therapist Amelia Freer is a revered force in the health-food industry and an inspiring voice with a vast portfolio of dedicated clients. Having welcomed her first baby – a daughter, Willow – into the world last year, we caught up with her to talk pregnancy-diet myths, new-baby pressures and reclaiming the weekend (with a little one in tow).
You recently gave birth to your first child. What has been the greatest joy about becoming a mum?
The heart-melting moments each time we make a new connection or she does something for the first time. The cuddles. The overwhelming love. Gosh, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions, but I feel incredibly lucky she is here and to be her mum.
Were there things that surprised you – either during the pregnancy or the months after the birth – that you don’t think are widely talked about?
If I am being completely honest, I didn’t really enjoy being pregnant. I am sure almost every woman gets anxious at some point in her pregnancy, but worry felt like a constant part of it for me, as I had a number of miscarriages before Willow. I think pregnancy is often made out to be a glowing, beautiful, exciting and completely joyful time (which I am sure it is for many women), but I didn’t really experience that. I just wanted to retreat from life and work, and hibernate as much as I could. All I felt like doing most days was lounging around and sleeping, not to mention the nausea and craving all sorts of unhealthy foods! However, I learnt not to judge myself for those feelings, and accept that I needed to take time to slow down and honour how I felt. But it certainly wasn’t always easy!
Since giving birth… well, I salute every single mother who manages to leave the house each day! I absolutely love being a mother, but as I am easing myself back into work, I am learning just how elusive that work-life balance can be – there simply aren’t enough hours in the day!
There is always an emphasis on the physical changes of becoming a mother. How have you found the transition from pregnancy to motherhood has affected you?
I hugely appreciated the incredible work my body was doing while being pregnant and, therefore, didn’t really worry too much about weight gain. On the whole, I have also been pretty relaxed about my post-pregnancy body. Of course, there have been moments where I have felt frustrated, or upset, as I can’t fit into my old clothes and don’t feel like my old self. But, then I remind myself I have this absolutely wonderful daughter, and that feels so much more important right now. I know my body and mind will get there when the time is right.
Did your diet change during pregnancy?
I had a very turbulent time with food throughout my pregnancy. I didn’t see it as a green light to just eat as much of whatever I wanted, though. I still thought about health and nutrition and, when I felt able, I ate lots of vegetables, fruit, high-quality proteins, healthy fats and complex carbs like I usually would. I drank gallons of water each day too, and steered clear of caffeine along with the standard things we are advised to avoid.
As a nutritional therapist, what advice would you give to expectant mothers on how best to feed themselves and their bump?
I’d advise any expectant mother to just do the best they can, and not put too much pressure on themselves, or worry if they eat a few things that aren’t so healthy. It is a challenging enough time, and I think the focus should therefore be on nourishing both mother and baby with foods that feel good, rather than worrying too much about ‘perfect’ nutrition.
Did you have any strange pregnancy cravings, and, if so, how did you fight them off?
I remember craving a lot of fruit, but also salt and vinegar crisps – which is an ususual one for me! I felt very sick for the first four months and so didn’t really want to eat much during that time. Although one day, there was a conference taking place at our home and a tray of white bread sandwiches was laid out in the kitchen – I was like a woman possessed and ate half the tray before even realising. However, towards the end of my pregnancy I was back to enjoying the natural, healthy way I usually eat.
What sort meals are you eating now to stay healthy on a busy new-mum schedule?
I have always cooked in quite a simple way and rustled up meals depending on what is in the fridge or my garden. In the early days, I relied on big bowls of porridge to get me through. But now I eat things such as eggs and toast for breakfast, a salad or soup for lunch and a stir fry, curry or tray bake for supper. Lots of vegetables and a little protein. I do find that I have to be a bit more organised with my time now, and make sure that I have done a shop in advance. I rely quite a bit on supermarket deliveries at the moment, but I am looking forward to our vegetable garden produce, too.
How have you evolved Willow’s diet over the first six months? Do you have any advice for new mums on how best to feed their new babies?
Willow is doing very well with food and is now pretty much eating what we eat, in a mushed or blended up version, or as finger foods. I just don’t add any salt when cooking and go easy on spices and herbs. I think it is still too soon for me to advise other mums as I am sort of figuring it out as I go. I am, however, trying to make meal times a really positive experience for her, so we make a point of sitting down together for lunch. I am letting Willow really experiment with her food – it is seriously messy but she seems to be enjoying it! I definitely want to avoid having to make separate meals for her for years to come. So far, so good but I am aware there are many different phases with little ones…
How are you juggling all the challenges that come with being a new mum? Is there anything you’ve learnt along the way you can share?
I don’t think I have mastered the art of how to juggle it just yet. I have good days and bad days. But I am trying to not get too stressed. There is a lot of adjusting and “letting go”. Willow is my number-one priority now so I’m just fitting in what I can around her.
Every new mum’s mission is to get their newborn sleeping well at night. Have you discovered any tips you can share with us?
Consistency seems to be the key and, for Willow, that means keeping the bedtime routine the same, which I have done from very early on. I have been very fortunate she did sleep through the night for a good while, however, she has recently regressed and now we are very tired parents! But, I know it is likely just another phase that will pass in time.
What do you most love doing with Willow and [your partner] Nick, and how have you been taking time for you since Willow was born?
We enjoy the weekends most and often go out for long walks and extended lunches. I am not sure I have been managing much time for me yet – it is on the to-do list! I have done a few yoga classes, though, which were lovely.
Whether new mothers return to work or choose to stay at home with their newborn, it can often feel like the conversation around this very personal choice is quite charged. Did you change your mind after Willow was born regarding when and how you would return to work?
Yes I did. I hadn’t given much thought to returning to work because I work for myself so I didn’t really stop. And I thought it would be easy to do both. I planned to have a quiet first three months and then “get back” to work after that. My work is so personal it is hard to just completely stop, as I am my work. I have found it much harder than I had anticipated, though, and I think it might have been easier if I had given myself a full year to focus on Willow and becoming a mother.
I am still trying to work out how to do it and find, like so many mums, I have to make do with fitting in what I can as and when. It might not be ideal, but it’s the best I can do at the moment.
Do you have any current projects you are particularly passionate about?
Well, keeping up to date with nutrition science and working out how to share it in positive, informative and inspiring ways is always my main project and passion. I have a few exciting work things ahead I can’t share just yet. But, nutrition aside, I have just become an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust’s Women Supporting Women initiative and am looking forward to getting involved, mentoring and supporting young women to achieve their potential.
5 questions, 5 minutes
Favourite Summer reads? I don’t get much time to read at the moment, but when I do, it’s mostly nutrition books. I listen to lots of podcasts, though – my top picks at the moment are The Parent Hood or Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s Feel Better, Live More and Desert Island Discs. And some funny ones, too.
Top three Summer songs?
- Chained to the Rhythm – Katy Perry
- Feels – Calvin Harris feat Pharrell Williams
- Green & Gold – Lianne La Havas
City break or beach escape? Beach as I love being surrounded by nature and having no schedule.
Bath or shower? Shower to clean. Bath to unwind – usually with Epsom salts, a candle and a glass of wine.
Early rise or lazy lie-in? I am quite slow in the mornings so always value a lazy morning in bed.
Amelia’s latest book, Nourish & Glow: The 10-Day Plan, is out now. Discover more about Amelia at ameliafreer.com
Amelia’s White edit
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