One Healthy Mom

Enjoy this refreshingly honest and inspirational interview with local family life teacher, parenting coach, and amazing mother of five, Anastasia Gavalas!

meee1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a mom, family life teacher, author of WING IT: 6 Simple Steps to Succeed as a Modern Day Parent, and founder of the WING IT PROJECT. I live in Bridgehampton with my husband and five children (ages 15, 13, 11, 9, & 7.) Helping parents make life with children easier is such gratifying work and making a difference in the world through the WING IT PROJECT is something I’ve always dreamed of doing. I live my life in a wholehearted way where I am happy with myself and confident with the choices I make.

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2. How did ‘life as you know it’ come to be?

After I had my 2nd child I felt exhausted and couldn’t get out of bed. I was quickly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, an autoimmune disease, that had been manifesting in my body for years. I took the prescribed medicine and it just didn’t help much. I kept plugging along but felt overwhelmed and emotionally drained. In 2003, we decided to move to the Hamptons and found out we were expecting baby #4… surprise! With all that was going on, on top of not having family or friends around for support, I quickly learned that I needed to change. I began searching for alternative methods that would support what I knew in my heart was best. I tried acupuncture, homeopathic remedies, and a new overall wellness approach for my health and for my family. It was out of necessity that I found a more organic way of living life. This included making my well-being a priority as well as teaching my children to be more independent.

3. What’s something you overcame and how?

My need to do everything perfectly and my fear-based reactions. Once I was able to recognize that the display of the “perfect” children or my role as the “perfect” mother was wearing me out and preventing me from living authentically, I let those ideas go. Perfection is based on other people’s judgements. I made a decision to separate myself from the concept of perfection to be happy. I practiced meditation starting ten minutes a day, carved out me-time every single day, and (just like I explain in the chapter, “Build Your Village” in WING IT) I began to surround myself with more supportive people who encourage my growth.

4. What is your favorite workout? Favorite family activity?

Dancing is one of my favorite things to do and I mix it with a brisk walk a few times a week. I get bored easily with exercising so I need to change my workout routine up all the time. As far as a family we like to swim (although 2 out of 5 kids hate the beach – not sure how that happened?!?) take bike rides, and go skiing. I have high-energy kids who are constantly moving and ready for adventure at all times so, we’re always moving & grooving.

5. As a career woman, mother, and wife, and how do you maintain balance in your life?

First, I redefined the concept of balance. Standing upright at all times isn’t realistic or worth the effort. But, remaining focused on a goal with a trusting, more joyful attitude will help balance appear in the most challenging of roles. I believe balance is about remaining flexible and knowing that, just as the mightiest of trees will bend and sway with the winds of world, so will mothers who strive for balance. At the end of the day, people just have to appreciate the flexibility and positions experienced.

5. Any great healthy tips for busy moms?

Yes, take time for yourself: get enough sleep, eat good food, sit down and take time to meditate so you can be the woman you were meant to be and the best mom for your children.

6. What food items do you always keep in the house?

Fresh vegetables and fruits – organic as much as possible, olive oil, different cheeses, good meats, gluten-free foods, and always a bottle of chilled champagne for those special occasions…because moms are people too!

7. What is your favorite indulgence?

Drinking tea in the morning, sleeping in (that’s happened maybe three times in the past 10 years… but, a girl can dream!) and long hot showers (alone.)

8. How do you make health a priority in your family without going overboard?

Practicing being healthy is a lifestyle choice. We spend a lot of time outdoors. I talk to my kids about nutritional balance. Four of my children are responsible for cooking one night per week. So, every night, we have a really good, balanced, colorful meal. Children learn by what they observe and I try to demonstrate a healthy lifestyle with the choices I make instead of badgering them with health talks.

9. What is your FAVORITE thing about living in the Hamptons?

The ease of living out here. There is an organic way to life. I love the diversity of people and the experiences it provides. It is a really special place to live with the most amazingly kind people. It’s a great place to raise children because you can be as tuned-in to what’s happening or tuned-out of the busyness of life as much as you want to be.

1094944_578046278901282_1736507745_nOne Healthy Breakdown: Love, laugh, play, learn, and live your life for YOU.

Yoga’s Gift to Me

Young Woman Meditating on the FloorMoms have the hardest job! With five kids of my own, I’m guilty of bellowing “I can’t take another minute of this!” Not so positive, I know… But I have to be honest, I meant it! I meant this and…many other negative, self-defeating thoughts and statements through the years. General stress topped with ‘end-of-day-mommy-exhaustion’ can do that to a person. Am I right or am I right?

Then one day, I heard my daughter shout in an awful, guttural, honestly horrifying way, “I can’t TAKE another MINUTE of THIS!” I couldn’t even try to deny where she got it from, everyone in the house looked right at me. It really is something when we face ourselves in our children isn’t it? The good, the bad and the ugly. Ugh.

In my highly-energized (some may say ‘wound-up,’ I prefer ‘highly energized’) way, I shared this latest exclamation with one of my serene, calm, always-balanced friends (we differ in some ways…) She suggested I join her for a yoga class. Yoga? Not fast enough for me. I spin, I run, I lift, I swim, and I do triathlons. I am fit. Yoga? I don’t think so. Truly the teacher would not want me there. I will squirm, mentally go thru my grocery list, watch everyone else, count how many ladies are wearing LuLu…nah, it won’t be good, it’s not for me.

My friend persisted….she spoke of things like breathing, (duh, I do that!) listening, slowing down, (slow is not usually my style) and sweating (now that’s what I like to hear!) So I went to yoga. And to this day, I have a dysfunctional relationship with yoga, but I did I get one of the biggest life-changing gifts during that yoga class.

My mother always said: “f you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.” In life, that saying has always stayed with me, but there’s more to it. What I learned in that yoga class was the power of positive thoughts. Pay attention, this is actually life-altering. Take it from me, the skeptical mom of five who will try anything to make life flow a teeny, tiny bit smoother.

At the end of class, the teacher had us close our eyes and lay on our backs. She continued to quietly talk about self-kindness and the power of positive thoughts. (I should probably mention the fact that she was going from person to person massaging each of our feet – THAT may have helped!) Anyway, she suggested, when we go home, to hear our negative thoughts and try to replace every negative thought with a positive thought, recite the positive thought aloud, take 3 big inhales and exhales, and then recite the positive thought again.

The payoff? That yoga teacher claimed many; serenity, calm, happiness, hope, gratitude, improved immune system, improved overall mental health, improved concentration, and more! What mom isn’t looking for a little of that? So I tried it. And it worked. Not overnight, it takes time, but it helps. A lot. It’s something I am mindful of everyday, and it works.

While I can become a bit discouraged about the number of times a negative thought still floats through my mind, I’m in awe of my ability to press ‘rewind’ and turn a negative into a positive. I’ve discovered positive behavior follows positive thinking! You know what else? Positive energy attracts positive energy! I’m constantly amazed at how greatly this one exercise has empowered me. Finally, I live a life full of positivity. And the change is actually doable. It’s free, it’s personal, and it’s mind-blowing.

The best part? The other day…my daughter was running across the playground and a little boy bumped into her. She took quite a spill. As I approached her, I braced myself for her response. Perhaps she would cry, want to go home, or even lash out at the other child. Guess what? She slowly got up and while wiping all the sand off her knees, I heard her mumbling “It’s ok, little boy. We are fine. We are strong kids! We are positive! Want to play?” And off they went!

I am inspired by that yoga teacher. She taught me that being fit is about more than just my body. It’s about being strong enough to listen to my thoughts, breath thru them, make a choice to change them, and believe in the power of positivity. It’s a great gift we can give ourselves and our children. Try it for yourself…if I can do it, you can do it!

*Norah Benincasa is the owner of Pedal and Pose Fitness Studio in Concord, MA. She is a certified personal trainer, spin instructor, TRX trainer, Body Pump trainer, more…and mom of five! Norah holds a masters degree in social work and is an expert in all things fitness!

Healthy Child Healthy WORLD

photo 5When Healthy Child Healthy World hosts a luncheon in the Hamptons, I become a lady who lunches for sure. Healthy Child is a non-profit that brings companies and communities together for collective advocacy for a healthier, safer world for generations to come. Healthy Child Healthy World was founded by James and Nancy Chuda, who lost their daughter to cancer linked to pesticide exposure in utero, a tragedy that could have been prevented. Did you know that 60% of what is applied to our skin topically is absorbed in the bloodstream? Everything we breath and touch has an effect on our health as well as our kid’s health. Gigi Lee Chang, the CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, put it best: children make up 25% of our population and 100% of our future.

photo 4Sadly, this will be the first generation of kids not to live longer than their parents due to toxicity, obesity, and genetically engineered food. The mission to reverse this awful realization unites people all over the country. Today, I lunched with Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farms, Gigi Lee Chang of Healthy Child Healthy World, Tiffani Theissen, (yes, Saved by the Bell) and LOTS of fabulous and interesting women, all of whom share a genuine value for making the world a healthier place. Who can’t get behind that?

The day was beautiful and the setting was perfect. Of course, the food was delicious and nutritious: kale salad, red quinoa, black bean burgers, salmon, corn, and Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit for dessert. YUM. During lunch, we listened to an interesting panel discussion from Gary Hirshberg, Gregg Renfrew of Beautycounter, Robin Wilson of Healthy Space Interior Design, Dr. Richard Ash, The Ash Center, and Christina Anderson of Elizabeth Street. The point driven home is that we wrongly assume, as Americans, that when we shop, whether it’s at the grocery store, a high-end department store, pharmacy, or even farmer’s market, what we purchase is safe. From food to makeup, household cleaning products, sunscreen, clothing, etc. Unfortunately, our system is not built upon preventative healthcare, so our industry standards are sadly sub-par. Doctors are trained to fix health problems, not to prevent them. Until this changes, that’s where we come in.

While the mission of making the world a healthier, safer place, both today and in the future, seems totally overwhelming on a personal level, we can do our part. Gary Hirshberg was refreshingly insistent on making small changes. Collectively, this adds up. Don’t be overwhelmed if you can’t buy all organic foods, but do what you can. Buying organic is not only a step towards better health, it’s a step in the right direction for our progress as a nation. Each and every purchase made in the United States speaks volumes for our future. The things we choose to buy sends out the message that we prefer and support that product, that store, that brand. Buying organic, whole foods gives society a  ‘yes’ that what we want is healthy food. In turn, each time we buy fast or processed food, we’re sending out the message that we support our current food industry. While many argue, myself included, that the price of local, fresh, unprocessed food is expensive, in the long run, we are investing in our future. Eventually, enough “votes” for real food will lower pricing. Increased demand forces a bigger supply. Simply put, we vote with our wallet, so one thing you can do is to use your vote for good.

If we want to make the world a healthier, safer place, it’s time to start making small changes, taking baby steps. This all starts with education. We’ve got to educate ourselves because we can’t really trust our current food, medical, or pharmaceutical industries. We must continue to research for ourselves, because things are constantly changing and new information is released daily. If you want to learn something new today, check out Healthy Child Healthy World. If you feel strongly about demanding the labeling of genetically engineered foods, check out Gary Hirshberg’s movement JustLabelIt.org and sign the petition to let those running your state, and our country, that food labeling is important. What else can we do? One suggestion, something we can all easily do is to take our shoes off upon entering the house, our own home and others. 85% of pesticides found in the home are brought in on the bottoms of our shoes. Another was starting with a nylon, instead of vinyl, shower curtain, and replace household cleaners with natural products next time you run out. Basically, just start reading labels and be more aware of what you’re putting inside your home, and your body.

In fact, if you take action today, in some way, (whether it’s doing five minutes of research on the web, leaving those shoes at the door, purchasing organic produce, or just pledging to become more aware) you could win a Weleda Body Wash and Body Lotion Kit! Weleda’s products are certified 100% natural and the first ingredient is water. If you’d like this Weleda revitalizing kit, just let us know in a Facebook comment on One Healthy Hamptons’ Facebook page with one way you already or plan to make a small change towards a healthier world. All comments will be considered and winner will be picked Monday, August 26th at noon via Random.org.

photo(85)One Healthy Breakdown: The U.S. is one of the only developed countries that does not require the labeling of genetically engineered foods. That fact alone is enough to get educated today.

Southampton Golf Range…and Lots More!

range

If you’ve spent time in the Hamptons, you know that The Southampton Golf Range is a well-known landmark for golfers and families alike.  It’s got the convenience and services every golfer needs without the ginormous membership fee we’re used to around here.  The range is better than ever this year, with more fun for the whole family thanks to some exciting upgrades.  Family-owned and operated by the Hansens since 1957, the range just keeps getting better and better.  The Hansens understand the importance of innovation, while maintaining the same classic feel that appeals to many returning customers.

The Southampton Golf Range is a Hamptons gem, serving all levels, from elite golf pros to first-timers, and everyone in between. The facility, which is also a fun and affordable go-to for mini-golf with the little ones, also recently added ballpark batting cages, heated tees, and they will soon have pedal cars, a golf simulator, and an ice-skating rink.  Sounds like the range is no longer just a range at all, The Southampton Golf Range is transitioning into a year-round family hot spot with indoor and outdoor fun.

The range features 32 hitting stations, partially covered, new this year, allowing for shade in the summer and heaters in the winter.  There’s also a grass hitting area and two Home Green Advantage synthetic putting greens.  With three renowned pros teaching golf lessons, locals and visitors can take their game to the next level and even rent clubs at no extra cost.  And, regardless of your schedule, you’ll be able to hit the range thanks to their long hours and night lights (9am – 10pm all summer, 10am to dusk in the off-season.)

This summer will mark the fourth season of Junior Golf Camp at the range, which takes place weekday mornings throughout July and August.  Junior Golf Camp transitions the little ones into pros in no time with private and group instruction, putting lessons, fun competitions, mini-golf, and more.  Camp is offered for kids as young as four (up to age 14) and will teach beginners the fundamentals of the sport in a fun setting.

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One Healthy Breakdown: I personally prefer the mini-golf course, but if and when I take up golf, Southampton Golf Range will be my go-to.