Q & A with Heidi Murkoff

Courtesy of www.whattoexpect.com

Ringing in the New Year, Heidi discusses ways to stay healthy and her fitness DVD for expectant mothers. This hardworking and exuberant woman doesn’t stop there. She is proud to be a green conscious mother and shares her altruistic endeavors in The What to Expect Foundation.

By Anna Vorontsova

It all began in 1982 when Heidi Murkoff was newly married and pregnant. As a terrified new mom-to-be, she saw a void in the marketplace for pregnancy guides and took matters into her own hands. Now, over 30 years later, she’s a mother of two children and the What to Expect series of novels, including What to Expect When You’re Expecting. She has sold over 34 million copies in more than 30 languages and in 2011, Time magazine placed her on their annual list of 100 Most Influential People. Her new Fitness DVD allows mothers to fit exercise into their busy schedules. It is specifically designed for mothers to do their daily workout in ten minute increments, if needed. Helping mothers stay healthy and fit during pregnancy is one of many of her passions. She discusses being a green mother, and the What to Expect Foundation which provides clinics for low-incomes expectant mothers where pregnancy guides, support and camaraderie can be found for mothers in need. With kindness, humor, and a fit physique, she greets Natural Child World with a hug and an exclusive interview.


Tell me about your new fitness video for expecting mothers. How have you designed it?

We are shooting the entire fitness video with everyone pregnant except for me. I probably should have gotten pregnant for the occasion, but didn’t have enough notice (ha-ha). Squeezing a fitness routine when your pregnant is hard, plus your not always feeling your best. Your first trimester queasy, bloated and exhausted. Usually the second trimester is fairly smooth sailing. The third trimester your feeling that beach whale stage of pregnancy. So this fitness video is designed to fit your needs as your body changes throughout pregnancy. So you can go slow with some of the workouts or pick up intensity.  It’s all about customizing how you’re feeling day to day. Week to week. Month to month.


What are the health benefits of exercising during pregnancy?

For the vast, vast majority of pregnant women, just about any exercise is safe, as long as it’s modified for pregnancy. There are a few exceptions like downhill racing, or skiing (ha-ha ) may not be the best choice. Or mountain biking. Beyond the obvious benefits of losing that baby fat faster post partum so you seem in better shape throughout your pregnancy, there are also lots of health benefits. Specifically, exercise helps prevent a variety of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes… So staying fit during pregnancy and exercising regularly can help…


In other words, fitness is essential to a more comfortable pregnancy. What are other benefits?

It can also boast your energy level. It sort of seems paradoxical because the couch is calling out your name and your totally exhausted and you feel like you can’t move a muscle, but if you work out, you actually boast your energy. It can boast your mood because it releases those feel good endorphins that we hear so much about. And with the mood swings of pregnancy. You may need all the help you can get in that department. It can ease just about any pregnancy ache that your body can come up with. Lower back ache. If you strengthen your core, and you probably think, ‘oh I’m pregnancy I don’t have a core anymore’. Well actually you do! (ha-ha) And that core, the stronger it is, the less your back will ache. There are a variety of pregnancy symptoms, so if you work certain muscles you are going to relieve others. And that is the key to a more comfortable pregnancy. We also have exercising at your workstation workout. Which is important if you do a lot of sitting at your job. Doing some simple stretches at your desk or while your standing can make a big difference, and help keep your circulation going, and ease some of those aches and pains.


How did this journey begin? How did the idea of this fitness video come about?

I’ve always advocated for pregnancy fitness. It has always been a priority in the What to Expect books. It is much easier to show these things visually, and, also to show them being done by other expectant moms. Because that sort of builds a sense of camaraderie and I’ve always said, if you can, exercise together. With a friend, or take a class, because it does build a sense of we are all in this together. And so the idea of doing a pregnancy fitness DVD, it really made a lot of sense.


How have you designed your fitness video?

ACOG says for instance, you should exercise at least 30 minutes a day.  And its everyday and that sounds really, really daunting. But in this program we have actually designed it so you can do just 10 minutes at a time. Which I’ve always told mamas you can do. You don’t have to do all 30 minutes in one sitting, because sometimes that can be too much for you or you don’t have the time. But if you break it into 10 minutes. A couple times a day. Then it’s much more doable. So, I think this is going to make it a lot easier for moms to fit that fitness into their pregnant lives.


What advice would you give for the green conscious mother?

It’s so much easier to be green now when you’re expecting and as a new mom. I think the only problem is the demand is not where it should be for a lot of the moms. It’s less affordable. So, I think we all need to ban together and make sure the companies make their products truly green for expecting moms and new moms and babies. So we can bring down the costs. I think that’s really, really key.


What do you do to be sustainable?

Well for one thing. I actually do everything I can. I will recycle everything. I will bring these bottles home; I won’t go as far as go on vacation and bring bottles home from vacation. But I’m extremely careful about using extra foil or extra wrap. I use as few superfluous products as possible.


What tips do you have for mothers trying to stay healthy aside from exercise?

Eating well makes a big, big difference, and eating food that is as whole as possible. One of the things I think will be great for any expecting moms to figure out how to get this going is start a community garden. So it’s not rocket science. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Or frozen is just as good as fresh. Choose organic when you can, but if you can’t afford it then do the best you can to avoid the dirty dozen [Peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes]. And lots of whole grains. Try to avoid refined grains as much as you possibly can. Lean proteins. Choose organic if you can. Try to eat grass fed beef if possible, because not only will you avoid the chemical residues but you will be getting a lot of omega 3s in your red meat and that is really important during your pregnancy. And while speaking of the omega 3s, wild salmon is a great pregnancy food. Lots of walnuts and avocados, all those healthy fats. Stay away from too many saturated fats. And of course processed foods if possible. And lean dairy if you eat dairy, again organic if you can.


What’s next for you after this fitness video?

I wish it were a vacation, but not so much. I’m working on lots of new and exciting projects with the What to Expect foundation. Ultimately, the goal is to cover the entire world where moms are in need. Where moms can’t get the information and support that they need to have healthier pregnancies and safer deliveries. And healthier and happier babies.


Tell me more about The What to Expect foundation.

Basically we knew we were reaching a majority of expecting moms who can afford a book. But that meant we were leaving out a huge segment of the pregnant population. Women who don’t have access to information. Who don’t have bookstores. They don’t have the literacy skills necessarily. And of course these are the women who need the information the most. But who are least likely to receive it. So we started the What to Expect Foundation and created a book called Baby Basics which is written at a third grade level. It’s beautiful. It takes moms through the nine months of pregnancy, but in ways they can really understand and can read. And empowers them in a way that they are not typically empowered. To ask questions. To be aware of their bodies. So that they can have a healthier pregnancy and healthier baby too. An emotional support, which too often these moms don’t get. In a clinic setting. So we have the book, which is free. And then we have a prenatal literacy program that goes with it. Then we go into clinics and train everyone from the receptionists to the doctors the nurses, midwifes, everyone in the clinic, to use What To Expect with the moms. We have moms groups in each baby basics clinics in which moms can come and sit and ask their questions. Again, have a sense of camaraderie. Talk about thinks you wouldn’t necessarily see in a book like What to Expect. For instance, how to work the Medicare system. How to access resources that are highly bureaucratic. There’s a section for pregnant women in prison. Because it’s my feeling that every expectant mom deserves to know what to expect, even if she can’t afford a book, even if she doesn’t have the literacy skills to read a book.

It’s a really incredible program and we need moms that who otherwise have that kind of support to hug another mom who doesn’t have it. I’m all about the hug but you can hug in all kinds of ways.


To learn more about the foundation visit www.whattoexpectfoundation.org.

Heidi’s fitness DVD is now available for purchase. Visit www.whattoexpect.com for more pregnancy and after pregnancy tips and advice.


Courtesy of Danny Moloshok

Courtesy of Danny Moloshok