By Natalie Mansson of Nurturing Fitness

I am a busy mom. I have 4 children (ages 8 month, 3, 6, and 8). I stay at home with them Monday through Friday and home school the older two. I also own my own personal training and nutritional consulting business and work as a physical therapist on the weekends. Being fit and healthy has always been a priority of mine, I competed in natural bodybuilding before having children, and I have continued to be physically activity since becoming a mother.

The time that I have for myself has dramatically decreased since the birth of my children; taking care of them is one of my number one priorities and sources of joy. With that being said, taking care of myself and keeping myself fit and healthy is still a priority of mine. I feel it should be for every mom for two reasons. First, you can take care of your children better if you take care of yourself. Second, taking care of yourself sets a good example for your children. It is possible for all moms to be fit and healthy and accommodate their families and responsibilities.

Being a fit and healthy mom does not take a tremendous amount of time, but it does take awareness, efficiency, and knowledge. I have found there are three keys to being or becoming a fit and healthy busy mom.

1. MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY: This is one of the hardest things to do as a mom but also one of the most important things. Sleep is critical to resetting hormones responsible for our metabolism. A lack of sleep results in increased cravings, decreased motivation for activity, and a feeling of being more stressed and less able to focus. Moms should strive for 8 hours of sleep a night. Although naps are not as ideal as nighttime sleep, they are still useful for making up for sleep loss at night (especially for moms of babies). For moms that have difficulty sleeping, a relaxing bath and Yogi bedtime tea can be useful to help wind down and get to sleep.

2. EAT FAT LOSS FRIENDLY FOODS: Nutrition is even more important than exercise when it comes to body composition. To be a fit and healthy mom, 90% of your diet should be lean protein, tons of fibrous veggies, and much smaller amounts of fats and starchy carbohydrates. These foods stabilize blood sugar levels and optimize metabolic hormones for fat loss and maintaining a fit and healthy body. Eating this way also greatly reduces hunger and cravings and increased energy levels. This does not have to be hard or complicated. I use a lot of convenience foods including pre-washed fresh organic baby spinach, Rotisserie chicken, cartons of egg whites, and steam-in-a-bag veggies.

3. EXERCISE EFFICIENTLY: By choosing the correct exercise routine, moms can be fit and healthy by only spending 30 minutes a day, six days a week. Metabolic weight training circuits are the optimal exercise. These circuits are hybrid exercises which incorporate core, leg, and upper body muscles. They are ideal because they provide both a cardiovascular workout and a resistance workout. They also affect hormones in such a manner that they help ensure fat is burned instead of muscle and at an accelerated rate for up to 48 hours after the workout! These exercises can be combined with cardiovascular interval training on opposite days to further promote fat loss.

It is possible to be a fit and healthy mom, no matter how busy you are. First, it takes making yourself a priority. Then, it takes gaining the knowledge of what it takes to be fit and healthy (sleep, nutrition, and efficient exercise). If you are new to this, tackle one thing at a time. Address nutrition first because this will improve sleep and provide energy for exercise. Once you have conquered nutrition and sleep, gradually build up your exercise program. Making one change at a time, increases the likelihood of success. Also, do not expect perfection from yourself. Do your best and realize that as a mom, your best will differ from day-to-day depending on your schedule and the unexpected things that always pop up!