Kanika Chadda Gupta

Month: June 2018

Dougmary & Kausar – Fitness for Moms

 

Childbirth is the most miraculous thing a woman’s body can go through. It’s incredible how we are built to produce a human being inside of us, with a beating heart, functioning brain, organs, and limbs. The aftermath, however, can be difficult for many – the stretch marks, deflated breasts, C-section scar, and overall pockets of weight gain that don’t seem to disappear.

I think all moms can relate to feeling some level of body dysmorphia after giving birth. I used to look in the mirror and barely recognized myself. I’ve been a fitness enthusiast and dancer my whole life so it was hard to stomach (quite literally!) my extra weight, which was due to the fact that I was carrying twins and breastfeeding (btw, it’s a myth that all women lose weight from nursing. Sure it may have helped my uterus shrink back to size, but my caloric intake had increased in order to produce milk for two hungry babies!)

When I was about six months postpartum, a friend of mine told me about a Mommy-focused fitness challenge she participated in and won (Go Aarti!) in our area. Right away, I asked “where do I sign up??” The Jersey City Slim-down Challenge was launched by moms Kausar Rasul (Founder of Golden Sneaker) and Dougmary Esquijarosa (Founder of A Green Unicorn) who aim to help mothers achieve their fitness goals, build confidence, and lead a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their families…for good.

How did you two meet and what compelled you to join forces to launch the Jersey City Slim-down Challenge?

Kausar: I began teaching “Mommy and Me” Zumba classes in 2016, and Doucky (Dougmary’s nickname) was one of my students. A year later, she launched her business as a certified nutritionist. I always wanted to offer programs other than just Zumba, so I reached out to her to see if we could work together. We both had a common mission, which is to help moms get their body back and start feeling healthy again. Our ideas and expertise gave birth to what is now the JC Slim-down Challenge.

Were you always into fitness & healthy living?

Kausar: My background is in biochemistry, but on a personal note, my whole life I struggled with my weight. Zumba was the best decision I made after having my first born. I began teaching Zumba and Zumbini (Zumba for kids) for a few years. I decided to go back to school and this year I graduated as a Nutrition and Fitness expert, which has helped me tremendously not only in my business but in my personal life as well.

Doucky: I really liked playing sports in school and while at university. I practiced gymnastics, soccer and Tae Kwon Do but nothing serious; I was never consistent with exercise as my studies took priority. I graduated with a degree in mass communications and worked for over a decade in advertising.

I became interested in living a healthy lifestyle when I found myself 25 pounds overweight, with very low energy, mood swings and digestive issues that I thought was normal after having a baby. I started exploring new foods and recovered my energy levels, which drove me to exercise regularly and allowed my digestive issues to disappear. At that point I knew I wanted to share my experience with the world. I used my Instagram account to post healthy, simple recipes and then I decided I wanted to become a Fitness and Nutrition Expert and dedicate myself to helping people change their eating and exercise habits.

Did you have an “aha” moment as a mom, where you decided you had to make a change in your life?

Kausar: When my daughter was 15 months old, I felt like I had no energy to keep up with her. I was always tired. I lived on 3-4 cups of espressos a day. I was still carrying 20 pounds of post-pregnancy weight at the time. I knew I needed to get bring about some serious lifestyle changes and get my body back to feel like myself again. That motivated me to get certified as a Zumba instructor.

Doucky: When my daughter started solids, my husband and I were really sick and overweight. I felt concerned because I didn’t want to raise a sick kid. I read a lot, practiced tons of recipes and learned about food labeling (the good, bad, and ugly!) in this country.

Also, after going to several doctors and finding no cure for our digestive issues, I felt the need to get to the root of the problem myself and go back to the basics. Now my husband and I are very active, eat the healthiest we have in our entire lives, and we even feel younger.

Tell us about the Mommy challenge, the criteria, and benefits.

Kausar: This JC Slim-down challenge is carefully designed for moms who are ready to get back into the fitness world. We provide support and accountability which is one of the biggest factors for most moms who have clear weight loss goals. We provide unlimited Zumba and conditioning/strength classes, a personalized nutrition plan, weekly meal plan, grocery shopping list, simple recipes, meal prep plan, 24/7 Q/A support, 2-3 at-home exercises, before and after photos, and fitness assessments & measurements so you can actually see the progress.

Doucky: After experiencing our own transformations, Kausar and I sat down and evaluated what worked for us. We analyzed the challenges that many mothers face when it comes to losing weight. For instance, we offer on-site childcare for anyone who needs it. Everyone knows that they have to exercise and eat vegetables so why are moms not doing it? We came up with ways to keep moms motivated like a private Facebook group for our challengers where they post their daily progress (photos of themselves post-workout, or what we call a “sweatfie,” their meals for the day, water intake, healthy recipes, and more). Having a support system makes a huge impact and helps keep people accountable.

 

What are some of the success stories?

Kausar: Our average weight loss/inches lost is between 5-13 lbs and 18-25 inches in just 6 weeks! Check out our challenger reviews here

Doucky: Every single mom has her own success story because each comes with her own goals in mind. The end result is not only losing weight, but gaining confidence, feeling energetic, and being happier because their kids are eating healthy and are learning from them. You can check out more testimonials here

Have you noticed an evolution from the first challenge until now?

Kausar: We are constantly trying to learn, grow, and perfect our programs. After each challenge, we request evaluations so that we can come up with improvements as we go. From our first challenge till now we have added several features. It used to be 4 weeks but now it’s 6 weeks, we added a point system to encourage the challengers to work harder, and we tapped local businesses to sponsor fun gifts and prizes for our winners.

Doucky: We have had seven challenges thus far and they keep getting better. In fact, most of our challengers come back and want to participate again because we are constantly changing things up! 

What do you like most about motherhood and running your own business?

Kausar: I love being able to spend ample time with my kids.  I chose this career to give me flexibility and I LOVE it.

Doucky: I changed my career because I genuinely wanted to help people but also because I wanted to be there to raise my daughter. I didn’t want to miss a thing in her life. I had her after 8 years of marriage and I really, really wanted to witness her grow up. Now that I have this flexibility, I go to all her activities in school and am present in her daily routine. I love it and she loves it. It has been a win-win.  

What are some songs on the Zumba playlist?

Kausar: My absolute favorite songs on my playlist are Badtameez Dil, Dura (Daddy Yankee), Mi Gente (J. Balvin, Willy William), Echame la Culpa, and Guarachar Salsaton.

What are some of the HIIT exercises you have the ladies do?

Doucky:  I love burpees! It is one of the most complete total-body exercises. I know most people are resistant to do them, but they are really good for your overall endurance and strength. Suicide planks and plank jacks are my other favorites.

If you were to share one tip (fitness/nutrition) with moms, what would it be?

Kausar: Make time for yourself and your health. You are IMPORTANT.

Doucky:  Make ‘living healthy’ a lifestyle, not a trend.

To learn more about these Kausar & Dougmary’s programs, visit Golden Sneaker and A Green Unicorn.

Baby Proofing Must-Haves

 

Each milestone in your baby’s life comes with a host of changes you have to make to your own lifestyle. As newborns, they can only placed down on their backs, then explore the joys of tummy time, start rolling over, crawling, cruising, walking, and before you know, your little one is running around the house amuck, curiously exploring every corner and gadget he can find. We are in the thick of our twins toddler phase and took these precautionary measures to baby proof our home (without having to compromise our interior design and aesthetic!) 

Baby Gates

We use the Retract-a-Gate mesh, retractable gate for all our stairways. Firstly, these gates are the only ones that fit our broad main entrance steps. Secondly, they’re discreet and retract away when not in use. When they are locked in place, they’re fixed and taught so the kids can’t push their way through.

Child Safety Locks

We use Magnetic Child Safety Cabinet Locks which have hooks that you place inside your cabinet drawers and a magnetic opener which you hover over the hook to open it up. I bought small 3/8″ circle felt black stickers to use as indicators from Etsy. You can’t see them at first glance and they match my white and black kitchen.

Crib Rail Covers

For the first two years of their lives, kids have to grapple with teething and gnaw at everything in sight! My husband and I were shocked to find that our twins left teeth marks in the wood of their cribs and the paint had chipped off. Not only is the wood & paint toxic for the little ones to ingest, their beautiful cribs look worn out. I came across Trend Lab Waterproof Crib Rail Covers, which are perfect for covering the crib rails, protecting the kids teeth since the fabric is a soft felt/shearling, and they’re waterproof and easy to throw in the wash as needed.

Play Yard

One of the first things you want to buy when your toddlers are walking everywhere is a play yard. Throw their toys, games, and books in there so they can play in this confined space. We have this North States Play Yard at home. As a DIY project, I covered the play yard rails with felt/shearling fabric that I bought from JoAnn Fabrics and had my tailor sew in strings every 10 inches to tie around the rails. They get the job done and protect our little teethers much like the crib rail covers.

Play Mat

Lastly, invest in a good play mat for your kids. We have the Skip Hop Geo Grey/Cream Playmat, which matches our cream/grey decor. Your kids will tumble and wrestle and bang their toys on the floor, so the thick foam cushioning protects them (and your home!)

What baby proof items do you have at home that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comment section below! 

Family Beach Vacation (With Packing List!)

 

Since I’m due with baby #3 this summer, I know my family and I won’t get much of an opportunity to travel or go on vacation with our newborn. So, shortly after the Memorial Day weekend rush, my husband and I decided to take a long weekend trip to the beach in Long Branch, NJ (just 45 min. away from home!) with a bunch of our friends and their kids. This was the first time we took our 16-month-old twins to the beach and pool, and given how much they LOVE splishing and splashing at bath time, I knew they would love it.

 

We made a group decision and chose staying at a resort over a beach house. First off, there weren’t many viable options available since houses get booked up months in advance. Secondly, I knew I didn’t want to have to deal with the upkeep involved — making the beds, laundry, cooking, and cleaning the kitchen after meals. No thanks! I already do that enough at home and I wanted housekeeping and room service! We stayed at the Ocean Place Resort and Spa and had an amazing experience. The hotel staff were very friendly and provided us with everything we needed (1 pack & play, 1 crib, microwave). We ate our breakfast at the Seaview Restaurant in the main lobby and enjoyed our private entrance to the beach where we were given umbrellas, chairs, towels and were close to the boardwalk to be able to pick up snacks & drinks while we lounged. We also taught the older kids chess and let them play in the designated kids play room.

As for dining out, we explored the family friendly restaurants along the boardwalk. We took the kids own food along just incase (oatmeal, squeezable fruit) but mostly ordered items off the kids menu like grilled cheese & fries for them to eat. 

Here’s what we packed for our toddlers (and managed to fit in our sedan!)

Beach Vacation Toddler Packing List:
Clothes & Toiletries:

  • 6 outfits for 4 days
  • 2 pairs of pajamas
  • Headbands for my daughter
  • 4 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of sandals
  • Toothbrushes
  • Tom’s baby toothpaste
  • comb/hairbrush
  • coconut oil (we use this instead of lotion) in a small tub
  • Eucerin baby body wash/shampoo we transferred into a small travel size bottle

Diaper Bag:

Sleeping:

  • Toddler Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Teddy Bear & Baby Doll

Beach/Pool:

Food:

  • Trader Joe’s unsweetened applesauce
  • Trader Joe’s string cheese
  • Earths’s Best Organic baby oatmeal
  • Plum Organics squeezable fruit
  • Frozen aloo parathas from our local Indian grocery store
  • Homemade kichdi (rice and yellow moong daal) in glass containers which are microwavable
  • Gallon of milk (lasts us 2 days)
  • Gallon of water

Toys:

  • Books
  • Mini Football, Basketball
  • Plush Toys
  • Android Tablet with Case

Misc:

We stuck to our nap and bedtime schedule for the most part (which was fine with me since I napped with the kiddos at the hotel in the afternoon!), but we also allowed ourselves to go with the flow, like enjoying evening strolls well after bed time and dancing at the hotel Tiki Bar! The most important thing is to have fun — family vacay memories will last a lifetime!

Natural Skincare Routine

 

Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I was never stickler about skincare brands, makeup, or shampoo having to being organic. I just used the most well-known brands on the market and didn’t read the labels. Fast forward to my first pregnancy with my twins, I decided to become acutely aware of what I was putting on my skin and what I was eating on a daily basis. If certain chemicals are harmful to a growing baby, why use them at all?

Here’s a list of skincare products that are certified organic, all natural, and have actually produced optimum results for me.

Pretty Mommies Skincare System

This line was founded by Gina Gordy, a mom who suffered acne, melasma, and sensitive skin during her pregnancy and was determined to find a natural solution for the numerous skincare issues that expecting women face. She leveraged her industry connections and met with top cosmetic chemists, physicians, and labs to launch Pretty Mommies and ensure that her 3-step system (cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF) was just as effective as its counterparts. Ingredients include vitamin C and a rare Japanese mushroom, which is rich in niacin and folic acid. The line does not use soy, licorice, mulberry, or bearberry which are great for skin brightening but can cause complications during pregnancy like estrogen imbalance and potentially premature contractions.

Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner

This is a great alternative to the toners which contain alcohol, glycolic acid, or salicylic acid. It’s gentle on the skin and smells amazing!

European Wax Center Exfoliater

With pregnancy comes crazy hair growth! (You can thank your hormones and prenatals for that!) I go to the European Wax Center to get waxed and use this exfoliator to slough off dead skin and prevent ingrown hair. 

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel

I found out about Dr. Dennis Gross’ peels on Molly Sims’ blog. Don’t you just love her?? You can read her pregnancy skincare list here. I used to go to my dermatologist for regular peels (VI, Jessner’s) to correct hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, so I was happy to make a switch to these easy-to-use at-home daily peels. 

Ranavat Botanics

My friend Michelle Ranavat founded this skincare system comprised of potent masques and toniques inspired by ancient traditions and made from high-performance botanicals. Each masque combats a skincare concern, be it detoxification, illumination, or hydration. I love the Eternal Reign mask which is made of French clay, neem, and Manuka honey, and helps remove oil/dirt/pollution from your skin leaving it feeling supple and fresh. Watch my fun #RoyalRitual #MasqueMonday hyperlapse video here

Honest Beauty Eye Cream

Super mom Jessica Alba’s Honest line never fails to disappoint. The Younger Eye eye cream provides deep hydration for under-eye circles and puffiness, which is oh-so-necessary for moms (even the lucky ones who have kids who sleep through the night!) 

Mother’s Special Blend

Yes, stretch marks are hereditary so there’s no avoiding them if your mom had them when she was pregnant, but I find that this belly oil may help to lessen the appearance of stretch marks during pregnancy and postpartum and helps control itchiness. What we mamas have to go through, right?? 

Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil

We go through bottles of coconut oil at our house. An ancient Indian home remedy, it’s great as a healthy fat for cooking, to massage on your scalp for hair growth, for oil pulling, and as a moisturizer to hydrate skin. I use this instead of a lotion for my kids as it’s natural and unadulterated leaving their skin baby soft, as it should be!

Do you have any skincare solutions that you’ve discovered during your pregnancy? Fill me in on them by commenting below!

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