By Cate Free, a mama and avid runner who supports other mamas seeking wellness. Today she shares her personal experience about how changing the food on her plate made her a better mom.

Having kids is tough, and as moms, we can often find ourselves so consumed with taking care of others that we leave little time for ourselves. We survive on coffee and handfuls of stale Goldfish crackers, then wonder why we struggle with energy, moodiness, lack of motivation, and impatience with our children. We are running on empty, but often don’t realize the fuel we’re consuming is part of the problem.

Something happened after I had kids that changed not only my relationship with food, but also how I viewed it. I discovered the Whole30 several years ago, and the first round I completed totally changed how I view food. Living in my food freedom has been such a wonderful blessing not only to me, but also to my children. I’m a better mom because of it. This is my experience. By no means do you need to complete a Whole30 to change your relationship with food, but for me, it was a life-changing experience for the following reasons.

I Have Energy

The simple truth is when you fuel your body well, you have more energy. Over time I switched from a random daily diet of leftover mac and cheese, coffee, chocolate chips, and a few vegetables scattered in to a Whole30-inspired diet. Proteins, healthy fats and plenty of veggies helped my blood sugar to stabilize, giving me more energy. Mornings were clear. I was happy to see my children instead of snapping at them. I could greet them with a smile when they came home from school instead of a frazzled huff. Having energy to keep up with my kids and play with them has helped me immensely as a mom.

I’m in a Better Mood

When I’m not constantly drained, I am a much happier mom. More than that, I’ve found that when I’m more aware of what’s on my plate, my disposition is simply sunnier. Relying on sugar to get me through the day put me on a roller coaster of mood swings as my blood sugar rose and fell. Once I experimented with removing sugar from my diet for periods of time, I could actually see the impact it had on my mood. Thinking about my kids remembering me as a crabby mom or to not asking me to play or for help because they’re afraid I’m going to snap at them makes me sad. I want to enjoy my experience of motherhood and to love being with my kids.

 I Have More Patience

Children can try the patience of a saint. When I changed the food on my plate plate, my improved energy and mood allowed me to have more patience. I have four children ranging from nine months to eight years so someone is ALWAYS crying. Having greater patience helps me deal with those days when it seems that I’m raising wild animals instead of small humans. To me, it is SO WORTH IT.

I Model Self-Love and Respect

Coming from a disordered eating past, I’ve had quite a few struggles when it comes to food, as so many of us do. Nourishing myself with healthy food and taking care of my body like the gift it is, is one of the greatest displays of self-love I can show my children. This isn’t about losing weight or looking a certain way. This is about taking care of you. Remember you? Remember the fearless, unstoppable woman with hopes and dreams? She’s still inside you. Take care of her!

Your children don’t care how much you weigh and they won’t remember if you had a six-pack or a thigh gap. They will remember how you model self-love and self-respect by how you speak of your body and take care of your body. The message your actions send to your children is a powerful one.

I Can Give More of Myself

You’ve maybe heard that you can’t pour from an empty cup, and, friend, it’s true. Taking care of my body, nourishing myself with healthy food, boosting my energy and mood ALLOWS me to give more of my time, love, and self to the people who mean the most to me. You can’t play with your kids if you’re exhausted all the time. You can’t patiently help with homework if you’re crabby and moody. When you feel good, you can be there for others and take care of those you love the most.

Living in My Food Freedom

Through my experiences with the Whole30, I have learned the foods that work best for my body. I know that when I stick to a certain meal template, I’m going to feel my best, and I prioritize meal prep so that I am able to nourish myself on a consistent basis. It has led me into my food freedom. What is food freedom? According to Melissa Urban, co-founder of the Whole30, It’s “indulging when it’s worth it, passing when it isn’t, and never feeling guilt or shame for doing either. It’s about taking the morality out of food, and recognizing you are not a “good” or “bad” person based on what’s your plate. True food freedom means you never again feel powerless over food.”

Read more on navigating food freedom asa mama here!

I still have the occasional bowl of ice cream, and my family and I enjoy pizza nights now and again. Food freedom and a healthy lifestyle still have room for flexibility and pleasure. But when I have a foundation of food that supports me and nourishes me, I find that I simply enjoy motherhood more  and I’m better prepared to be there for my kids.

cate-changing-food-better-momCate Free is a wife, mother, teacher, and runner. She dreams of one day running the Boston Marathon, growing her website to encourage other women, and building a community of women who support each other in their faith, fitness, and healthy lifestyles. She knows what it’s like to struggle with body image and want to live a healthy life. After having three kids, years of yo-yo dieting, self-loathing, and feeling out of touch with her body, she decided she wasn’t going to stand for it anymore. She wants to help you become your best self with encouragement, motivation, and guidance. Connect with Cate on her website or Instagram.