The Wellness Spotlight Series highlights military spouses and their real world health and wellness journeys in a Facebook Live series. Below is an excerpt of Kara’s feature.
Kara has been a Navy wife since 2001 and is mom to three energetic kids. She enjoys connecting with new military spouses as a mentor, thumbing through cookbooks, and daydreaming about dinner.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AS A MILITARY SPOUSE.
My journey as a military spouse began on Waikiki beach during a college spring break trip. I was there with a friend who introduced me to Clint, her buddy from high school who was stationed on a submarine at Pearl Harbor. Clint served as our tour guide on Oahu that week, and let’s just say that was the first of many plane trips over the Pacific Ocean for me in the next year and a half! We got married a few days after my college graduation. He deployed on his submarine four weeks later, which put him in the Arabian Sea during 9/11. I was young, disconnected from the military community, and confused. Since then, I’ve learned to reach out and connect to helpful resources.
If you are a health or wellness expert, tell us about it and how it has impacted your wellness journey.
I’ve been a registered dietitian nutritionist since 2004, and started my career in public health with the WIC program in both Hawaii and Washington State. Since then, I’ve worked with several school districts to improve their nutrition environments, and also in private practice at a women’s medi-spa. My core belief is that while many diets work in the short-term, restrictive eating is not sustainable in the long run. The binge-and-restrict cycle causes a host of problems, most notably, shame. I’ve seen it in my clients and experienced it personally as I tried a few restrictive diets in college. That’s no way to live! Instead, I like to focus on the foods that make me feel my best. I know how good I feel when I eat fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, quality protein sources, and healthy fats. I love to cook and can often be found in the kitchen experimenting with new flavors and recipes.
What is one personal habit that contributes to your success?
The personal habit that contributes to my success is consistently fueling my body with fiber-rich vegetables and fruits, protein, healthy fats, and good carbohydrates at meals. Sometimes I make it a game to see how I can fit 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables into my day. When I’m satisfied and nourished, I don’t even think about reaching for junk food. Eating this way gives me tons of energy and curbs cravings for sugary and salty snacks that leave me feeling less than my best.
What was a low moment when your health suffered the most and how did you overcome it?
My lowest moment as a military spouse came with a deployment (of course) a few years ago. I thought I could handle my three children, and set out to prove that I was a strong, self-sufficient military spouse. But I had been so focused on my kids and my husband pre-deployment, that I’d neglected my own well-being. It didn’t take long before physical anxiety symptoms took over, forcing me to prioritize my own health.
I reached out to friends and created the support network I should have had in place from the get-go. Deployment can be isolating, and I desperately needed friends around! I also made daily exercise a priority. Hard trail runs released pent-up adrenaline I’d been carrying around. I started meal planning, which I had slacked on, and made sure I had nutritious foods in my kitchen again. I booked massages. I learned to breathe intentionally. Focusing on my wellness felt foreign at first, but is no longer optional. It makes me a better mom, wife, and friend.
When have you felt your healthiest (mental and/or physical) since becoming a military spouse?
I turned 40 a few weeks ago and am feeling healthier than ever! I ran a half-marathon along the California coast to mark the milestone. After sustaining a severe injury during that same deployment, and wondering whether my body would ever work properly again, I am grateful to be healthy and strong. I’ve never been more aware of that gift! I enjoy barre classes, hiking with my family, learning to cook new dishes, and making time for friends. No matter where I am in life, I intend to prioritize fitness, healthy eating, and connection with family and friends, all of which are key to my overall wellness.
What is your favorite form of self care?
My favorite form of self-care is getting together with friends for good conversation, great food, and plenty of laughs. Spending a couple of hours laughing with good friends while eating tacos or pizza lifts my emotional burden more than anything else. As a military spouse, these are the moments I miss most when we move to a new location. Community is so important, and I am always so happy when I find a new friend to make plans with!
What is a health and wellness resource you would like to share with the community?
The health and wellness resource I’d like to share with the military community is access to the in-house registered dietitian nutritionists at Military Treatment Facilities. I know many people struggle with their health goals, and you can meet one-on-one with a nutrition expert with a referral from your primary care provider.
If you could recommend one resource to military spouses, what would it be and why?
I recommend the book 100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake. This book is for anyone interested in cutting out processed foods and feeding their family whole foods in a simple, realistic way. This is my go-to cookbook when I sit down on Sundays to plan weekly meals for my family. Besides delicious recipes, this book includes meals plans, a grocery shopping template, and everything you need to get started on the road to healthy eating.
ABOUT KARA LUDLOW
Kara has been a Navy wife since 2001 and is mom to three energetic kids. She was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and she currently lives with her family in sunny San Diego. Kara is a freelance writer, and blogs regularly on her website, https://karaludlow.com. One of her favorite things is connecting with new military spouses as a mentor with the Military Spouse Advocacy Network. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, she can often be found thumbing through cookbooks and daydreaming about dinner.
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