You only have to spend a few minutes with Dara to know that she works hard, plays hard and loves her family to pieces. I have known Dara for almost 5 years. We met just after I had my daughter Hudson. I was on maternity leave looking for a new workout solution where I could bring my baby and still get a real workout in. My girlfriend had signed up for Belly Bootcamp at Trinity Bellwoods Park so I decided to join her. I remember that first day like it was yesterday. It was springtime, my daughter was 5 weeks old, and I was in pure bliss. Yes, I was THAT mother. Unaffected by the lack of sleep, loving every second of nursing, and so excited about the adventure ahead. It’s not always bliss, but at that point for me it was. When I rolled up with my baby, asleep in her brand new stroller, I didn’t realize I was also meeting the woman who would become my fitness guru for the next 5 years and a couple of fellow moms who would become my closest girlfriends. But that was the case.
Here are a few snippets from my conversation with Dara:
Tell us about Belly Bootcamp.
Belly Bootcamp came from my heart and it remains a labour of love, 5 years in. After I became pregnant with our first child, I was frustrated I couldn’t find professional, effective, creative training for pregnant and postpartum mommies. I also found the offerings in downtown Toronto to be few and far between; it seemed nothing was available for those of us in recently gentrified neighbourhoods like Parkdale and Leslieville. With years in the fitness industry, I decided to narrow my focus and offer small group training for other mommies like me, with high standards for their fitness programming and a desire to be surrounded by their fellow moms and moms-to-be. I started a couple of classes in the Beach and High Park in 2009 while pregnant with our second child and the rest is history.
How has your life changed since your third baby was born this summer?
Gosh, it’s changed. Having a newborn never gets easy, and I think now that I’m three babies in I can say that with authority. I’ve found it’s slowed me down in the most wonderful way. I don’t want or need to be as productive as I was before. I’m enjoying soaking it all in. This will be our last baby (although I feel I could slide easily into a fourth, my husband tells me we. are. done.) so I am cooking, eating, visiting, reading, nursing, cuddling, and trying to be very aware that I chose this life, I am blessed to have this life, and it is my duty and privilege to enjoy it. Not just be along for the ride… steer the ship and enjoy it.
Do you have any tips for staying balanced during the holiday season?
On a micro level, I always recommend you choose alcohol OR starches. This is the simplest thing but it really makes a difference. When you drink alcohol, your body cannot burn fats and carbohydrates until it processes the alcohol, so fats and carbs will be stored more easily. Choose to have the treat that satisfies you most! You don’t need to partake in everything; anyone who knows me knows I will choose wine over bread any day. Christmas dinner should be a free-for-all. Every holiday party between December 1 and January 1 cannot. On that note, the macro level is to balance yourself over the course of each day, and week to a certain extent. Keep a food journal or run a mental tally. Think of your diet in terms of a bar graph. Which bars have you already filled and which need to be filled? If you had french toast at brunch, you probably don’t need potatoes with your steak tonight. It’s ALL about balance in the long run. No one can maintain a “diet” forever. The key is to learn to eat mindfully, with balance.
What’s your go-to healthy meal for your family?
I cook a lot and we mostly eat paleo at home. I eat a lot of meats wrapped in lettuce. That sounds terribly boring, but it’s delicious. Tacos, burgers, fajitas, carnitas, and even egg salad can be served in lettuce (or served with the option of tortillas or lettuce so everyone can choose their own carb level) and make great leftovers. In a pinch, a curry is a great way to get protein and incredible antioxidants into your kids (and you) in the most comforting, wholesome way.
I make a homemade japanese curry powder and serve curried chicken and spinach with quinoa or rice (also fab reheated the next day or two for lunch with some extra veggies thrown in as you reheat to bulk it up). It’s a big hit around here.
What’s your favourite place in Toronto to hang with your kids?
We love to explore our hood, Parkdale; we’ve been here since before it was cool and it seems to change every day. When we want to venture out, the kids and I love to go to High Park to hike, play at the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground, see the animals, and ride that crazy High Park train.
By: Alison Heden
Photo Cred: Tara West