Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Post-Baby Bodies

One of the topics that tends to come up in conversation between a new mom and a mommy-to-be-in-the-near-future is the topic of weight gain and how fast that baby weight comes off. I don't pretend to be some kind of fitness or nutritional guru, but having gone through the pregnancy roller coaster twice now, I did have some thoughts I wanted to share on the topic.

1) Have compassion for your body.  Even the easiest pregnancies can take a toll on your body. You have created, housed, and birthed a human being, and your body did what it needed to do in order to accomplish that. Every woman is different, every woman's body will respond differently to pregnancy, and every woman will recover differently. Don't waste energy comparing yourself to others and have faith in your body's ability to heal. Spend the first few weeks after birth focusing on your emotional well-being and your child...you will have enough on your plate with your precious baby and the postpartum hormones. It is also beyond crucial to let your body have its time to heal, particularly if you had to have a c-section or other surgery or stitches. Follow your doctor's recommendations regarding exercise and take it slow.

2) Focus on Fuel. Put a concentrated effort on eating fresh and healthy meals, because this will be your best source of energy - we all know you won't be getting it from sleep! Up your intake of fruits and veggies and lean proteins, and make sure to stay hydrated. Keep taking your prenatal vitamins. If you are breastfeeding, it is even more important to make sure you are eating enough calories during the day and that you are getting the proper nutrition. This is not the time to try highly restrictive or trendy diets - eat balanced meals and make sure that you are giving your body the best fuel to function and heal. And keep plenty of healthy snacks on hand that are quick and nutritious - apples and bananas are my favorite!

3) Bond with Baby. Finding ways to incorporate your new baby into your fitness routine is a wonderful way to bond with your baby. Invest in a jogging stroller (but be sure to follow safety guidelines before you start running with a newborn or young infant), find a new mommy boot camp or yoga class, or go walking with another new mom friend. The fresh air and sunshine will do both of you a world of good, and you will get some great exercise too!

4) View exercise as your reward, not a chore. New moms are overwhelmed, believe me, I get it. Especially if there is more than one kid in the picture, you have a LOT on your plate and a lot of demands on your time and attention. Don't view exercising as just one more thing on the to-do list - view it as your reward for a day well done. You spend your day taking care of everybody else- this is your time to take care of YOU. Find a gym with a day care or hand the kids off to the hubby and savor your workout as true "mommy time", complete with some trashy reality TV or a good gossip session with a workout buddy. I promise that if you approach the gym with that attitude, suddenly that treadmill looks a whole lot more appealing!

5) Look Good and Feel Good. Your body is going to go through some big changes postpartum. There will likely be a period of time where you feel gross and mushy and self-conscious. Your maternity clothes are suddenly way too big but your pre-pregnancy clothes are still too small. You might find that the shape of your body has changed, and your old clothes no longer fit right even once all of the baby weight is gone. Consider this your permission slip to go get a few new outfits - there are so many budget-friendly fashionable stores now that you shouldn't feel bad about getting a couple of transitional pieces to get you through comfortably until you are back to feeling fabulous. Make sure to pick up some cute new workout clothes to feel great at the gym, and you might also need to get some more supportive sports bras, particularly if you are breastfeeding.

6) Pace yourself. This isn't a race. Go at the pace that you feel comfortable and focus on being healthy. The weight will come off - and as my doctor liked to say, "It took you 9 months to put the weight on, it's not going to come off overnight." Breastfeeding mothers should also remember that a good guideline is to lose 1-1.5 lb a week - if you are losing more than that after the initial postpartum weight loss, you might not be eating enough calories to maintain your milk supply, and you also run the risk of releasing toxins stored in your body fat into your breast milk. I am a big fan of Weight Watchers and they even have a program built in their online plan for nursing mothers to help make sure you are eating enough calories to support yourself and your baby. Nursing can do weird things for weight loss - your body might lose weight steadily or it might hold on to the weight and then it all melts off when you wean. Slow and steady wins the race here!

At the end of the day, my message is "Healthy mom, healthy family." View the entire pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and post-partum time as one big picture and don't ever feel bad or ashamed at the way your body has developed. Be active, be strong, be healthy, and be confident - and you will not only be taking care of yourself the best way possible, you will be setting the stage for confident, active, healthy children...the best thing a mom could ask for!

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