It was August 7, 2007 – 7 months after my son was born. What a fun ride it had been!
After an adventurous few weeks of handling a newborn and many sleepless nights, recovering from the delivery blues wasn’t easy. To add to that, as a new mother, I was feeling overwhelmed on a daily basis by emotions ranging from joy and excitement, to fear and anxiety.
After the first 6 months, the situation definitely got more manageable. My son’s sleeping routine had significantly improved, he had started communicating a lot, was learning to gulp down (and to reject!) the solid foods that I was slowly getting him started on. Finally, it felt like I had some capacity - both physically and mentally - to deal with the things that I had been postponing.
One of the many things I was looking forward to was getting back in shape. But as I looked at myself in the mirror, the sight of a disproportionate postpartum belly made me feel nervous all of a sudden.
If you’re a new(ish) mom, does this all sound too familiar?
No amount of reading or research about childbirth prepares you for the actual situation, does it?
Before you beat yourself up about this, it’s helpful to get some facts straight. There are some things that are inevitable after childbirth. And this also means you’ll experience a few highs and lows and that is ok.
- Ever tried an old pair of jeans a few weeks after delivery to find that it reaches only till your shinbone?
- The baby is out and you feel like you still look 6 months pregnant?
- While you are looking for answers on how to get back in shape, all you get from those around you are sympathetic looks and advice to “eat well, rest well”?
If your answer is a resounding ‘Yes’ for some or all of these questions, then you are not alone here. No matter how fit or active you were before and during your pregnancy, you would have gained a lot of weight and will notice this especially around your abdomen, hips, back and your thighs.
Why is the Belly Fat from pregnancy especially difficult to get rid of?
During pregnancy, fat is accumulated in different places in your body, especially around the midsection, hips and thighs. All of this happens for a good reason, i.e. to ensure that you have enough nutrition to keep the baby healthy. Your body takes no chances here: more energy stores are a good thing for the baby. For you, that means more fat storage than you might like.
Some of this will reduce after delivery, but most will find that there is still a long way to go. This excess weight or fat will continue to linger unless we act upon it.
Most women have been there. Some, myself included, have managed to pull ourselves out of this situation. The key question is - How?
After the crucial first 6 months – What can young mothers do to lose weight?
1. Pay attention to your plate
It’s easy to get carried away with the ‘eating for two’ line of thinking. And once those habits sink in, it can be quite hard to stop. If you’re still breastfeeding and/or under the supervision of your gynaecologist/midwife/doctor, then please follow their guidance.
If not, it’s time to get back to ‘eating for one’.
- You don’t need any more stress in your life, so don’t count calories. Keep it simple and think in terms of food portions. (Link to Shivani’s article)
- At each meal (lunch and dinner) aim for 2 portions of vegetables and 1 portion of protein.
- Drink water often. Aim for about 1.5-2 litres a day.
- Snack on fruit.
- Limit the treats/junk (if you’re not sure if something is a treat or junk, it probably is). Think of a treat 2-3 times a week, not daily.
This is not the time to try crash dieting or follow a very restrictive diet. However, this is not an excuse to binge-eat or eat poor quality foods either.
2. Resume physical activity
Start with targeted exercises. Strengthen your Pelvic Floor since it tends to be the weakest area post-delivery. Kegels are the easiest to start with.
Your next focus should be to strengthen your core muscles and joints before starting any high impact exercise like running/aerobics or lifting weights. You could even register for Post Natal Yoga or strength training classes if you need a routine to start with.
Ease into your exercise routine gently and slowly. Even if you were a super fit mom before your delivery, don’t jump in immediately into a rigorous workout schedule, since most new moms tend to be hypermobile. Strenuous exercise could make things worse like causing lower back pain and joint injuries. So, be aware of all muscle pulls, aches, niggles and any other signs of discomfort and deal with them before they become a problem.
Check with your physician before you start any physical activity especially if you’ve had a C-Section. A good 30-45 mins of focussed activity everyday is a good goal to have with respect to exercise.
Plan for it based on your baby’s schedule and set that time aside. It will not happen otherwise.
3. Be patient and realistic
It has taken 40 weeks for your body to prepare for childbirth and it may take equally long to get back to where you were earlier. Most new mothers may lose up to 2 kgs every month with a balanced diet, moderate exercise and enough rest. So keep your focus only on eating high-quality nutritious foods and keeping yourself hydrated. The results will follow.
So take the time and enjoy this period, eat enough and rest whenever you need to. Start thinking of a structured approach to your fitness regimen and diet.
Like your little one, take baby steps.
It is very important to prioritise sleep now more than ever in order to restore your health. Even a 20-30 minute nap in the afternoons can go a long way in restoring your energy levels. So, don’t try to be ‘super-productive’ all the time, instead focus on your rest. For a good night’s sleep, avoid watching television or using any other gadgets for at least 30 minutes before your bedtime.
5. Have fun
Don’t stress about weight loss. Fun is very important. Take time to watch some TV or read something that you love. Spend time with your spouse. This will help in calming the mind, lowering stress hormones in your body and magically, your metabolism starts improving. I clearly remember watching 1 season of FRIENDS episodes repeatedly over 2 months. I still fondly remember those afternoons and hardly remember anything about all the sleepless nights!
Practice these 5 steps with trust. Slowly and steadily you‘ll see yourself fitting into THAT pair of jeans again!
Lastly, do not use random internet advice.
As a mother, your instincts are now finely tuned to what is good for you and your body. Follow your gut and keep it simple.
It does take a lot of courage to become a mom. And isn’t it amazing that you’ve just created magic by bringing another life into this world? So, respect and appreciate your body and feel special. Because you are!