By Emily Saunders
As a new mom to two I am asked regularly about the things I’m doing to get back into shape and how to lose weight post-baby. I will tell you right now that there is no magic pill or formula and that I truly believe that the WORST thing a new mom can do is cut out all carbs and start dieting. On the other hand, I personally don’t believe that every female’s body needs the standard 6 weeks of recovery time to return to exercise. Some need more and some need less. So- rather than sharing a magic formula, I’m going to share a few of my biggest insights and the stories of two of our awesome Momsanity Sisters whose journeys I really enjoyed following throughout their pregnancies.
- Habits BEFORE and DURING pregnancy>Postpartum Those who embrace healthy habits before pregnancy and continue throughout tend to bounce back quickly and have an easier time exercising and losing weight. Avoid extremes- calorie cutting and exercising like crazy and focus on resting, good nutrition and moving on a daily basis. Outside walks are awesome for those first couple of weeks!
- The Postpartum Recovery Period Varies Widely. With my first son I did not begin exercising until about 4 weeks postpartum. After my 2nd son my body recovered much more quickly and I was able to start light exercise much more quickly. This also goes with #1.
- Be Smart. Listen to Your Body. Start Slowly. I typically begin exercising with light walking and simple body weight movements before moving on to incline walking and light weights, then modified sprints and moderate weights before moving into my normal routine. This process takes about 6 to 8 weeks.
- Avoid Targeted Core Work. Whether or not you have issues with diastasis recti, your abdominal muscles need plenty of time to recover. Modified planks and push ups plus overhead movements and full body exercises are plenty of core work for the first couple of months.
- Relish in Grace. Rather than shun your body for the way it looks or its lack of strength or shape postpartum, praise it for what it has done and what it CAN do. Give yourself a virtual high 5 for each baby step along the way. Your body is amazing!
Since this was my 2nd pregnancy, there are things I learned the 1st time around that I knew I didn’t want to repeat. The “eating for two” mentality is NOT true! Yes, you need to eat slightly more, but I took that way too far my 1st pregnancy. Eating “more” during my 2nd pregnancy looked something like this: maybe a couple oz more of burger with dinner, a whole banana instead of half, or a piece of gluten free bread with dinner. I also tried to stay active in some way at least 6 days a week. Usually that looked something like weight lifting 2 to 3 times a week, and lots of family walks. Even just parking my car further in the parking lot to the grocery store made a difference. Getting out of a chair and being on my feet as much as my body would allow turned out to be my saving grace once it came time to start recovery once I had delivered my baby. I always watched my heartrate (for me that was my biggest indicator of if I was approaching my limit during workouts while pregnant) and took longer rests during my workouts the more pregnant I became. I ended up having a 14 hour labor this time around, and I will be the first to say that walking laps around the hospital wing, squatting during contractions, and balancing over the toilet would have been completely OUT if I hadn’t of stayed so active during my pregnancy!
After I delivered, I really tried to stay off Google and instead listen to my body when it came time to start being active. I began the nutrition immediately, however. Even while in the hospital, I chose to eat foods like fruits, spinach, and lean meats. Partially because I know breastfed babies are commonly sensitive to dairy and excessive amounts of sugar, but also because I knew the faster I fed my body the right nutrients, the faster I would bounce back. My delivery was relatively uncomplicated so I started very light weight lifting workouts about 1.5 weeks after delivery. Again, I think listening to one’s body is key. If you body is saying “rest”, then REST! When I’m not pregnant, I normally use 15 to 20lb weights. During the 3rd trimester, I was using 12lb weights. After baby and until I worked up to my normal amount, I began with 5 and 10lb weights for my workouts. I started with a couple days a week and incorporating short walks until I was no longer bleeding. I then increased the intensity. I chose low-impact Momsanity workouts during that first month, which gave me the energy pick-up I needed (let’s face it- moms with newborns NEED energy!!!).
To all pregnant and new moms out there- I think that nursing like crazy (and for me personally- avoiding dairy, corn, wheat, caffeine, chocolate, and refined foods because my little love is especially sensitive), lifting heavy weights 3x a week and being active at least 6x a week in some way is KEY. Eating smaller portions, trying to avoid meals after 6:30pm, limiting sugars, and not focusing on losing “weight” really have become a mantra. I say just enjoy your little blessing while doing the above!
When I found out I was pregnant with my 3rd child I continued to exercise normally, or as normally as I could dealing with severe nausea for 15 weeks, and ate as healthy as my food aversions would allow me. I limited my processed food and sugar intake making sure I ate carbohydrates often and tried to get as much lean proteins and vegetables as I could. I also made sure I was drinking plenty of water. After the nausea passed I exercised the same as I did before becoming pregnant using heavy weights and doing high intensity short workouts 3-4xs per week. My eating improved as I was able to cut down on the carboydrates and stomach more proteins and vegetables.
After I gave birth to my 3rd son I gave myself permission for the first time to actually have down time and be lazy, which can be hard when you have two other kids to look after. I did however start to workout again a week after giving birth only twice a week using body weight only for my legs, planks for my abs and using slightly lighter weights for my upper body. I avoided jumping around and anything that would get my heart rate up until I was cleared by my midwife at 4 weeks. At that point the high intensity heavy weighted workouts began again and I aimed for 3-4 workouts a week which I still continue to do, but now I aim for 4-5 workouts a week.
After giving birth I ate what I wanted and when I wanted within reason. I didn’t go crazy, but I allowed myself a few more carbohydrates and some yummy cheats. After about a week of this I began to eat normally again, but knowing I needed a few more calories allowed myself to eat more of the good stuff…fruits, vegetables and proteins. After I established a good milk supply and had given myself 2 months to just focus on feeding my baby and making sure he was growing healthy I began to focus a bit more on myself and tightened up my eating a bit more. I focused on eating 6 servings of protein a day, mostly lean protein, 4 servings of fat, and 4 servings of healthy carbohydrates such as oatmeal and fruit. I do enjoy a cheat meal once a week and give myself grace when I don’t fit in all of my desired workouts, especially during cold season with a newborn. Life happens and missing a week or two of workouts is not the end of the world.
One thing I have found during this pregnancy, birth and postpartum journey is that I have focused less on how my body looks and focused more on how amazing it is. Changing how I viewed my body has brought me more joy and contentment then I had with either of my other two pregnancies (I don’t feel a need to compare my journey to any other womans). The extra weight has also come off a lot faster and easier. Every woman is different as are our journeys. ADMIRE your body and the beautiful new life it has grown. Give yourself GRACE and savor this time because it goes by all to quickly