Pregnancy is a beautiful thing; our bodies transform into cozy homes for our growing babies. When it’s over, though, and I’m changing clothes for the umpteenth time in one day because my little bundle of joy spit up on me (again), I’m just wondering why in the world I can’t fit into any of the clothes in my closet.
Getting our pre-baby bodies back is a process. We can’t cheat and reach that magic number on the scale overnight. Getting our energy, fitness, waistline and confidence back takes commitment, but I can promise you – as a two-time survivor of a postpartum slim down – the results are well worth the effort.
Before diving into what helped me get back into my skinny jeans, it’s important to mention that you should wait for the all-clear from your doctor before beginning any postpartum exercise. Starting too early can lead to injuries or tearing, which will put you on the bench even longer. Your first weeks postpartum are uninterrupted time to bond with your new baby and your body’s chance to heal. Give yourself a break; you just had a nine-month workout with a sprint to the finish.
In addition, I’m a firm believer that your weight loss goal should focus more on health than a number on a scale. If, after reaching your goal weight, you are finding it difficult to maintain, you may have overshot. Listen to your body and steer clear of anything promising a quick slim down. If you achieve health and fit back into your pre-baby clothes on your own, you’ll be proud and confident, and aren’t those the kind of traits we want our growing babies to see in their moms?
Fueling your body
Drink water. Easy enough, right? You wouldn’t believe how many days I got swamped and forgot to drink water. I now pour myself a glass of water first thing in the morning – even before my coffee…GASP! Water keeps you hydrated, improves your skin and can help you feel full.
Don’t count calories. Aren’t you busy enough already without math homework? Unless your doctor has assigned a specific diet, put your calculators away, ladies. Everything is OK in moderation; I know if I deprive my body of something I really want, like cookies, I will go nuts and eat a dozen in one sitting. If you want a cookie, have a cookie – just resist having the entire batch. Make sure you’re eating a variety of healthy foods – not empty calories – and be mindful of your milk supply if you’re breastfeeding. ChooseMyPlate has some great pointers for nutrition while breastfeeding.
Revamp your recipes. I’ve made many simple switches for my family that cut unnecessary calories and fat while increasing nutrients without sacrificing taste. In baked goods, I use unsweetened applesauce in place of butter, oil and, occasionally, eggs. Non-fat Greek yogurt is a perfect replacement for sour cream, cream cheese or mayonnaise, and it’s packed with protein, which can help you feel fuller longer. We also use whole wheat pastas, brown rice and protein-packed quinoa over white rice and pasta. And we swap a meat entrée for legumes a few times a week – it’s an easy trade in some of our favorites: enchiladas and stuffed peppers. There was only a temporary, minor protest from my “meat and potatoes” hubby.
Perfect your posture. Lingering pregnancy-induced lordosis – the common arch in your low back that causes you to push your tummy out, weak core muscles and carrying a baby around all day can lead to “mommy posture.” Do like mama told you: stand up straight, roll your shoulders back and down, and pull your bellybutton in towards your spine (like you’re sucking in to button your jeans – you know what I’m talking about). Check yourself several times throughout the day, and fix your posture if it’s out of whack. Good posture will get you a flatter stomach sooner since you’re strengthening your core without even breaking a sweat!
Take quality over quantity. If you can do sit-ups all day, you’re either an Olympic athlete or you’re not doing it right. Good form will get you the results you want much faster than just going through the motions.
Exercise according to your schedule. Hit the gym on the way to work, hit the pavement for a run (with your jogging stroller, of course) or hit “play” and work out along with a video. I prefer working out at home – a combination of cardio and strength training five to six days per week for roughly 30 minutes each time – because I can do it anytime I have time: during my kids’ naptime, before they wake up in the morning (don’t ask me how many times that’s actually happened) or after their bedtime.
Modify. Ease your body back into exercise. Push-ups are a great example. You can do a beginner version on your knees, then graduate to a traditional push-up, and when you’re ready, lift one leg off of the ground at a time for a little extra credit.
As with any weight loss goal, anticipate a plateau. I seemed to hang on to that last 10 pounds for weeks, and it was incredibly frustrating. For a little extra motivation, involve your family and friends in your weight loss journey. When they know your goals, they’re less likely to pressure you into that ever-so-small piece of cake.
When you do give yourself the green light for that sliver of cake, let yourself really enjoy it! If you scold yourself the entire time, then what’s the point? If you work hard, don’t beat yourself up for occasionally indulging or skipping a workout when you’re exhausted. You make your choices, and if you’re happy where you are, your good enough is good enough!