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Having a baby is a beautiful experience, yet its impact on your body can leave you feeling anything but beautiful. Pippa Naudé roped in some expert advice on how you have the power to change this!
Most moms are unhappy with their body post-partum – as many as 72%, according to a Parents magazine survey of 3,500 moms in the US. The same survey found that, after their family’s wellbeing, 48% said being their ideal weight would make them happiest.
This kind of dissatisfaction can be made worse by the fact that many moms feel unable to shed the extra weight. With so many responsibilities to juggle, they have little time or energy to prioritise their own health and wellbeing.
However, losing weight after a baby is doable – the key is to find something that will work for you – like Melanie and Carmelita did.
Gains, losses and a win
“I’ve been on different diets all my life and although I would lose weight initially, I found them impossible to maintain,” says Melanie de Bruin (27, Ballito). When Melanie fell pregnant with Izabella, she decided to enjoy her pregnancy and not obsess about her weight. She gained 35kg, but was not worried initially. “Everyone told me I would lose the weight quickly when I started breastfeeding,” she says. “But that was not the case. It stuck.”
Melanie discovered a nutritionist who tailors eating plans to suit individual lifestyles – including for breastfeeding moms. She decided to try it. “Within six months I lost all the pregnancy weight and more,” she says.
Adopting and maintaining this eating plan has been easy for her. “It’s different to previous diets because I actually eat a lot (five meals a day). I don’t count calories, I haven’t cut out carbs completely, and I’ve realised that eating isn’t cheating!”
She no longer suffers from fainting or dizzy spells, and has more energy, which she needs with a busy two-year-old.
Melanie also squeezes in home workouts when she can, usually while her daughter has breakfast and watches cartoons.
Fit, trim and in business
Carmelita Williams (34, Mossel Bay) was devastated when her second pregnancy ended with a stillbirth at full term. It triggered her weight-gain story: she put on weight, lost it through training with her husband, Earl, and regained it with her subsequent pregnancy. Fortunately, this pregnancy went well and she delivered a healthy little girl – Tyler is now 6; little sister to Jordan-Li (14).
After Tyler’s birth, Carmelita started training again. She chose to do weight training and plyometrics (also known as ‘jump training’) to build muscle and increase her metabolism. She designed an eating plan similar to paleo… and people noticed the difference.
Women would ask for advice and help, which she gave them. Fast forward a few years and she now runs herown Tabata Fitness Studio.
“I’m proud that I was able to do this all naturally, and can now help other women do the same,” she says.
Getting back into shape after having a baby often involves making small, realistic lifestyle changes, like the ones exercise specialist and mom Lisa Raleigh recommends. She says, “Your body takes a transformative journey of nine months when growing your baby, and allowing yourself at least that same timeframe to work on yourself is a sensible goal.”
In July 2016 Lisa became a first-time mom – an experience that prompted her to launch Mumentoes, a wellness educational platform for new families and parents-to-be, and to design the Body Back programme for moms who want to get their pre-pregnancy body back, and which is launching this August. Lisa offers the following practical advice for moms wanting to shed some weight.
- Don’t rush it
Your body needs approximately four to six weeks to heal after birth. Then, after you get the all-clear from your doctor, start with gentle exercise only. However, this isn’t an excuse to be immobile. Stand and walk as soon as possible. This may seem extreme, especially after a C-section, but it will activate your muscles, boost your circulation and speed up your recovery.
- Start small
Begin with simple exercises. These two are so discreet you can do them in the grocery check-out line:
- Kegels: Celebrated as the exercise that can improve your sex life, kegels strengthen your pelvic floor and help regain elasticity. Less glamorously, they can also prevent or reduce the incontinence some women experience after childbirth. Simply squeeze your pelvic muscles tight as if attempting to stop the flow of urine. None of your abdominal, buttock or thigh muscles should clench. Practise this as small contractions in rapid succession, and slower ones held for 3 – 10 seconds at a time.
- Tummy tucks: Suck in your stomach as if you are pulling your bellybutton towards your spine. Hold it for a few moments while breathing regularly, and then slowly release. This works out your transverse abdominis, the ‘corset muscle’ that is responsible for flattening your stomach. Your tummy will be sensitive, so use gentle movements.
- Short bursts work
You don’t need an uninterrupted hour a day of exercise to keep fit. A few slots of 10 minutes while baby naps can be just as effective, and are easier to commit to.
In 10 minute slots, you can do gentle stretches for the whole body, as well as squats, lunges, push-ups and dips. Add dumbbells to increase the intensity. Rebounding (bouncing on a small trampoline) is also a good way to start building strength with minimal impact on your joints. And when baby is awake, put her in a stroller and take her for a walk outdoors.
If you are more advanced, include HIIT-focused (high intensity interval training) workouts into your routine, which save time and push your heartrate up so you burn more fat in less time.
- Refuel responsibly
As well as exercise, it’s important to eat nutritious food. Be prepared, and plan and prep healthy meals in advance. If there are only healthy options on hand, it’s hard to reach for anything else.
Limit refined carbs and sugar where you can, as they spike your energy levels and affect your mood. Eat a fruit or veggie with every meal – when you do this, you’ll be surprised how little space there is left for rubbish!
In addition to Lisa’s advice, remember to be kind to yourself, but stay committed. If you are still struggling to lose weight after some time, consider consulting a fitness expert or nutritionist to find out what other lifestyle changes you can make.