I recently had a baby. Everyone who knows that and even strangers who see me with my baby consistently comment that I don’t look like I’ve had a baby. It’s true. Within two weeks, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight and legitimately did not look like I had a baby. I will tell you my not so secret secrets. First, I need to tell you that I’m not blessed with good genes. Well, I’m blessed with many good genes, but not when it comes to weight management. Every woman in my family struggles with their weight to some extent. When it came to my pregnancy and these post-partum weeks, this is what worked for me…..
- I did not use pregnancy as an excuse to go off the rails. We are such a diet happy society and I choose not to live by food rules. By using the principles of Intuitive Eating before, during and after pregnancy, there is no need to do this because everything is in moderation. You can have your chocolate, but because you know you can have chocolate any time you wish, you don’t feel compelled to eat the entire bag. Nothing is ever off limits for me, so “forbidden foods” don’t hold any power. Paying attention to hunger and fullness signals as well as listening to what your body needs (not what your head wants) helps keep this all on balance.
- I continued regular physical activity. I get it. Pregnancy is uncomfortable physically and there were times that exercise was the last thing I wanted to do, but it is exactly what I need to feel better. Physical activity is a well-documented strategy to help with all sorts of physical discomfort. As a side benefit, it also helps improve sleep….something all pregnant women can use. Of course, I could no longer take my bike out for a spin, so I rode it on my trainer in the basement until I was about eight and a half months pregnant and my ligaments relaxed too much to be comfortable. I continued to lift weights (listening to my body and adjusting the weight and intensity). I walked my dog for at least 30 minutes per day. Movement is crucial to alleviate stress and it helps prevent fluid retention. I didn’t have any swelling in my hands or feet and I am convinced it is because I drank plenty of water and moved frequently throughout the day. I also went back to walking my dog right after delivery and resumed strength training about a week and a half after my son’s birth. Of course, we need to listen to our bodies, so I don’t exercise as hard or as long as I once did.
- I didn’t opt for convenience foods. When we are worn out, the drive through and packaged foods look pretty tempting, but there are so many chemicals in our food today. I struggled with infertility for over 4 years before I became pregnant, so my husband and I read every label and researched foods before I ate them. It was pretty militant and super frustrating at times, but at 35 and with a history of infertility, I wasn’t taking any chances with my baby’s development. As a result, even though I was a pretty balanced eater before pregnancy, we ate at home even more than normal and I opted for whole foods as much as possible. I really paid attention to my baby’s nutritional needs every day. After he was born, I relaxed, but I still opt for whole foods and I make sure I get at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, as well as plenty of calcium.
- Stress rules. The hormone fluctuations in pregnancy could drive even the sanest person batty, but using skills to manage stress effectively, can make all of the difference during and after pregnancy. We were remodeling our house the entire time I was pregnant. In fact, our baby came two weeks early, so I stayed with him at my husband’s aunt’s house for the first week of his life because our house was still a disaster (thanks again, Karri!!). This could have been extremely stressful, but keeping everything in perspective and letting the little things go not only saves you from getting upset, but it also keeps emotional eating to a minimum. This also helps keep our adrenalin and cortisol in check which limits additional weight gain.
- Sleep is crucial. They say, “sleep when the baby sleeps”. This is much easier said than done! I have NEVER been a good sleeper. I have an overactive brain and if anything wakes me up, I can be awake for hours, if I ever get back to sleep. This only got worse during my pregnancy. Between waking up in the night to use the bathroom and eating a snack to prevent nausea, I really struggled to get back to sleep. I was starting to go a bit nutty. I did a lot of research and decided to try Neurofeedback. It is a treatment that helps regulate your brain waves. For me this meant calming my overactive brain. It was amazing! I still struggled with sleep to some extent because I was physically uncomfortable at the end of my pregnancy, but something magical happened to my brain. I have been able to sleep when my baby sleeps! I never thought this would be possible. I get roughly 7-8 hours of sleep per night (granted it is broken up, but this is still amazing for me!). If you have any trouble sleeping, I highly recommend Neurofeedback!
- I nurse my baby. I’m sure you have heard all about the benefits of breastfeeding. This last piece has been absolutely critical in allowing my body to rebound. I know that a lot of women struggle with this part, but I think the key is starting right away. I started within minutes of the delivery and I think that has allowed it to go very smoothly. I also make sure I drink about 3 liters of water daily (boy does it make you thirsty) and I pump between feedings to make sure I have an adequate milk supply. This keeps my metabolism revved as well.
Of course, we are all different, but I know all of these practices helped me throughout my pregnancy and continue to help me daily. If we take care of our body, it will take care of us!