After having three pregnancies and four kids in the span of five years I have learned a thing or two about regaining your shape after having a baby. Unfortunately it has taken me until now (and a twin pregnancy) to truly respect what my body has done for me and be okay with my curvier shape. The good news is I can share some real life advice with you!
Often the only green light we wait for after having a baby is that six week postpartum doctor’s appointment, getting the go ahead to be able to exercise. But there is so much more! Here is a list of acts of kindness that I strongly urge you to do for yourself before starting up an exercise routine to set yourself up for success.
1. Start a journal. Keep track of your emotional forecast. Right now your hormone levels are still working themselves out. Quickly jot down how you feel each day and what parts of the day you feel the most ambitious and energetic. After doing this for a little while you will probably see a pattern. Pick that part of your day that you are at your peak to squeeze in some exercise. For me it is early morning before everyone in our home is awake. For you it might be your baby’s nap time or at the end of the day. Also journal what you are eating each day and how much water you are drinking. It may surprise you how many snacks you are sneaking when you are recording it. Keep track of how you feel after each meal as well. Did you feel sleepy and sluggish after that big plate of pasta? Did you feel energized after that salad with grilled chicken breast?
2. Buy yourself a pretty and comfortable workout outfit that fits you now. It took me a long time to learn this one. I have some very stylish pre-twin-pregnancy workout clothes that are still a little snug on me. I have made a point to get a comfy and flattering workout outfit that fits me now so I feel confident when I go for a jog around our neighbourhood or even just do some exercises in our home. Are you really going to feel motivated going for a jog in your too tight yoga pants and your husband’s sloppy, oversized t-shirt?
3. Have your thyroid levels checked. This is a biggie. It is very common for pregnancy to throw off thyroid levels and that can wreak havoc on your energy levels, cause hair loss, slow weight loss and more. For me, each of my pregnancies has thrown off my thyroid. The biggest postpartum hyperthyroid symptom I have experienced is gastrointestinal pains. Just ask your doctor to make sure your thyroid hasn’t been impacted by your pregnancy.
4. Put your scale in your basement. Or somewhere in your home that isn’t too convenient. It’s easy to say don’t weigh yourself, but come on, let’s be real. We are all curious about that elusive number, especially after pregnancy. Aim to weigh yourself every other week or so at the most. Just go by how you feel and how clothes are fitting to asses your progress.
5. Don’t make a big announcement. I have been guilty of this one on many occasions. I’ll announce to my friends that I am not having that dessert that they have offered me because I am going to lose all my baby weight by yesterday. Don’t do it. It puts too much pressure on you.
6. Start a hobby that isn’t exercise and brings you joy. Having a new baby involves giving an incredible amount of yourself each day. It is so important that you don’t get lost in the process. Once the dust has settled a little, try to find time to do something for you, whether it’s reading a book, being creative or even getting out an evening here and there baby free with your friends. If you are already feeling happy and balanced, then sticking with an exercise routine is much easier than waiting to hit that goal weight for happiness, only to be left feeling empty.
7. Have your iron levels checked. Sorry, TMI, but this one has been life changing for me. For most women, after having a baby your menstrual cycle is heavier. Try having two and then twins. I finally discovered that this horrible run down feeling I was having once a month was beyond the regular PMS symptoms I used to get. I now take iron supplements around that time each month and skip the crash and burn. This one is worth having a discussion with your doctor about.
8. Get your diet and portion control in check. During each of my pregnancies I have relished in the freedom of eating large portions and basically whatever tickles my fancy. But once I am on the other side of having a baby, it’s time to get those eating habits under control. I have found doing a few months of Weight Watchers (not sponsored) after each pregnancy is a great way of yanking me out of my food hangover. This is also a program that supports breastfeeding and will make sure you are getting enough calories so your supply doesn’t dwindle. Regardless of which approach you take to help your eating habits, make sure you reassess and make sure you are not eating enough for two anymore.
9. Rethink your pre-pregnancy wardrobe. We have all heard those urban legends about women who leave the hospital in her pre-pregnancy jeans, right? I’m not her. I recently went through my wardrobe and made the decision to get rid of those super low rise jeans I have been holding onto for six years without wearing. Everything on my body has moved about four inches south. I used to be apple shaped and now I am pear shaped. Although my size may reflect my old self, my style and fit of jeans is more in the high rise arena… and that is okay with me.
10. Reflect on the pregnancy journey your body was on and respect it. Don’t forget, your body just spent nine months with your resting heart working 40% harder, your blood volume almost doubled, the amount of air moving in and out of your lungs doubled, your skin has stretched a ton, oh, and you have created a tiny perfect human. Reflect on what your body just did and be PATIENT!