The Babymoon's Over: Losing Your Pregnancy Weight While Adjusting to Your New Life

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Let me just start this post with full disclosure: I suffered from anorexia from age 17 through age 19, and I didn't really make a full recovery until around age 28. I have Issues With Food. I have Issues With Body Image. And pregnancy (and its accompanying forced, out-of-control body changes and weight gain) was extremely difficult for me to take emotionally. I can still remember sitting on my parents' couch when I was about three months' pregnant and seeing my legs beginning to swell in the evenings and realizing it was not going to get any better for a very, very long time.

To boot, some women's bodies gain a lot of weight with pregnancy, and some stay stick perfect with skinny arms, legs, and face, and a cute little bowling ball under the shirt. I mean, sure, if you eat a pint of ice cream every day, you're going to gain more weight, but some women can eat perfectly healthily and exercise regularly and still gain 45 pounds with a pregnancy. And that can be rough on the old self-esteem, even if it's for a good cause.

For all of those reasons, I really identified with Rebecca from Girl's Gone Child:

I realize the probability of this pregnancy is that I will put on some weight because (duh!) that's what happens when you're pregnant. And, yes, I have come to terms with the fact that my nose will likely swell and my chin will become plural. And I keep reminding myself that that's okay. That's part of what it means to be pregnant. And of course I'm willing to gain the weight. (Of course!) But that doesn't change the fact that a tipping scale is something I am unable to celebrate, even if it means a growing baby, a healthy pregnancy.

So! Everyone hates the thought of losing the extra inevitable weight after pregnancy, but it's hardest for those of us with extreme body issues. If you don't have extreme body issues, this losing-the-baby-weight thing may be a complete nonissue for you. I applaud anyone who doesn't have body issues. I can't imagine what your life is like, but I'm picturing butterflies and fuzzy bunnies featuring prominently. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

If you are struggling with the thought of holding that extra weight for even one day, I'm here to tell you that you NEED to respect your doctor's orders about waiting six weeks to begin exercise. I don't care that Heidi Klum started working out after four weeks. I don't care that Halle Barry started back up again immediately. I care about your ability to hold your pee until you hit the toilet for the rest of your life. Seriously. From our neighbors down under:

It is important to remember that no matter how fit you are on the outside, it is your pelvic floor and back that you are trying to protect. By going back to sport or exercise before these areas have recovered back to normal after the birth, you can cause problems to develop either now or later in life. These could include prolapse, leakage of urine or back pain.

Read the rest of that page if you want to scare yourself into waiting that six weeks. WAIT THE SIX WEEKS. You'll still have time to lose the weight, and you won't make the mistake I did from just walking up a big hill too soon. Trust me on this one.

The best thing you can do, really, in that first six to eight weeks post-partum is DO YOUR KEGELS, buy yourself some clothes that fit and look reasonably attractive, shower every day and wear lipstick. I am so not kidding about this.

From Kathryn:

Finally, you feel pretty gross for awhile. Even if you take the baby for a walk or even eventually make it to the gym later in the day, getting up and showering first thing wakes you up and makes you feel like a real person. Then, you put on your new clothes and you feel pretty good! Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s my post-baby uniform (a variation of which I’m still wearing!)

For the rest of the list, click here.

Once your doctor has cleared you for exercise, you can take the gradual approach or take the extreme approach, as long as you tell your doctor what you plan to do and make sure he or she agrees with your tactics. (Remember that prolapse story.) I took a moderate approach. I started walking three miles and doing Pilates the day after my doctor cleared me, and I moved up to jogging that three miles by the time my daughter was three months old. (I had a newborn jogging stroller that held her carseat from Graco. It was the only one of it's kind back in 2004; they are all over now.) She liked being outside, and having had to sit in a stroller while I jogged since she can remember has helped with the fight now, at four, when I'm still forcing it once a week or so until she can ride her bike up the hills surrounding our house.

Whatever you do, start as you mean to continue. I think that's a good rule for anything in life. Take on the amount of exercise you think you can maintain going forward. Your baby will adapt to whatever workout routine you include her in. I did Pilates in 15-minute chunks throughout the day when my daughter was fussy. She has always had to be patient while I do my Pilates or go along with me for my jogs. She doesn't question it now. And my favorite part? She does her "exercises," too. Remember - you're not just doing this exercise and losing this weight for you -- you're teaching your child that exercise and good nutrition are part of life. That's an amazing gift to give a kid in today's world.

I found reading other people's stories was really important. There was part of me that wondered if the celebrity back-to-hot-in-two-weeks was really possible, and maybe I just sucked. Reading real-life stories was really helpful.

Here's one end of the spectrum: the story of an athlete getting back into shape in public.

I agreed to capture my postpartum training days on video in order to show the reality—good and bad—of this humbling time in my life. I started back slowly with an emphasis on bodyweight conditioning in order to rebuild my core strength after the cesarean. Plus, I wanted my pull-ups back so that was my first goal. It was great to return to some old school weightlifting too. I never expected that I would be able to pull 2x my bodyweight off the ground as a nursing mother.

If you're not a fitness expert and want some goals that are a little more reasonable, I like this approach from PunkieMommie:

I have stubbornly refused to adhere to any food expectations or to judge my appetite, even throughout pregnancy as I watched my weight climb to 175. But as I said above, it’s time to get my weight back to something close to what it was pre-pregnancy because I’m not willing to replace my entire pre-pregnancy wardrobe. So how do I go about losing weight. (sic) Yikes. I don’t know!! So I’ve decided on a few things that I’m willing to do, and if they don’t seem to be working in a couple of weeks, I’ll revisit this.

For the list, click here.

Whatever approach you decide to take, have an approach if you want to lose that weight. Some women will lose it naturally, and if you do, that's awesome. It's not as unheard of as you might think. If you're the type whose body naturally holds onto weight, don't fret. But have at it. Do something every day toward your goal. If you're breastfeeding and ravenous, I understand. EAT. But drink a lot of water, too, and once you're cleared, get that baby out for a walk every day. And then, after you've hit the place on the scale where you want to be, keep getting that baby out for a walk. Do it to show him or her that exercise should be a part of life. It's a wonderful gift you can give your baby. Start as you mean to continue.

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