The phrase “body after baby” has been so corrupted by the media that it usually means some sort of crash-diet and insane-exercise plan to get back to a size zero and six-pack abs three weeks after giving birth for some celebrity with a live-in nanny and a raw food chef on speed-dial. Don’t worry, my body is not that kind of body after baby (although a raw food chef would be so fun to have at my beck and call).
But the truth is, I had a pregnancy that wasn’t very conducive to staying fit and healthy. I’m not trying to make excuses (okay, maybe a little), but between my unrelenting, all-day, all-pregnancy morning sickness that made it nearly impossible to eat anything but refined carbs and my pelvic condition that make it hard to even walk from the bedroom to the bathroom, let alone workout, the weight piled on for me during pregnancy. And even more important to me than that, my fitness and general health plummeted—I had a scare with preeclampsia during labor, and I figure my inactive lifestyle and poor diet during pregnancy probably contributed to that.
I pretty much took a nine month, forced vacation from my healthy lifestyle, and man, I can feel it. My joints ache. I’m tired—and not just new-mom sleep-deprived tired. I have no energy. My hair is dull and lifeless. My nails are breaking all the time. My skin doesn’t have the nice, healthy girl glow it once had. I just don’t feel good. And I used to feel really good.
And then there is the weight thing. I don’t really put a lot of value in weight as an indicator of health on a global scale, but I do think it’s possible to use weight as one guidepost (among many) to help you gauge your health on an individual basis. I know what number feels good on my body. It’s the number where my knees stop hurting, my energy spikes, and I can enjoy going on a strenuous hike. And that number is about 50 pounds away from where I am right now—30 pounds of that is baby weight and the other 20 is extra weight I was carrying around before I got pregnant.
It was important to me to give myself a pass of the first few months of motherhood. I’ve spent the past 10 1/2 weeks not even a little worried about my health or weight. I ate what I wanted to eat (well, other than the stuff I’ve had to cut out because of breastfeeding). I worked out if I felt like it. I took walks when I could. I drank water when I remembered. Instead of focusing on my health, I’ve taken this time to really try to acclimate myself to motherhood and bond with my new family. And I think that time has been vital to my (what I think is) healthy and positive postpartum mindset. And thanks to breastfeeding, I’ve managed to drop about 30 pounds of pregnancy weight without even thinking about it (yes, I gained 60 pounds total during pregnancy).
When we first came home with JuneBug, I gave myself a deadline. I said that I’d try to get back to living a healthier life by her three-month birthday—and if I got the urge earlier, I’d go with it. Turns out, here I am two weeks shy of my deadline, and I’ve got the fitness itch again! Yay! I’m so glad I took the time to just focus on being a mom and letting my whole world revolve around my daughter, but I think it’s now time to slowly bring back in taking care of myself, and that includes getting healthy again.
I’ve been thinking of a plan for the past few days, and it’s really nothing ground-breaking. It’s doing the same things I did the first time I had 50 pounds to lose—only adapted to take into account the fact that I’m taking care of a tiny human.
Track my food—I loathe counting calories, but the fact is, when it comes to food, I have a quantity problem, not a quality problem. I eat tons of high-quality, healthy, clean, real foods. And that’s the problem—I eat a ton. Too much of healthy food is still too much food. I’ve always struggled with portion control, and the only way I’ve ever found to really get over those issues is to diligently track my food for a chunk of time to reacclimate my eyes and stomach to eating a reasonable amount of food. It’s not forever, but it is an important tool for me to start out with. With breastfeeding burning an extra 500 calories per day, plus my height, I actually have a very comfortable calorie range of between 2100-2300 calories per day I’d like to hit. While counting calories to help drop weight is the main reason I’m going to track my food, it’s also vital for me to track calories to make sure I’m eating enough food (and getting enough protein and fat) as to not cause any issues with my milk supply. Sure, I’d like to get fitter, but I definitely don’t want to do anything to jeopardize breastfeeding. It’s a delicate balance to strike, and I don’t quite trust myself to strike that balance intuitively (yet).
Reduce sugar—I’m not one to believe a few sugary treats is going to derail a healthy lifestyle, but I do think my diet has been a little too sugar focused lately. I’d like to cut back on the amount of sugary treats (and I’m not just talking white sugar, I’m talking honey, maple syrup, etc.), and make them more of an accent to my diet.
Drink more water—One of the biggest keys to my earlier weight loss success was keeping very well hydrated. I’m not dehydrated now (I get my 8-10 cups a day), but I could definitely be better about it. I feel SO much better when my body is properly hydrated. And I have to remember that since I’m breastfeeding, and carrying around more weight, my body requires even more water than it did before.
Get back to food prepping—It may seem silly to prep food and pack my lunch considering I work from home, but I think going through the process of thinking about everything I’d eat in a day in order to pack my lunch when I was working in an office really helped keep me on track. Now, I can graze all day, or, more commonly, I can skip meals all day because I’m busy, and then eat a huge dinner to make up for it—neither of those are very healthy. Have a food regimen during the day is really helpful for me.
Two solo workouts per week—Fitting in workouts is a big struggle for me. It always has been (mostly because I don’t really enjoy working out just for the sake of working out). Even though I know fitness is important, it always seems to fall to the bottom of my priority list. There always seems to be something that seems more important to do at the time. So, for now, I’m going to start off small. Two, 30 minute workouts per week—just to get myself back in the habit. And maybe once I remember how good working out makes me feel, I’ll want to devote more time.
One family workout per week—It’s important to both Craig and I to model an active lifestyle to JuneBug. And that’s why we want to get back to being active together. Plus, like I said above, I much prefer having an active lifestyle as opposed to just working out for the sake of burning calories. Before I got pregnant—and sick—each week we’d try to do something active together (go for a hike, go to the school track and walk or run, go for a family walk at the park, etc.) and I’d like to get back to that. We’ve implemented one “family day” per week (see below), where neither of us work, and I think that’ll be a good day to get in our family workout, too.
10 minutes of activity per day—The nature of the beast of my job is that I sit down, a lot. I’m always at the computer. It has definitely improved now that I have a baby to walk around and bounce, but I’m still guilty of not spending nearly enough time in the day being active. Just like my first fitness goal, I want to start off small. At least 10 minutes of some kind of activity per day. And hopefully I’ll build up to more! I also want to start wearing my pedometer again to encourage me to not sit around so much.
30 minutes of self-care time per day—I was bad about taking care of my self pre-baby, and now, any semblance of time to myself has completely flown out the window. I understand that isn’t healthy at all (and not a good example to set for my daughter), so I want to make an effort to take at least a half hour a day to do something just for me. Maybe that’s a workout. Maybe it’s just sitting outside reading a magazine while I eat lunch. Maybe it’s taking a nap. It’s amazing how 30 minutes of doing something just for the fun of it can be refreshing.
One “family day” per week—With the hub-bub of every day, it can be really easy to let weeks go by without devoting time to family fun. Sure, we have little fun moments everyday, but both Craig and I want to start having one day a week where the computers get put away, and we head out and do something fun as a family. Since neither of us work a “real” job with clear lines that divide workdays from weekends, it can be hard for us to shut down and take a break. So we’re making our own weekend (well, at least a weekend day).
One fun self-care reward per month—For each month I mostly stay on track, I’d like to reward myself with something self-care related. Maybe it’s a pedicure. Or a new piece of clothing. Or a new book. Something that is just for me.
And that’s it! Nothing earth-shattering. And definitely nothing crazy. My hope is that within the next 12-18 months I can get back to being my healthy, fit self—and maybe even end up as a healthier version of me than I was before I got pregnant. I’ll need the extra energy to chase around a toddler!