Thursday, September 27, 2018

How I lost the baby weight


I think pregnancy bumps are cute. There, I said it. I haven't met a bump I didn't love. Small, large, everything in between, I always wanted one from the time I was a little girl. I think pregnancy is one of the most beautiful and amazing things our bodies could ever do. We as women can grow a human inside of our bodies, deliver that baby, and feed that child through breastfeeding. How crazy is that? I told my husband in an awed whisper that when my daughter was forming in my womb, so were her eggs. "I am housing our grandchildren right now," I said teary eyed.

You could say I romanticized the entire thing. I truly didn't know what my body was going to get into when I first became pregnant. I didn't expect throwing up in my work bathroom every single morning for a few weeks without being able to tell anyone, having to go to physical therapy, and hormones turning me into an unpredictable mess. I would sometimes laugh so hard my body would get confused, and I would start sobbing. Even though it wasn't exactly what I expected, I respected my body for what it was going through. I was growing life inside me, and every (hard) kick my daughter delivered to my ribs was a reminder of that. Giving birth was the same for me. Very different than I expected, but helped me respect my body even more.

Why then, was I so hard on myself after I gave birth? I was embarrassed by my stretch marks. "Tiger stripes, my butt" I would grumble. I often compared myself to other pregnant women. "My bump was so large compared to her's, she lost the weight so fast, why isn't she crying every day like I am from my hormone dump?" I wasn't being fair to myself. I wasn't loving my body and giving it time to adjust back to normal. It's like I had forgotten that for the better half of a year, my body was the home of another life and needed time to heal.

At six months postpartum I decided I was going to make a change. I went on a diet and started working out several times a week. Turns out, it did a little too much. I lost weight and I felt great exercising again, but I overdid it and my milk supply tanked. I wasn't consuming enough calories. I was unwilling to let my health goals take priority over me feeding my daughter, and I had to rethink some things.

So I did. I took it easier. I began to be kinder to myself. I let myself eat a variety of foods, trying to make healthier choices along the way without restricting myself. I began to tell myself that I had just had a baby, and there was no rush for me to "bounce back". I took some walks with my stroller to get out of the house and enjoy the parks we live near rather than doing HIIT workouts. I lifted my daughter and blew raspberries on her tummy instead of lifting weights. The crazy thing is, over time I got those "mom arms" I desired. Climbing our stairs became easier and I wasn't as out of breath.

One day I went to weigh my daughter in between doctor visits. I tend to do that by holding her while stepping on a scale and then weighing myself without her, subtracting the difference. My eyes widened when I realized that in a few months I had lost twenty pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight. I couldn't believe it. I was just three pounds higher than the weight I was when I was married five years prior.

The moral of the story is, once I started enjoying life and being kinder to myself things changed for me. I am not knocking going to the gym or making dietary changes. I am simply making the case that I got a lot further with a healthy mindset of loving my body and enjoying being active with my daughter instead of punishing myself by depriving my body of what it needs, and overextending it.

People in my life have recently noticed the changes my body has gone through, and asked me what I have been doing. I have not fully reached my health goals, but am proud of the progress I have made. With all of that being said, here is what worked for me (NOTE: I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian, consult a doctor before making any changes):

Breastfeeding. Seriously. Breastfeeding can burn 300-500 calories a day. I am still breastfeeding, with plans to continue until my daughter is one year old. You need to drink a ton of water while breastfeeding so I was always hydrated too. Bonus!

Cutting out dairy. Turns out dairy, according to my lactation consultant, is one of the most common causes of fussiness in breastfed babies. This was an understatement with my daughter. Several nights in a row she would sleep for only 45 minutes at a time, and I couldn't seem to pinpoint the cause. The lactation consultant told me to try to eliminate dairy but I didn't want to part from my beloved cheese. Let's just say that one night when I was kept up until 6 am with no sleep, I dropped dairy out of my diet altogether. She didn't tolerate it again until 10 months, and I didn't crave it as often by that point. Turns out a lot of unhealthy foods that I craved included dairy: pasta, pizza, baked goods, heck even sandwiches. I usually had to eat at home or make healthier choices as a result. Everyone's body is different, but I noticed a huge change in my body from cutting down on my dairy intake - even clearer skin!

Make a healthier choice, without depriving yourself. I sit down and make a chart of all the meals we are going to eat throughout the week, and I try to stick to it as much as possible. Meal prep usually helps me stick to this because when I am hungry, I can grab something out of the refrigerator and eat within 20 minutes. Of course I eat out sometimes and things come up, so we freeze those meals and eat them the next week. When I plan what I am going to eat I don't tell myself I can't have something. Rather, I try to find a healthier alternative. If I am craving chips and salsa, I'll try to cut up cucumber and eat that with salsa instead. If I am craving pasta I'll make a lean bowl with lots of vegetables and sauce, but no noodles. The best part of spaghetti - to me - is the sauce anyway. When I really want something though, I have it. Life is too short. If I eat pizza for lunch, I'll just have a healthier dinner. If I have a few too many glasses of wine that week, I'll be a little more active on the weekend.

Playing with - and taking care of - your baby. I really had no idea how physical of a job being a mom of an infant can be. My daughter is an active 10 month old. I'm usually on the floor playing with her, climbing stairs to make diaper or clothes changes, picking her up to avoid her getting into something she isn't supposed to (despite my best baby-proofing efforts) or going on walks with her just to get us both out of the house. She is in a stage where she has separation anxiety, so oftentimes I am having to lug her around the house with me on my hip. She also prefers being worn over being in a stroller, so I babywear. Guess what? Doing all of those things burns more calories than sitting at a desk, like I used to.

Find an exercise partner. I love to get out and go for walks at parks. I've mentioned this before. I enjoy the scenery, and I simply prefer walking or hiking over most forms of exercise. I oftentimes ask a friend to go for a walk with me to keep me on track and for some company. When you don't feel like being active, it helps to have someone else hold you accountable.

Be patient. There is no reason for you to "bounce back" quickly. All of our bodies are different, and they all heal in different ways. I had a "bump" after having my baby for a while, and lived in leggings and maternity clothes. People didn't start commenting on my weight loss and body changes until about nine to ten months postpartum, even though I felt healthier before then! There will be plenty of time for you to "get your body back". Enjoy snuggling with your newborn and your time with them. In my experience those memories of my daughter's first few weeks are way more important than the number on a scale.

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