At 6-months postpartum I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight and feeling pretty dang strong. People have mentioned how “lucky” I am to have a body that bounced back so easily after giving birth. The funny thing is that “LUCK” has NOTHING to do with it! In order to get your body to bounce back after a baby, there’s a lot you have to do before, during and after you are pregnant and give birth. Also don’t get me wrong, my body, while feeling great, is different than it used to be… my boobs are lopsided, my skin is soft and loose in more places than I care to mention BUT my body has proved how amazing it is by allowing me to grow a baby, give birth, and then “bounce back” to normal. Knowing how strong, how capable, and how amazing the human body is, has only reinforced that I need to treat it well. I want this body to thrive for me, for my family, and for the next time I decide to grow a human! So without further a do, bouncing back after baby has nothing to do with luck, and everything to do with:
1. Pre-Pregnancy Health & Fitness
Before I got pregnant I was physically fit, improving my fitness monthly, and eating pretty healthy. I think a HUGE part of bouncing back has to do with your lifestyle and physique BEFORE you get pregnant. I strongly encourage those considering pregnancy to first take a look at their body and decide if it’s a good enough place to grow a human! Think about the type of body you want your child to be created in. Is it an overweight, lazy, dehydrated body? Or is it a body that is eating nutritious, natural foods? Is it a body that drinks TONS of water? Is it a body that participates in several days of moderate-intensity exercise per week? Your body will do amazing things, but it will do them even better if you are fit, healthy and happy before you put a bun in that oven. Getting yourself healthy BEFORE you get pregnant is the best thing you can do for your post-pregnancy body.
2. Health & Fitness DURING Pregnancy
We all know that with pregnancy comes a bit of free reign…strangers hold doors open for you, family and friends won’t let you carry anything, no one looks at you funny if you order dessert for dinner, and cat naps are totally encouraged. That being said, if you want a healthy, energetic pregnancy and a good “bounce back” then it’s not the time to say “anything goes.” While I definitely had my indulgences (naps, ice cream & pizza included), I never let myself go too crazy with it. I tried to eat healthy 70-80% of the time. I also took note when I was eating a bit TOO much ice cream and started swapping it out for Greek yogurt with some chocolate syrup on top instead. Find places where you can make a small change that can make a big difference. Now that you’re pregnant, you really want to keep that shrine of yours in tip top shape. For one, it’s housing that incredible baby of yours, Second, staying active and eating well during pregnancy is known to improve your energy, prevent excessive weight gain, improve sleep & body image, reduce stress and reduce recovery time after birth, along with some other benefits. I continued working out throughout my pregnancy- bootcamp classes, hiking, biking, walking and some weight training. I made sure to modify when I needed to. I never overdid it and I let my body lead the way. If I was feeling great in a bootcamp class, then I continued to keep up with everyone else. If I wasn’t then I would tone things down a bit. LISTENING to your body is a huge part of fitness during pregnancy. You should always stop working out IMMEDIATELY if you feel any pain or unusual symptoms. Also, if you are already pregnant and did not have a workout routine in place beforehand, you can still be active! With approval from your doctor, you can ease into a low-intensity activity program that will still be beneficial to you and your baby. Your post-baby body will thank you!
3. Relaxing after Baby
After 9 months of being pregnant, staying active, and then experiencing a long, arduous birth, I was EXHAUSTED!!! Be sure to use those first 2-3 months after your have your baby to RELAX! There will always be time to get back in shape, there will always be time to lose the baby weight. Your baby won’t be little forever, so enjoy the special time and allow yourself to sleep when you can, get some fresh air, and just pay attention to the moments in front of you. Working out can come later!
4. Starting slowly
Once you receive clearance from your doctor to begin working out again, start out slowly! This will of course depend on how fit and active you were before pregnancy and what type of birth you had (natural, c-section, etc). As mentioned, I was pretty active before I got pregnant and all throughout my pregnancy. That being said, I still felt surprisingly WEAK when I got back to my workout routine. I had extra weight on me, I was tired, and my muscles, especially my core, felt like a noodle! You don’t have to go big or go home when you first get back to it. Start with walking, yoga, hiking or a very slow jog. Ease back into things and I think you’ll be amazed how quickly you feel stronger and better. I did what I could daily and my strength improved quickly. Even now, my best and most energetic days are the ones where I force myself to squeeze in a workout.
The biggest thing that really helped me bounce back once I got moving again was being consistent. Being a mom CHANGES YOUR LIFE. I know we all know that, but for real- your priorities change, sleep is necessary, and your mind is everywhere but on yourself. The way I stayed consistent was by picking a workout program I knew I would like and keep up with. What was most important to me was the most bang for my buck. I ended up doing 2 months worth of InsanityMax30 by Beachbody. It is 30 min workouts, 5 days a week. I was able to complete the whole program over 8 wks even while exclusively breastfeeding. That program could be a little intense for someone with little fitness experience and was even difficult for me to keep up with. I ended up modifying EVERYTHING but still got in a 30 minute workout each day. My point is- pick something (anything!) that you know you’ll do daily, whether that’s walking, swimming, hiking, biking, the local yoga studio, at-home workout videos etc. The best part is that you can always modify ANY activity to fit your current fitness level (if you need help modifying anything, please reach out to me!). As with fitness anytime in your life, consistency is needed for real change to occur.
Preparation is super important as well, especially for busy moms. Preparation might feel like an impossible task when you have so much going on and when a baby takes up pretty much ALL of your time. Even if I had a few minutes to myself, I was definitely more eager to use it to shower, or eat or just simply sit and stare at the wall without a baby in my arms. When I felt motivated and able I would try to prep some healthy meals. Since that often wasn’t an option, I found a way to get a healthy meal fast. For starters, I fell in love with my Veggetti. Most nights, with a baby on my hip, I would cook zucchini noodles, meat and veggies. I’d also have eggs and veggies for breakfast, maybe salad/protein for lunch. Most important for me was keeping healthy snacks on hand. I’d have apples, almonds & all-natural peanut butter nearby if I needed a snack, instead of mindlessly shoving crap into my mouth. But guess what- if I was hungry, I ate!! This is especially important if you are breastfeeding. You need food to fuel you and your baby. If you are nursing your child it is NOT the time to go on a diet. It is a GREAT time to be eating sufficiently and healthily! Because I knew my body needed food to keep producing milk for my baby, I never monitored the QUANTITY of what I ate, I only monitored the QUALITY. Lots of veggies, protein and GOOD carbs. What’s a good carb? Quinoa, beans, things high in fiber that will keep you full and not spike your sugar levels. Long story short, having nutritious food on hand will be your key to success. In the early postpartum months it’s so much more about WHAT you are putting in your mouth and not about HOW MUCH. And I promise you- you can still lose weight even if you don’t diet! I lost 12 lbs in 2 months just from short workouts and making better food choices.
Life gets hectic after you have a little one and unfortunately that means mom’s needs often go to the wayside. Continuing to make fitness a priority in your life is going to make you a better, stronger and healthier mom and role model for your child. Even if you feel like you can’t get a real workout in, you can always do SOMETHING! The best thing is you now have a “barbell” (aka your baby!) with you wherever you go! In order to maintain your fitness, make sure you stay active in some way each day. Strap that baby to you and start doing some squats and lunges or even just lift him up into the air. Anything is better than nothing and you’ll even get some smiles out of the little one while you’re at it.
So before you decide to get pregnant, or if you already are, think about the type of body you want to grow your child in. Make it a healthy, hydrated, nutritious, and strong place to grow. “Bouncing back” isn’t about luck, it’s about patience, consistency, and making the right choices for you and your baby. Keeping these things in mind will truly help you bounce back AND it will make you a fit, strong mama to that amazing little baby of yours.
If you have any questions about working out before, during or after your pregnancy please reach out and I will help! It’s always important to refer to the American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) Guidelines as well.
Thanks for listening!