I used to eat a lot…not so much junk food but just too much food. This didn’t affect me when I was young as I had more muscles, a better metabolism and was probably genetically blessed to an extent, so I got away with the so-called cheat foods. Age and of course my active participation in sports was my saving grace from putting on weight. But I used to hate being thin as my extended family would call me “skinny,” or, “a stick,” and say I was weak. Being skinny was associated with being weak in my culture. I actually wanted to be heavier and have cheeks, so I did all the things that would help me gain weight but nothing worked. This was in the 1990s
Nothing changed much the next few years, but mind you I always kept myself active too, so that probably contributed to my body type. I became pregnant with my first child and was fortunate enough to not have any morning sickness and to participate in prenatal classes involving strength and Pilates. This was really good for me. I had high energy levels and had a pretty smooth birth. Fast forward 3 years later when I was pregnant with my second child. But this time around, things were different. I didn’t have much time, so I didn’t exercise and gave into my massive sweet cravings (I don’t have a sweet tooth normally). It could be the lack of exercise, my age (33) and/or bad eating habits, but the result was 75 kg (I usually weigh 50 kgs). I didn’t feel like myself, my clothes were not fitting me (obviously), and all this affected me mentally.
I didn’t just dream to have my body back and feel frustrated about it; instead, I joined a group fitness class suitable for mums where I could take my son. Exercise was 3 days a week and the next step was to change my eating habits! I was given a diet plan to follow that involved juices and salads (typical Australian food), and being an Indian, I couldn’t follow it for even one day and I didn’t want to be making 3 different meals for myself, my hubby and our 3 yr old. I had to start making my own diet change that was sustainable and suitable for my palate.
I included a 2:1:3 ratio of veg:carb:protein in my meals every day. I excluded the obvious: all forms of natural and refined sugar foods, processed foods and bad fat (cooking oil). I mostly ate home-cooked meals so I would know what was in my food.
- 2 cups of vegetables- I made sure I included at least 2 cups of veggies a day cooked/uncooked in any way but with less oil.
- 1 cup of carb- I reduced carb intake to <1 cup a day. I admit I was a big-time rice eater so that was hard to change. I knew I couldn’t go cold turkey on rice and more importantly it wasn’t necessary.
- 3 servings of protein- I included one serve of protein in every meal.
So that’s it. I exercised 4-5 days a week. On alternate days when I didn’t go to the group classes, I went for a 1 hr walk with the pram and ate healthy food. The weight slowly but surely dropped off but more importantly, I had more energy and confidence and I fit into my old clothes.
Simple but consistent changes.
Body Beyond Baby?
Postpartum is not the time to go into hibernation. As a woman, you have reached the next chapter of your life, so it’s time to be more badass and show the world what you can do.
For 40 weeks, a woman’s body goes through many changes whilst growing her baby. Physically, hormonally and mentally her body adapts and prepares to care for the little human. During this phase, a lot of attention is given to the mother. She must eat healthy food, have at least 2 blood tests in the course of 40 weeks, take multivitamins, have lots of scans and more to ensure the baby (and mum) are healthy.
Fast forward 10 months, and baby arrives safely. Now the mum is busy breastfeeding, changing nappies and understanding baby cries. Mummy doesn’t go through school or college to learn these essential skills unfortunately. So the next 3 months moves kinda fast, and every day is spent to ensure baby is feeding, counting sleeps 16-18 hours/day, ticking milestones, vaccinations and basically everything is about the baby. The next 3-9 months is focused on introducing solid food, investigating baby poo (to ensure baby is reacting normally to solid foods) and of course admiring the little laughs, cuddles and playtime. Before you know it, the baby turns the big 1. But what about you, MUM? You are so busy providing and caring for the baby that you have forgotten about YOU. Well, YOU need to be well nourished and in healthy mindset to give your 100% to your family. Here are my tips on the absolute essentials for the first 6 weeks to 6 months after birth from my personal and coaching experience.
Eating healthy food never goes out of fashion. Include as much vegetables and fruits (cooked anyway you like) in your meals. Keep taking multivitamins, drink plenty of water and consume foods rich in collagen, aka bone broth, and fish. If you are finding it hard to find good sources of collagen, then opt for supplements (ask your doctor). Keep up protein and fat (unprocessed and naturally occurring) intake. In India, traditionally women who have had children were placed on special diets called pathiya saapadu,” which includes foods known for their medicinal properties, such as turmeric, fennel (increases breast milk production), pepper corn, garlic and more. Please refer to the following link for more info on pathiya saapadu https://www.babycenter.in/a1049929/benefits-of-ipathiya-saapadui.
I know, fitting in movement at this time seems impossible, but I promise it gets better. Try to carry your baby in your arms and shoulders more than in a pram or baby carrier. Although there are lots of ergonomic designs, when we carry with our arms, we enable our body to move in ways that appropriately uses the muscles and the core. This also helps in strengthening the muscles to support the mother and avoid back pains caused due to weakness of the foretold muscles. Some of the exercises you can do during this time are walking: light to medium intensity based on your fitness level and birth experience; pelvic floor and core exercises (the ones you were doing when you were pregnant or in your prenatal classes as advised by your doctor); and generally moving whenever possible.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps
Newborn mums are often referred to as “zombies.” Mums are incredible and they can function with little to no sleep, but that doesn’t mean it is healthy to do so. Less sleep can lead to stress, depression, weakness and more. Don’t fall into that trap; ensure that you get an extra 2 hrs of sleep during the day to make up for the lack of sleep at night. This is more important than point 2.
- Ignore the mess
This is a big one. Laundry undone, dishes not washed, floors not vacuumed, visitors every day and everything feels like its falling apart. But trust me, it is not. Ignore everything and focus on looking after yourself and your baby, eating healthy, getting some sleep and exercising. If it really stresses you, get help or a cleaner to do the chores. Mess is not worth your energy at the moment.
- Listen to your mum/grandmother (more personal than Google)
I am very guilty of this and thought I knew better. But no, I was wrong and there were many times where I felt I should have listened to my mum. By all means, if the advice doesn’t work for you, ignore it, but do take the time to listen first (and if you do, they might offer to babysit…bingo!)