You’ve recently had your baby and after 9 months of hosting your little one, you’re ready to get your body back. Or maybe its been a few months or even years and you’ve been struggling to return back to your pre-baby glory but you’re finding that what worked for you in the past isn’t working for you now. First and foremost, know that you are not alone. There will always be those naturally skinny women who pop out a baby and look like supermodels a few months after but for the majority of us, the struggle is real.
Not only has your body completely changed after having a baby, but now you may have restrictions that you never had before. You used to be able to go to the gym for an hour or so multiple days a week but now even if you had the energy to do it, you don’t have the time. Maybe you were the queen of restricting calories before having a baby, but that’s a no-no when you’re breastfeeding or downright miserable when you’re chasing around a toddler all day long. Like many things post-baby, in order to find success in your new life, you’re going to have to adjust accordingly. The first adjustment that most of us need is a reality check. Unless you’re one of the women with unimaginably fast metabolisms mentioned above, you need to give yourself at least as much time to get back to your pre-baby weight as it took to get you to your pregnancy high weight; so a minimum of 9 months, but for most women, that time span is a full year and for many, even longer. Second, you have to accept that some things may never go back to the way they were before. Even if you get back to your pre-baby weight, you may have cellulite in places that you never had before or a belly pooch…consider them to be badges of honor or rites of passages rather than battle scars.
There are only 24 hours in a day and one you so there’s only so much that you can feasibly accomplish. Unless you have a full-time nanny and your name is Beyonce, you’re probably not going to be able to hit the gym daily or for hours at a time. If you’re finding your biggest restriction to getting moving to be having time to do so, try aiming for quality over quantity. Pre-baby, being at the gym didn't always mean that I was maximizing efficiency. Sometimes it was just me hopping on the treadmill or elliptical machine at a casual pace while catching up with a friend on the phone or reading a book. Now at a time where time is my most precious commodity, everything I do has to be efficient and I've found success by doing 30-minute workouts that combine cardio and strength into one with many sets and few breaks. Every minute literally counts. If you can motivate yourself to do it, home workouts are your friend. They’re diverse, easily accessible and the fact that you don’t have to travel to and from the gym gives you time back in your day.
If online workouts aren’t your thing or if you don’t have the time for them, there are other things you can do. I unwind at night by watching TV and during commercials, I'm either running back and forth through the house or doing push-ups or crunches during the commercials of my favorite shows. Opt to take the stairs at work instead of the elevator or if you walk anywhere during the day, take the long route instead of the shorter one. Anything is better than nothing and while the results may take a little bit longer to show up this way, they will eventually show up if you keep at it.
The reason that programs like weight watchers work so well is because they create a community where the members hold each other accountable to the goals that they set for themselves. You don’t have to necessarily join a program like this though to get these benefits. Chances are you know at least one other person that would like to lose weight as well and you can form your own weight loss club where you not only keep each other accountable but motivate each other to exercise. Tools like myfitnesspal are great for keeping track and holding each other accountable. I have almost always had a workout buddy, even during the days when I was in peak shape and more times than not, on the days when I was going to bail on going to the gym or for a walk or run, my workout partner encouraged me to go through with it and vice versa. If you can't create your own community or if you've tried but haven't found success. don't be afraid to seek out help. Losing and maintaining weight loss is tough and seeking help in achieving your goals doesn't make you weak, it makes you smart.
An astronomical 75% of your weight loss success is contributed to what you eat and not exercise. The con is that dieting isn’t fun. Especially when you’ve given up literally all of yourself, the last thing you want to do is have to count calories or restrict what you eat. It’s the last little joy that you have just for yourself! I, however, am not talking about dieting, I’m talking about a lifestyle change. As fun and catchy as fad dieting is, it never works in the long term. If you can’t implement something for the rest of your life, then you shouldn’t do it. The only thing more frustrating than losing weight is losing it and then gaining it back and that is usually what happens when you embark upon the latest and trendiest diet.
Instead, aim for slowly implementing good eating practices into your life. While you have to find what works best for you, some helpful suggestions are to stock up on healthy foods in the house instead of unhealthy ones. Why keep food in your house that’s just going to tempt you? That’s not to say that you won’t have cravings or be tempted, but at least it won’t be staring at you in the face every time you go into the kitchen! While I do sometimes eat bad food because I crave it, more times than not, I eat it because I’m starving and it's convenient. Plan your meals to the best of your ability so that you don’t get to the point where you’re so hungry that starvation blinds you from making good decisions. Everything should be done in moderation and assuming you can control it, allow yourself an occasional treat. I have a friend who did very well with giving herself a cheat day once a week. For me, the strategy that always worked was giving myself snack sized versions of treats when I craved them. Rather than buying a big bag of chips when I crave something salty, I buy a small pack or instead of buying a full sized candy bar when I want something sweet, I buy the snack sized versions. This allows me to satisfy my craving without overdoing it. The scale can be a very scary thing to step on but it keeps you honest. If I have a bad weekend and I gain 5 lbs, I can get back on track rather than being oblivious to the gain and that gain becomes 10 lbs. As scared as you are of seeing a number that you don't want to see, its reality and letting it get out of control and to a point where you have to start your weight loss journey over from scratch will be even more disappointing.
Like with anything else, think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you find that you love your new mama curves and are happy in your own body, then there’s no need to try and change. Often we do things because society or influences on TV or social media tell us that we need to. If you do decide that you would like to embark on this journey, set realistic goals. It's better to start small and make your goals more aggressive as your progress then to set too ambitious of a goal and give up. Celebrate the small wins instead of focusing on what you didn’t achieve. If you set out to lose 5 lbs in a week and you lose 1 lb, then yay, you lost 1 lb and you're 1 lb closer to your goal then you were before! Try not to compare your success to that of others. The only person that you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday. Most importantly, if you get off track, don’t let it derail you permanently. Don’t let a bad moment become your permanent reality. You’re allowed to make mistakes and success isn’t about not making mistakes, but rather how fast you recover from those mistakes and get back on track.