Friday, August 1, 2014

Dealing with the Postpartum Flab

There it is. I said it. We all love our babies, we love being moms (most of the time), and we love our bodies for the miraculous creations they are, BUT, what's up with the postpartum flab, and how long should you expect it to stick around? Even the happiest of moms start to wonder when they can start wearing their old clothes, especially if you're past the stage of dealing with pelvic floor issues. It's hard to remember to be thankful for your body's ability to heal and produce milk for your baby after those first couple months when the glam of motherhood wears off and the pregnancy fat lingers. Don't get bogged down, ladies. Let's talk about the flab. 

I recently went to hang out with some new and old mom friends of mine, and one of them spoke with me about her concerns about losing baby weight. This is something that is often in the back of the mind for a new mother. Obviously, your child's health comes first and foremost, but part of being a good mom for your child is being a happy and healthy person. A lot of us feel better about ourselves if we can fit into our old clothes, do the athletic things we used to do, like what we see when we look in the mirror, etc. All that is fine and good, but let me remind everyone (and myself included, we all need reminders) that getting back to your old body and self is something that is a process and nothing you can do in those first months after your child is born, for most people. It's not healthy to lose all your baby weight at once because your body is restoring essential nutrients, finding fluid and hormonal balance again, and trying to prepare for the next phase of life. The transition from pregnant woman to mother doesn't happen any easier physiologically within your body than does the mental and emotional transition from pregnancy to motherhood. They both take time, so allow yourself to take that time, and try to enjoy this miraculous journey!

All that being said, after 2 to 6 months postpartum, it's okay to start thinking about changes to your diet and activity plan that can help you lose the weight you gained during pregnancy. At this point, most moms may have about 10-20 pounds left to lose, and these can be the hardest ones. Nursing mothers face the greatest challenge because we are trying to eat and drink enough to provide our baby with the proper nutrition and hydration he or she needs to grow and develop. This is so hard ladies, but it is an amazing gift you are giving your child. Whenever I feel a little bogged down about the progress I've made in physique or fitness because I feel like I have made some changes but should be further along, I just look at my baby girl and remember how amazing she is and know that if I do nothing else in this world, at least I am doing my best for her. Sometimes that works. ;-)

I'm now 11 weeks postpartum and counting, with 10 pounds left to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight but still 18 pounds shy of Ironman weight. So I'm not back either, and like I said, sometimes it's hard, and we'll go into more specifics in the upcoming blogs, but for the most part I think my advice is to try to find something each day that will give you energy and make you happy so that you can be the best mom you can be, especially on those days when you're feeling a little down, a little tired, a little flabby. 

A few general tips for getting back into your old jeans (PLEASE don't try them on for the first 3 months. Just don't. I would even venture to say don't try them on for 4 months...6-9 months if you are nursing. Just give yourself a break!) 

***Nutrtion, nutrition, nutrition. As my obstetrician told me during pregnancy when I voiced concerns about putting on weight too fast, "Just cut out the crap." Eat healthy for you, healthy for your baby if you are nursing, and forget that other stuff. Get MyFitnessPal or a similar app and log calories, if that's your thing. It's a little more complicated than limiting your calories and can be tricky if you are nursing, so we will have a separate blog on that.

***Get SLEEP whenever possible (I know, IMpossible.) Cortisol is not your friend, and it ramps up when you don't sleep and are stressed out (Oh, so, every new mom, then, right?) and helps your body store fat. The problem with this is that maybe you don't want to store fat, you know?

***Find a way to get ACTIVE...even if that's just walking or dancing with your baby!

And in the meantime, fight the flab funk with these...

The Slim Six Subtle Ways to Trick Your Brain Into Feeling Better About the Flab!

1. Take a nap! 
Always a good idea to sleep since sleep deprivation makes reasonable people unreasonable and you'll feel better about yourself and your life if you sleep, plain and simple.

2 Take a walk! 
Walk away your worries, get fresh air, get your baby outside too...but remember sunscreen for you and protective clothing for your baby ;-)

3. Call a friend.
Venting or getting a fresh positive outlook- both are super helpful! Call a friend while walking = added bonus!

4. Dance with your baby
Sometimes for me, even when I don't have anyone to watch Violet and can't really fit in a workout at home while she is napping, just holding her and singing to her while we waltz or meringue around the apartment seems like the best thing in the world. If nothing else, play music and dance while holding your baby. I think the feeling I get from it could be bottled up and sold as an antidepressant.

5. Clean.
Vacuuming with Violet!
Can't get out of the house with baby because it's raining? Feeling dreary and overwhelmed by your home's chaos and mess and want a sense of control on how just ONE thing is going? Throw that baby (don't throw your baby...you know what I mean, gently place your baby) into a carrier and vacuum the house! This is the best. At almost 3 months of age, Violet loves it, and I'm pretty sure she would've loved it a month ago during that colicky time in the evening. White noise for the baby, being close to mommy, hearing her heart beat, gentle bouncing...this is golden. And it is golden for you because it's hard to feel down or fat when you start cleaning--the productivity is something that is better than the "selfish" act of going to the gym and being away from your child (maybe you struggle with this, I often do), and you will get your heart rate up, maybe even break a sweat, and definitely burn a few calories along the way. 

6. Try the following mom-baby workout :-)

I thought a sample workout plan for this point and also a few more pointers might be helpful. I forgot something REALLY important last time- BODY GLIDE. I didn't forget it; I just forgot to mention its necessity in the blog post! Triathletes will understand, but just so you know, there are all kinds of parts of your body rubbing together that maybe didn't rub together before, you know? So don't forget the body glide +/- chamois butter if needed!
I came up with this short workout for mom and baby a while back when I just didn't feel like leaving Violet any earlier before my 12-hour ER shift, so running just wasn't going to happen that day. It was also the kind of shift where if I wanted to go run beforehand, I would be leaving Violet with someone else during her colicky time, and you hate to leave your baby when she's unhappy, but you also hate leaving an unhappy baby with someone else, so that's how this workout came about. The bouncing really helped her colic, and it was fun to do something together. She actually loves it more now that she is older, but we did it for the first time at 8 weeks. Obviously this isn't as good as going for a run, and it's not as good as doing weights on your own once you are up to doing heavier weights, but for 8-12 weeks postpartum, why not? 
Ideally you would add stationary bike 15-20 minutes while your baby is in his/her swing/bouncer/crib...

warm-up then
3 x 12-15 front squat with baby upright and your upper arms parallel to floor
3 x 12-15 front shoulder raise with baby in same position
3 x 12-15 bench/couch push-ups (with baby in bouncer)
3 x 12-15 floor bench press (great for tri's and chest and fun for baby too!) with baby facing away from unless you want to risk getting vomited on haha (I have tried both ways and no vomit yet! You get to see the facial expressions if the baby faces you.)
3 x 30 sec plank (if you can do a true plank for 30 seconds at this point, you are awesome!) alternatively try crunches while holding baby
you can also do them as a circuit, ideally adding an agility section like mountain climbers or high knees :-)

In honor of the slim 6, I ran 6 miles today. Didn't wear body glide on my inner thighs. Big mistake. And for those folks who think I've managed to find some kind of life balance as a new mom, let me just assure you--I haven't. I really don't know if I brushed my teeth today, but I fed my baby, and I ran 6 miles (because Violet has an amazing Nana who came over for me to do that!). That is all. And today, that's enough.

Proof of how little balance I have is shown in the fact that although I have been working on several blog posts for you guys, this is the first one I have fully finished since July 1st. A month apart! Yuck! Hopefully we can do better than that!

On Deck: 
-the nursing athlete
-pelvic floor syndrome