I don’t know about you but Every. Single. Day I see an ad or a blog post about “get your pre-baby body back!” And I seriously get sick to my stomach. I am even more sick to say I use to think that was awesome! Like wow! Look a that woman getting her body back so fast!
But that all changed for me after I went through my own postpartum recovery, injuries, and body changes.
It makes me want to yell from the roof tops now
“Can we just stop focusing on losing the baby weight and instead focus on creating optimal postpartum bodies?”
And let me be clear- optimal is not the same as ‘skinny’
I believe we are causing so much harm in the fragile minds of new moms by making everyone focus on weight loss rather than recovery!
The advice you read out there can stress new moms out! On top of being sleep deprived, learning about a new little person, and feeling totally unrecognizable in their bodies with jiggly skin left where a baby bump use to be, it can feel like too much.
You start to catch yourself thinking things like “Do I cut calories, do I not?” “Do I just eat everything in sight because I am starving, stressed, and overwhelmed?” Usually this leads to feelings of being stuck, not good enough, or straight giving up. This can do 1 of 2 things, it can impact your milk supply because you start ‘dieting’ too soon after baby or it can make you just feel like you’ll eat whatever you want and eventually the weight will come off.
Both of these can lead you to feel totally miserable and in my opinion contribute to postpartum depression symptoms.
What if instead of being SO focused on the way our bodies look in the wake of the arrival of the new baby, we focus on how the heck our bodies feel?
We spend so much time focusing on the 3 trimester of pregnancy and totally BLOW OVER the 4th trimester. A time that should be focused on recovery.
For me, postpartum, my body felt all sorts of different. I had a ton of skin that was never there before, I had wider hips, achy back, low energy, and a ton of wild emotions running through me. I was also starving all of the time because my little girl wanted to nurse 24/7. I was totally unprepared for the wild hunger. I also was constantly wanting to make sure I was keeping my supply up. Except, I was tired and so busy taking care of my daughter that it was easy to forget to eat until I was suddenly starving or fighting off a huge headache. Mix that with crashing hormones and things can get ugly- fast.
And then to add insult to injury, we begin to feel the pressure of getting back to our pre-baby jeans asap. Talk about a recipe for disaster.
So I feel like it is time for us to stop focusing so much on the way our bodies look postpartum and instead focus on how they FEEL postpartum. The shape of your body is clearly able to be changed, pregnancy proved that. So what if we decided to trust that we can change it to whatever we want it to look like when we are ready, and take some pressure off.
But How Can We Start Focusing On How We Feel Postpartum, Instead of How We Look?
4 Things I Did To Create an ‘Optimal Postpartum Body’
Focus on eating foods that give you energy, stamina, clarity and stable moods
Your hormones are going through major shifts after the baby is born. In order to try to reduce the effects of the hormonal crash, you want to make sure you are eating Protein, Fiber and Healthy Fat at meal times. Add in starchy carbohydrates like grains, rices, potatoes as a side dish too. I want you to know that Protein and Healthy Fats are what keep your energy up, mood stable, and milk supply booming. Although you may feel like you are cravings carbs, carbs are burned through much fast and don’t really give a super boost to your blood sugar levels or your milk supply. But they still have a place, don’t cut them out! You need all food groups while recovering. I just want to highlight that protein and fat will keep you fuller longer, without storing fat in your cells.
Moving Keeps You Happy
After you feel you have healed and are not experiencing any leakage or pain, I always encourage new moms (and all moms) to walk. For a long while, walking can be your main source of exercise but not because you need exercise for fat loss just yet. Rather, walking lowers stress chemicals in your brain and raises the happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine. So, if you are feeling the crashing effects of estrogen now that the baby is born, your brain needs to have an increase to your happy hormones to offset the dip. Walking is a great way to help on emotional days. You may not feel up for it, but if you can even strap the baby to your chest in the carrier and just walk down the street and back, the fresh air will help you feel better.
Eat Foods To Reduce the Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Cortisol levels (stress hormone) can be really high after baby is born, even if you don’t feel stressed. The body just went through a major experience, is now sustaining two lives, and is probably not sleeping much. Your stress levels are making your adrenal glands work overtime. It can easily cause major burnout and mood swings. The best thing you can do is not let yourself get too hungry throughout the day. Try to eat every 3-4 hours and snack whenever you need to. At night, try to drink some sleepy time tea or hot water with lemon to wind down.
Don’t forget to take your Vitamin D, Prenatal Vitamin, and Omega 3’s postpartum too. These help tremendously with keeping your body moving despite the intense changes it is undergoing. These vitamins will also help reduce the likelihood of injury when you begin exercising again more rigorously. Remember nursing and postpartum depletes your nutrients rapidly in order to keep the baby going, so keeping your vitamin and mineral levels up will be important.
Allow Weight Loss To Be the Side Effect Rather Than The Goal
If you focus on eating a lot of green and root vegetables, sweet potatoes, quinoa, lean protein, and healthy fats like olive oil or avocado you will begin to naturally lose weight because your body is 1) not stressed out 2) well nourished 3) is stabilizing
Weight loss will be slow when you are breastfeeding at first, because nature designed it that way. Your hormones need enough body fat to make milk. But you want to be feeding your body high quality foods to keep it running or you will be storing excess fat that is hard to unlock down the road.
Something to Remember:
When you were pregnant, I know you wanted to do everything you could to keep that baby safe, healthy, and growing. Remember that feeling. Those feelings of nurturing and protection should be carried over into the new life and relationship you are building. A new baby has been born, but so has a NEW MOTHER. You are a new person. You do not need to go back to who you once were. But, I do want you to feel full of life, energy, and happiness in this new role. That often means remembering to care for ourselves through nutritional choices and movement. Of course cookies are good, but remember to eat in a way that keeps your mood stable, your body functional, and you healthy. You’ve gotta be in this for the long haul mama!