After a baby, you are probably feeling elated, but also very exhausted and very low about your body shape and weight. You probably haven’t really exercised fully for a while and also remember your diet has been geared for two over the last nine months.
Do not worry, and don’t be hard on yourself, you have just done something AMAZING, and you CAN get that pre pregnancy body back, or get an even better one if you weren’t happy about your body before you got pregnant. It can also be FUN, and a great challenge to embark upon too.
There are no shortcuts or special pills, or secret formulas I’m afraid … but the challenge CAN and WILL be fun, if you set your mind to that way of thinking, as the end goal and result will make you feel GREAT. You can praise yourself too as you are doing something AMAZING for yourself.
‘ What you get by achieving your goals is just as important as how you will feel while achieving them ’
Exercise increases endorphin release in your brain (the hormone that lifts your mood), it is great for your heart and is essential if you want to get back in shape.
The other key factor is diet. Many people overlook the fact that it is a MUST that exercise and diet need to be COMBINED for effective results (or any results).
The simple formula is that in order to lose weight and tone up, you need to burn off more calories than you are putting in. To achieve this you need to exercise regularly and make sure you are consuming good healthy food.
TOP TEN TIPS :
1) HAVE A PLAN AND A GOAL, AND BE CONSISTENT
When have you ever got anywhere (by car, bicycle or foot) without firstly knowing where you are going, and secondly without having a map? You need a goal, and a basic plan of how you are going to get there.
You need to do the following things at the very least :
SET YOUR GOAL – what is your weight loss goal, i.e. how many pounds/ kilos do you want to lose and by when. (A good rule of thumb for safety is to lose no more than one and a half pounds per week. I would set the end target weight goal to be 4- 6 months). If you have gained over 35 pounds then you need to increase this accordingly.
CREATE YOUR PLAN – Don’t go weight loss crazy and beat yourself up (it will de-motivate you further). Just set weekly weight and waist size targets for each week for the next month. If you miss a target it is not the end of the world, it can be re-adjusted, just remember you need to do a little more the next week if you can. Keep a chart to keep you on track. When writing the targets, set yourself up to win, it will create momentum. You can always make it more challenging further along the line.
Also if you can prepare your meals the evening before each day, you can ensure you are eating consistently well while on the move, and not grabbing that chocolate bar because that’s all you have time to eat. Your healthy meal will be waiting for you in the fridge.
2) BUDDY UP
Research solidly backs up this two-is-better-than-one proposition. Find someone just as motivated as you. This approach will seriously increase your chances of hitting your weekly targets and losing that weight. A trainer or an NCP friend are good examples.
3) DO NOT DIET, USE PILLS, BELIEVE IN ‘SUPER’ PROGRAMS ADVERTISED ON THE INTERNET/TV
You may lose weight for a little while, BUT this will not be sustainable, can be especially dangerous post pregnancy, and will leave you tired, lacking in energy, depressed and feeling a huge sense of a lack of achievement when you can’t maintain it.
4) TIME, RELAXATION AND SLEEP
Stay stress-free. Try meditating, a hot bath or yoga. I know it is difficult, but taking even 30 minutes for yourself each day will make things so much easier, and you will probably not have such a ‘baby brain’ and get the other things you need to do, done faster.
They have the time (nanny’s), trainers, nutritionists, chefs and sleep! They tend to over exercise very early (which can be dangerous) and their pictures in magazines are usually retouched … enough said! This is your own challenge.
6)WHAT YOU PUT IN YOUR BODY
Nutrition and diet contributes to over 50% of weight loss – you NEED to take it seriously. You can exercise all day long, and then eat badly, and you will NEVER lose weight. Eating well can be fun too, and also make you feel so much more energised and positive.
VITAMINS - Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals as well as fibre, which makes you feel fuller for longer, so you will not have cravings. Alternatively get a small blender to make your own delicious smoothies and soups.
If you don’t think you are able to have around 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, then get a good quality multi vitamin to supplement any shortfalls.
SUGAR - Avoid processed foods and sugar – these will be your weight loss enemy. They will also make you feel tired. It is processed and sugary foods that make us fat or put on weight.
PROTEIN - Eat lots of protein- High-protein foods contain a hunger-fighting hormone and will fill you up more than carbs.
WATER - Drink LOTS of water. You are still detoxifying your body and reducing internal inflammations. Two litres of water a day will clean your system and also make you feel energised.
GOOD FATS - Get your Omega 3 oils - Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil supplements have been shown to boost an infant's sensory, cognitive, and motor development. Consumption of DHA may decrease the incidence of postpartum depression too.
GOOD BACTERIA - In your smoothie or on your cereal, add natural yoghurt … it contains probiotics (healthy bacteria) which promote good digestive health and reduces internal inflammation.
GRAZE – this probably suits your schedule, and will ensure you are getting just enough nutrients to function efficiently, but not taking on too many calories. I would suggest eating 5 smaller meals/ snacks a day (breakfast, mid morning, lunch, mid afternoon, supper). These can be prepared the evening before and are perfect for when you are on the go.
Exercise, alongside a good diet, is going to be the ONLY way you beat this excess weight, so why not enjoy it. It is the starting up that is difficult. So sit down and make yourself a plan, setting aside time dedicated to exercise each week. Three one hour sessions a week is all you need to start with. If you can get the pram out every day for at least 30 minutes too, then that is a real bonus.
Exercise will also lift your mood, has been proven to reduce or eliminate post natal blues, and will make you feel good about yourself while you burn that body fat.
TOO SOON – you will be desperate to exercise and lose that excess weight, (especially if you did a lot of exercise pre-pregnancy), but PLEASE don’t rush into it. You may cause more damage than good. If you had any complications during birth, then please maintain constant contact with your GP about healthy and safe levels of exercise.
EARLY DAYS – in the first 4 to 6 weeks, try and focus on good diet as your main weight loss strategy (it accounts for over 50% of weight loss anyway). Each day, try and get out for one (or two if you can manage it) brisk stroll's with the pram. PELVIC FLOOR exercises are also essential during these 6 weeks.
AFTER YOUR POSTNATAL CHECK - Now's the time to get those muscles taut and toned by integrating more aerobic exercise and a targeted tummy routine into your exercise plan. Not only will you start to build your cardio fitness, you will start strengthening your abs to help your profile. It will also improve circulation and reduce your risk of back problems, varicose veins, leg cramps, ankle and foot swelling, and more.
FLATTEN THOSE ABS : There are lots of tummy exercises after pregnancy that will help you flatten the flab. Basic crunches may be simple, but they work.
BABY PRESS FOR THE CHEST : If you like, you can get your baby into the act, too! Blast your baby fat after pregnancy with a baby bench press.
EXERCISE BALLS - An exercise ball is another great tool for tummy exercises after pregnancy. Ball crunches work like regular crunches, but you' ll be adding the element of balance, which makes your moves a bit more challenging and works on your core.
YOGA / PILATES – this is going to give you your best chance of strengthening your core, back and abs. There are so many teachers and classes around to choose from.
SWIMMING – I advocate swimming to all of my clients. It is one of the most beneficial all - round exercises anyone can do. Post pregnancy, just make sure you have your doctors clearance.
RUNNING – This is great cardio exercise, and if you can run with your pram outdoors, then even better. Start slowly, keep in touch with your GP and watch those miles and calories go past.
CLASSES – Find exercise classes near you, or boot camps in parks, which offer mother and baby sessions … there are loads around, and it is a great way to meet people too.
GET A TRAINER/ BUDDY – Although I would say this, it does have proven results. Post pregnancy can be a very challenging experience, especially on your time. There will always be distractions. Setting aside just 3 hours a week for 3 sessions with a trainer will give you a fixed and focused foundation for your weight loss. It will also ensure you are regularly motivated, regularly exercising and exercising safely and properly. Trainers can also advise you on diet plans and specific training suited to you. If you can’t afford a trainer, at least make sure you schedule in at least 3 x 1 hour fixed time training sessions for yourself each week. Getting a training partner will motivate you further.
8) STAY POSITIVE, BE PATIENT AND BE KIND TO YOURSELF
This is a great thing you are doing, remember that on the days you don’t feel like it or absolutely don’t have time, don’t beat yourself up, but also don’t let this become the norm, just put it behind you and carry on with the next session next time. You will find after a couple of weeks, the momentum of mostly good days will take you through.
Once you’ve hit your target weight, and are enjoying your new health, your new vibrancy, your new energy, your new smile, your better sleep, your clearer complexion, and your slimmer, happier, healthier you … DON’T STOP NOW … keep going to keep that weight off and keep those endorphins buzzing.
10)ENJOY THE JOURNEY
If you keep it varied, and keep it consistent, you WILL start to enjoy it. It may seem alien at first, but the endorphins from exercise, the energy from your new healthy eating, and the feeling of self satisfaction you are giving yourself will make you feel HAPPY and motivated. All you’ve got to do is get started. ‘ A journey of a thousand miles began with just one step’. Why not take that step now. Good luck : )
About the Author
James Gold is a qualified level 3 personal trainer, nutritionist and motivational coach. He has been involved in fitness and health for over 10 years, and has completed many marathons and the 70.3 Ironman. He specialises in healthy weight loss and muscle toning using his own specially designed program. This program harmonises exercise, nutrition and lifestyle behaviour, in order to create an enjoyable experience whilst also achieving amazing results. He loves all sports and relaxing too of course. Surfing and bbq’s with friends are two of his favourite things, along with good books, good company, yoga and meditation.