I’ve wanted to share some experiences of my diet and fitness progression during and after my second pregnancy, but my thoughts have been too scattered to organize much to paper. So please bear with me as I try.
Some back story: Before becoming pregnant a second time, I had lost all but ten pounds of the weight gained from carrying Cia (child #1). My pregnancies were so closely timed that my midwife assigned my starting weight for my second pregnancy at plus-ten pounds; in other words, I had already gained ten pounds at the beginning of this pregnancy! A careful diet and routine exercise was then a must for maintaining a healthy weight for myself and the baby.
Despite eating properly and exercising four to five times a week, I still gained plenty of weight – almost the exact amount as with Cia, plus the ten additional pounds I started with – not bad, but not quite ideal. I gave birth to Calen in October and feeling physically strong from my pregnancy routine and a successful birth, I quickly jumped into gear for losing the baby weight – I must say in “losing weight” I was not too concerned with the number on the scale at any given time, my main goal being to fit into all my old pre-pregnancy clothes. The challenge would be how I could maintain a caloric intake sufficient for healthy and consistent milk production, while also losing weight as a result of diet and exercise.
I am happy to say this is something I was able to figure out for my personal needs. First off, I ate in a vegetable-dominated style with limited dairy and drastically reduced all fats and carbs. I always avoid “fat-free” or “low-fat” products and typically enjoy whole fats in moderation, but in this instance I kept the good fats – even avocado and olive oil – to a minimum for some time. Vegetables were eaten in place of carbs in most instances. The usual amounts of occasional animal protein in my diet stayed the same.
Next I took a look at my portions or, I should say, proportions. Something I was not conscious about during my pregnancy was the ratios of ingredients on my plate were completely out of sync. For example, when I would make a millet or quinoa salad, the grain would take up at least three times more space in the serving bowl than the vegetables . I have come to realize this ratio may have directly contributed to the slightly-extra weight gain during pregnancy, which I was trying to avoid. Now when making the same dish, the proportions are reversed with the vegetables taking up the majority of space in the bowl.
Keeping a food log is also something I found helpful and I would highly recommend. It is easy to believe you are eating a certain way until you write it down and realize the reality is much different. Taking just a few minutes to track one’s food – either on paper or with a phone app – can help keep you honest and make necessary adjustments. It is really amazing what small changes can do.
I began my exercise program at six weeks postpartum. After my first birth, running was my primary form of exercise; I loved our morning runs with the fresh air, mountains as the backdrop, and Cia having her nap in the stroller. After this birth, however, I knew running was not a feasible option: For one, winter was soon approaching and running in the Colorado cold is not my forte. Also, having two children now hindered me from using my beloved single all terrain stroller. Last and most importantly, my body was and still is not ready to run. Pregnancy is definitely taxing on one’s physique and I can still feel the effects in my joints; low impact exercise then seemed to be the right choice and it has proven to be a wonderful experience.
During pregnancy I started doing Barre3 videos with an online subscription and I have absolutely loved it. Despite seeming like a fad-thing, Barre3 is something I can promise works and is worth a try. The convenience of doing the exercises at home is definitely an advantage for me, and minimal or no props are needed. The exercises work both the front and back of the body with plenty of emphasis on one’s core – perfect for postpartum. As a result of Barre3, I have experienced improved strength and flexibility with my posture greatly improved too.
I initially adopted a three to five day a week exercise regiment and now I am up to six days. I fit in exercise when I can and don’t stress. This has been a beautiful thing. Ideally, I exercise at least forty minutes, but as long as I do something during these six days – whether it be twenty minutes on the rebounder or an hour lifting weights and stretching – I am happy. I am a firm believer you need to take care of yourself to be able to fully take care of your family, and I want to have the confidence and strength not just for myself, but for my children, who follow my example. There is obviously more to one’s confidence than personal appearance alone, but after two pregnancies, regaining my strength and the external result was a must.
I have added back into my diet more healthy fats and carbs to meet the need to replenish my muscles from strength training three days a week. Originally, I intended to stick with my restricted carb and fat diet for longer, but listening to my body, I knew it was time to transition. Our bodies ultimately need these fats and carbs, so I would not promote such a heavily restricted diet for long periods of time. Seven weeks since reincorporating these beneficial foods – avocado, olive oil, nuts, coconut/coconut oil, homemade almond flour breads, seeds, and nut/seed butters – my body has become noticeably leaner. Fat is reducing and muscles are more defined, more confirmation I’m on the right track.
Of course I get on the scale often, but I’m still not overly concerned with the number. I am once again able to fit into all the clothes I haven’t been able to for the last three years and some are even too big at this point. My body shape has changed from bearing children, but I can honestly say it is as beautiful as ever. I will continue this journey of striving for optimal health and sharing my experiences. At this point in time, I am the closest to feeling optimal that I ever have before.
The bottom line is it’s not about exercising excessively and eating the bare minimum. It is about finding a natural balance. Ditch the processed foods, eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, a little grain and protein. Eat vibrant food (and drink water) that has plenty of vitality and don’t hesitate to indulge in a treat when you feel inclined. I love super-dark chocolate and eat it almost every day – I could maybe stand to limit my intake a little, but I don’t want to right now, so I won’t. And of course I cannot forget to mention I have never denied myself a nice beer, strong IPA has been my thing lately.
Move your body five days a week. It doesn’t have to be high impact, but just do something even if it’s only for only ten minutes. This is always better than nothing and will motivate you to continue on a path. Losing weight isn’t about dieting, rather it is a lifestyle change. We are all unique in what works for us so don’t get discouraged if at first a balance is not reached. I have been embracing daily change for the last eight months and I fully intend to keep progressing as I continue to make connections within myself. There is no going back to my old habits as I continue to listen to my body and do what’s best for me.