I have always been an active person. Constantly moving my body (and burning calories). But, my body responded to pregnancy and postpartum by shutting down. On the one hand, I felt healthier than ever because it was a time of supreme nutrition as I obsessed over growing the healthiest baby possible. But, I had the urge to be sedentary. I went from a life of constant motion and craving exercise (to feel vital, energized and sane) to a life of napping and sitting on the couch all day. I would get dizzy, see stars, lose feeling in my limbs, and generally just felt overwhelmingly weakened when on my feet. Thus the extent of my exercise regimen during pregnancy included taking slow walks. I listened to my body and inner wisdom and rested. I knew that was what my body needed in order to support a healthy pregnancy. If you listen closely, your body will always tell you what it needs….and that is the starting point for health. Listen.
I hoped that my need for a relatively sedentary life would end abruptly as I pushed my child out of my body. But, it did not. My recovery from childbirth was very slow. My body would loudly protest at the slightest hint of movement. I would suffer complications from simply climbing a set of stairs. At times, I would push myself and resist my body’s wisdom by going for long hikes with my baby strapped to my chest. And things would get even worse. So, I rested. For nearly four months, I rested. While eating ice cream daily. And, as I mentioned yesterday
, wearing maternity clothes.Eventually, I reached a point when I was finally
able to move again (it felt like an eternity!). True exercise, such as jogging, was still too painful, but I simply began to move. And the ways I began to move led to some significant weight loss. This may not be a cure-all for the postpartum body, but by adopting a more active life, you can
make a difference. You can tighten and tone, lose weight and feel better while simultaneously entertaining or soothing your child.
**A word of caution: Please remember, it’s very important to start slow after giving birth. Wait the customary 6-12 weeks to allow your body to heal. Give yourself time. And don’t expect your body to be capable of doing what it did pre-pregnancy just because you’re no longer carrying a child. Your body has gone through an enormous ordeal. Respect your vessel.
5 ways to lose the baby weight without trying:
1. Wear your baby– I mentioned some of the many benefits of baby wearing here. But, wearing your baby doesn’t just benefit the baby. It’s a great way to strengthen your back and legs, and tone your abs and glutes. If you start wearing your baby from birth (or as soon as your body has healed enough), your muscles will grow with the weight of your child allowing you to continue carrying your child for many years without strain, all while toning your body. I have been wearing my baby for a minimum of four hours a day (up to 6+ hours a day) from the time my body had healed from childbirth until today. In fact, I am currently writing this with a 20 lb. passenger on my chest. Four hours may seem like a lot, and you can certainly enjoy the benefits by doing less, but it adds up quickly when you go about the business of your life or allow your child to nap on you.
Bonus tip: Wearing your child while going about your every day life does a body good. But, to take it up a notch, try wearing your baby while taking a walk or hike outdoors. Can’t get outside? Wearing your baby while cleaning the house will also make you sweat. I attribute much of my weight loss to vacuuming and cleaning a two-story home while baby wearing. All the lifting, trips up the stairs, and constant movement is a workout! Meanwhile, your baby is content and you are being productive. Win. Or, go a more traditional route and try doing some squats or lunges while wearing your baby.
Caution: It’s important to know how to properly use your baby carrier to prevent injury to your body. If you do it safely and ergonomically, you should not be in pain. And please, do not attempt cardio or weight training while wearing your baby.
2. Bounce on an exercise ball– I attribute the current shape of my abs to a billion hours spent bouncing on an exercise ball to soothe my baby. I mentioned the magic of bouncing here. Like baby wearing, it’s not just magic for the baby, but also for your body! Comfort, soothe, and help your baby to sleep by bouncing on a ball instead of rocking in a chair and tone your body at the same time! When I first began bouncing on the ball with Emerson a few weeks postpartum, I could feel the burn in my back, abs, and legs. Fast forward twelve months and I am still bouncing my baby on the ball, but it feels easy because my muscles have developed so strongly. Another added benefit: my posture has improved greatly (I even get comments on this!).
Bonus tip: Use the ball to play! Sometimes I will hold Emerson and play “bouncy baby.” This involves holding her tight against my body and bouncing as high as I can while sitting on the ball (all while singing bouncy, bouncy, bouncy baaaaby….of course). You will feel the burn.
3. Be a tour guide– From the time Emerson was born, we wanted to show her the world. We would walk her all over the house, narrating what we saw. As she grew, she loved this activity more and more. Whether we’re stuck inside because of the weather or we’re exploring the neighborhood, there is always so much to see when looking through the eyes of a baby. This may sound like a simple activity, but it can add hundreds of steps to your day. We’ve all heard how adding steps to your day can benefit your health. That’s because all those steps add up! For roughly every 2,000 steps you add to your day, you have walked a mile. So, put one foot in front of the other!
Bonus tip: Take a tour around your neighborhood instead of just the house or yard. You can easily add thousands, rather than hundreds, of steps this way.
4. Play with your child– Your child will love it, your body will love it! Get down on the floor and crawl around. A mobile child will “chase” after you. Give your shoulders, arms and back a workout by raising or safely throwing your child up into the air (try bouncing a smaller baby up and down like you are doing bicep curls….Emerson loved this as a newborn!). Roll around, jump like a frog, be silly. And the older your baby gets, the more strenuous playtime will be!
Bonus tip: This qualifies as real exercise, but you can “play” by incorporating your child into a strengthening routine. Use your baby in place of weights for bicep curls, chest presses, and shoulder presses. Hold your baby while you lunge, squat, or plié. Sit your baby on your belly as you do crunches. She will probably giggle the whole time.
5. Dance– Do you remember when you were in college and you would leave a bar drenched in sweat after a night of dancing? I do! I also remember the soreness I felt in my muscles the next morning. That’s because dancing is a great workout and burns a ton of calories. And, it’s fun! It didn’t feel like work to dance with my friends at a bar when I was young, and it doesn’t feel like work to dance in my living room with my child now. This suggestion has the added benefit of putting you in a really good mood, too! Oftentimes when I am having a stressful day as a mother or I’m feeling a bit blue, I will turn on some upbeat music and dance with Emerson. In no time, I am smiling and feeling better. Plus, babies love music, and they love to dance.
Bonus tip: Dance with your baby. As in, hold your baby in your arms while dancing to an upbeat song. Try incorporating your baby into your dance moves by raising them up into the air or holding them straight out in front of you and rocking them side to side. This used to be easy with a newborn, but these days I am wiped after just one song when dancing with my 20 lb. child. I can feel the calories melting off!
That’s it, folks! Simple ideas that can give you big results! Check in tomorrow for my go-to meal for fueling a healthy, fit pregnancy and losing the baby weight.