The workout I’m currently loving

I talked about my postpartum workout strategy yesterday: focus on one body issue at a time. I think I’ve achieved some great results with this strategy, because it’s more realistic and easy to fit into my busy life as a mother. In addition to my focused workout, I utilize my “5 ways to lose the baby weight without trying” on a daily basis so my whole body is still getting some attention. I also take Emerson for walks several times a week.

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Back to the focused routine. I was getting sick of not being able to keep my pants up after I lost the baby weight. I had no junk in the trunk to keep them on my hips! Which is why, I am currently loving the Brazilian Butt Workout. If you’re on Pinterest, you may have come across it. Well, trust me, you will feel the burn with this one! Personally, I love the feeling of waking up with sore muscles the next day because it’s proof that I’m making progress. And I am making progress! If I knew I would be writing about this on my blog one day, I would have taken before and after photos, became damn. What is it about pregnancy that makes your butt flat, droopy and extra jiggly? I don’t know, but I decided to do something about the “mom butt” a couple of months ago. Thanks to the Brazilian Butt Workout, I’m happy to report that my buns are looking rounder, firmer and less assaulted by gravity.

The workout suggests doing the whole routine three times through, but I will be the first to admit that that sounded impossible to me at first. Okay….it still does. It’s all about easing into exercise and being realistic for me as a postpartum woman, so I decided to only commit to doing half the routine once through, and gradually increase that over time. That wasn’t so much a choice as it was a necessity given I collapsed onto the floor, unable to move my legs the first time I did the workout (okay….again, this still happens).

This is also a great routine to do while watching the kids. Emerson is thoroughly amused and entertained watching me work my buns out! She especially likes to watch me do frog jumps!

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I hope you enjoyed health and fitness week as much as I did! I’m feeling this as an addition to my blog right now so I’m going to go with it—maybe once a week—as long as I feel like it’s working.

TLC for the postpartum brain

I don’t know about you, but I feel depressed when I focus on the parts of a problem that I cannot control….the parts that are immoveable. When it comes to my physical appearance, though, I have often done just that: focused on things I cannot control. Given that fact, I could have very easily slipped into self-loathing postpartum. I could have gotten lost in the plumpness of my still pregnant-looking belly or the dark line that ran its length, fixated on the wideness of my hip bones that never fully disappeared, longed for the breasts of my former self, obsessed over the millions of new freckles and beauty marks that erupted all over my body during pregnancy, cried over the loss of skin elasticity in various locations, or pitied the fact that my belly button has been forever stretched and reshapened. But, I didn’t. Sure, these issues occur to me at times, but I have chosen to focus on what I can control.

In the first few months postpartum, I can honestly say that the joy (and lovely euphoric hormones!) of new motherhood almost completely shielded me from any negative thoughts about the state of my body. There was no time or reason to focus on my appearance. All I could see was how awesome my body was, because it made a perfect, beautiful little creature. I felt thankful (and still do) that becoming a mother changed the way I view my body and the importance I used to place on my appearance.

Then I arrived at the point in time when my attention began to take short breaks from obsessing over my baby. I began to slowly take stock of what had happened to my body. But, I tried not to ever linger in the mirror, because it can be overwhelming (and paralyzing) to look at the whole picture postpartum. Your entire frame has endured a massive ordeal—a metamorphasis and subsequent deflation in a relatively short period of time. It finally occurred to me that I was never going to look the same again. Maybe close, but never the same “same.”

It’s not just about the weight, though. For me, losing the weight was step one. But step two is a much bigger project: renovations. That’s the phase I have been in for awhile now. And for sanity’s sake, I have chosen to break those renovations down into manageable chunks rather than having the expectation that I can fix it all at once. Because, when I was focused on the entire package, I just wasn’t working out. I mean, who has the time to do cardio, an ab routine, weight train, tone your arms, tighten your butt and thighs, practice yoga, etc. etc. all while mothering a baby?

So, I thought to myself why not pick one thing? Maybe, the one part of your body that bothers you the most….or that you’d most like to show off. Because, sometimes, having one awesome part of your body is a great way to detract attention from the less appealing parts and feel confident about what you do have going on. Age-old female trick, right? So, just one body part. Work on that until you achieve a noticeable difference and then move on to the next. All the while, working in some light cardio so the parts that aren’t being focused on are still getting a little attention. For me, this has been a great way to ease into exercising postpartum while keeping myself motivated instead of giving up because it’s too much work.

To that end, I will share the workout I am currently loving (and focusing on) tomorrow. Check back then!

Did you miss my earlier health & fitness posts?
5 ways to lose the baby weight without trying
My go-to meal: fueling a healthy, fit pregnancy and losing the baby weight

My go-to meal: fueling a healthy pregnancy, and losing the baby weight

I am obsessed with food. Healthy food, that is. If you were a fly on the wall of my life, you would often hear my husband asking, “I’m eating a banana! What kind of vitamins and minerals am I ingesting? Hey, hon, what can I eat to get rid of this cold faster? Baby, do you want a lot of kale or a little kale with your dinner? Is that organic/in season/dairy-free/gluten-free/sugar-free/from the farmer’s market?

Yes, I think about, read about, and talk about food a lot. It’s the number one way I take care of myself. So, naturally, I was very interested obsessed with eating right during pregnancy. I wanted to provide the best nutrition possible for my baby while giving my own body what it needed to remain healthy and fit. And I found that, after giving birth, my goals were pretty much the same. I was still growing my baby by fueling her little body with breast milk and I still wanted to support my body so it could heal and recover from pregnancy without adding to the baby weight. The easiest way to accomplish these goals is to eat nutrient-dense meals (or snacks), more often. This means eating meals that pack a good variety of the vitamins and minerals your body needs into one dish. I find that I am left feeling much more satisfied (and with much fewer cravings for not-so-healthy food) when I eat this way.

I have a few go-to meals that I eat in rotation, but the “Big Salad,” as I so dubbed it during pregnancy, is one that never fails. I feel so nourished and satisfied afterwards, almost as if I can feel the nutrients going to work in my body. It’s tasty, filling and so very nutritious. The protein from the eggs and hummus will fill you up, the whole grains from the brown rice bread will give you some fuel/energy without feeling heavy, and the healthy fats from the olive oil and avocado will satisfy cravings (cravings are usually your body’s way of asking for something….it just takes a little bit of detective work to figure out what that is).

All the “fat” in this meal might make you nervous. Personally, I swear by healthy fats. They are rich in omegas, good for your heart, fight fatigue, improve your overall health, and can actually help you control your weight. Healthy fats are one of my secrets! My diet is high in healthy fat and virtually devoid of unhealthy saturated fats. Let’s not fail to mention that this way of eating also benefits a growing fetus or growing baby (through breast milk) enormously!

So, here is my recipe for “Big Salad,” including the health benefits of each ingredient (click links for full nutritional information):

Alexa’s Big Salad

2-3 cups mixed dark, leafy greens salad mix (I prefer Olivia’s Spring Mix)
*high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and iron

1 cup baby spinach
*high in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Manganese, Magnesium, Calcium, Vitamin C, Iron, Folic Acid, Fiber, B Vitamins, on the “12 best foods to eat during pregnancy” list

1-2 large carrots, peeled and diced
*high in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Fiber, Vitamin C, on the “12 best foods to eat during pregnancy” list

6-8 grape tomatoes, halved
*high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Lycopene 

1/2 an avocado, chopped
*high in Folic acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Omegas, on the “12 best foods to eat during pregnancy” list

2 hardboiled Omega/DHA-enhanced eggs, chopped
*high in Protein, Omegas, B Vitamins, Choline (research indicates Choline can help prevent miscarriage in addition to its many other health benefits), on the “12 best foods to eat during pregnancy” list

2-4 tablespoons hummus
*high in protein, Folic Acid, Fiber, Manganese

Olive oil, to taste

Balsamic Vinegar, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Gluten-free brown rice toast with Coconut Spread, on the side

Directions:

Mix all ingredients, salad mix through avocado in a bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Top with hardboiled eggs and hummus. Serve toast on the side.

5 ways to lose the baby weight without trying

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!

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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.