I always feared becoming a mother.
I wasn't scared of the sleepless nights, the constant diapers, or the two-year-old tantrums; I was scared of stretch marks, saggy breasts, extra skin and most of all, weight gain. I rarely saw mothers in incredible shape. And, even though I had background in fitness, I wasn't confident I would have the same motivation to be in great shape with babies, kids, work, and a household to juggle.
All of my fears began to literally weigh on me when I gained 35 pounds during my first pregnancy. After giving birth in January 2009, I lost all my pregnancy weight plus an extra 10 pounds. I lost all that weight just in time to get pregnant again in July. I gave birth again in April 2010 and then again in December 2011. For people doing the math, I was pregnant for nearly three years! In those three years, I gained and lost 125 pounds.
Throughout my pregnancies, I continued to work out. I ensured my heart rate rarely crept above 140; and as my belly grew, I stopped performing exercises that required me to lie down. When I wasn't pregnant, I would train five or six days per week. When I was pregnant, I trained for 2-4 days for just 45-60 minutes at a time.
While exercise is a big piece of the healthy pregnancy pie, a much bigger piece of the real pie (with ice cream of course) is that most pregnant women eat poorly.
Control Your Cravings
I don't believe cravings are uncontrollable. I think most women indulge. They eat unhealthy food and blame the baby for craving it. I made a concerted effort to eat only 300-500 extra calories per day while I was pregnant. I splurged on Skittles or bread, but I rarely went beyond what was healthy for me and the baby to eat.
Many pregnant women think they'll lose all the weight they gain after the baby is born. In truth, most women naturally will lose approximately 20 pounds. The rest is all up to you to lose!
Deal With Changes
When I saw my belly for the first time a couple days after my son was born, I was stunned that it still looked a little pregnant. My whole body completely changed. My breasts were larger, my body was weaker, and I was left with small areas of stretch marks, not to mention new fat pockets on my hips, arms, and back.
For the first six weeks post-pregnancy, my exercise was limited. My initial weight loss was assisted through nursing, massaging my belly, eating clean foods, and drinking lots of water. After I received the "go ahead" from my doctor, I started exercising and cleaning up my diet. As the months progressed, I made good physical gains.
Yet I still felt different, physically and mentally. For example:
Since I carried the baby in the front of my body, I felt the back of my body widen and weaken. My little bubble butt became a wider, flatter butt. Drawing in my belly button became nearly impossible. Before my pregnancy, I could do 50 push-ups; afterward, I could only perform 10 before my core gave way.
I always heard, "Make sure you sleep a lot." Instead of listening, I just rolled my eyes and got annoyed at the constant comment. Little did I realize how true the statement was! Newborns wake up every 2-3 hours for feed, to be changed, or in my case, to cry because he had colic. Lack of sleep, coupled with keeping up with housework and family commitments, zapped my energy.
I hated every piece of clothing I owned. My pregnancy clothes swallowed me and my pre-pregnancy clothes strangled me! I refused to buy clothes two sizes bigger than my intended weight. I felt beautiful when I had a blooming belly, but as soon as the baby was born, I stressed about losing the weight.
I didn't feel obligated because of social pressure, but I wasn't accustomed to being so much heavier. The extra weight influenced my physical insecurities and darkened my internal outlook.
Having a child can be the most miraculous and life-changing moment of a woman's life. I felt constant guilt for wanting to be "myself" again" while I should have been basking in my blessings. I also felt guilty about wanting to focus on my fitness while I was juggling the stress of a newborn.
I felt bad about not being with him when he awoke or around when he wanted to eat. I also felt bad about wanting an hour to myself or a midday nap with no one in the bed beside me. But mostly, I felt guilty about wanting more from life when it appeared I already had so much.
It Gets Better
It's not easy to be a mother. It's even more difficult to be a mother who wants to be fit. But let's face it: if you want to be an extraordinary mother, you also need to be good to yourself. In order to do this, you need to prioritize, plan, and prepare for everything and anything in your life and your family's life. It takes a certain amount of balance and bravery to say "No, I will not settle for less. And yes, I will set higher expectations for myself."
Becoming a mother is not the end of the world; it's an opportunity to test the strength of the female form. I had three kids in 3 years. Motherhood shouldn't break you, and it can make you better.
Fit Mom Tips
Even if you don't have the same emotions and difficulties I did, you may still struggle to balance your new child's needs with your personal fitness goals.
Implement these tips into your daily routine. They'll help you get started, get back on track, and stay motivated through the process of reclaiming your body.
1 / Set Goals and Measure Your Progress
Small goals each day will help you stay motivated. The best way to do this is to create daily nutrition and workout goals. For example, start with, "I will drink eight glasses of water today." Or, "I will not drink any soda today." Hold yourself accountable to these goals by telling other people about them. A good support system works wonders.
Keep an exercise and food journal so you're more aware of your eating and fitness habits. Recognize things you can improve and you'll be more apt to change. Don't just measure your progress by pounds lost. Measure it through energy level, inches lost, and how your clothes fit. Track these small accomplishments in your journal or log.
2 / Make Time for Fitness
This takes a lot of will power, I know, but there are a few things you can do to make exercise easier to fit in:
Try working out at home. Do it before your kids wake up, while they're at school, or whenever you have a little free time. Grab a fitness DVD, watch YouTube videos, or tune in to a workout show on television. There are a million things you can do without a gym membership. You can also invest in some gym equipment so you can do more complete workouts from home.
Join a mothers' fitness club. Find other mommies who are fit-minded so you can have workout dates. It's also a good idea to look for gyms that have kid's clubs. That way you can train without worrying about your baby.
3 / Eat Well and Wisely
Oh, I know. This is easier said than done. You don't need to go crazy with your diet, but at least try to keep only healthy foods in your house and carry a water bottle with you wherever you go. You can also stash healthy snacks like fruit and nuts in your car to bust those cravings.
For better homemade meals, buy a healthy cookbook, or try a new healthy recipe each week. For those days you're eating out, skip the bread basket and eat slowly. If you have to eat fast food, order a salad or a grilled chicken sandwich.
Breastfeeding is a calorie-burner. So, if you're able and want to, breastfeeding can help shrink your uterus and help you lose the excess weight. If your children are a bit older, try not to finish what they leave on their plates. Eat your meals exactly as you plan them.
4 / Make Good Health Part of Your Parenting
Fitness can be fun. And for kids, exercise just means play time. If your kids are outside, go play with them! Jump rope, climb on the jungle gym, play tag, play catch. Not only is it great for you, but your kids will love having you as a play buddy.
If you and your spouse have the same interests in biking, running, hiking or even like working out together in the gym, do it!