Those who have never had children can only guess at the feeling of transformation that comes with pregnancy and, eventually, childbirth. It’s the single most transformative experience a woman can undergo in a number of ways. Firstly, there’s the way in which the process of parenthood completely transforms you from the inside out. It rewires your brain and reorders your thoughts to the point where your pre-baby thoughts, worries anxieties and concerns seem almost trivial by comparison. That promotion at work that used to mean everything to you? Now, you could take it or leave it. The dress you saw in the shop window that you absolutely needed to have to celebrate your post-pregnancy body? Now you can think of so many better things to spend your money on. When you have a child, your number one priority becomes protecting this tiny little person in your arms… Whoever they are and whoever they turn out to be.
But then, of course there’s the physical transformation of pregnancy. Postpartum body image affects different women in different ways. Some find the process of pregnancy to be a flowering; they feel more sexy, beautiful and desirable than ever. Others feel that the whole process is some sort of gross metamorphosis that transforms them into a warped version of themselves like a Barbie doll that someone left on the radiator. Whichever side of the fence you fall on there’s no denying that the physical changes that come with pregnancy and childhood can be daunting. When your baby is born, you may be in a rush to get your pre-pregnancy body back… But when you have the 24/7 job of parenthood that may be easier said than done. While you may have had ample time to hit the gym, head out for a morning jog or take the time to cook a healthy meal, the physical and psychological demands of parenthood may leave you at the end of the day wanting nothing more than a night in front of the TV with a microwaved burrito.
But getting your prenatal body back is about more than positive body image, as absolutely important as this may be- especially given the fact that negative body image in mothers is proven to have a knock-on effect on their daughters. It’s also about improving your health and ensuring your wellbeing for decades to come. You’re no longer in it just for you anymore. You have a responsibility to make sure that you’re always there for your new baby, even when they’re no longer a baby but a toddler, an infant, a kid, a tween, a teen, and an adult. If you’re to give them the lifetime of unconditional love and support that they need, you have to start making changes that will ensure that you not only retain a smoking hot bod but a lifetime of good health so that you can be the kind of Mom that you want to be, even when your kids are showing some gray in their hair. Here’s how…
Listen to your body
While one look at your post-baby body might be enough to want you to drop to the floor and start doing crunches straight away. But this can be counterproductive at best and result in injury at worst. All human bodies are different but you should listen to yours before deciding to take steps to reclaim your pre-baby body. Some women are able to get up and active after just a week or two, while others may require at least a month.
If you’re at all in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and wait until you’ve had your 6-week checkup with your doctor.
Get specific exercise
As a new Mom, your body will have gone through some very specific changes and your needs will be somewhat different to someone of your size, shape, and age who simply wants to get in better shape. As such, it’s important to understand what your body needs and where you can get it. The abdomen, in particular, is changed significantly during pregnancy, and it can take some time to feel as though you can exercise this region like you once did. This is because the abs grow thinner and separate as your baby grows.
Fortunately, the world of fitness is attuned to the needs of nascent mothers who want to get in shape. Just check out Moms Into Fitness, Inc for exercise classes near you which are specifically designed to target the areas that you will need to strengthen to restore your pre-baby bod and shed body fat. Moreover, many gyms these days have creches and childcare facilities so that you can work out with peace of mind knowing that your baby is in safe hands.
There are many reasons why new mothers should breastfeed whenever they are able. Firstly, while formula can sustain a baby, a mother’s milk has the perfect proportions of fats, proteins and vitamins to facilitate healthy growth. It also contains antibodies that can help their delicate immune systems from viruses and bacteria. While it may feel strange and uncomfortable at first it can go a long way in strengthening the bond you have with your baby and help you to feel more at ease with your motherhood. But it also burns an astonishing number of calories, around 500-700 per day. Thus, if you’re looking for a way to burn calories that won’t impinge too much on your limited free time, it doesn’t get much better than breastfeeding.
Do you want to keep your body slim and lean? Do you want to gain lean muscle mass while keeping your body fat down? Do you want a balanced diet that incorporates all the macronutrients you need for peak health while also ensuring that you’re able to keep illness and even serious diseases at bay? Do you want to not only ensure that you’ll be there for your kids, when they’re old and gray and get mistaken for their sister rather than their Mom? Do you want to make the planet a better world for your kids, ensuring that their kids grow up in a world where trees, grass, and flowers aren’t distant memories?
If the answer to all of those questions is yes, then you need to eat more plants and less of everything else. You don’t have to go full vegan (although there are many benefits if you do), but eating a mostly whole foods, plant-based diet can have a range of health benefits while also ensuring a more sustainable future for your kids.
Plant-based foods are richer in vitamins and fiber than meat, eggs, fish or dairy products. They’re also packed with phytonutrients which are essential in keeping diseases like cancer at bay. Plant-based diets contain less saturated fats which mean less risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even dementia. They also contain fewer processed foods and thus sidestep all the nasty additives and trans fats which are common in the processed foods which feature heavily in the western diet including processed meats like bacon and salami which are classified by the World Health Organization as type 1 carcinogens. Yup, the same category as cigarettes. Plus their fibrous content also helps to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Not only does eating more fresh veggies and fruits and less of everything else lead to a leaner, healthier you, it’s also voting with your wallet for a more sustainable future. Animal agriculture is responsible for colossal environmental damage all over the world. As the population grows, we seriously need to change our eating habits if we’re to have a beautiful clean planet with oceans full of fish by the time our kids reach adulthood. Not only does the raising of animals for their meat, eggs, and milk create more air pollution than the entire transportation sector, it is the world’s largest contributor to habitat loss, species extinction ocean dead zones and deforestation. Even swapping out the milk in your morning coffee for oat, almond or soy milk can make a huge difference.
Get your daily dose of babycise
Even if you’re really pushed for time, you can still strengthen your body and build lean muscle mass (which will help to speed up your metabolism and keep body fat at bay), all while spending some quality time with your baby. Even the busiest of Moms can make some time for these effective baby exercises;
- Baby curls- This is a great one to engage your abs. Lie face up and slowly bring your knees up, gently placing your baby on your shins. Crunch by contracting your abs to raise your head and shoulders just above the ground. Bring you and your baby nose to nose and enjoy their gleeful chuckles.
- Baby shoulder press- Sit cross-legged on the floor, holding your baby around 12 inches in front of your face. Lift your baby up over your head and feel the burn in your shoulders while they giggle away
- Baby bench press- Lie on your back with your knees bent and bring your baby up to your face. Extend your arms outward then slowly bring your arms and your baby back to the starting position.
However, you choose to pursue your pre-baby body, be realistic with yourself, reward your achievements and keep yourself motivated by thinking of all the years you’ll get to spend with your son or daughter in perfect physical and mental health.