TW: Discussions about weight gain, body image and dietThe way I feel about my body after having a baby is very complex. On the one hand I am in total awe of the fact that this body grew the most beautiful baby and provided her with a safe home that gave her everything she needed until she arrived. I truly respect my body for being able to do that, and to this day I still find it almost incomprehensible that this wonderful little baby used to squirm and wiggle around inside me, and now she’s here, greeting me every morning with a huge grin.
And then there are these other feelings – the way I feel about having gone up two dress sizes and put on 2.5 stone. I can’t wear any of the clothes I wore before becoming pregnant, and six months’ on I’m still living in leggings and loose jumpers. Lockdown is in some ways a blessing as the thought of going for dinner or having to wear anything that doesn’t feature lycra fills me with utter dread. It’s the same experience over and over again – trying to cram myself into a pair of jeans and feeling uncomfortable and flat. After having Alba I expected that the ‘baby weight’ would just slowly come off week by week, but actually I weigh more now than I did in the weeks after giving birth.
Of course I know the reasons for this – those first few weeks and months went by in a haze of grabbing Cadbury’s Buttons and giant bags of crisps from the cupboard and eating them whilst stood in the kitchen rocking her. I barely moved from the sofa and I numbed my feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm with takeaways and the wine I’d missed for the nine months’ preceding. I think that’s quite a typical journey and I don’t feel any guilt or shame for it. If I did it again I would make sure I had healthier and more nutritious meals prepared, I’d fill the cupboard with fruit and cereal bars, and hopefully people would be allowed to visit this time and they might come armed with soups and shepherd’s pies! I think chocolate (and wine) are absolutely essential for getting through those tough days (and nights) but not in the volume I was eating them. It’s no surprise that I’ve spent that last few months feeling slugglish and bloated; waking up in the mornings feeling exhausted from the sleep deprivation but with a cloudy head from the three glasses of wine the night before.
I absolutely do not intend on giving up wine, chocolate or crisps. But as Alba is about to turn six months’ old, I think it’s a great point to try and be more intentional about my eating, and start to move more. I used to love running before becoming pregnant and it’s one of the things I’ve missed in the last few months. I couldn’t have imagined that one of the things I took for granted before having a baby was being able to throw on my running gear and get out for a run without thinking about it. I prefer to run first thing in the morning so my opportunities to run nowadays are only at the weekends if Liam isn’t working (or to brave running in the evenings after I’ve put her down for bed, which is difficult to time in the short window between our dinner time and going to bed!) When I have gone out running I have been shocked at how unfit I am now, and I’d like to change that and to feel stronger and fitter again. I want to get back into fitness and be more thoughtful about what I eat not to shift that 2.5 stone but to feel better in myself – to not wake up with a sugar hangover and a fuzzy wine head. When I look back at the times when I’ve been more active and made healthier food choices I’ve definitely felt my best self, and I want to feel like that again.
In my efforts to get back into fitness over the last few weeks (and my slightly more unsuccessful attempts in the months before) I’ve figured out what works for me and what doesn’t and I thought I’d share these here for anyone else on the same journey.
Choose activities that you can involve the baby in
I really struggled in the first few months because I’d try and cram a workout into her naptimes or after she’d gone to bed, and it just didn’t work. No sooner had I dragged out my mat, got a YouTube video on and picked up the weights – she’d wake up. Or I’d be so exhausted that I’d end up just flopping on the sofa instead. Or I’d be so overwhelmed by all of the other activities competing for my time (the laundry pile, the dishwasher, washing up all the bottles) that I’d end up doing nothing.
It was a total game-changer when I discovered Cari Fit. Cari Fit are workouts you can do whilst your baby is in the carrier, so no counting down to naptime and you can fit them easily into your day as they’re short but effective. There’s also live workouts if you prefer the motivation of tuning in at a specific time, and core support to help with postnatal recovery.
This not only changed my routine but totally changed my mindset. Instead of trying to fit workouts around Alba, now I fit them in with her. I’ve also found some lovely Mum and Baby yoga routines on YouTube (this one from Brett Larkin is my current favourite) which is such a lovely way to start the day.
I bought the Ergobaby 360 Carrier so I could more comfortably do the Cari Fit workouts and every day we go out for a walk (I have also been known to lunge and squat around the field – it actually calms Alba down if she’s ever not in the mood to go for a walk! It sounds ridiculous but I just try and fit in movement wherever I can.
Start when you’re ready and don’t put pressure on yourself
There is a lot of discussion about when it’s safe to return to running after giving birth, and this will depend on your birth, your body and ideally advice from your GP. The general advice is not before 3-months PP but I waited longer as I was really suffering with coccydynia and my body just wasn’t up to it. Do your own research on where to start and find workouts that are tailored to post-partum and don’t cause any discomfort. Frankly I didn’t want to start exercising until a few months in and then when I did I started slowly with some walk-runs (a bit like Couch to 5k) and some yoga and pilates routines. I try and avoid ever feeling like I ‘should’ work out or that I need to in order to lose weight, instead I do it because of how great it makes me feel.
Get yourself some new workout clothes that fit and make you feel confident
I think there’s nothing more motivating than new workout gear. The first time I got out my running gear to go for a run after having Alba I was gutted to find that I had nothing that fit – not even a single sports bra that I wouldn’t have had to dislocate my shoulder in order to get on! All of my exercise gear went back into the cupboard and I got myself some new bits that I feel great in. I was very lucky to be gifted this amazing set by MyProtein as part of their new Composure range which is ideally suited for yoga and pilates. (Also highly recommended for wearing around the house with a comfy jumper!)
Food prep when the baby is asleep
My final tip is to to try and prepare as many meals and snacks as you can the night before, for the following day. The days when I find myself at the bottom of the biscuit tin are when I haven’t thought about what I might eat that day and I’m just grabbing things as I go without thinking about it. There will always be days when you need that chocolate biscuit! But I try and avoid the more difficult days with Alba ending up in lunch being whatever I can grab whilst holding her – usually crisps and sugary snacks. Nowadays whilst I’m cooking dinner I’ll also make myself a wrap or a salad, or I’ll make extra for dinner and put it in a lunchbox. I also usually make overnight oats at the same time and then I know I’ve got a breakfast I can grab and eat whilst she’s on the playmat or napping.
What are your tips for getting back into a health and fitness routine after having a baby?