Monday, September 10, 2007

Keeping Your Figure With Children

I can guess that one of the biggest fears women have with having children is losing their figures. It's impossible to ignore, even on a simple trip to Walmart, the number of women who've "let themselves go" and have a child or children with them. Even my own OB/GYN was very thankful and elated that I stayed in shape and didn't "let myself go." He bemoaned the number of women who do end up overweight and obese after having a child.

Frankly, I can't figure out why. I've never been so active in my life! I can't imagine having the extra pounds to lug around and not being fit enough to keep up with my son or the housework.

Now, I'm going to admit a few things. First, I have good genes. I come from a long line of petite women. That helps....a little, but only a little. Secondly, my post pregnancy weight may seem low to you, it was high for me. We shouldn't attain to overall numbers, but to the BMI and state of health that's best for our individual bodies. Thirdly, I was borderline overweight when I got pregnant and overweight after I gave birth. So, don't think that I'm just one of those skinny, petite girls who can eat anything, because I'm not. I'm a shapely, petite girl who has to watch what she eats, and I don't like to exercise.

So, here we go. How to keep your figure with children: **Disclaimer, NONE of this is meant to be a replacement for your doctor's advice. This is just one woman speaking to another. This is meant for women who don't have medical conditions and have normal pregnancies.**

PRE-PREGNANCY

For best results, it all starts before you get pregnant. You need to get into 3 habits:
1. Get into the habit of exercising at least 15 minutes a day
2. Get into the habit of taking walks
3. Get into the habit of cutting out refined sugar and white flour and learn to eat healthfully. I recommend Nourishing Traditions.

Getting into these habits before you're pregnant will help you keep them during and afterwards, too. Plus, it'll help you attain optimal health for eduring and carrying a pregnancy.

1st TRIMESTER

You're probably best friends with the potty. The only thing you feel like eating are saltine crackers. You're so tired you can barely get off the couch, let alone exercise. But, try not to make these excuses. You really need will-power here. It's also very important to talk to your doctor or midwife about what you can do to stay healthy during this difficult trimester.

Do what you can, but try your very best to follow these:
1. Continue to eat healthfully. Try bland oatmeal and whole foods like apples, cucumbers, light salads, etc. Don't give in to refined carbs. Of course, if all you can keep down is saltines no matter what, by all means eat it.
2. You may have to cut out your 15 minutes of exercise depending on how morning sick you are, but do your best not to cut out your walks. If it's the dead of winter or the blazing heat of summer, try an indoor walk DVD or treadmill.
3. If you can manage it and have the doctor's go-ahead, you can do pilates to strengthen your core up until 12-14 weeks.
4. Keep moving and don't over indulge. This is not the time to be "eating for two." There's little to no need for extra calories, or weight gain over 5 lbs in the first trimester. Again, doctor's word trumps mine.

2nd TRIMESTER

You're feeling better, a bit more energetic. Your little lump isn't that big yet, so you can move fairly freely. Take advantage of this trimester.

1. Now that you're probably not nauseated anymore, eat as healthfully as you possibly can. Cravings will start haunting you, but try to keep portions very small and be creative with healthful alternatives. Avoid too many carbs, especially refined ones (white flour).
2. Get back into the at least 15 minutes a day exercise routine. I recommend Kathy Smith's pregnancy workout and Denise Austin's Walking Workout.
3. Continue to walk.
4. It's wise to look into and begin exercises that strengthen your pelvic floor and help prepare you for childbirth.
5. Stop any crunches, exercizes you do on your back, and most pilates.

3rd TRIMESTER

You're getting bigger. Things are starting to swell. Weight it piling on you. You don't feel much like moving.

1. This isn't the trimester to worry about weight gain. Just so long as you're eating enough (doctor's recommendation) and doing your best to stay active (according to doctor's recommendations), you should be all right.
2. If you can manage, continue with a pregnancy exercise routine, but you may have to slow it down a little.
3. Try to keep taking walks.
4. Continue to eat healthfully
5. Stretch marks are inevitable in most women. Stretched skin is inevitable in most women. Still, feel free to liberally smear on the belly butter, stretchmark cream and cocoa butter. Just make sure it's safe. Avoid dollar store creams. They may be cheap, but they may also be imitations that contain dangerous chemicals or simply do you no good.

4th TRIMESTER (birth to 6 week check-up) (For vaginal births only)

ENJOY YOUR BABY and HEAL!

Don't worry about weight, your figure or getting out to exercise. This is the time to enjoy your baby.

1. Keep eating as healthfully as you can. Especially if you're breast-feeding, your baby is going to need it.
2. Get plenty of rest. It'll not only help your body heal, but it'll help you establish your milk supply.
3. However, do try to get up and move a little. It's good to keep your blood flowing for the healing process and to keep from developing blood clots. If you've had an episiotomy, don't try to force yourself to take walks. I did, and boy did it hurt. Just move. Do simple motions. Take small steps while "dancing" with your baby.
4. Yes, your belly probably looks like a big bowl of raised pizza dough, but don't let that worry you. It WILL shrink over time.
5. This is also a time to start establishing a routine and getting used to life with baby so you can fit in exercise later.

POST PARTUM

The doctor or midwife gave you a clean bill of health after your 6 week checkup. Now's the time to start exercising again (slowly and building back up), but of course, you're exhausted and can't even imagine finding time between nursing, sleeping and trying to get some semblance of housework done or a shower in to exercise.

1. Keep eating those healthy foods!
2. Don't try too hard to lose weight too fast. You need those extra calories to keep your milk supply up.
3. Don't jump on the low-fat, no-fat bandwagon. Your baby NEEDS that fat to get into your milk for optimal development. Fat doesn't make you fat, anyway. Refined sugars and white flours do.
4. Don't focus on weightloss just yet. Just focus on keeping you and baby healthy and building your strength and stamina back up.
5. Get fully back into your walking routine. Most baby's love walks and pushing that stroller is a great workout.
6. Start doing your pregnancy workout DVD again and build back up to regular workout routines.
7. Now's a great time to start pilates again.

When I got pregnant, I was 130 lbs. That's borderline overweight for my height and frame. During my pregnancy, I barely exercised and ate whatever I wanted. After I gave birth, I was 146 lbs (size 10-12)! For me, that's quite high. Quite high, indeed! Today, I hover around 121 to 123 more muscular lbs. That's pretty much ideal. I could go a little thinner, like to 115, but that's a high-maintenance weight. Depending on the style, I wear a size 2-4.

I am healthier, happier, more fit and stronger than I was before I got pregnant. You can be, too.

5 comments:

prayzgod said...

I have four children, and I'm a size 4. For me, I can't say it's my genes, as my mom's overweight, all of her sister are overweight, mom's mom was overweight, etc... I can see how I could easily blow up like a blimp. I know I could be HUGE! :-P

I exercise at least three times per week, and have since my early teens. I LOVE being in shape, and have been hooked on it for years now.

I'm a firm believer in the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn. I build up my muscles, and I don't count my caleries, fat grams, carbs, or any of that.

Women CAN stay "thin" and have children. I was scared to death of having kids, because my mom never lost her "baby weight."

However, I lost all my baby weight with each of my children within 2 weeks of each childbirth.

Bethgem said...

I'm going to have to disagree bigtime on the exercising during pregnancy, even walking. I'd say, instead, watch what you eat and try to REST! Unless it's your first baby, I think childcare is enough exercise for pregnancy. As long as you don't go crazy with eating, you should gain just the right amount for YOUR pregnancy.

I also agree that losing weight while nursing should be secondary. Again, postpartum I find childcare is enough exercise for me, and eating four square meals a day I still lose weight. But slowly. If I start trying to lose more than a pound every couple weeks or so, my milk supply diminishes noticeably.

These are things I see a lot of women struggle with. It's important to adress it, but I think we should remember that every woman's body is different and that a healthy pregnancy and being able to breastfeed (if that's what you want to do) are so much more important than five or ten extra pounds to have to lose over a few more weeks or months.

Kate said...

Thanks for your comment, Bethgem. I should have pointed out that losing weight too quickly can diminish breast milk. Every woman is different. I've known women who are very fond of exercising who stop during pregnancy. I, for one, try to keep up on it because I hate not feeling strong and having no muscle tone. It's not so much about body image as it is about being strong and healthy and staying that way.

Bethgem said...

I can see you put a lot of thought into your post. I'm certainly not going to argue with your personal preference - you can tell what's best for yourself better than I. I just wanted to offer a different perspective. You know what my story is, Kate, so maybe that's why I think like I do about it. I went into preterm labor at 28 weeks while compulsively dustmopping on New Years' Day.

Also wanted to say I'm not a doctor etc... what she said.

Anonymous said...

If you stop taking walks during pregnancy you will loose your stamina, have less energy, and be at greater risk for health problems (varicose veins is a major one!) Walking, with your midwife's okay, is one of the best exercises you can do during pregnancy.