Motherhood and Weight loss

Life is divided into chapters. While we each have unique stories, we share commonalities. Motherhood is one of those chapters that a lot of people will experience. Here’s what I have learned since becoming “mama” when it comes to diet and exercise.

First off, do not focus on losing weight after having a baby. Mama, you do whatever makes you happy. For me, that was wine and food which was what I needed for the first 2 years.

Welcome to becoming a parent and entering survival mode! How long will it last? It's different for everyone but it is undeniably hard. It is difficult having a young child or children despite our society making it seem easy. We portray parenthood with "perfect" photos but anyone who is in it knows damn well someone was crying before, during or after that picture! 

Becoming a mother was something that I truly always wanted however I had no idea it would be so difficult. I once asked my mother “how come you didn’t tell me it would be so hard?” Her response was that if everyone knew, they wouldn’t have kids!

I gained about 25 lbs during my pregnancy and delivered at 36 weeks via c-section. I went back to work after a week but I was also the primary care provider for my son. At 3 months, we hired a nanny for 10 hours a week. I am grateful that I was able to be with my son for 18 months before he entered a Montessori program but working full-time and caring for him was very difficult. My anxiety skyrocketed and I developed poor coping mechanisms including alcohol and food.

I breastfed for 14 months and ate whatever I wanted during this time. I thought I was heavier however the real weight gain was after I stopped. I had eaten poorly and at large volumes for years and that caught up real quick.

Even as I got into the high 160’s at 5’6”, I knew I was a beautiful woman. I was always confident but I started to grow insecure as I saw photos that “‘made me look fat.” The reality is that it wasn’t a bad photo. I was overweight and eventually accepted it.

My focus as a new mom was to survive. I wanted to be the best mom possible, be able to breast feed and make money for my family. It took its toll on my mental and physical health. I discounted how important it was to take care of me. I put myself last which is a common mistake for women. If you’re pregnant or a new mom, please know you have to prioritize yourself too. It’s really hard in the beginning but boundaries and self-care are mandatory to ensure a happy mama. Don’t make the same mistake.

I started working out when my son was around 6 months however I quickly tore my meniscus with a young, inexperienced personal trainer. The injury required surgery and months of physical therapy.

I pretty much gave up on having my “pre-baby” body back at that point. I accepted that I would be heavier but also knew I was still beautiful. I thought by taking care of my family and work that I was doing what was right.

Working out has always been a part of my life however I didn’t weight lift much. I grew up swimming, played college rugby, ran a few marathons after college, went crazy on kickboxing classes and even dabbled in Zumba. I’ve had personal trainers at various points in life but the focus was HIIT. I would typically cycle between working out 5 days a week or not at all for different periods of my life.

I never learned how to eat “correctly.” I grew up cleaning my plate and not understanding what my body needed. I had years of bad habits that I needed to reverse to successfully lose weight.

It took a few years for me to accept that I had become overweight and actually do something about it. I am pleased that I took action when I did and fully recognize that I personally wasn’t ready any sooner. I'm happy that it was not my focus as a young mother. I am grateful that I found love for myself in a different body than I was used to and minimized the importance of being 'skinny.' Beauty comes from within and is not measured in pounds.

I do believe that if I had gone into pregnancy understanding proper nutrition and established good habits that I would have minimized my weight gain. If you live a healthy lifestyle before you have a child, I would imagine the probability that you keep it is much higher than someone that doesn’t. You’re in survival mode the first few years so it only makes sense we revert to the habits that we are comfortable with. Having children is a joyous time but it’s stressful and chaotic. I found comfort in going out to eat and drinking and quite frankly, I don't regret it. Today, working out is my coping mechanism but that is because I entered a new chapter as my son grew older.

I do remember feeling self conscious of my body post-baby. It’s normal. Ladies, most of us just don’t feel or look the same. It doesn’t mean you cannot return to your pre-baby body. In fact, it doesn’t mean you cannot have a better body. I did it and so can you if it is your desire at any time.

Here are my tips:

Do not focus on weight loss. Do not let anyone make you feel that it is important when caring for young children. You will embark on that journey when you want, if you should wish. You will know when it is time. You are beautiful. Weight is irrelevant. This chapter of life is so complex. Enjoy it; learn from it, embrace the growth and changes in yourself and your family.

Be cautious of people providing fitness and weight loss advice that are a lot younger and or have never been pregnant. Every pregnancy and post-partum is different and while people have experience working with other moms, your story is unique. Your body is different post-baby.  You may have had a c-section or delivery complications. Maybe you're breastfeeding or maybe you don't want to or maybe you have a low milk supply. You may or may not be working. You may or may not have good support from your partner or family. Your family is unique. Do not compare yourself to others. Your situation is different and so is your body.

Practice grace and compassion toward yourself and family.

Prioritize your needs. This won’t be much in the beginning but make sure you leave the baby and do an activity that is for you like a pedicure, a workout or shopping. This is important.

Set boundaries and talk openly about the support you need from your partner, family and friends. I didn’t ask for the help that I needed. I tried to do it all and quite frankly, I did. I was good at it but it cost me in other ways. You can do it all but it’s not healthy. Ask for help.

Enjoy the time with your young child. Accept the extra weight and your new size for the time-being or forever. You are not defined by a scale or your dress size. Being a happy mom is your priority. You do what makes YOU happy. Love you, Mama.


Up next: Eating disorders and my past struggles with bulimia


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