Being a mom is a full time job. We are juggling taking care of our little ones and the million tasks that come along with it. From changing diapers to feeding and preparing food, cleaning up toys and the never ending baby dishes, it’s a lot of work! It’s also a very physical job, especially in the first few months when you are potentially pacing the hallways with a fussy baby or rocking them to sleep.
It is all more than worth the effort when you see those heart melting smiles and hear those contagious giggles. Parenthood is the most rewarding job in the world. However, it’s easy to feel drained especially when there’s a good chance your sleeping habits are probably the worst they’ve ever been. Lack of sleep takes a toll on our immune systems and increases cortisol levels. So the last thing you want to do is throw in high intensity exercise which will only increase cortisol levels even more (the bodies stress hormone). Increased cortisol puts our bodies in a catabolic state which eats away at muscle mass and causes the body to store fat. This is why I recommend doing LESS if you want to look and most importantly FEEL better, especially in the first couple of months postpartum. You want to slowly build your intensity back up. Check out my blog post on How to Ease Back Into Exercise Postpartum for more information on that topic.
My goal here is to help women understand that our bodies need rest and recovery above all else after childbirth and we need a slow and steady progression (back) into exercising. As a personal trainer with a dozen of years of experience in the fitness industry, I see women in general under eating and over exercising all of the time which only makes things worse! Add in crazy postpartum hormones, lack of sleep, a very physically and emotionally demanding job as a new mother and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!
So, here are a few things you can focus on postpartum for a faster recovery and to help you towards a healthy and happy mind, body and soul.
EAT: That’s right, eat as much as you need to. I’m not saying to go and stuff your face with pizza and junk food all day but it is soooo important to be eating ENOUGH food to fuel your body properly. If you are breastfeeding, you need to take into consideration that you need to consume an extra 500 calories per day on average. As a new mom, it can be easy to forget to eat a meal because you’re too busy putting the needs of your baby before your own. However, if you’re not fuelling your body properly and getting in enough calories, you’re going to feel even more drained, increase cortisol levels even higher which could potentially make it even harder to lose baby weight and cause you to store additional fat. I recommend a balanced diet of carbs, fats and proteins, 3 meals/day and 1-3 snacks throughout the day in between meals. Eat clean, whole foods as much as possible and avoid packaged and processed foods. Meal prep and plan all 7 days of the week (don’t forget weekends)! This is a great way to set yourself up for success. If you find you’re too busy to do the whole meal prep thing at this time in your life, consider a meal prep service such as www.vittle.ca I’ve been enjoying their services for the last few years during everything from competition preps, throughout my pregnancy and now postpartum. It’s a sure way to ensure you are eating enough and eating properly. Their meals are nutritious, balanced and always varied! They deliver meals fresh to your door from Sunday to Thursday (or based on your specific request) and can accommodate any dietary restrictions. If you’re thinking of trying this service out, I have great news! Get 10% off your first week at www.vittle.ca with my promo code JESS10 – I also do monthly giveaways on my personal Instagram page instagram.com/jessichiarello
DRINK: I’m not talking coffee or wine although those are highly recommend if needed as well haha but H20! and lots of it. The more hydrated you are, the better you will feel. I could go on and list all of the benefits that proper hydration has for your body composition, energy levels, skin/hair/nails etc.. but I’m sure you’ve heard them by now. I like to use the analogy of the fresh plum and a shrivelled up prune, which one would you like to be? I recommend 2.5-3 litres minimum/day and at least 4-5 litres + for breastfeeding mamas!
MAKE YOU TIME:
This can be anything from getting your hair or nails done, a massage, walk around the block, some time out with the girls sans bébé or a nice warm bath. You deserve time to yourself and it’s not only good for you but for the babes too!
LESS SWEATING, MORE STRETCHING.
I like to stretch when my baby is down on the mat playing or doing tummy time. Be sure to choose stretches that target the major muscles of the lower body: glutes, hips and hamstrings as well as those tight upper traps.
Rolling muscles with a foam roller or yoga tune up or lacrosse ball is also a very effective way to address knots and tight muscles.
You could try some light yoga. Postnatal yoga is always a good start or try some yin yoga which focuses on holding postures for 3-5 minutes and is much less intense. Avoid power yoga and core focused classes which may be too much for your body especially if you have any diastasis recti (abdominal separation caused by pregnancy – about 60% of women suffer from this postpartum). Focus on strengthening your core, specifically the deep core muscles (TVA) and pelvic floor during and after pregnancy to avoid this! As for hitting the gym, I would take your time lifting anything too heavy until everything is fully recovered which is typically anywhere from 4-8 weeks. High impact exercises such as running are not usually not recommended until about 6 months postpartum but you can get assessed by a pelvic floor therapist to confirm this based on your personal situation downstairs.
Mediation is the art of being present. It seems pretty simple but it’s actually a lot harder than it sounds (for me anyway). To shut the brain off and just BE can be quite challenging. You have to tune out the outside world, turn off your inner voice that is constantly worrying about every little thing and try to notice all of your five senses for the ultimate sense of relaxation. It can be as simple as sitting in silence and focusing on your breathing or laying down, closing your eyes and noticing every part of your body starting from your toes and slowly making your way up to the crown of your head. I recently went to a class at thepeaceroom.com for the first time and it was so wonderful. If you have trouble sitting in silence, try journaling and writing down your thoughts as another form of meditation.
Instead of rushing to get back to the gym and hit the weights or treadmill, try practicing some of these simple self care techniques. Give yourself the well deserved rest and relaxation your body needs postpartum. Many women feel a lot of pressure to lose the baby weight and just bounce right back to their pre baby bods. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple in most cases. There are many factors that affect this such as where you started from before you became pregnant, if you were able to exercise during pregnancy, genetics, hormones, whether or not you’re breastfeeding and of course your nutritional habits above all else. One thing I know for sure is if you are following the above mentioned tips, it’ more than likely going to help you lose weight faster and more naturally than extreme measures that could be more detrimental to your overall health than anything. Slow down and take care of yourself mamas!
Thanks for reading!