I remember the phone call well. I was speaking to a close friend I hadn’t seen for some time. It was a couple of weeks after finding out I was pregnant. I just couldnt keep the news to myself any longer so I spilled the beans – full of excitement about what was to come.
She was thrilled and ushered the usual “congratulations” and “you’re going to be a great mom”. But then she said something that I had not given much thought to. She said: “Oh no… your body! It will never be the same again!”
At the time, I did not give too much consideration to her dramatic would-be phrophesy. It shouldn’t be so difficult to lose weight after pregnancy, right? This was my two step plan:
- Just make sure to not gain too much weight during pregnancy, and
- Go back to my normal habits (eating, exercise) afterwards so that I can regain my pre-pregnancy shape as quickly as possible. Easy peasy.
I managed to get the first part right. I gained the average and recommened 12kgs (26 lbs), with most of the weight in my belly! My healthy low carb pregnancy and staying active by walking, helped to keep me from gaining too much.
Skip forward about a year later, and here I am with a six month old baby, feeling like a zombie insomniac, with a jiggly tummy and hips that can’t lie to my skinny jeans. The second part of my plan wasn’t as easy-peasy as I had hoped.
The real crux of this story is that losing weight after pregnancy is going to be a slow process. You’ve probably heard the saying: “It takes 9 months to gain all of the weight, it’s going to take another 9 months to lose it”. That statement is spot on – I would even go so far to say that sometimes it can take a little longer than 9 months to lose the weight. Here are some of the reasons why:
1. Your Eating Habits Changed
It’s no joke that your eating habits change during pregnancy. You may have had morning sickness where eating anything other than dry toast would send you to the lavatory. Odd cravings may have got you hooked on sugar or excess carbohydrates. And even though we know that we aren’t eating for two (just for one plus a little eeny-weeny one), we still might experience the combined appetite of twin orang-utans.
The habits that you created slowly but surely over 40 weeks are sometimes difficult to notice but also tough to change.
What can you do?
Write a food journal to discover what, when and how much you are eating during the day. You can also set yourself a realistic low carb meal plan (perhaps what you were used to eating before you fell pregnant) and stick to it for at least 3 months. Your good habits will soon return – it’s like riding a bike! 😉
2. Increase of Fat Cells During Pregnancy
This one is a little bit unfair if you ask me. As you may or may not know, fat cells are created in infancy and puberty and also when your body has an oversupply of fat. However it has also been discovered that women produce more fat cells during the third trimester of pregnancy. This is to protect the baby and mom in case of famine. The really sad part of this story, is once fat cells are created in the body, you cannot get rid if them. You can only shrink them. And having additional fat cells makes it just a little bit harder to shrink and maintain them as such.
What can you do?
If you are currently pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant soon, remember that pregnancy isn’t an opportunity to eat all of the cupcakes. In fact pregnancy is probably the most important time to eat healthy real food and to maintain your disciplined approach (e.g. 90% healthy, 10% treat). And now that you know that new fat cells are here to stay – it should be further motivation to try watch your weight gain during pregnancy.
If you have already given birth once or many times, and like me, you are struggling to shrink those new fat cells, then make sure you eat well. Cut out any fast or junk foods, and cut out all sugar. Regular exercise will also help.
3. Lack of Sleep
Yawn! Yes, as I write this, I am currently operating on about 5 hours of broken sleep. I always said when I was pregnant that the night-time symptoms of pregnancy (pee breaks every two hours, and a belly that can’t get comfortable) are nature’s way of preparing you for having a baby. Oh, how I was wrong. It’s only a small teaser of what’s to come. When your baby is here sleep deprivation kicks in pretty quickly and exhaustion takes over your entire being.
So how does a lack of sleep cause you to gain weight or stall your weight loss? Firstly, when you are tired during the day, the most normal thing to do is to try and regain energy. And how do we do this? Through FOOD, the worst kind: high energy, sugar packed food because your brain knows that it will make you feel a little bit more awake (even if it’s only temporary). Secondly, a key hormone called Leptin is produced in the body when you sleep. Leptin tells your body when to stop eating. Which means, if you have less sleep, you have less leptin, and you eat more.
What can you do?
Get more sleep. Ha! I know it’s easier said than done. But really, it’s up to you to try and get as much sleep as you can. Whether that is during the day when the baby sleeps, or try by going to bed earlier. You can also take turns with your husband for night feeds (if your baby will drink from a bottle). Call on your family and friends to help you during this time – I am sure they would enjoy looking after your little cutie-pie while you catch a few extra “zzzs”!
4. Low Thyroid Function
You may have had your thyroid tested before falling pregnant without any cause for concern. However, there are some women who develop Postpartum Thyroiditis after pregnancy. It may even effect up to 1 in 12 women worldwide. Weight gain is one of the symptoms of Hypothyroidism (an underachieve thyroid), as well as: fatigue, constipation, dry skin, puffy face or feeling cold all the time. For some women, the postpartum thyroid disfunction can resolve itself in the first year, but others may need assistance from medicine.
What can you do?
If you suspect that you may have low thyroid function, then go to your Doctor who will do a simple blood test to check. Your Doctor will prescribe medication if necessary.
5. Being too Tough on Yourself
Most women, including you… yes, YOU, are incredibly tough on themselves. We expect to bounce back after pregnancy and quickly. It might be possible for the lucky ones with fast metabolisms, and possibly a HUGE bank balance to be able to afford extra help and maybe a chef. But, for the average woman (me included) it is going to take some time and perseverance.
What can you do?
- Give yourself a break – don’t be too hard on yourself. Unless you’re a famous person with bucket loads of cash, it’s going to take some hard persistence to get you there.
- Set yourself a slow realistic goal – 1/2 to 1kg every month weight loss is realistic. Losing 10kgs by next Tuesday is not!
- Don’t compare yourself to famous people – they really have all the help that money can buy!
- Remember that you can do it – you CAN get the figure you want or had before pregnancy. You just have to give yourself the time and work at it.
I’d love to hear from you to find out what you have done to help get your shape back after pregnancy?