How I got my figure back after 3 children was a question I was asked by one of my readers a while back. I was very flattered. At the same time, by any means I do not sell the idea of being slender is positive or important. Now being a mother to 3 children, I simply want to be healthy. As I experience the aging process, I truly want to look good and healthy. Growing up, just like any other regular girls, I have always had complex about my figure. However, after having certified to teach yoga in April, 2015, I have learned to appreciate my body in a sincere way. What our bodies are capable of doing is amazing. Getting pregnant is just one of the wonders.
I have lost my pregnancy weight and got my figure back to pre-pregnancy every time after I had delivered my baby. It was a conscious effort at each time. I will list what I did to achieve my goal on this post. However, please remember that I am not an expert in any field of dieting or nutrition. I simply did what worked for me and on my body. It would make me happy if my post can help some women gain confidence and feel motivated to lose their pregnancy weight.
Before I begin, please allow me to talk a bit more about a few things…
Besides a conscious effort and believing in myself that I could lose weight, I must admit that breastfeeding was a big factor to my weight loss. It is said that a baby drinks about 800 ml of milk a day on average (this varies on individual and different ages/months) and if a mother exclusively breastfeeds and does not give any formula, she burns something around 300 to 500 calories a day just by breast-feeding. (based on online sources) Thus, I owe part of my weight loss to exclusively breast-feeding (without mixing with formula). I imagine that it is much more difficult to lose weight without a help of breastfeeding and I salute and applaud all the women who lost their baby weight without nursing.
I breastfed all three children not because it would allow me to lose weight. Well, kind of. Breastfeeding was definitely the motivation and incentive behind it, but I believe in the benefits of breastfeeding. Breast milk is free, I was able to produce milk like a cow, and my baby literally sucked my fat out of my body, what other reasons do I need? Joke aside, I don’t intend this post to be about the benefits of breastfeeding, so please allow me to stop talking about this topic. Just so you know, if you choose not to breast feed, I believe that that’s totally an individual’s choice and I’m cool with it.
HOW ONE LOSES WEIGHT
Weight loss equation is simple unless someone has a health issue or genetics that slows down metabolism. In a simple term, if your body burns more calories than the total amount of calories you consume, you lose weight. How many calories one burns a day depends on individual’s muscle mass, age and amount of physical activities she or he does during a day. That being said, one thing you have to be aware is that even if you breastfeed your baby, consuming more calories than your body burns will allow your body to gain weight or not lose weight. Breast feeding is not a free ticket to weight loss.
By the way, I did not count my calorie intake or record them. I do not enjoy meticulous tasks like that and I’m all about easy way to track how much I eat. My way of measuring is, for instance, if I go out to eat at a restaurant, I eat about 70% on my plate. In the U.S., I compare calories on a menu and pick the ones with less calories. If I want to order a dish with high calories, then I eat half at lunch very slowly and take home the rest. I’m all about making my life easy.
How I Lost Pregnancy Weight
What To Keep In Mind
1. Know Your Reason For Weight Loss
It is important to know your reason for weight loss because that determines how dedicated you are for it. The more dedicated you are, the stronger willed you become. You would be able to focus your mind for it while you are distracted by your baby. I wanted to lose weight because I wanted my body back. During every pregnancy I had a terrible morning sickness the whole nine months and it made me feel like I had no control over my body. I also felt that my body did not belong to me. I loaned it to my children when they were fetuses. As much as I loved the connection I had with a fetus at each pregnancy, by the end of 9 months, I was thrilled to be done with being pregnant and get my body back. It meant that I regained control over my body. I was determined to achieve my goal to have my body back every time I gave birth because it felt good for my mind and body.
I also felt the need to make an effort to look better. Being married to a husband who attracts women’s attention is not easy.
2. Be Aware Of Your Body and Changes
I set my mind on post-pregnancy diet at the beginning of each pregnancy. What I mean by this is that I am very conscious of my weight gain during my pregnancy and try to only gain weight as much as it is necessary for the fetus’ and my health. (I say this to you, but my first time, I kind of failed.) Once the baby comes, I knew I would be sleep deprived, more tired and busy with taking care of my baby as well as managing home. Here I am not by any means trying to discourage pregnant women to gain lots of weight during pregnancy. I gained nearly 40 pounds with my first pregnancy. Ideal weight gain depends on individuals and you need to ask your doctor. I think it’s important for women to be able to enjoy their pregnancies because it is a hard work to grow a baby and pregnant women deserve the joy of eating. However, that does not equal to eating loads of chips, cookies, ice cream and other junk food. Neither does it help the baby’s health. I have often heard people say “eat for 2” to pregnant women. Your fetus grows from a pea size to a watermelon. Fetus does not need to eat one adult portion. When you are pregnant, it’s important to remember that it is the quality of food that matters, not quantity. The reality is that the more weight you gain during the pregnancy, the harder it gets to drop the baby weight after delivery.
3. Rest, Rest, Rest
I gave myself a good rest for 7 weeks after delivery. I would even say you are better off waiting for 8 weeks to try any workout. Until then, the most important thing is 1. rest, 2. rest and 3. rest. Rest includes sleep. Your body needs to recuperate from the hard work you have done. Some women jump into their workout routine after 4 weeks. If they have done workout all their lives, I think they know what they are doing, but for most women who are not used to working out, I think it’s better to start after a nice long period of rest. In Japan people tell women to stay in bed for 3 weeks after delivery. This saying comes from the belief that it is for the best for women to let the body heal completely. I hear that laying in bed as much as possible in the first 3 weeks will help the pelvis to get back to its original position. I was able to stay in bed a lot only with my first child because I went home to Tokyo for the first child’s labor and thanks to my family’s help in Japan, I had a wonderful rest. It was amazing. In reality, though, that’s tough to do unless you could afford a domestic help who would do everything for you, but if you could, then it is recommended!
4. Time Frame
I heard from my Japanese friend that you lose weight more easily in the first 6 months after giving birth. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it made sense to me. During pregnancy women’s bodies retain necessary fat to grow a baby. I heard that this fat was different from the regular fat we keep in our body. This pregnancy fat was meant to be temporary, thus it is easier to burn it especially during the first six months after a baby is born. After six months, it becomes the same as regular fat. Whether this is scientifically proven or not or the way I explained is even correct or not, I have given myself a goal of 9 months to lose all my pregnancy weight and 12 months to get my figure back all three times. Weight comes off more easily. The real challenge is to get the figure back, which requires some workout.
5. Better Eating Habit
This is no brainer, isn’t it? Your overall health will benefit from having a good dietary habit, so if you haven’t, then this is a good time for you to start it. If you let yourself eat whatever your brain desires to eat however amount you want during your whole pregnancy, it will be really hard to cut that habit after you give birth. I felt more stressed after the child-birth and my body craved sugar when I was nursing. Changing an eating habit after birth seemed almost impossible to me because you are more tired, stressed and emotionally fragile. When you are taking care of a baby, you simply don’t have much time to think about food and as a result it’s much easier to fall into an eating habit that comes with convenience which tends to be unhealthy. Most new moms grab what they can whenever they can. That is the reason why I was very strict with what, when and how much to eat when I was pregnant. I find that I had more control over my eating habit then. I know that some women have a very strong will and they can stop eating high calorie food or sugar after birth. I wasn’t one of those women. Anyways, I tried to set a healthy eating habit during my pregnancy so that I can continue with that mind set after birth. Was I good at it? Well, I confess that I was a kitchen chocolate eater.
You have to keep in mind that you don’t gain pregnancy weight in a couple of months. For most people pregnancy weight gain takes 9 months. Thus, it’s natural that it would take about the same length of time to lose weight. It will take time to get the figure back.
1. No Snacking After 8:00 p.m.
It is hard to cut a habit of snacking after 8:00 p.m., so it’s better to not start. If you already have a habit of snacking after 8 p.m., try to cut it out of your daily routine. I hear that it’s better not eat at least 2 hours before you go to bed. If I get hungry after 9:00 p.m. (mostly hungry for mind) and I had eaten dinner properly, I try to go to bed. If I have to stay up till later, then I listen to my body. I eat what I truly want to eat because if I don’t, it builds up and I end up not being able to control my craving later. If I have a dessert I love in a fridge, then I tell myself that I could eat them in the morning for breakfast (while my husband is in the shower) instead of eating at night before the bed time. Sometimes, brushing teeth keeps me from trying to eat, but it doesn’t always work. I’m like, I can brush my teeth again, I’m eating. If I make a decision to eat sweets at night, I make sure that my brain is aware of it and enjoys it. That means that I spend time indulging in eating it. I would not watch TV or work on a computer while I eat treats. I always try to enjoy every single bite of the dessert so that my brain would be satisfied.
2. Eat smaller portions frequently throughout the day than eating a large meal
It’s hard to take time to eat with a baby anyways. I did not hurry and try to shove the food in the mouth. Instead, I ate as I normally do and kept the leftover in the fridge to eat later. If I got hungry, I tried to eat a small portion of meal rather than getting chips and cookies. If you go to a restaurant, try to eat slowly and eat a half portion. Bring the half left-overs back home and eat it as a 3:00 snack.
3. Eat well-balanced meals
This does not come easy when you are busy taking care of kids. It’s good to keep in mind that you do what you can without making it a stress for your life. For breakfast I tried to include yogurt. It fills me up and it helps me not eat too much carbohydrate which I love to have for breakfast. When you have a baby, you don’t have much time to spend cooking in the kitchen. The easiest meals are often pasta dishes. If you make a bowl of salad to go with the pasta, then you wouldn’t eat as much pasta. Hopefully. If I made soup, I tried to have soup before I eat anything else. I always try to put vegetables on the table as much as I could by mixing vegetables with meat so that my family would eat vegetables. I try not to keep sweets in the house. If I have some sweets and want them, I would eat it in the morning rather than at night. It made me feel better because I have a chance to burn the calories I have taken in the morning by being active throughout the day.
4. Drink lots of water
If you are nursing, it’s very important to keep your body well hydrated. Water fills up your stomach. Sometimes when I get hungry, I drink water before I eat.
5. Stay active and go outside
If I stay home, I’m more inclined to go to the kitchen when I am bored and I end up eating snacks. I tried to make plans to go outside my house as much as I could. I often made plans with my friends and took my kids out for a play date in the morning. If I stayed home when my baby was sleeping, during the first 3 months of my first daughter’s life, I slept with the baby as much as I could. With my second and third child, my baby’s nap time was the time for me to give attention to the older kids. I also tried to clean my home, organize around the house, or started cooking dinner.
6. Work out on a regular basis
If you nurse, you burn about 300 calories more a day than not nursing. The amount of calories that moms burn could vary based on how much a child eats. Three hundred calories is not that much. If I get on a tread mil and jog for 30 minutes, I burn about the same amount. 300 calories is about 3.5 chocolate chip cookies, 2.7 brownie pieces, and a little more than one muffin. I worked out diligently after my first and third children because I lived in a country where I could afford a help at home. When I had my second child, I lived in Japan, so I did not have any help at home. Then I worked out once a week with my friends with my baby girl in a jogging stroller. Other than that, I didn’t really do any exercise after my second daughter. Thus, it took me longer to get back in shape after my second daughter was born. After I had my first and third, I swam about 3 to 4 times a week. Now I run on a tread mil 2, 3 times a week if I can.
I find it important that you keep a workout routine within the best of your ability. It does not have to be a long or hard workout. To me 30 minutes of physical exercise a day 3 to 4 times a week is good enough. It will help with your emotional health as well. I find cardiovascular exercises work the best for me because you can get your heart rate up quickly within a short period of time and you get the feeling of accomplishment.
When I had my first and third babies, we lived in a country (Senegal with my first and Indonesia with my third) where we could afford a domestic help. Thus, I had the luxury of having a nanny to watch my baby when I swam or jogged. After my first child, my friend let me borrow a workout video to do with a baby and I did it religiously, which actually was the great workout to get the body back. I think it was something like this video.
When I had my second baby, though, I lived in Japan where I did not have the same liberty. I was also lazier as I had my first child, a toddler, to take care of. Therefore, I bought a jogging stroller and walked and jogged with my baby in the stroller. I did some workouts with my girlfriends as well. Then when we went back to the U.S. after Japan, I joined a gym with a kids room thanks to my girl friend who encouraged (peer pressure is the best) me to do so and I went to spinning, yoga and weight training classes on a regular basis.
I understand that it is hard to find the time to exercise if moms are working. If that’s the case, finding ways to incorporate workout in the daily routines might help. For example, walking more than usual by not driving or not taking a public transportation, using stairs instead of a lift, and cleaning the house thoroughly by vacuuming, wiping the floors, dusting, and so forth over the weekend. Doing a workout video for 30 minutes with the baby after you get home might also be a nice way to engage with your baby while you get your workout done.
7. Do not keep snacks at home and if you do, keep healthy and filling snack instead
I tried not to keep any snacks that I can’t afford to eat. If I have cookies at home, sometimes I end up eating them by myself. I often buy trail mix, dry fruits, digestive cookies, rice crackers, cheese, almonds, peanut butter, yogurt and fresh fruits for snacks.
If I know a particular item that my mind tells me that I really want to eat, then I try to eat it. I think it is important to be able to control the amount to take. I find it more effective for me to eat a smaller portion (sometimes that ends up becoming a big portion…) of what my mind tells me to eat rather than going for a healthier alternative. I have tried to trick my mind by eating a healthier alternative, but sometimes I end up eating both the healthier alternative and the sweets I wanted to eat.
8. Keeping a bar of dark chocolate possibly sugar-free in a fridge (or some of your favorite candies if you don’t like chocolate)
This was an idea inspired by my friend, Anita, who always kept a bar of dark chocolate in her fridge and shared some with me almost every time I went to her place when we both lived in Jakarta, Indonesia. I loved it! Since I have a sweet tooth and have a weak spot for chocolate, I realized her method worked on me. When I eat chocolate, I would go for the 60% or 70% cocoa dark chocolate which is healthier than milk chocolate. Now I usually have a bar of chocolate in my fridge and when I want to eat sweets, I go to the fridge and break a small piece of chocolate. One time I went back to get a piece of chocolate probably 10 times. I might as well eat the whole thing, but for some reason it felt less guilty that way. If you’re not a chocolate person, have some of your favorite candies at home and eat one when you desire. Candies stay longer in your mouth, so you don’t consume as much calories as cookies or cakes. Make sure you brush your teeth afterwards!
Postpartum Corset & Belt
I owned this corset and this belt which are both shown in the photo above (both sites are in Japanese). (I am not affiliated with the company and I payed my own money to buy the belts.) I swear by them and I used them all 3 times. It has been quite common in Japan. I could not fit my belly in the corset the first 3 or 4 days after delivery, but as soon as I started using the corset, my belly started to shrink like a magic. Basically right after your delivery, your guts are hanging under the loose skin. You can imagine that all of a sudden the internal organs which used to be pushed up and back to create space for the baby has all this space to just hang. During pregnancy women lose their abdominal muscles, thus, there is no support from the belly. The corset helped my organs to be pulled together. Don’t ask me if it’s good for our bodies. Frankly I didn’t care, but many women in Japan wear them. I often wore the corset when I was taking a nap in bed. Wearing a corset was not comfortable, but knowing that it was temporary and I loved seeing how my belly shrunk, I was excited to have it!
What Helped With Stopping My Unnecessary Eating
1. Chewing Gum
Chewing gum was effective when I wanted to satisfy my desire to put food in my mouth for the sake of doing so = I am not hungry, but my brain is hungry.
2. Sugarless Dark Chocolate
Sugarless made it less guilty. For some reason, it feels that the bitterness of dark chocolate is more satisfying than milk chocolate.
3. Diet Coke
Diet coke fills ups my stomach and the taste is fulfilling to me. I still drink diet coke sometimes when I want something sweet.
4. Latte or Coffee
I stopped drinking as much coffee as I did in the past after my third child. It came natural and I stopped wanting to have it everyday. However, I still enjoy a cup of coffee once in a while. I use it as a treat and when I have a cup of coffee, I don’t feel the need to eat a lot.
I used those above items to distract my mind from eating unnecessarily, which means I was not hungry. Sometimes they did not work. If that was the case, I surrendered to my desire and allowed myself to indulge in something that my mind really wanted. The key is moderation.
If you are trying to lose your pregnancy weight, relax and breath! Weight is not as important as the state of your heart and mind. If you want to get your figure back, believe in yourself that you can do it. Be thankful to your body for having created and nurtured the miracle. Your body was a wonderland and sanctuary for your baby for 9 months. Now your body is a sanctuary to your mind. It is vital to be nice to yourself.
If you have any emotional issues and you know that you have become an emotional eater, it will be helpful to consult with a professional such as your OBGYN.
Now for those who have lost baby weight, the next challenge is probably how to maintain the weight you have achieved. Once you stop nursing, it is possible that you gain weight if you are not careful with what you eat. Also, our bodies age and metabolism slows down. How I maintain my current weight is a whole another blog post. It took me over a year to write this post. I imagine that it can take another year or so to write that post. Yes, I need to move my lazy butt and write more. I must say, though, that there are so many other and better things to write about when I live in this amazing country, India!