Practically every new mom knows how hard it is to get back into pre-baby shape when you’ve got a newborn. It should be a process that takes months, if not more than a year to achieve, and yet we all start to stress about fitting into our jeans before our baby is even sleeping through the night. Allison Zeltzer, Nutrition and Wellness Counsellor at Healthier Ever After in Toronto, says we have to adjust our expectations.
“Magazines print pictures all the time of celebrity moms six weeks after giving birth looking like they’ve been working out for months,” says Allison. “Not everyone’s body is the same: while some women naturally go back to looking like they did before they were pregnant, many others don’t.”
The pressure feels especially high when a group of peers, be it friends, colleagues or relatives, are all pregnant at the same time, and some moms shed the weight more easily than others.
“Some new moms feel a lot of pressure to look like ‘yummy mummies,’ feel sexy, or wear cute summer outfits, but there are several reasons that weight doesn’t come off right away,” she says.
For starters, the normal equilibrium is so thrown off by stress, sleep deprivation, constant breastfeeds and tending to the needs of older children that it becomes challenging for moms to look after themselves in a healthy way.
“Moms, especially first-time moms, often devote every last iota of strength and energy to taking care of their newborns to the point where their needs and wants become secondary,” says Allison. “They don’t know how to find the time to exercise and prepare or eat healthy, well-balanced meals.” (How often have you held your baby while eating with one hand?!)
When it came to losing her baby weight, Allison credits drinking lots of water throughout the day, carrying a food journal with her at all times, and using a pedometer to make sure she walked at least 10,000 steps every day.
She also collected healthy recipes from friends and family and went to the grocery store with a shopping list in hand. “I always shop the perimeter of the grocery store where all the healthy foods are and I make batches of food on the weekend or whenever I have time,” says Allison.
But her top tip of all: “Find time to do activities that you enjoy and make you happy. You cannot be an effective parent if you don’t take care of yourself.”
Success breeds more success
When working with new moms who are struggling to look and feel their best, Allison offers the following advice:
- Join a mommy and baby fitness group. That way you can meet new friends and exercise at the same time. It’s great both physically and socially. Or join a gym with a friend. Being accountable to someone else helps us achieve our own goals because we don’t want to ‘drop the ball.’
- Treats are OK: do not deprive yourself because that leads to binging. Measure (one glass of wine, one cookie, one fat-free chocolate pudding) and write it down in your food journal. Food journals make us accountable and allow us to think about our choices before eating.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. If you didn’t have a great day with what you set out to achieve, realize that tomorrow is a new day.
- Remember that the goal is to make small, sustainable life choices that you can be successful with and follow through with for the long term. Don’t fall for quick fixes or the newest diets as an overall health and wellness plan. Lasting change takes work and it sometimes requires making mistakes and overcoming challenges.
- When you achieve a health goal, even a small one, move on to another. Success breeds more success: you can’t lose one pound before you lose half a pound.