Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why I Love My Post- Baby Body

Update: Because of this blog post I was interviewed for an article on on the subject of how women feel about their post-baby bodies. The story was also picked up by the Daily Mail in the UK (links are below). Sadly, in a Today Show survey, 70% of U.S. women responded that they liked their body less after having a baby. In my eyes, we should love our bodies for what they can do - it isn't about how you look, it is about how you look at yourself! 

On my due date! Baby A was born 7 days later.
When I was pregnant, I knew how important it was to eat enough food to keep myself and my growing baby healthy. I tried to eat as healthfully as possible (chocolate counts, right?), but I didn't count calories and I didn't deprive myself-especially when I was ravenous at 2:30 in the morning. I just tried to eat nutritious foods and knew I could focus on losing the weight after baby was born. Until then, I pushed my pre-pregnancy jeans into a corner deep in the closet.

I had no idea what my body would look like once I gave birth, but I bravely removed my towel in front of the bathroom mirror after my first shower at the hospital the morning after Baby A's birth. My face and legs were already noticeably less swollen, but I looked about 4 or 5 months pregnant and the skin on my stomach was very loose. Because I was so enamored with this new little person and learning how to care for him - I really could not have cared less how my body looked at that moment.

When we arrived home two days later, I still could have easily been mistaken as being pregnant. But, you know what, I still didn't care. I didn't hide my body when we took Baby A for his walks and I actually felt sexy when I went to sleep next to my husband in my bra and underwear.

My body had just done something so amazing and I felt proud and empowered. Everything came together and allowed my body to grow a child, give birth to that child and then provide nourishment for that child. That is the closest thing to a miracle that I have experienced in my lifetime and I was proud to show off the body that accomplished such a feat.
First day home!
My thirst and hunger were uncontrollable during those first couple weeks. I drank water nonstop and snacked every couple of hours practically around the clock. If the baby was eating, I was eating. I lost 25 of the 40 pounds that I had gained during those two weeks no matter what or how much food I consumed.

And then it just...stopped. I have to admit, after everything I had read about breastfeeding and losing the baby weight I thought the weight would just fall off, especially with how easily I had lost weight in the first couple of weeks. I hate to say that I did get a bit frustrated. I was walking all the time and, once I got clearance from my midwife, I started working out almost daily. The scale still didn't budge. I didn't want to, but I finally had to admit to myself that I would have to dial in my diet if I wanted to lose the weight.

Luckily, we were about to start a Paleo Challenge at my gym, Four Barrel CrossFit, and I thought it might be just the jumpstart I needed. At the beginning of August, I weighed in, had my body fat measured and completed the challenge workout. Then I had to eat strict Paleo for one month. Participating in the challenge made me more conscious of what I was eating. I stopped adding honey or molasses to my daily smoothie (P.S. It tasted just as good!) and I stopped grabbing a handful of dried figs or apricots every time I opened the kitchen cupboard. I ate more meat and vegetables and less Paleo-fied treats.

Slowly but surely, the number on the scale started to drop. As the month went on, I honed in my eating habits even more. I learned what worked for me and what didn't. I am a BIG snacker and I love my after-dinner treats, but I eat dinner around 7:00pm or 8:00pm most nights and there is no need for me to have a snack afterwards. I wasn't hungry, I just wanted a sweet treat. I tried to limit that to once or twice a week instead of a nightly indulgence. I changed the way I thought about my late morning or afternoon snacks, as well. Instead of always reaching for a piece of fruit and almond butter (aka - my best friend), I ate hard boiled eggs, veggie sticks and dip or even leftovers.
A typical lunch - giant salad!
By the end of the month, I had lost six pounds. I was thrilled, but not just with the number on the scale. I was happy that I had learned what works for my body and that I can lose weight slowly and safely. I now feel confident that the weight will come off in due time and I can focus on caring for my baby, protecting my milk supply so that I can feed my baby and having strong muscles so I can carry my baby everywhere we go.

I eat three meals a day and one or two snacks. I eat plenty of healthy fats, tons of protein and a variety of fruits and vegetables everyday. As a physically active, breastfeeding mother I know I need at least 500 extra calories daily and I am careful to ensure I am taking in enough calories. And I definitely leave room in there for treats every once in a while. What fun would life be otherwise?

Before getting pregnant, I was mostly concerned with how my body looked in a bathing suit. I didn't take the time to think about all of the amazing things my body really could do. I don't know if my body will ever look the same, but the way I feel about my body has forever been changed. Whether I ever look the same in that bathing suit or not, I will wear it proudly, knowing that my body created, grew and continues to nurture the most amazing little person that has ever come into my life and that is extraordinary.