This is the fifth post in a series of pregnancy related posts. You can read my first post about surviving and thriving with food here, and my second post about body image here and my third post about exercise during pregnancy here. You can find my first Postpartum post about sugar cravings while breastfeeding here.
One of my biggest fears about being pregnant was how my body would change.
This fear actually kept me from being ready to have a baby for quite a while.
I had a lot of fear around how my body would change and feeling out of control of my body.
Once I got pregnant, my thoughts totally changed. I was excited. I LOVED feeding my pregnant body and nourishing the little one inside. I lost pretty much all of my fear around how my body would change and started to look at it like a crazy interesting experiment.
It was the first time in my life I’ve been excited and intrigued at seeing the scale go up.
You can read all about my thoughts on body image during pregnancy and three tips to stay body positive here.
Things changed once I actually gave birth.
Postpartum body love is a lot tougher to muster than pregnancy body love. At least it was for me.
I had spent 8 months (my babe came 4 weeks early) of my life feeling incredibly positive about food. Mostly because of the little guy I was growing. Eating to support my baby was powerful motivation– and it took a lot of the pressure off of my food choices. I was taking care of someone else by taking care of myself.
It was just easier to be okay with my new preggo bod because my body was not really mine at the time– it belonged to my unborn babe.
Once little E was born, my thoughts changed.
My body was totally different from anything it had ever been before.
It was like all of a sudden I had this weird body– it felt like it came out of nowhere.
I looked like a stranger. It was startling.
It was like I woke up one morning a different person– a much softer, out of shape person– and that was really hard to wrap my head around.
As someone who works very hard to eat healthy and exercise, it was hard to accept my postpartum body.
As someone with a past of disordered eating and delicate body image, it was REALLY hard to accept my postpartum body.
It was hard to stay positive.
Every time I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror or put on a pair of pants that were a little too tight, I thought about how I was someone else’s “before” picture…
And those negative thoughts made making healthy food choices much harder.
I gained about 35 pounds during my pregnancy and lost 15 immediately. But the last 20 have continued to stick around…which makes sense: I’m breastfeeding, hormones are still balancing out, and my body is still recovering from housing my amazing little parasite.
They say it will take 9 months to lose the “baby weight.”
I think that’s probably right– it took 9 months to put it on, it should take 9 months for it to come off. Just like with any weight loss, it’s not going to happen overnight, but I think it’s harder for new moms to wrap their heads around this because it almost feels like the weight gain happened for a good reason, or without us even knowing that it was happening…
All sustainable weight loss happens at a slow rate. And it’s important to feel comfortable with your body ALL the time. So that means that you need to feel comfortable with your new postpartum body, even if you’re actively working to get back to a place where you feel more physically comfortable.
So here are the four tips that I’m using to embrace my new postpartum body and work toward feeling more physically comfortable with this new body:
This shouldn’t come as a surprise coming from me. I’m NOT a huge fan of diets. They breed feelings of restriction and deprivation– negative feelings that make you feel horrible and less likely to make healthy choices for yourself. Don’t get stuck in the Diet-Guilt cycle– that’s literally the last thing you need when you’re already stressed about taking care of your new baby and also sleep deprived.
Ignore the allure of the crash diet. You just gave birth and you need to heal and nurture your body– not torture it.
Focus on Recovery
You just birthed a tiny human that you grew over the course of 9 months. You GREW another person! That means that a lot of your body went to that little guy or gal and you may be a little depleted. You might not notice this depletion, but chances are it’s there and you now have a really good opportunity to heal and nourish yourself.
Focus on listening to your body and choosing mostly whole foods. Emphasize nutrient dense fruits, vegetables, proteins and lots of healthy fats to give yourself the best chance at recovery possible.
I’ve found that it helps to focus on getting back to the preconception diet I was eating before my food choices changed during my first trimester. Lots of high quality protein (especially egg yolks and red meats), healthy fats and lots of veggies (especially dark green leafy ones). The preconception diet and the postpartum healing diet are pretty much the same: nutrient dense healing diets.
I also started taking liver capsules for an extra nutrient punch.
Here is a great post from Butter Believer about what a preconception diet looks like.
Once you’re healed, get moving. This has been the most important thing for me in my fourth trimester. We were out walking with little E the week after he was born and I think that made a huge difference in how I felt about my body and the whole postpartum experience.
My little guy was born via unplanned c-section, so I’ve had to wait longer to get back to the exercises that I’m used to. Since E was 6 weeks, I’ve been doing body weight exercises and walking everyday. I can’t wait to start lifting heavy (ish) things again in a few weeks when I’m more confident I’m healed.
Keep reminding yourself of all of the good things you’re doing for your body and yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day– and it will take time for you to start feeling more comfortable, BUT you WILL get there. Everyday you are taking steps to get there– focus on the process. Whenever you start to feel down on your post baby body, take a mental tally of all of the good things that you’re doing. You will get there. Just keep swimming.
I am constantly reminding myself of all of these things.
Being comfortable with my postpartum body is a constant work in progress. I try to be diligent about focusing on the good and cultivating gratitude for my body and all that it can do (grow a tiny human!!).
For the mama’s out there: what are your tips for feeling comfy in your new postpartum body?