Get Your Sexy Flat Belly Back After Pregnancy – Part 1:
May 2nd my round belly was one of the amazements as it represented the little one that was soon to make his way into the world. May 3rd, well my belly was not so amazing anymore for it was mushy and weak!
All I wanted to do was restore my abdominal function and regain some tone in my abdominals. Luckily, my career focuses on post-partum and women’s health, and felt confident with how to regain back my core in an efficient and effective manner. Since I had an umbilical hernia and diastasis, this is where your abdominals split in the midline; I immediately wore an abdominal binder and got to work on strengthening and restoring my core strength and function. The binder was there to help my lengthened abdominals return back to their position. This coupled with core strengthening would help me re-establish my belly. With the restoration, I promised myself to honor the changes pregnancy placed on my body, the length of time my body underwent those changes, and the enormous amount of work my body was doing post-partum to regain a new hormonal balance, as well as, heal a very large wound in my uterus. If I did not honor these changes, then I was setting myself up for injury, illness, and/or failure. Thus, the first part of this blog will discuss just 3 lifestyle habits, and the second part will expand on the movement concept with core strengthening and 2 quick 10 minute workouts to help you regain your belly back.
The first step is to honor you are healing! Yes, HEALING. Imagine you have a large gash in your thigh the size of paper towel roll. Now would you think that it would heal in 2 weeks or would it take 8-12 weeks? Remember every step you take you provide a little irritation to the thigh. If you guessed 8-12 you are right! That gash is like the one in your uterus, where your placenta attached. Your uterus can take a while to heal, as you are likely not sleeping a straight 8 hours, hormonally balanced, and feeling refreshed and energized. Yes you might receive a general clearance to return to exercise and normal activity, but you need to look at the big picture. How do you overall feel? Are you still bleeding? Are you nursing and is your milk supply regulated? When returning to exercise, you have to be honest with how you are feeling mind, body and spirit. The early postpartum phase is actually a good time to focus on your self-care routine, and retraining of the core. Your self-care routine can include a multitude of things but let’s look at 3 basic lifestyle habits:
This is not a time to start a low calorie diet, but it can be a time to establish good eating habits. It is so easy to eat on the run or super-fast, skip meals, or eat whatever is available when you are a mom of a little one. Taking time to prep healthy snacks and meals can be key to eating well and losing weight safely. Establish a prep day for veggies and meals or delegate help from a friend/sitter or the supermarket. Recognize what time of days seems most optimal to prepare meals. Mornings seem to be a time that I could cook the meal or meals, since we had one heck of a witching hour in the evenings. When eating, do your best to slow down and chew. Sounds simple enough, but I cannot tell you how many times I have rushed through my meal to take the baby and not even sure I have chewed my food. BUT, I have gotten a lot better. I try and take smaller bits, and even do more smoothies on days where sitting to eating a meal seems unattainable. Remember studies show those who eat slowly and mindfully will tend to do better on diets and not overeat.
Ah… sleep and a baby do not always happen together. Sleep when the baby sleeps is great advice, but can be ever so challenging to implement. And if you have other children, often times unrealistic. Sleep is critical for healing, reestablishing your hormonal balance, and providing you enough energy to exercise. The key lies in establishing a routine. For me returning to work and getting my older child to school dictated when I needed to be up, so there was no option of sleeping in. Thus, the only way to get enough sleep was to get to bed earlier. Yes, I do not like to parent myself and get to bed early, but I know I can wake up better and be more likely to workout in the morning. Research shows those who exercise in the morning tend to be more consistent. So to help me get to sleep on the nights I work late, I will avoid computers and TV, listen to audiobooks, use essential oils, and use deep breathing to relax and help me get to sleep. And I remind myself that there is no such thing as “catching up on sleep.”
You want your body back, and you know part of that requires exercise. In the early part of your post-partum phase, the key is to move and re-establish your core with everyday movement. Often times I hear moms sabotage themselves with thinking that the only way to lose the baby weight is to hit that baby boot camp class. And when you have been up all night with a cranky little one, the 6am snooze is way easier to hit than gym. Then since the bootcamp class is missed, the poor choices in food start and less movement overall begin. Start small in your movement expectations. Focus on just keeping moving. Walking is a great way to start to exercise. Running and cardio can be implemented if you feel that you have enough in your reservoir to recover. That means your diet, sleep, milk production and bleeding appear to be regulated. Remember you are still healing internally, so implement slowly and monitor your response. Think of all movement as a possibility for exercise. As moms we are carrying, lifting and moving all day. The more you stop and think about how you are moving and work toward moving with better posture and core activation, the flatter your stomach will start to appear. Think of a person holding a baby. You often see the mom push her hips forward and rest the baby on her stomach. Now imagine a mom who is standing tall, with the core engaged. I bet you see a slimmer mom.
The key with lifestyle changes is that it takes time… up to 21 days to create a habit. And if you catch yourself looking at others and judging yourself…stop. You have no idea how much help that person has and what her situation is. She might have a chef, a night nurse, family who takes the little one, etc. Beauty really does start from within, so start your morning and end your day thanking your body for getting your through the day!