I will start by saying, that it was not a priority for me to lose the baby weight very fast, or to get back into a certain dress size. My main goal was to get healthy and fit again. I think there is a huge pressure on women to ‘bounce back’ within weeks of giving birth,
and its just a ridiculous and unrealistic expectation. You have just grown and delivered an entire human! Your body has done something amazing! Your internal organs have moved around, your rib cage and hips have widened, so much has changed to accommodate the life you were growing inside you, and it takes time for all of that to go back to normal.
Next thing I will say is, and if you follow me on instagram you’ll have seen me mention this before (if you don’t follow me please come say hi!), that I suffered very badly with hyperemesis gravidarum last year when I was pregnant. I will do a proper blog post on this at some stage as I think it’s important to increase awareness of HG as so few people have heard about it, or even if they have they don’t understand it and think it’s ‘just’ morning sickness (it’s not, trust me). Anyway, because I was so ill for my entire pregnancy, and basically on bed rest / house arrest for 8 months, I ended up putting on a huge amount of weight and I felt very unfit and unhealthy by the end of my pregnancy. I felt like my muscles were non-existent and I was carrying far too much weight for my small frame (I’m only 5 ft 2!). So my plan was to try and improve my health and fitness once I felt up to it postpartum. My number one priority however immediately after giving birth was my new baby: establishing breastfeeding; bonding with her; making sure our son adjusted to all the changes ok; and enjoying our new family of 4. Which is exactly what I did for 3 months.
1 – 3 Months Postpartum – 22lbs Lost
I have found on both my pregnancies that I lose about 20lbs post partum very quickly. I think this is quite common. You’re obviously down the weight of the baby, the placenta and all the amniotic fluid, which depending on your baby’s weight could be in the region of 8-14lbs. If you are like me and retain a lot of fluid in pregnancy, you’ll be down all that fluid as well, plus all the extra blood you had circulating will be reduced now as well. I also think breastfeeding had an impact for me. I have breastfed both my children and breastfeeding is estimated to burn about 500 calories daily (nice!) so that can help shift some of the weight, as well as helping your uterus shrink back down to size.
3 – 6 Months Postpartum: 18lbs Lost
Once the new year hit I was 28 lbs above my pre-pregnancy weight. I started making a conscious effort to reduce the amount of treats I ate. Unfortunately, chocolate was one of the very, very few things which helped with the nausea when I was pregnant (and when you are vomiting 18 times a day you will try anything), so eating chocolate had becoming far too much of a habit! I didn’t want to diet as dieting when breastfeeding is discouraged. So I still ate my normal meals, I didn’t count calories, I snacked if I was hungry but what I did try to do was eat real food. If I was hungry I would have, for example, scrambled eggs or avocado on toast … rather than a packet of biscuits. I still had at least one treat every day, whether that was a bar of chocolate or a pain au chocolat from a cafe. That strategy worked well for me so I didn’t feel ‘deprived’, but I did try (most days) to have just the one treat.
Once I was cleared by my doctor to resume exercise I started thinking about what I could do. I knew I needed something very flexible and something that I could ease into. I did not want to injury myself with a 3 month old at home! I wanted something I could do from home as my little one was still feeding very frequently at that stage and I didn’t want to waste time commuting somewhere. I also wanted something that focused on getting stronger and healthier, not just loosing weight. Some people I knew through a mommy facebook group mentioned the Bikini Body Mommy programme. Some of them had done it before after previous pregnancies and had great things to say about it and Briana, the owner, was starting a new live programme mid-January and a few of the group were signing up. Best thing was, it was free!
The BBM programme consisted of daily 20 minute workouts, alternating strength and cardio sessions. 20 mins sounded perfect, both in terms of what I felt my body could handle and also in terms of how long I felt Little Miss would be content to watch me for (my babies prefer to sleep on me for the early months, so working out while she napped in a cot was never going to happen – if your babies nap solo, enjoy the magical unicornness of them!). I felt that my body would not be able to handle daily workouts at the beginning, so I took care to listen to my body and not overdo it. This is not to be confused with, ‘meh, I don’t feel like working out today’, I honestly did make myself workout even if I wasn’t in the mood, but I didn’t workout if I felt my body needed a rest day. So the programme that started in January was a 90 day programme, and by the time it finished I was on day 60 so that should give you an idea of the pace I took. During the first couple of weeks I think I worked out every third day, ramping up to every second day, and eventually at the end I was probably doing it 5-6 days a week. Basically I made the programme work for me. I didn’t let thinking that I couldn’t do the programme, because I couldn’t do a workout every day, stop me signing up, I did the programme and just tailored it to my body’s abilities and my personal circumstances. I also always worked out first thing in the morning. I found that Little Miss was in the best mood then as she was just up from a long sleep. Plus most of the time if I got my bum out of bed and moving quick enough, I could do the workout and have my shower before my husband had to leave for work, so lots of the time I got to work out kid free. Win!
I have to say that I’m not a big fan of the name Bikini Body Mommy, but I did enjoy the programme. Briana has 4 kids herself, and has lost 100 lbs so she understands what it’s like. As part of the programme there was a new video uploaded to YouTube every single day which meant there was none of the usual boredom that you can get with repeating the same workout several times a week. Also, she filmed them live so her kids could be running around, and the baby could be crawling all over her mat, but she still did her workout! It definitely made you feel like, if she could do it, you could, and to stop making excuses!
Even though I was doing the workouts slower than the programme intended I still lost lots of weight, and inches, and got much fitter and stronger! By the end of March I was down another 18lbs!
The Month Off: 5lbs Lost
I ended up not working out in April. I had decided I wanted to donate to the milk bank, and April was the last month I could donate in as they can only accept milk from mothers with babies under 7 months. This is because your milk changes a good bit at that stage and as the milk donations are generally used for premature babies and newborns they need the earlier milk. I did lose about 5lbs that month, but again I put that down to breastfeeding, and probably also the extra pumping I was doing for the milk bank. We did a couple of long walks with the kids at the weekends but that was it. Again, I wasn’t dieting, just trying not to have chocolate as a food group! But I definitely still had a treat of some kind every day, and we still ate out or had take out a few times during the month.
7 – 8 Months Postpartum: 5lbs Lost
Once April was drawing to a close I began to think about my workouts again. I was still 5lbs above my pre-pregnancy weight, and while that was an amazing achievement and I was super happy, especially as I was only 7 months post partum, I still didn’t feel like my fitness was where I wanted it to be. I didn’t want to restart the BBM programme, not because I didn’t like it, but I felt like a change after doing the programme for 3 months.
So I started researching what other programmes were out there that were around the same length, and I found next to nothing! Even the short programmes I found that were supposed to be good were at least 40 mins and I knew there was no way I could make that work at this particular point of my baby’s development. Then, quite by accident I came across Kayla Itsines when reading a Forbes article about influencers. Her programme is designed around four 7 minute circuits, with 30 seconds between each circuit and then a cool down afterwards. I looked into it some more and including the cool down it ran to about 35 minutes or so which was still a touch long. But because it was based on circuits it occurred to me I could just do shorter circuits, 5 minutes instead of 7, I’d still be doing all the exercises, just slightly less repetitions. Perfect! Also the ‘Sweat with Kayla’ programme is designed with 3 resistance (circuit) workouts per week and then you do your own cardio sessions. As the weather had started to improve I had been taking Little Miss on more walks so this was ideal for me. Plus it meant I only had to try and get it done two mornings before my husband went to work, and then one session at the weekend. So it was even easier to fit into our daily life than BBM had been! The Sweat With Kayla app subscription costs €19.99 per month, but the circuits change up constantly so you don’t get bored. There aren’t videos but there are demos of her doing each exercise so you can check you’re doing them correctly. Again, this suited me as it was a nice change after following the BBM videos. I’ve only been doing it 6 weeks (with a week off as I was laid low with a virus) but I’m already back to my pre pregnancy weight and I’m feeling so much stronger – I can do push ups now!!
Even though I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight, my health and fitness journey is something that is ever evolving. I love feeling stronger and being able to run around with my three year old and toss him in the air easily. I will continue to do my Sweat with Kayla workouts, but if I need a change in a couple of months I’ll definitely look into doing something else at that point, but for now they suit me perfectly. I still have no intention to diet, but I will continue to try and focus on eating real foods and keeping treats to a maximum of once a day.
I hope reading about my post partum health and fitness journey has helped you and if you have any questions please let me know in the comments below!