***Long post alert!***
So, I’ve had this post working in my mind basically since I found out I was pregnant. It has been a mission of mine since I came up with the idea for this blog to show readers how simple it can be to maintain a healthy body—inside and out—via a healthy lifestyle, rather than a fad diet or a quick fix. I figured what better time to share my wellness tips than right after my body has gone through more changes than it ever will during pregnancy and childbirth.
Yesterday marked one week since my second son, Oliver, was born. Like Nolan, Oliver arrived early. I was somewhat prepared for this possibility, but still in disbelief when I headed to the hospital at thirty-five weeks and six days pregnant. I am happy to report that despite being in and out of the hospital three times, delivering my son nearly a month ahead of schedule, and going through some miserable precautions all throughout my pregnancy to help prevent a premature birth, I have delivered another healthy, happy baby.
As you know from reading my bio, I credit much of my healthy pregnancies, childbirths, and babies to diet and lifestyle. I have been living a plant-based lifestyle for nearly four years. This has allowed me to maintain an appropriate weight and solid bloodwork both before, during, and after pregnancy.
While I’ll be discussing my pregnancy and post-partum body at length in this post, my wellness tips can easily apply to anyone trying to get in shape or make a lifestyle change. You’ve heard the famous Hippocrates quote “Let food be thy medicine.” That’s what we’re focused on today, no matter your gender, age, body type, or, gestation. 🙂
First of all, I’d like to share with you my status one week post-baby. I am currently 136 pounds, just ten pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. I gained a total of twenty-four pounds while pregnant with both of my sons and expect that I probably would have gained about thirty had I made it to forty weeks. This amount of weight gain is appropriate and typical for someone of my height (nearly 5’2”) and so far, it has been nearly effortless to lose the fourteen pounds I’ve already dropped.
These are pictures of my post-baby body at one week after delivery – thank you for not judging the messy hair, tired eyes, and lack of makeup. 🙂 I had glorious plans to share pictures right after I arrived home from the hospital, but there was cleaning and grocery shopping to do that of course, I had planned on doing prior to yet another eager-to-exit infant showed up. Now that my life is mostly in order again—except, ya know, for that waking up throughout the night thing—I am ready to truly begin my journey to getting back into shape.
I say “truly” begin because I never stopped making maintaining a healthy physique a priority. While there were definitely splurges during my pregnancy—regular readers know how much I was craving sweets—for the most part, I did not veer from my usual path: a mostly vegan diet composed of 60-70% raw plant foods. This diet, couple with other aspects of plant-based living, allowed me to stay in relatively good shape even when I was less active and not feeling my best. Now that I am not disproportionately heavy, I am ready to get back into actively watching what I eat and exercising.
Here are my tips for getting in shape, no matter who you are:
Stock up and meal prep. This is essential to avoiding poor takeout choices. While I was certainly healthy at my pre-baby weight of 126 pounds, I’d like to get back to my pre-babies weight of 113. My body changed a lot after having Nolan, so I’m not trying to be too hard on myself and worry about every little pound, but I was certainly more active and fitter before I had any kids at all. Part of “letting myself go” a little was due to less formal exercise (although chasing around a toddler does have its aerobic benefits!); the other component was being too exhausted to prepare a proper meal and resorting to takeout.
Even if I find something vegan or vegetarian to pick up, it isn’t necessarily healthy. There really is a big difference between “vegan/vegetarian” and “plant-based vegan/vegetarian.” The former might include items like cheese or processed vegan cheese (which, in my opinion, is pretty gross); just because the item doesn’t contain meat does NOT mean that it is healthy. Point is, most of the reasonably priced, quick takeout options are not up to plant-based living standards.
So, having something ready to go when I don’t have the time or energy to prepare an acceptable snack or meal is important to maintaining supreme health. You know I love my Bountiful Baskets for this reason: There are always deals for stocking up on produce in bulk. Today, I’m making a couple of gallons of pasta sauce to freeze in single dinner size portions and chopping and freezing chunked pineapple in single smoothie size portions. All of this planning and prep is work in the beginning, but saves my figure later on.
Get outside. Sunshine = happiness. Originally from Michigan, I know that this time of year, sunshine can be hard to come by, but it does happen. I’m lucky to live in Arizona where I have more sun than I know what to do with, but seeking it out even in the coldest of places is important, too. My doctor said that for this first month post-baby, the only exercise I can engage in is walking. I didn’t object as I know that this is sage advice for properly healing my body and because, well, I don’t feel like getting into fast-paced cardio yet.
If I’m going to do so much walking, I want scenery and fresh air to go with it. Starting on my fourth day home from the hospital, I’ve been going for short, twenty-minute walks with Travis, Nolan, and even Oliver, whom I carried in a wrap. I’ve noticed some increased aches and pains if I try to walk for longer, so I figure there is no rush to increasing the time on my feet. Next week, I’m aiming for twenty-five minutes and so on until I am able to get to a jogging pace again (I really enjoy an easy run!).
Beat the blues. Speaking of happiness, sunshine and exercise will help to beat the blues, be it postpartum depression, low self-esteem, or discouragement on a weight loss journey. If you’ve ever had a period in your life where you haven’t been happy with your body—inside or out—you know what I’m talking about.
After I had Nolan, I believe that I did suffer a bit of post-partum depression, mainly because he spent two weeks in the NICU and I felt like I needed to ask permission just to hold my own son. It was a trying experience to become a new mom to a premature baby, leave him at the hospital, and go home with an empty, saggy body.
This time, while, again, the joy I am feeling heavily outweighs the sadness, I am having a hard time coming to terms with this being my last pregnancy. After struggling to conceive Oliver and then just not feeling as great overall as I did the first time around, Travis and I decided not have any more children. If you’re a parent, you know that the decision to complete your family is certainly more complicated than what I can describe in a few sentences, but in a nutshell, I’m definitely feeling a different kind of emptiness with my baby carrying days having come to an end.
In addition to sunshine and exercise, what can you do to combat the blues? Eat well! I’ve shared with you before that I have more energy than ever before following a plant-based diet and thus, am happier. When I feel positively about what I’m eating, I tend to feel the same about my body because I know I’m providing it the best possible nourishment and maximizing its shelf life. I also find that food preparation itself can be therapeutic. A couple months back, I made my first pie from scratch and honestly felt so accomplished afterward that that happiness carried me through the day. Consider trying a new recipe or making something from scratch that you would otherwise buy premade (e.g. pasta, plant milk, bread, etc.).
Don’t obsess. I have long ago admitted that I am not perfect at plant-based living. I still splurge every now and then and still miss some downright terrible-for-you yet totally satisfying and delicious comfort foods from my past. I don’t expect that my postpartum fitness journey will be any different. For me, it’s about regular habits. That takeout I mentioned earlier? It happens two to three times a month (probably four to five while pregnant!), which honestly, is a lot for us when we make so many things ourselves. It’s ok every once in a while, but if I’m going to get serious about getting back in shape, I’m going to have to make some sacrifices…key word being some.
I also don’t plan to jump on the scale every morning and expect to see 113 overnight…or ever. While the numbers are one indication of progress, they are not the be all, end all. What is more important to me is that I feel good about myself and that I have the energy to give my kids and my husband every smile, hug, and kiss that I can.
Avoid quick fixes. This tip is especially important because it is so tempting to resort to a quick fix to seemingly solve weight loss and body image issues. While I realize that they truly work for some people, I am not a fan of diet pills, processed drinks (i.e. powders, shakes, etc.) as meal substitutes, fad diets, calorie counting, or regimented programs. There are programs out there that even have the word “fix” right in them; I realize that I’m not at my best right now, but I’m not broken!
Again, while those methods do work for some people and may even be necessary for people with particular dietary needs or health conditions, I don’t see them working long-term for enough people that I can get on board (nor do I want to spend the exorbitant amount of money that many of them require). I’d rather just live a healthier life. I’ve written before about walking to the store instead of driving or making a smoothie with fresh, whole foods rather than mixing a protein powder with milk. These are easy lifestyle changes that last. Nearly four years into living better, I really don’t have a ton of work to do to get my pre-baby body back.
In the coming weeks, I will continue to share Fresh Formulas and update you on my progress. My personal goals:
- Walk outdoors daily for at least twenty minutes.
- Lose ten to fifteen pounds (I won’t obsess; I know that muscle weighs more than fat and blah blah blah).
- Beat post-partum depression by focusing on my family and hobbies.
- Maintain a 60-70% raw plant foods diet, incorporating healthy cooked options as desired.
- Splurge every so often and not feel badly about it. 🙂
Best of luck to you on your fitness journey. I hope that sharing my personal struggles and triumphs will inspire and motivate you to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Wish me luck!