So, I had a baby May 20, and I had gained 45 pounds by that last day of pregnancy. See here for a recap.

Slowly and steadily, as I had planned in the previous post, the past three weeks of post pregnancy fitness have gone by. Here are the highlights:

  • Longest jog: 1.2 miles (yep, I’m wimpy, but it’s hot and my cardio levels are still awful), 14-minute mile seems to be my speed (yep, I’m slow)
  • Rectus abdominus muscles seem to have fully closed and function well again!
  • Down to 153.6 pounds (a 3.5 pound loss since 4 weeks ago…meaning I’m actually slowing down my loss a bit). I’ve still got 15.6 pounds left to go to my pre-pregnancy weight.  Still, an overall loss of 29.4 pounds in just 63 days since giving birth is not bad!
  • My waist is now down to 31.25″, which is a .75″ loss; 3 more inches to go.
  • 0.5″ off my hips (40.5″)…1.5 inches to go!
  • No thigh measurement change. 😦
Six weeks postpartum after my first run in seven months. Long way to go! 157 lbs.

6 weeks postpartum after my first run in seven months. Long way to go! 157 lbs.

9 weeks postpartum, at 153.6 pounds...and a little bloated from too much bread!

9 weeks postpartum, at 153.6 pounds…and a little bloated from too much bread!

Fighting the Belly Flab

To help retone my belly, which has quite a pooch, I’ve actually dug up an old favorite of my mom’s fitness books from the ’80s: Callanetics. If you don’t know much about it, it combines elements of Pilates with ballet in an attempt to retone the body. I tried one of the basic stomach exercises (that I remembered doing experimentally on and off since age 10, when I first discovered this book on the shelf) and realized how VERY far I have to go yet. The muscles are there, and are, indeed, closed, but they are weak! I’m going to keep at it, though. We’ll see how we do!
callanetics

And now as I focus on my nutrition as a contributor to that belly, I’m noticing a few things about my diet: even though I’ve cut back on meat and a little of my dairy intake (replacing with calcium rich almond milk), I’m still relying heavily on bread. I had a terrible bread addiction while pregnant, and now that the baby is here, I’m relying on it as a form of fast energy to grab one-handed  while I schlep the little one on my hip.

The Baby-Caretaker Diet

Zeke is still at that early stage of babyhood where he doesn’t like to be put down (and will scream if you try to) until it’s actually time for him to sleep at night — and this really does affect how/when/what I can eat.

The beautiful meals I would like to make myself, like elaborate salads or lovely vegan meals that take a lot of raw-material prep, oftentimes never move past the idea stage because my hands are literally full of baby. The reality is, when my hubby isn’t home to hold and entertain our 9-week old, my meal prep time is maybe 20 minutes tops while Zeke takes his mini-naps during the late afternoon.  I’m relying quite heavily on Trader Joe’s frozen vegetarian options that take minutes to heat in a skillet or can be thrown in the oven, in addition to some bagged salads, as a way to get healthy food in for dinner.

But in the morning and midmorning, when it’s all I can do to drag my tired self around after getting up to feed the baby several times that preceding night, and while I’m trying to placate the little tyrant (who is also crabby in the mornings) while I try to do simple things like brush my teeth or get dressed, an elaborate breakfast is out of the question. Smoothies might be my answer–and have been sometimes–but who the heck has time to clean the stupid blender?  I’ve had to go days between smoothies while the blender just sort of grossly soaked in a soapy version of its fruit and Kale and kefir glory, waiting by the sink for me to get around to cleaning all its nooks and crannies. ::sigh::

Folks, I now truly and deeply respect the moms who struggle with the weight issue after having a baby. It is rough trying to take care of yourself when you have a little someone who wants you 24/7!

But I’m not giving in yet.  Here’s my game plan for dealing with this:

1. Try to capitalize on baby’s naps to do prep-steps towards good meals during the day.  I’m learning that everything has to be done in bites and stages with a baby interrupting daily life. That goes for actions like cleaning (it may take me literally all day to vacuum the whole apartment in stages), cooking, and answering emails or doing work projects.

2. Use the time when my hubby’s home to do meal prep for future days (see above, only more ambitious). This will be hard to do, since I’m also now using a lot of that time to do things like shower, jog, SLEEP (oh, man, do I miss sleep) or do work from my regular job, which I’m transitioning slowly back into.  But being able to stockpile healthy eats in the freezer is kind of a dream of mine.

3. Exercise with the baby. I’ll be honest guys, in these past three weeks, I’ve been running twice. TWICE.  The rest of my exercise regime has been taking Zeke for walks or doing floor work while the baby’s asleep, but I’m starting to think that I can maybe put him in his boppy next to me on the floor for yoga, use him as a secondary weight while I do plies, or maybe even wear him while I do Zumba DVDs. A jogging stroller is unfortunately beyond my budget, so I’ll just have to do what I can in the running/jogging department. I have accepted this.

4. Use the nighttime gap to help with the breakfast issue.  There is a little gap between when Zeke finally goes down at about 10:30 and when I follow him after cleaning up and putting on my jammies.  Loathe as I am to give up much of this time to not sleeping, I’m finding that it’s often my only uninterrupted time, since Zeke settles in for a good 3-hour snooze sesh before waking again for his 1:30-2:00 a.m. feeding.  There are some lovely recipes for blender-free overnight oats over at www.rabbitfoodformybunnyteeth.com that contain ingredients like almond milk, fresh fruit, oats, cinnamon, flax seed, chia seeds, even chocolate and coconut — that I’m going to try out, since after they’re mixed, they can go in the fridge overnight to get soggy and smoothie-like. They are made of the sorts of things that give great energy in slow release form, due to the high fiber content. And they’re a little lower in gluten, sugar, and yeast than toast, since they’re oat-based. I’m hoping it will combat the bloat a bit.

Wish me luck!  I’m off to bed after making my oats. I’m trying to get it done by midnight!

Ruth

So, I have a confession to make: by the time I gave birth on May 20, I weighed 183 pounds.

Huge! Just days before delivery at my hubby's graduation from seminary.

Huge! Just days before delivery at my hubby’s graduation from seminary.

I am 5’4″; I weighed 138 pounds pre-pregnancy. That’s a total pregnancy gain of 45 pounds!

By the time I left the hospital just two days after giving birth, I weighed 17 pounds less, thankfully! Baby, placenta, blood, uterine shrinkage, and a lot of water weight played a role in that weight loss, I’m sure. But at 166 pounds, I still had a long road to haul when I came home.

I waited until my 6-week postpartum checkup this past week before really thinking too much about the weight issue. I was glad to see I’m now down 9 more pounds (157 lbs) seemingly without trying. I’ve been very focused on my baby and making sure he grows and gains, so it’s been easy to ignore my own chub, for the most part, while passively donating my fat store’s calories to my breast milk.

But pictures like the ones below from Zeke’s dedication ceremony at church definitely remind me that, while my body did great work making a beautiful baby, it’s also become a whole new shape, complete with wobbly arms and thighs, Buddha belly, and muffin top!

At Zeke's church dedication. The baby chub is only cute on the baby.

At Zeke’s church dedication. The baby chub is only cute on the baby.

image

Pregnancy really changes the body: it tilts the pelvis (creating a swayback that throws the belly forward and allows the buttocks to get flat and flabby), causes shoulders to curve inward as the body curls and slightly collapses in around that huge belly, opens and temporarily widens the lower ribcage, loosens all ligaments in the body and pelvis, leaves flabby, loose skin on the belly, adds stretch marks in some places, creates huge stores of water in the body’s cells, builds up 50% more blood in circulation, and separates the rectus abdominus muscles on the sides of the abdomen to make room for a watermelon-sized uterus. Let’s not even discuss how the thoracic organs get shoved around to make room as a part of that process.

After you give birth, it takes around 6 weeks for the uterus to go through involution and shrink back to pear-size, for your organs to slide back into some places near their old locales, and for the ligaments to firm back up as pregnancy hormones recede and excess water leaves the cells of the body. At the same time, new hormones flood your bloodstream and bond you to your baby while also turning on the milk production process in your breasts, which become very engorged, enlarged, and soft. During all of this transition, your body still has to deal with the fat stores you gained during pregnancy on your hips, thighs, tummy and breasts, putting some of it to use (300-500 calories a day!) by enriching breast milk and retaining the rest as a source of backup-reserve. Overall, your body becomes a soft, squishy landscape that resembles less of an hourglass and more of a pudgy cylinder with boobs!

Beyond breastfeeding’s gift of calorie use, dropping that extra retained baby weight is a tricky game with a baby to care for. Drop weight too quickly and your body freaks out and stops making breast milk–as a way to keep from expending calories that your body seems to need, while simultaneously starving your poor baby!

My doctor is convinced that the only healthy way to go about it is nice and slowly, using exercise to re-tone the body and to burn just a few calories at a time, while remembering that the body uses 300-500 or so calories daily just to make breast milk for the baby. Crash diets don’t fit in this scenario, although good nutrition certainly does–for mom and baby both.

To that end, I’ve started some clean eating goals and recently started jogging again for the first time in over 7 months. The first jog last week was pretty pathetic–about nine-tenths of a mile before I felt winded (yeah, my lungs are still relearning how to expand to full capacity again) and my faster-twitch muscle fibers really burned. I came back inside and did a set of abdominal exercises designed to help close separated ab muscles (as I recently felt the two sides of the rectus abdominus close two Tuesdays ago; it took that long!) and called it a night. I’m still following this pattern on days that aren’t pouring rain and when Boaz can watch the baby.

It’s slow going so far. I recognize that my body’s done an incredible thing and that it had to radically transform to do it. I have to be patient.

I also know that while it’s possible to get back to my pre-baby weight, it may not be realistically possible to get back to my old shape. As Mammy famously pointed out rather plainly to Scarlett in Gone With the Wind, my figure will never be the same after the structural remodeling that happened during pregnancy that shifted muscles, organs, ligaments, and even ribcage and pelvic bones:

But even if it can’t be as small as it was, my body can be strong and toned in its own way again. To that end, I’ll share my goals here as a way to stay accountable while I try to tighten up my soft mommy-body, which at the moment resembles a kangaroo:

  • Shrink back my post-baby 32″-waist measurement to 28.5″ (a full inch larger than my pre-pregnancy best)
  • Trim my 41″-hip measurement back to 39″ (a half-inch larger than pre-pregnancy)
  • Tone up the 24″-circumference of my upper thighs to 22.5″, roughly where it was when I took weight conditioning classes

Right now, this is visually where I am — stretch marks, linea nigra, and all:

Six weeks postpartum after my first run in seven months. Long way to go!

Six weeks postpartum after my first run in seven months. 157 lbs. I have a long way to go!

I’ll be trying lots of methods to see what works, and I promise to share those, too! Hope you’ll stay with me on the journey… and wish me luck as I try to get back to fighting form!

-Ruth