As a new father, I am witnessing firsthand, the struggle my wife, Paula, is having with motivation to get back her pre-pregnancy physique. For many women, the thought of exercise may be the farthest thing from their after giving birth. However, it is worth the effort and it can be accomplished!
The first step is to not be too hard on yourself for the first six weeks postpartum and try not to compare yourself to the many celebrity moms who seem to shed all of their baby weight in a matter of days. Even though I can empathize with my wife, without physically carrying a child for nine months, I will never truly understand this experience and the feeling that you want to get back to your old self as quickly as possible. But, I do know that the slim down process should always be done gradually. The reason being that dropping weight too fast or starving yourself just to fit into your skinny clothes can have a negative impact on your body, which can include both muscle and bone loss. Also, for new mothers who have had a Caesarean section, there will be greater tissue healing that can further delay your entry into a more intense workout program.
So, what is a post-pregnancy woman to do? Here’s my diet and exercise program that I enlisted the help of Paula (who is a professional chef by the way) to help create.
* Always check with a medical physician before beginning any fitness program
* Be sure to keep the water flowing. Aim to consume half of your body weight in ounces a day
* Take your time and start off slowly
1. Kegel, Kegel, Kegel: Pelvic muscles may have weakened during childbirth so it is imperative that we start in this area. Begin by either sitting or lying down and contract (squeeze) the muscles that you would generally use if you were attempting to stop urinating. I recommend performing 15 to 20 sets of contractions. Hold each contraction between three to five seconds resting three to five seconds between sets.
Coaches tip: If you feel your abdominal region contracting, relax and place your focus on your pelvic region. This may take time and greater concentration but do not become frustrated.
2. The easiest workout: Standing on one leg while brushing your teeth works deep core muscles. It's a perfect short workout, creating a degree of instability that engages the smaller muscles essential for core strength.
3. Eat with your non-dominant hand: You may feel awkward at first but you will eat about 30 percent less and actually pay more attention to your food instead of other things. Go ahead. Give it a try at your next meal. Since the hormones that signal to the brain that you are full are at the end of your digestive tract, it takes a while for the food to get there. It takes nearly 20 minutes for your brain to realize that you’ve had enough to eat. Switching to your non-dominate hand will have you eating at a slower pace, which in turn will have you ingesting fewer calories.
4. Confuse your stomach and watch it shrink: Recently, my wife switched from adult sized plates with a 12-inch diameter to saucer-sized plates, which are about 6inches in across. The Reason: it might feel like your sitting at the kids’ table but studies show people who eat food off of saucers believe they are eating an average of 18 percent more calories than they really are. At home, we also purchased blue flatware because the color blue is a natural appetite suppressant and I can personally notice that the switch has helped.
5. Easiest way to start flattening your belly...work your invisible abdominal muscles: Your transversus abdominis lies beneath your rectus abdominis, the 6-pack muscle, and flattens your waistline when you suck in your gut. Work it with the vacuum. Pull your belly button toward your spine and hold for 10 seconds while breathing normally. Repeat five times.
Coaches tip: Test out this simple exercise the next time you’re standing in line at the grocery counter.
6. Dip your fork first: Next time you order salad keep the dressing on the side and dip your fork in it before spearing a piece of lettuce rather than dousing your greens. The average salad dressing has over 300 calories. This way, you'll add taste without the extra calories.
7. Me and you time: Having a newborn can sometimes create anxiety between a couple, and distance. To help avoid this, my wife and I have set aside a few nights a week where we take our child Max (that’s him in the picture!) on a couple's walk. Walking not only strengthens, tones, and redevelops muscles that may have been lost during pregnancy but, starting a walking or exercise regimen with your spouse or partner actually increases your chance of sticking to the program by up to 90 percent.