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The HIIT-Meets-Yoga Class That Helped Me Lose 50 Pounds After Pregnancy

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Photo: Colin Douglas Gray

Five years ago, when Shape.com asked me to create a Yoga-Tabata mash-up video, I had no idea that it would be the exercise method that would be my key to losing 50 pounds of pregnancy weight, or that I would eventually create an entire class around it.

But both became true. I built CrossFlowX as a fast-paced blend of strength training, core work, inversions, and arm-balance-focused flows, high-intensity cardio intervals, and traditional yoga kriyas. Four years ago, I was teaching this signature yoga methodology to sold-out classes in NYC and all over the globe. It was my "baby", and I loved it. But what I really wanted was a real baby. And for the first time in my life, no matter how hard I worked toward that goal (japa mala meditations to the goddess of fertility, and everything), it wasn't happening.

Until finally, it did.

The doctor strides into the room, glances up at the screen, and casually says, "It's a party in there. Did you know you're having more than one?"

Nope.

Pregnancy Rx: Gain Weight (and Then More)

I had actively been trying to get pregnant for almost two full years, with doctor after doctor telling me it would never happen until I gained weight—and a lot of it.

I spent those years painfully and slowly putting on the doctor-recommended 25 pounds. At one point, I fell and broke my wrist and needed surgery. I couldn't do yoga or any physical activity for that matter. So, yep—I gained those 25 pounds. Two rounds of intrauterine insemination, and one positive pregnancy test later, I was at the doctor's office for a pregnancy checkup, finding out I was having twins.

When I finally saw my doctor (someone else broke the news about the multiples), he sat me down and informed me that to support multiple babies, I would need to gain even more weight: a lot more weight and quickly.

 

a love note to my body: first of all, I want to say thank you. for the heart you kept beating even when it was broken for every answer you gave me in my gut for loving me back even when I didn’t know how to love you for every time you recovered when I pushed you past our limits for today, for waking up. @cleowade One of the greatest gifts of pregnancy and having children has been the intense gratitude I have towards my miraculous body. This body that grew and expanded to grow my beautiful children. This body that has healed broken bones, torn muscles, and heart. Thank you @marysolyoo for capturing this shot, with your amazing talents, of me feeling the glorious sun on my miraculous body, stretching long a hamstring that was once torn by an instructor who thought he somehow knew my body’s limits (that’s a whole other post!) I am so, SO grateful

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With my head still reeling from the news, on recommendation, I ordered When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads, by ob-gyn Barbara Luke. This is basically the leading resource for pregnant mothers of multiples. In this book, I learned that the recommended weight gain for someone carrying twins is 15–35 pounds 20 weeks in, and 23–51 pounds by 28 weeks. 

I was coming from the lower end of the BMI chart for my height, and my doctors wanted me to be on the highest end of that weight gain recommendation—50 pounds by 28 weeks. I was only 6 weeks pregnant when I found out I was carrying multiples, so that gave me 22 weeks to gain the weight. When all was said and done, I was advised to gain 50–65 pounds by the time my children were born.

I know what you're thinking: Poor you, you have to eat all the food you want. I know, but for someone who very much enjoyed being on the thinner side of life, and whose happy place was balancing on her hands, accepting this was a huge mental and physical battle.

While difficult to wrap my brain around all that weight gain, I wasn't going to let that stop me. I already loved these babies who were in my belly, and I was not about to let my resistance to putting on weight stop me from carrying healthy humans to full term. So, I made my first parental decision: to put the health of my unborn children over my superficial weight concerns. And I did.

I gained exactly the amount of weight my doctors recommended by the time I delivered my twins: 65 pounds. I came home from the hospital after delivering my tiny 4-pound twin girls early, by C-section, after one broke her water. And to my very unwelcome shock, I still had 50 extra pounds.

 

S A N T O S H A : Contentment with what is / aka / the key to happiness Day 4 of #PathsOfMotherhood challenge This was my whole physical yoga practice for the day yesterday. Tree pose with JAX in the ergo (napping), and holding hands with PandA in between their rooftop scoots. Was it my 90 minute plus practices of a life I can barely remember? Uhhh. Nope. BUT, it is exactly what I prayed for before these amazing humans chose me as a mama Rather than thinking about what I may not have the freedom / luxury to do anymore as a mother, I choose to look at all of the love, joy, and happiness I have gained. That is contentment to me. And, will I get back to my 90 minute practices some day? Maybe. But, that’s not right now. Right now, I am practicing Santosha by being present and grateful for all that is. Thank you, host mamas: @yogawithbriohny @chintwins @tarastiles @yogabeyond @riva_g_ @talia_sutra @ashleygalvinyoga @northcarolina_yogagirl @laurasykora @elenabrower

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My Rude Weight-Loss Awakening

Let me tell you, that weight did NOT melt off. My ob-gyn told me that I should be burning "at least 500 calories a day" creating milk for the twins. I was dutifully eating my lactation oats for breakfast, kale salads with tofu for lunch, steamed kabocha squash, greens, and chickpeas for dinner. I was measuring out 1-ounce servings of nuts for snacks. But the weight was not going anywhere. (Looking back, that was probably because I wasn't moving nor sleeping much.)

I realized quickly that each pound you gain while pregnant that isn't from baby or placenta, etc., is a pound you have to lose. Up until I was actually in that situation, I honestly believed the "baby weight" was going to "melt off" as soon as the pregnancy was over. (Related: Is It Actually Harder to Lose Weight When You're Short?)

At four weeks postpartum, I called my doctor and told her that I didn't think "the whole six-week no-exercise rule" applied to me. I explained to her that I was a fitness professional, and I knew how to protect my body. To which she replied, "C-section is eight weeks."

[Cue my nervous breakdown.] I didn't know how to lose weight without exercise. And, quite honestly, I didn't know who I was with all of this weight and without babies in my belly.

In between my quivering gibberish, my doctor agreed to re-evaluate her recommendation at my six-week postpartum checkup. When I finally got there, she examined me and cleared me for all activity. I signed up for SoulCycle before I put my clothes back on.

 

No speed ups or slow downs or freezes or cuts, just a 1-minute slice of practice. This isn’t about the inversion for me, this particular practice is about letting go, and knowing that I will be 100% ok when I allow myself to flip over into a wheel. Of course, there is control in the core, but it is the balance of letting go while maintaining that control that is the yoga for me. This whole sequence can be crazy scary after pregnancy, childbirth, or at any point in life. But, I have always cherished the gift of teaching people to fly over their fears, so I consider it a most amazing gift that I get to re-learn it for myself again every time my body goes through a transition that requires me to take time off my hands and tone down my inversion and backbending practice. Cheers to starting over as many times as life allows, and being a forever student of my body, and of the universe

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Getting Back to Business

Even with my two beautiful new babies, I missed teaching at Athleta Studio and all of my students and clients. But, to be honest, I was a bit nervous about making my return with so much extra weight. Would my clients think I was somehow less capable of teaching such a rigorous class? While I knew I could handle it, I wanted to feel more like myself and more confident before I stepped back into the studio classroom. I consulted my nutritionist friends about how to eat, and I was fitting in all the boutique fitness classes and online workout videos I could manage with the little free time I had—not much with newborn twins around. Despite my best exercise efforts, the weight loss still wasn't going as smoothly as I hoped.

Eventually, I agreed to put a restart date on my calendar. It would come about three months after my twins were born.

I put in a lot of practice to ensure my students got the best class possible. I never ask my students to do anything I don't do myself, so I always do the flow with the music at home prior to teaching. But good grief, CrossFlowX felt harder than ever. Nonetheless, I kept at it, and pretty soon things started to feel better, I started to feel stronger, and finally, I was seeing real differences in my body. (Related: This Dietitian Suggests a "Two Treat Rule" to Lose Weight Without Going Crazy)

Looking back, it shouldn't have come as such a surprise: Yoga had always been the thing my body responded to best. So couple power yoga with HIIT in the same hour, and I found my recipe for burning off the baby weight and having fun. Yes!

It didn't happen overnight. And, it was by no means easy or some coincidental by-product of breastfeeding/pumping (my milk supply dried up at 3.5 months with the twins). The answer was finding the activity that helped me feel like me. Turns out, it was right under my nose the whole time. I only wish it hadn't taken me so long to figure it out! After spending months searching for help from anyone or anything, the weight-loss solution was there inside me all along. It was buried inside the thing I've always known and loved: yoga and CrossFlowX.

Seven months postpartum, I felt strong and confident enough to post pictures and content online again, and slowly but surely, the weight continued to come off. Ten months postpartum, I felt more like me. And by the time my girls turned 1, I was happy to wear fitted tops and a bikini on the beach. (Thank you, CrossFlowX™ abs series for that!)

 

Six months ago I had my third baby (check out my pregnancy via a timelapse yoga flow!), but this time around, I was more mentally prepared for the weight gain because I knew CrossFlowX would be my key to losing it when it came time. Honestly, the class is so physically challenging that my sleep deprivation kept me from getting back to it right away. But the day I started practicing to teach again was the day my body started visibly changing.

Losing baby weight is not easy, but, for me, it was vital to feel like my body was mine again. To any mamas out there struggling, I invite you to remember the activities and workouts that made your body feel and look its best in the first place. You may not have time to work out as much as you used to, but the workouts that got you to your favorite version of you will be the key to getting that version of you again—only better, because now you are a mama. Congrats!

When you’ve got kids, the juggle is real—but we’ve got your workout covered with the fresh tips and fitspo you need to reduce stress and feel your best.

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