You often hear people talk about how having kids changes your entire life. I have to agree, having been through it more than a few times over. I have four children ranging in age from nine months to seven years, and although they are exhausting, they are equally wonderful. Pregnancy was never a walk in the park for me, but I tried to do all of the right things--eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and gain a healthy amount of weight. Because of this, I assumed it would be pretty easy for me to bounce back into shape after baby arrived. While that’s been true to a certain extent, there have definitely been some surprises along the way.
Breastfeeding meant it took even longer for my old shape to return. People talk about how quickly you can lose the baby weight if you breastfeed. In my experience, that’s not completely true. I always lost weight easily in the beginning, but then reached a point where I’d get stuck. My choices were to cut calories to lose the weight (which sacrificed my milk supply), or just wait it out until I was done nursing and then the extra would start to come off. I always chose the latter. I considered that extra weight to be my ''fat reserves'' needed to help feed another person, so I didn’t beat myself up when my clothes didn’t quite fit despite my best efforts.
Making time for exercise became a lot more challenging. I get up before 5 a.m. every morning to exercise. It’s not easy, but that’s the only time of day I’m guaranteed to squeeze in an uninterrupted workout. I consider it my ''me'' time for the day--time to collect my thoughts, do something for myself and get the day started on the right foot. If mornings aren’t an option, get creative about how you’ll be able to fit in exercise at other times of the day. That could mean breaking your workout into 10-minute segments throughout the day, exercising on your lunch hour at work or while the kids nap in the afternoon. Everyone is busy, but if you make exercise a priority, you’ll find time for it.
I will never look exactly like I did before I had kids, and that’s okay. Honestly, this is something I struggle with daily. I weigh the same as I did before kids, but my weight is distributed differently now. After four pregnancies, I’ve got a baby belly that seems to hang on despite my best efforts. I don’t feel comfortable in some of my old clothes, and some of them don’t fit at all. But I’m trying to learn that it’s not something to be sad about. My body was amazing enough to grow 4 perfect children. I’m healthy and strong, showing my kids I can run a half-marathon or do 20 ''regular'' pushups at a time. Although there are things I could do to get me closer to the six-pack of my dreams, that’s not where I choose to spend my effort right now.
Getting back to my pre-pregnancy fitness level took a while. I maintained a consistent exercise routine throughout all of my pregnancies. I was still running the week my first two children were born. I assumed I’d bounce back quickly from my easy deliveries and be able to resume my normal routine soon after baby arrived. Typically, that’s not what happened. I didn’t account for the fact that my body would need time to heal and I’d be completely sleep-deprived, meaning I didn’t always have extra energy for a high-intensity workout. You’ll hear it often: it gets better. In time, you’ll start feeling better and the baby will develop a sleep schedule. That means you’ll have more time to rest and more energy to exercise.
It’s not fair to compare yourself to the celebrity moms on the magazine covers. It’s frustrating to see the new mom in a bikini on the cover of a magazine three weeks after giving birth. Although some might find inspiration in those images, I think it sets women up for unrealistic expectations of how quickly they can lose the baby weight. If I had to guess, most of those women aren’t breastfeeding. I’d also guess that they are spending hours in the gym each day and maintaining a very strict diet. Part of a celebrity’s job is to look good, so all of that time and energy could be considered ''working''. The average mom doesn’t have the resources to devote that much time and energy to weight loss. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to lose the weight quickly. You’re better off losing weight slowly by developing habits you can live with for the rest of your life.
Let’s face it: growing a baby is hard work! Give yourself a pat on the back for what you’ve accomplished and embrace the changes in your body. As long as you’re eating right and exercising regularly, change will come. Be patient and be proud of your accomplishments along the way!
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