Posted on 26 July 2011.
I look cool now but you should've seen me....
It may have felt selfish at the time, but making herself the pet project of a ‘mummy’ makeover saved her sanity, writes editor Samantha.
“My name is Samantha and I am an exercise-a-holic. There I’ve said it, I worry – just a tad (okay quite a lot) – about my health. And don’t get me going when it comes to that of my family…
“My obsession with being as “healthy as possible” has probably bordered on the unhealthy; I’ve dabbled in veganism, demi-vegetarianism and embarked on a wheat-free, gluten-free, caffeine-free diet which took me to the edge of insanity and sense of humour failure.”
“I’ve ditched the extreme diets, but my activity regime still borders on the extremely dedicated. For the best part of 15 years rarely a week went by without at least four visits to the gym. I did spinning, running, weights, street dance, yoga and pilates.
That was, until I had Imogen two and a half years ago. At six months pregnant, still suffering from morning sickness and having to hold down an extremely full-on job, I gave up on exercise.
I’m not someone who believes in moderation. During my first pregnancy I put on about four stone – my body went from weighing 8st 12lbs to over 12 stone, it could have more but I gave up weighing myself at 36 weeks.
To be honest I didn’t care – having been told before I got pregnant that I was slightly underweight and, feeling unwell most of the pregnancy, food was the only thing I could actually enjoy – even if it was three packs of uncooked Linda McCartney veggie sausages.
I all but gave up on exercise, figuring out that I’d probably just about have enough time to fit in a yoga DVD once a week once the baby was born.
A botched epidural, emergency c-section ( following attempts at ventouse and forceps) later – I was told to remain as in-active as possible for 8 weeks after Imogen was born.
It didn’t bother me too much at first – I’d known from the emergency flashing light in the operating theatre and the faces on the team of obstetricians (they’d had the whole hospital’s quota in the room with us when Imogen was born) that I and my baby were both lucky to be alive.
But each night the tears came, every single night just after putting Imogen to bed, I’d retreat into the corner of her nursery (she was in our room for 4 months) sobbing about my failure as a mother – I’d been too sick to breastfeed Imogen for more than a week.
It was during one of my hormonal moments that I noticed my pink watch gathering dust on the shelf – it was my old heart rate monitor. I picked it up wondering.
At 12 weeks I was given the all clear and put on some sweats and dragged my body – my face still looked grey – for a walk with Imogen round our local park. While out I started to jog -very slowly – with her asleep in the pram.
I can’t describe how I felt coming back after my first ‘run’. Not only had my face got some pink back in it, and I’d burned 300 calories, I didn’t cry that evening.
I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It was a cliché I don’t like using in copy (I’m a journalist) but it was so true. Just being outdoors and able to get my heart rate up a few times a week was, I am now convinced, saved me from developing full blown post natal depression.
You don’t have to be a runner to start your post baby exercise regime.
In fact you already have a brilliant piece of resistance/cardio equipment quite literally to hand – your pram.
A half hour brisk walk, and we are talking some slopes here, can burn up to 200 calories. My daughter would only nap during the day if I took her for a walk first. I slowly built up to running with my pram too, a 45 mintues run can burn 450- 500 calories. I did my toning part by parking the pram and using a nearlby park bench for tricep dips, lunges and press ups.
When the running got too boring I also bought some exercise DVDs, various nightclub and celebrity themed workouts, but the only one that really worked was the Tracy Anderson Method (£11.99 from Amazon.com).
I would do this when Immy had gone to bed, and Andrew was making the dinner.
At first it was really frustrating, the routines are not easy to follow, but I soon found with a bit of concentration I was able to master them, and (using the monitor) burnt between 400 to 500 calories without even realizing.
I also bought some resistance bands, and started using my birthing ball to do squats and tummy exercises. Going to a post natal fitness class, and a local pilates class which both used bands and balls, meant I was learning new exercises each week which I could then go home and practice.
The result is that, within four months I was back at my pre-pregnancy weight. I didn’t diet either.
Here’s some advice I’ve picked up that other mummies out there might like to know:
How to get your body, and sanity back
First: Be breast aware
During (and after) pregnancy you’ll put on weight round your boobs. This can weaken the Coopers ligaments that help hold the breasts up. Wearing a good bra and doing chest-opening exercises, such as supported press ups or chest presses, can help,’ says postnatal exercise specialist Linda McDowall. ‘Not only do these strengthen the muscles that hold up your boobs, they can improve your posture that can also prevent sagging.’
Eat for one
Many women have trouble losing their baby weight because they skip meals. This may slow down their metabolism because their body thinks it is starving and therefore it conserves the calories you do eat. You need to make sure you are eating properly and drinking enough water to have a healthy metabolism and this can be difficult when you are settling your new baby in. Try and make sure you eat and drink, even if you have to forgoe the housework!
Even if you don’t need to lose weight there are some exercises you do need to do. “Try and do pelvic floor and core stability exercises as soon as possible after birth. This can help realign your hips, which get pushed forward during pregnancy. These exercises also strengthen your tummy muscles, improving your posture and supporting your back,” says Linda.
Your post-baby body – why you need to take it easy!
• Lose weight slowly – aim for 1lb per week – so it’s more likely to stay off.
• Get the calorie balance right. You need enough nutrients to stay energetic, but even when breastfeeding, you only need an extra 100 to 200 calories a day.
• Join an exercise classes specifically designed for women who have recently given birth. Not only will the teacher have a good understanding for what exercises you can and can’t do, it will also be a great way to meet other new mums.
• If in doubt, always check with your doctor.
Read more: Your post-baby body – what to expect