Staying in Shape after (and before) baby

Many women struggle with weight gain during pregnancy, and then find it very difficult to shed the excess pounds once the new little one is in the world.  Babies can be very demanding, and for people whose inclination is not toward exercise (like yours truly), it makes it an even more daunting challenge.  Feeling frustrated about weighing more than wanted can be a debilitating and depressing feeling.

When I got married, I was about 20 pounds heavier than I wanted to be.  I was okay with this.  I had accepted that my ideal weight was just a dream weight.  Since I was never a skinny girl, what with my childbearing hips and 5’7″ height and all, I was comfortable with my size 12.

However, after I learned that according to my BMI (Body Mass Index), I was technically overweight, I became less complacent about my weight.  Then I got pregnant and gained about 40 pounds.  Sound familiar?  It was incredibly disheartening to watch my weight balloon.

Unexpectedly, I lost much of the weight not long after I gave birth.  I attribute this weight loss to my on-demand nursing and the lack of a second car.  Whenever I needed to get from A to B,  I pushed the baby in a stroller and walked.  At some point, I realized that I actually weighed the amount stated on my driver’s license (I don’t know about you, but that’s one thing I always fibbed about).  What a rush!

When the baby was about six months old, I started working as a substitute in one of the elementary schools in our community.  If I couldn’t get a ride from some kind soul, I had to walk to the sitter, drop off the baby and then walk to school.  Then, in the beginning of April, I was hired as a full-time teacher until the end of the school year.  This meant that I was clocking about five to six miles a day.  A day, people!

For the first time since, uh, high school, I weighed my dream weight.  I was no longer overweight.  It felt amazing and euphoric that I was actually able to reach a goal which I thought entirely unattainable.  Not only that, but I felt better.  I had more energy, and I was happier with my appearance.  It was a surprise to me that something I had deemed so superficial and socially-dictated would make a difference, but it did.

Then we bought a second car.

While quite relieved to finally have wheels at my disposal, I knew one things was certain:  I would have to start exercising if I wanted to keep the dream alive.  So, while exercising never ranked high (or at all) on my priority list, my motivation is higher than it ever has been.  This means that in the morning, after I feed the little guy (and myself) breakfast, we go for a brisk three-mile walk.  I haven’t done it every morning, but I’m aiming for three to five times a week.

Combined with this simple exercise, I’m trying to cut down on the Ben and Jerry’s binging, and to eat an appropriate amount of healthy foods.  Since I’m expecting little one #2, it’s important that I eat enough, but it’s just as important that I eat just enough.

A pregnant mommy only needs an extra 300 calories a day.  This is roughly equivalent to a glass of skim milk and a half sandwich (according to ACOG in Your Pregnancy & Birth, fourth edition).  That’s all, folks, and it ain’t much.  This definitely is not a free pass to finish that pint of ice cream.  Shucks.

It’s a blessing that I was able to be in such great shape before I got pregnant with #2, since studies have shown that overweight mothers are at a higher risk for health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and a baby that’s too large (that can increase the risk of Cesarean section) (ibid.).  Yikes!  ACOG recommends that a woman of normal weight should gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy.

I wouldn’t have reached my dream weight if I hadn’t been forced to walk everywhere, but after reaching that elusive number and feeling the difference it made to me both physically and emotionally, I have to say to all my ladies, it is doable and so worth it!  All I did was try to make good eating choices, and walk, walk, walk.  Nothing fancy, just consistent.

Take that walk, watch that chocolate intake and feel better.  It can be done.


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6 thoughts on “Staying in Shape after (and before) baby

  1. Rivki- you are my inspiration! Mazal tov on getting down to your dream weight and b’shaah tova on baby #2 (my heart jumped when I read that). That is very exciting. I am in the same boat as you 3 months post-partum. I gained 50 pounds and was already 17 pounds heavier than my ideal weight when it all began. I have also started a walking routine this week. Yesterday I power walked with the stroller for 2 hours, and was thoroughly drenched and exhausted from the hot sun. I took a 3 hour nap with the baby to make up for it. Ben n’ Jerry’s is not such a problem for me here but the wonderful fattening dairy products are! The first 25 pounds melted off quickly from the nursing-on-demand, but now we are at a stand-still. I hope to report back with some good news as well. Kol Tov!

  2. Oh! Little one #2! I had no idea! B’sha’a tova!

    Just a comment on what you actually wrote, though, I was nursing on demand when Rena was born, but for some reason I wasn’t losing the pound-per-week that doctors say happens naturally. For most women, this principle usually holds true and they lose the weight over the next 6-7 months. However, it turns out that some people just don’t have this, um, “feature”, for lack of a better word. These women, me included, can eat healthily, walk everywhere (I don’t get 6 miles a day, but I try to walk 10 miles a week, since most the essential stores – and the beach – is on a 2 mile stretch of the road around the corner), and continue nursing as often as the baby needs and still require an extra… something. My doctor recommended eating certain foods (grapes, grapefruit, and other things that kick the metabolism up a bit), snacking instead of having large meals (kinda like the pregnancy diet), and actually taking the time to exercise (which, needless to say, I don’t really have). It’s great that you were able to lose so much weight right away, but, as most radio ads state, “results not typical”.

    I totally hear about the ‘lack of car’ thing, though. I was at my best shape/weight in Israel. I had no car, not a lot of extra money to spend on bus passes, and I ate the European way – large meal for lunch, small meal at night. Trying to do that at home is somewhat harder, with a husband who comes home starving and looking for a “real” meal, not pasta or potatoes.

    Thanks for this, though. I’m not in the mood to try harder. You inspire me, as always! =)

  3. as a transportation planner, i have read numerous studies about how community design affects health and i totally believe it. most american neighborhoods don’t allow for people to walk to the places they need to travel. the separation of land uses and the love of the automobile have made us all a little more chubby (me included). I admire your ability to live without access to a car for so long (especially with those unpleasant ohio winters…)

    it is my dream to someday live in an environment that allows me to live without a car. i absolutely abhor exercising (other than swimming, which i have actually learned to love) and would love to incorporate walking for transportation more into my routines. thanks for the motivation!

  4. Congratulations on Baby #2! I was wondering from hints you have dropped! B’sha’a tova!

    I have been running since August, when I changed some medication that has allowed me to lose weight for the first time in years. However, the heat has made me not run very much in July, and I have noticed my weight creeping back on. I say it’s too hot to run– but it’s probably not too hot to walk. And as this blog post shows, it’s more the mileage and the activity than “jogging” (which is what I actually do).

    I am going to get out there today and move my body. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Thanks for the good wishes, ladies! We’re in the home stretch for baby #2 – whee!

    @ Penina: Yes, I admit that my results may not be typical. But I was just so amazed that it happened!

    @ Lisa: I often lament the fact that public transportation in many American cities (like Cleveland) isn’t as effective as it is in Europe or Israel, where people really depend on it. I am fortunate to live no more than 20 minutes from literally everything I need. Now I just need to keep walking places instead of relying on el auto.

    @Jen: The heat does make it tricky. If I can’t get out and walk before 10 a.m., I don’t get to do it. Sometimes I’m able to walk in the evening, but by then I’m well into the daily routine, and all dressed and less likely to get into appropriate workout attire, thus less likely to actually walk effectively.

  6. I lost 40lbs in the year before my wedding, getting down to a size smaller than I was in H.S. B’H I’m pregnant with my first and for a while I was over-stressing about needing to gain half of the weight I just lost back. With my husband’s help I try to keep an open mind to the fact that the baby and my hormones are making me eat a different diet than I had been since before I got married, and that G-d willing I’ll be able to get back down again after Thanksgiving (when I’m due bisha’ah tovah.) I too like walking a lot, and I hope to keep it up through most of this pregnancy.

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