Having a new baby is one of the most wonderful times of life, no doubt. But having a new tiny human who relies 100% on you for it’s well-being can be stressful and exhausting to say the least. Taking care of yourself, your health, and your fitness can quickly take a backseat to taking care of your baby and everyone else in your home.
First of all, let’s make it clear that this is not another fitness expert telling you that you must workout, eat perfectly, and have “no excuses”. The very first decision you need to make before reading on is this: am I ready? You may be so completely overwhelmed with survival right now that you need to get your bearings before you can begin to move forward with improving your post-baby health and fitness. That’s ok, and don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t! If this is you, just save this class for a later date when you don’t feel so overwhelmed. You can start when you’re ready.
As I’ve previously researched and written about, hormones are constantly changing after having a baby, whether you are breastfeeding or not. The hormone prolactin is a fat-storing hormone that is elevated during and after pregnancy, especially if you are breastfeeding (prolactin = pro-lactation). If you’re currently experiencing a low libido and haven’t yet had your first postpartum period, you probably have elevated levels of this hormone, and it could be making your body want to hold onto your fat reserves.
Lack of Sleep/Exhaustion
When you’re sleep-deprived, you’ll experience insulin resistance, increased appetite, and become more sluggish and therefore less active during your day. If you have a new baby, chances are you’re not getting nearly enough sleep. This can mean a slightly slower metabolism, decreased energy levels, the urge to snack, and less desire to workout.
Less Movement and Activity
After you have a baby, you’re doing a lot of sitting. You’re sitting to feed every few hours, you’re exhausted and moving less, and you’re napping when you can. Even if you’re getting in workouts, the lower activity level can stall weight loss and make you feel sluggish.
Calories Are Too Low
Whether it’s because you have less time to prepare meals or even eat, or because you think you need to eat low calorie to lose the weight of pregnancy, many new moms just aren’t getting enough calories. Not only can this mean a decreased metabolism, but it can add to the already sluggish feeling, cause cravings and urges to snack, and make you feel pretty awful. Figuring out how many calories to eat can be confusing at best, especially if you’re nursing.
Consistency Is Difficult
Consistency is not easy in the first year after giving birth. Schedules are unpredictable, naps aren’t always established, and routine hasn’t yet fallen into place. Because consistency is such a key component to any fitness and nutrition plan, this can mean problems.
According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, pregnancy and having a new baby are the 12th and 14th most stressful events of life. Stress hormones are fat-loving. Sleep helps clear those stress hormones from your body, so if you’re not sleeping on top of being stressed, you’re experiencing a double whammy to your metabolism. Stress can also make you feel depressed and anxious.
Prioritizing Everyone Else
We live in a martyr society where we’re expected to look as if we’ve never had a baby, but not ever put ourselves before our children. And in the first year we tend to be in survival mode, just making sure we keep our tiny human alive and not thinking much about our own health and well-being. If anything, we’re just putting pressure on ourselves to look perfect without giving any thought to what our body has just been through. Which brings me to…
Poor Body Image
Unfortunately, it’s quite common to have a poor body image after having a baby. Yes, having a poor body image, low self-esteem, and negative thought patterns hold you back from prioritizing your health and fitness. What you think about you manifest in your daily life, so if you’re constantly putting yourself down or thinking negatively about yourself, you won’t be able to permanently change your health, fitness, and self-care habits for the better.
ACTION: Take a moment to write down the obstacles you are currently facing in your life that hold you back from feeling your best, taking care of yourself through proper nutrition and exercise, and loving your body as it is. Keep this list handy. Identifying your obstacles is the first step in problem-solving to overcome them.