“Don’t let your mind bully your body.” ~ seen somewhere on the Internet
Did you know that when you have a baby you also get a bonus gift? An entirely new body. It sounds a bit like a joke and sometimes I actually find the degree of truth in this hilarious but I am serious. Over the last year, I have had to figure out my body from scratch. The 32 years before the baby pretty much went out the window and you know what, that’s absolutely ok because the simple truth is that there is no going back to the pre-baby life, the pre-baby body or the pre-baby routines. You start afresh and you do the best you can.
The idea that there is no going back is not to be confused with the idea that one can not be their healthiest, sexiest self after the baby. You absolutely can. It’s just a different kind of journey. I found that understanding this allowed me to figure out my new body (this is an ongoing process) and what it needed while making my necessary quota of mistakes with minimal external pressure.
Each person’s journey with their body is unique. Things like age, genetics, general fitness levels, health needs, weight before and during pregnancy, lifestyle etc play a major role in how each body responds to childbirth.
We (meaning my body and I because we are a team) used to drink gallons of tea with full-cream milk at no cost at all. Now we are mildly lactose intolerant and just one cup of tea with full-cream milk causes a full day and night of acute bloating and discomfort. We used to inhale the worst kind of carbs and easily kept the damage at bay with well-timed, irregular intense workouts. We had naturally good skin that withstood the attack of sugar, carbs and irregular water consumption. My pre-baby digestive system ran like a German train station. My post-baby one was South African Metrorail at best: we can’t guarantee that the train will come and if it does, it will be late and slow. I could list at least 10 things that have changed but I don’t have to because the long and short of it is, everything I used to do to keep fit just doesn’t work anymore and eating junk or a high carb diet now causes me to get fat and sprout spots all over my face and inside my ears.
The First Four Months…
During the first 4 months, I was breastfeeding exclusively and I was more or less grounded. I hadn’t figured out getting around with a baby so I didn’t do it unless necessity dictated it. This inadvertently meant that there was no eating out or frivolous shopping. I cooked good wholesome meals every day.
From about 6 weeks postpartum, after getting clearance from the doctor, I started walking for between 30 and 45 minutes almost daily. Aside from the need to exercise, I had cabin fever and the walk was great just to “breathe.”
As I started to feel a bit stronger, I started to try punctuating my walk with light jogging. As I got stronger still there was more jogging and less walking and then more running than jogging.
Without realising it, I had stumbled onto the winning formula for my body: consistent gentle exercise and eating well. I lost all of the weight I had gained during pregnancy. The only problem was that I was not doing it intentionally. It was the result of a temporary state of affairs. It’s no wonder then that disaster struck as soon as life beyond maternity leave happened.
Enter the second 4 months…
Returning to work meant two things…I was mobile sans baby and I was spending hours at my office desk. Being back at work saw me trying to get as much done as I could as quickly as possible so that I could get back home to my baby and “make up” for my absence. That latter bit was a problem with I honestly struggled to leave the house to go for a run because I felt bad for being absent all day already. On top of that getting up for feeds at night and then going to work all day meant that I was exhausted anyway. Talking myself out of working out wasn’t hard.
The exhaustion also meant that I started cutting corners with the food. I cooked whatever was easiest and that was hardly ever the healthy choice. Soon enough the little kangaroo pouch started to reappear and outfits that had fit perfectly when I went back to work started to feel uncomfortably tight. I called it my “desk weight.”
Still, that wasn’t the turning point. The turning point was picking up the flu that fast turned into a horrendous chest infection that literally laid me out for 2 weeks. I could barely take care of myself let alone the baby during that time. I have never been drop-kicked by illness quite like that. In truth, I shouldn’t have. But my body had no chance. I was unfit. I was eating poorly. I was run down. In fact, I wrote a post on my extreme fatigue around that time here.
At around the same time, my husband did his annual physical and the doctor recommended eating better. It was a wakeup call all-round. We needed to find a sustainable way to prioritise our health and well-being for ours and the baby’s sake.
Fast food is popular because it’s convenient, it’s cheap, and it tastes good. But the real cost of eating fast food never appears on the menu.~ Eric Schlosser
The last four months…
Following his doctor’s advice and with some research of his own, my husband declared a lifestyle change in the house of Kimathi. There would be no more mindless eating. We decided on more white meat than red meat; more baking and roasting than stewing and frying; more water and less sugar; more packed lunches and less abrupt lunch purchases that led to poor food choices; more vegetable and less carbs and more complex carbs or processed ones. There was still a light sprinkling of indulgences. It was a food revolution.
It was honestly trying for the first month. What change isn’t? But it also only took a month for me to notice a change in myself. Waking up early became easier. My digestive system ran better which meant I felt lighter and less bloated. My skin cleared. “Gosh, you look tired” was slowly replaced with “how are you managing this?” I actually started wearing makeup again because I had the energy for it.
“If you think the pursuit of good health is expensive and time-consuming, try illness” – Lee Swanson
A little research into adrenal fatigue in the post on exhaustion linked above had already told me that strenuous exercise was a problem when you are struggling with exhaustion so I put my renewed energy towards exercising for 30 minutes or less fairly frequently. I wasn’t entirely consistent but I managed to do something at least twice a week.
Although this was more of a side effect that the primary goal, in the slow and steady fashion of the tortoise in the fable about the Tortoise and the Hare, I started to lose weight. I didn’t even notice it at first. It became really apparent after 3 months. It was very exciting :). 5 months in I have not only reached my goal weight, I have dropped below it.
In hindsight, I see that unlike the first four months, this time I applied the correct formula (primarily eating healthy and complementing this with exercise) intentionally and mindfully as part of a long-term lifestyle change. This has made doing the right things a lot easier but it is early days yet. The journey continues and my health and lifestyle goal for 2019 is to learn more about food so I can continue to empower myself to make better choices and to exercise in short sessions consistently and regularly.