Losing weight can be very challenging. I know first-hand the struggles associated with feeling powerless and wondering if the weight is ever going to come off. After giving birth 10 times (8 babies here on earth), gaining weight and losing the weight has become a way of life for me. Through the years, I have gained and lost somewhere in the vicinity of 200 plus pounds when you add up all of my pregnancy weight (not including the weight of the babies themselves in that figure).
While my experience of weight gain and loss is from pregnancy, this post isn’t just for mamas, this post is for anyone interested in improving their health. Almost every single one of these tips can apply to just about anyone trying to achieve a healthier weight. My heart in writing this post is in hopes that it can help other fellow strugglers. This is not an exhaustive list, but the things that I have listed below are the top things that I feel have helped me the most in my long journey.
People have wrongfully assumed (and told me over and over) that the weight must just melt off of me after having a baby. I wish that were the case, but unfortunately that’s not the way my body works. I’m not one of those moms that has a baby and by the end of the week looks like she never gave birth. Quite the contrary! I am typically left with anywhere from 20-25 pounds to lose after my babies are born and it is a slow process in coming off…
I remember one funny story after I gave birth to my third child. My midwife was very concerned at the state of my protruding mommy tummy (I have severe Diastasis Recti, which is separation of the abdominal muscles caused by having babies. The way that I carry my babies exacerbates this condition even more than most because I carry my babies way out in front like a torpedo!), so she suggested that I may want to try a girdle or binding to help my tummy. My sweet friend, that was there for the birth offered to go to the store to buy me a girdle. She came back home with a few options. First of all, as I recall they were all a size large because…how do I put this delicately…my tummy was still huge even though I had already given birth! Secondly, I recall her helping me try them on because they were proving very difficult for me to pull up over my gigantic tummy by myself! There was one that zipped up in front and it was just the most ridiculous sight you’d ever seen! She was trying so hard to shove my tummy into that girdle so she could zip it up, but no such luck! I think we eventually found one that would get on me, but we had a good laugh for many years at the ridiculousness of the situation!
I’ve experienced the greatest joys at the births of my babies, but also encountered some of my biggest struggles as I reconciled what my post partum body was compared to my pre-pregnant body. I know that we as mothers are supposed to celebrate the stretch marks and say that they are beautiful because they were put there by our sweet babies. We are encouraged to relish in the newfound softness and fullness that can some times ensue after giving birth. I get that. I really do. Part of me does celebrate those things about my body and look upon them with fondness, but there is another part of me that wants to feel “normal” or “back to my old self”. I don’t think there is shame in that either. There is no shame in striving to get back to the way we felt best and healthy, as long as where we were before was really a healthy place for us. Then there is the plain and simple fact that I’d really just like to be able to fit back into my clothes again without feeling like I look like a puffer fish about to pop.
My newest munchkin shortly after he was born.
And so, after each child is born, the process of returning to the pre-pregnancy body begins. As I think back through the last 16 years of being constantly pregnant and/or nursing (literally non-stop), there are some things that have helped the most, so I thought that this might be helpful to share with some of you mamas who are longing to get back into that pair of skinny jeans hanging in your closet.
Let me clarify that I am in no way a doctor, so this is simply what has worked for me and should not be construed as medical advice. Also, experts recommend waiting until 6 weeks post part before beginning exercise, so that is what I did. Every person is different, and I know that some people have medical issues that play into all of it as well. This is not an exhaustive list and may not be the answer for everyone because we are all made differently, but this is what has worked for me 10 times over.
If you come away with nothing else but this first one then you are making a huge step in the right direction. This is at the core of being healthy to me. I really try hard to make the majority of my meal be vegetables and the smaller portion be meat or another protein source (see the picture above for a visual representation of a typical meal for me). I’m not a vegetarian, so I’m not advocating not eating meat (I am under the opinion that meat has many merits, if not over-done), but I do think that our society, as a whole, is too focused on meat and less focused on vegetables and fruit. I believe that the more vegetables we can eat, the more vitamins and minerals we are giving our bodies. Vitamins and minerals are so important to long term health. They affect our bodies in so many ways, not the least of these is hormones, our immune systems, blood pressure and so forth. Visually, when I look down at my plate of food I want to see 2/3 of the plate covered in vegetables and only 1/3th in protein.
Even though I only mention vegetables above, I’d like to also include fruit in this section. Fruit is really healthy and full of vitamins and minerals, however it does have natural sugars in it so I would caution people to use fruit more sparingly than vegetables. I feel like fruit should be more of a treat or snack than the majority of our meals. My personal plan is that I typically eat vegetables with my main meals and reserve fruit for a snack or in a smoothie. These smoothies help me to up my veggie intake and they are delicious- Peanutty Chocolate Healthy Stealthy Shake, Strawberry Healthy Stealthy Shake, and Cafe Mocha Latte Healthy Stealthy Shake.
What makes a” good” carb rather than a “bad” carb? To put it simply, good carbs are carbs that are close to nature and typically not processed (as in don’t pick up the bag of pretzels or crackers, but instead pick up a good carb like a piece of fruit or a piece of sprouted whole grain toast). I’m not at all a low carb person and I eat many healthy carbohydrates on a regular basis. I feel good eating the right carbohydrates and I feel like good carbohydrates are truly beneficial for the average person who doesn’t have blood sugar problems or other health issues, such as a diabetes. My go-to carbohydrate of choice is fruit (such as an apple with peanut butter) or a fruit smoothie that has protein in it. I make a Mango Banana Coconut smoothie that is super healthy. I am not one to usually have fruit with my meals, so I use snack time as the time that I usually get my fruit servings for the day. Fruit is really healthy and full of vitamins and minerals, however it does have natural sugars in it so I would caution people to use fruit more sparingly than vegetables. I feel like fruit should be more of a treat or snack than the majority of our meals.
I also enjoy other healthy carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, carrots, beans and sprouted grain breads to name a few. Don’t buy the junk food for your family. If you don’t bring it in the house it will be a lot easier to resist the foods and drinks that are holding you back from achieving your goals.
If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to food and making healthier food choices, I recommend you check out Trim Healthy Mama and I especially like their newest cookbooks Trim Healthy Table. and Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook . Trim Healthy Mama is not just for women–you can read all about my husband’s THM weight loss journey HERE. Also, Briana Thomas’s cookbook called Necessary Food has lots of healthy THM recipes and you can get that HERE.
This is vitally important to help hydrate, detoxify yourself as well as to help curb your appetite. You can calculate how much water you need HERE. Keep water near you and drink it often. I keep it in my bathroom and by my nursing chair, since I seem to visit those places throughout the day. I really like to drink water out of my Nalgene bottle (pictured above) and you can buy that HERE.
Also, I don’t drink juice, milk, or sodas. Those just add more sugar or artificial sweeteners and calories into the diet. If you must have the occasional sparkling drink, try one of my healthier fizzy drinks such as my “Sonic-Style Strawberry Limeade” or a natural stevia sweetened drink like Zevia.
Sometimes the food we eat alone is not enough to do the trick to rid our bodies of the unwanted weight, and that is where exercise comes in. The older I get, the more important exercise has become. No one wants to be told to exercise, but the truth of the matter is that our bodies were made to move and work hard and if we are not doing that then our health will suffer. It is vitally important for our muscle tone, our bones and our general health. It also helps to improve mood because those endorphins make you feel happier.
My favorite way to exercise is to walk and my kids and I try to walk together almost every day. Not only has it greatly helped me to feel better, but it has been a nice time for us to enjoy nature and being outside with one another.
One thing that has helped me want to walk more and helped my walks to feel shorter is listening to encouraging podcasts during that time. Some of my favorite podcasts are the “Trim Healthy Poddy”, “The Busy Mom”, “Family Life Today”, “Nutrition Diva” “At Home” and “The Purposeful Home”. In fact, I have enjoyed listening to podcasts so much that I started a new Facebook page for Christian Women to share their favorite podcasts and episodes. You can come join our page and see a complete list of more great podcasts and episode on my new Facebook page called “Favorite Encouraging Podcasts for Christian Women”.
Along with walking, I added a daily home workout video. When my recent baby was 6 weeks old I began with Lindsey Brin’s Postnatal Slim Down, which is a 14 week workout regimen The Post Natal Slim Down comes with a schedule so that I knew what to expect, and it even had food suggestions in the event that you want to follow that. I was already following the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating, which was fairly similar, so I didn’t follow Lindsey’s eating plan per se. I did try to follow her water drinking suggestions and as I explained above, I felt that to be very beneficial.
After that, I transitioned into another Lindsey Brin workout called Bootcamp 2. For the past 4 months I’ve been doing Bootcamp 2 for general exercise and I also do Danette May’s Flat Abs Fast 10 minute ab workout. In the past, I have used T Tapp, which is great, but I was just wanting to try something new this time around. I have heard great things about the Trim Healthy Mama Workins Workout DVDs and I hope to try those next year. I enjoy variety, so switching up routines and workouts can be beneficial in so many ways. If you want to see some real life pictures of what it is like when I exercise then check out the funny workout pictures at the bottom of these post–I promise they are not staged–that is really what it looks like when I exercise!
I have to do a modified version of all of the DVDs I mentioned above because of my Diastasis Recti (abdominal muscle separation). However, I feel like they have helped me to tone and return to pre-pregnancy size in spite of doing the modified versions.
Use a Fitbit or other smart device to track your steps and activity.
I am a very visual person and this ONE thing has helped me to have SO much more motivation. Being able to see how many steps I’ve walked during the day has been a key component for me. I really thought I was an active person because I feel like I chase kids all day and rarely get to sit down. However, I was disappointed to learn when I began wearing my Fitbit that I was only averaging about 6,000 steps a day, as opposed to the recommended 10,000 steps. That meant that in order to achieve more steps I needed to add in more walking to my daily life. Fitness trackers like the Fitbit don’t have to be expensive. I bought mine used and I see used ones for sale on local buy and sell sites all the time. If you want to buy a new one, you can find some reasonably priced ones HERE. I recommend the Fitbit Alta HR (pictured above on the left). I let one of my children recently borrow my Fitbit and it was lost, so I decided to upgrade to an Apple Watch so that I can get email, text and phone notifications as well as reply to all of those on my Apple Watch. The Apple Watch is a bit pricey, but I figured if it helps me become healthier then I was willing to invest in my health. The features on the Apple Watch have been super helpful to me, but if you don’t need all of that the Fitbit Alta HR is a great choice.
Weights were always kind of a scary and un-known part of exercise to me. My last few pregnancies have been harder on me to lose the weight than previous pregnancies, so I decided to try the exercise programs that I mentioned above since some of those incorporated weight training. I used small 5 and 8 pound weights, so it was nothing over the top, although I think I am at the point where I could increase my weights a bit.
Just to re-cap what I mentioned above, at about the 6 week mark, I began Lindsey Brin’s workout called “Post Natal Slim Down” then I transitioned into Lindsey’s “Boot Camp 2”. I also added in a free DVD that I ordered from Danette May called “Flat Abs Fast”. Both Lindsey Brin and Danette May are bubbly and fun to work out with.
This one may be the toughest of all. Especially when you have a new born baby or little ones/toddlers that may get up in the night. My best advice is to try by any means possible to get more sleep. My typical mode of getting more sleep is to take an afternoon nap during quiet time, but if that is not your style then maybe try going to bed earlier. Sleep is so VITAL to our bodies functioning properly and without sleep it can cause our bodies to hold onto the weight.
I realize that this one is a doozie and is easier said than done. I believe that our mind plays a crucial part in how stressed we feel. Our mind is a very powerful tool that we can use to our advantage or to our detriment (and to the detriment of others through our actions). Through the power of the Holy Spirt we have the ability to “boss our brain” and choose to focus on the positives in life. Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Life is hard. There’s no getting around that. I have been through some of the toughest years of my life recently. However, God is still good and He is greater than any problem that I may face. If I will simply choose JOY and focus on Him instead of my woes then my focus can and will shift to one of thankfulness, gratitude and peace. You can read more about my struggles and my “Year of Brokenness” in this post.
If you want to have a copy of the calligraphy scripture print that I wrote above to encourage you then you can download your free print HERE.
Be Patient–give it 9 months to a year.
I know how easy it is to be impatient to get back to normal because we want to fit back into our clothes so badly, however we didn’t gain the weight over night. For those of us that have had babies it took us 9 months to gain the weight, so we should expect it to take 9 months to lose the weight. If it happens sooner than that great, but if not “try” not to get to discouraged. My husband can tell you that this has been hard for me. Thankfully, he is always encouraging and gracious to me and I need to also be gracious to myself. After all, our bodies have created an amazing new life and that deserves to be celebrated!
Consistency is more important than perfection.
We as mom’s tend to make excuses when it comes to exercising and eating healthy. We have legitimate reasons why we “can’t” do x, y or z. I get it…I really do. I struggle with this daily. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed because, if you are like me, we rarely get a break and always have children swirling around us and needing us. (especially if you are a mama of littles and doubly so if you are a homeschooling mama like I am-I am currently teaching 6 grades, so I know and understand extreme busy). I’ve had to come to the conclusion that my exercise time is not going to be perfect or even pretty. There will not be silence (in fact, quite the opposite is true for me- usually I have many children near me). There will not be uninterrupted exercising. There will not be an exercise time that always gets done. My exercise may not look like someone else’s exercise and thats ok. But even if it is not perfect, if I keep at it and stay consistent then I will eventually see results. There will NEVER be a perfect or good time for me to do the things I mentioned above. Even after my kids are grown and gone there will be other things that will vie for my attention and occupy my time. The key is consistency. Pick the things that matter most to you and just do it! Stick with it and good chances are you will eventually see results.
A couple of bonus thoughts…
Plan for a treat meal once or twice a week. This may seem like odd advice and it may not work well for everyone, but for me this is helpful to me to stay the course. If I know that on occasion I can indulge in something special without guilt then I am more likely to stay on my healthy eating plan the rest of the time. I won’t feel deprived and I can enjoy celebrations with those I love by partaking in the meal that may not perfectly fit my ideal of a healthy meal. My only caution to this is that you indeed keep it as a special treat and not let it creep in as a daily occurrence. What happens day in and day out is what will make the biggest difference.
Secondly, If you are able, breastfeed a lot. I have found that the more I let my baby nurse the more milk my body produces and the more calories my body burns in doing so (breastfeeding burns anywhere from 300-500 extra calories a day and can help many women to lose weight). I don’t use a pacifier for this reason. I want my baby to suckle as much as they need to to build a good milk supply early on. Sometimes this means feeling like I am glued to the rocking chair nursing the baby all day in the first weeks, but that season is so short in the grand scheme of things. I look at it as the Lord’s way of making mamas slow down and rest and heal, when otherwise we may be tempted to be up and working too hard too soon. If you aren’t able to breastfeed don’t sweat it. I know that there can be extenuating circumstances that prohibit nursing for many reasons.
Some people do not lose well while breastfeeding and that can be very discouraging. What can also be discouraging is when people have told me to just wait until I finish breastfeeding then the weight will come off more easily, however for those of us that are never not breastfeeding (I’ve always gotten pregnant before I have weaned my babies) we don’t have the option of waiting. I have been nursing and/or pregnant for 16 years straight…that’s a long time to wait. For those of you that are resistant to losing while breastfeeding, just do the best you can in the areas mentioned above and enjoy the time to love on your sweet baby.
Lastly, don’t allow excuses to stand in your way. There will ALWAYS be a reason why we “can’t” or “shouldn’t” do some or all of the aforementioned. I know first-hand that it is not easy to carve out the time to exercise, eat well or get more sleep. It is not easy to buy and prepare healthy food. It takes planning and will power to stick to the plan.
While all of these things are not easy they are worthwhile. They are worthwhile because we want to be energetic and healthy to be with our children and grandchildren for years to come. Take baby steps if need be, but do something. Start today and your body, your husband and your children will thank you!