Giving birth to a new, lighter, healthier you
Peaches Geldof recently gave birth to her second son (Phaedra) and just days after his arrival was spotted out and about looking slim and svelte.
In the celebrity world, there is a lot of pressure on women to bounce back to their pre-pregnancy weight in record time as new mothers Amy Huberman and Pippa O’Connor are undoubtedly aware.
But losing vast amounts of weight at a time when most women are feeling exhausted and vulnerable isn’t always the best idea. And Margot Kearney of the Nutrition Clinic says it’s vital to eat well after giving birth as the body has been through a lot and needs extra nutrition.
“Eating well after pregnancy is very important, especially when you consider you have just gone through labour and given birth,” she advises.
“Your hormones will be in disarray and you need to deal with the extra responsibility and sleep deprivation. And if you are breastfeeding it is even more important to eat regular, nutritious meals. The food we eat is the raw material the body uses to make up those all-important hormones and cells. What we eat literally becomes us; we truly are what we eat.
“So in order to maintain healthy energy levels to deal with these new demands, try to eat regular balanced meals. Start with a good breakfast which contains complex carbohydrates and a little protein to give that sustained release of energy.
Avoid processed foods
“Porridge with berries, some ground linseeds, a spoonful of natural yoghurt with a little cinnamon would be the ideal start to the day. The ground linseeds will provide extra fibre and some of the important good fats.
“Complex carbs like fruit and vegetables, brown bread, pasta and rice are good for energy and even better when combined with a little lean protein like chicken, fish, cheese or beans.
“Healthy snacks in between meals will prevent those afternoon slumps; an apple with a handful of almonds does the trick.
“On the other hand, try to avoid processed foods. These are tempting as they seem quick and easy but will not add any nutritional value and will rob your body of those important vitamins and minerals.
“Stay away from sugary snacks and be careful with stimulants like coffee and tea as these set you up for those highs and lows which will play havoc with your energy levels.
“Green tea is a good alternative as is plenty of water to avoid dehydration and prevent sugar cravings.”
Kearney says although eating well is vitally important after having a baby, exercise is also necessary.
“One of the main causes of weight gain is actually dieting,” she says. “A sudden drop in calories tells your body to conserve energy as starvation might be imminent. The body goes into survival mode and the rate at which you burn energy slows down.
“When you stop dieting, you are likely to put the weight back on as your body will store instead of burning fat.
“Choosing to breastfeed will not just help baby but may also help your waistline and in order to lose some of the extra baby pounds, get moving; a walk, a swim and taking some time out with post-pregnancy yoga are all beneficial.
“Eating small regular low GL meals is a safe and natural way to lose some weight, gain energy and stop craving carbs without feeling hungry.
“So set a reasonable goal and don’t be too hard on yourself; remember it took several months to gain the extra pounds so it will take some time to lose them again.”
Beatriz Creo, founder of meetmums.ie, put on more than three stone when she was pregnant with her son, Joel. She lost a little weight after the birth and has since lost a couple of stone, but still has another to lose.
Looked much skinnier
“I had Joel in March 2008 and during the pregnancy I put on about 20kg,” says the Wicklow woman. “I lost just the weight of the baby initially but was so busy trying to adapt to a different life, that I didn’t have the time or energy to try to lose any more.
“But it was on my mind a lot and in my eyes all the other new mums looked much skinnier and this really made me feel down. I breastfed for six months and thought this would help me lose the weight but during the night feeds, I would get so hungry that I would always end up snacking on something unhealthy.
“Then in October 2008, I went on a low-fat and low-calorie diet for a couple of months where I lost about a stone. Then the following year, I bought the book Idiot-proof diet. It is very similar to the Atkins diet but with much more vegetables included. So I followed it strictly for a month and lost another stone.
“I have more or less kept eating that way and have lost all the extra weight I put on during the pregnancy. But I still battle with an extra stone to reach a healthy weight for my height.
“I think there should be more control on weight gain during pregnancies, as it is not only about aesthetics but about being healthy. Putting on a lot of weight during the pregnancy will make labour and recovery much more difficult. And GPs should be able to inform pregnant women and new mums on healthy nutrition guidelines for their situation and control the weight during the pregnancy.
“It is not about getting back to your pre-pregnancy body but being healthy and as fit as you can to cope with a new baby.”
Regained her old figure
Sarah Mello is a full-time doctor, part-time model and mum to Liam who is three years old. She also put weight on during pregnancy and although she has regained her old figure, she did so at a sensible rate.
“I gained a ton of weight. Three stone to be exact,” says Sarah, who lives in Cork. “I just ate everything around me as I figured that this was the only time in my life I could eat anything I wanted, so I indulged and loved every minute of it.
“After Liam was born it took me about 18 months to lose all the weight. I breastfed and also enjoyed doing yoga and cardio-training. But I continued to have a healthy diet and just ate smaller portions.
“So between my hectic work schedule and running around after the baby, the pounds just came off. Ultimately, I think that a woman’s confidence should not be completely tied in with her waist line, or what society and the media are selling to us as ‘beautiful’.
“Women and mothers of all sizes can be beautiful, confident and sexy. And, of course, being a good mother and living a healthy lifestyle takes precedence over the weighing scales.
“And although it is tempting to start trying to tone up as quickly as possible, it is advisable not to undertake any strenuous stomach exercises until your baby is at least three months old.”
So when the time is right, Dr Bernadette Carr – medical director of VHI – has some suggestions for a gentle exercise regime to get you started:
Place an elastic band on your hand and every time you notice it, pull your tummy in, hold for a few seconds and relax;
Kneel on the floor with your hands in front of your knees. Pull your tummy in and hold for five seconds. Breathe out without letting your tummy out. Repeat this six times;
Find a Pilates class to help flatten the stomach, but make sure your teacher is properly qualified;
Remember, don’t attempt any stomach exercises until 12 weeks after the birth and, if you have had a Caesarean, talk to your doctor before embarking on any sort of exercise.
For more information visit: nutritionclinic.ie; vhi.ie and meetmums.ie