Postpartum Body & Fitness – Diet, Workout and State of Mind

How I feel about my Postpartum Body and what I am doing to get back into shape

Healthy lifestyle has been my priority for a long time. People often tell me look almost the same over the years. To me that is one of the greatest compliments I could receive. That just means that I have been able to successfully maintain the level of commitment to myself, through self-care which includes healthy eating, staying active and surrounding myself with positive intentions. Healthy lifestyle is demanding and requires dedication. Just like with anything in life, you have to work for things you want, nothing in life is easy, right?

I don’t feel like myself postpartum

After the baby, I had the hardest time accepting my new body, in fact I still do. The fact that you do not fit in your pre-pregnancy clothes and need to buy a whole new set of wardrobes to adjust to your new body isn’t quite the same as going on a shopping spree. I refused to buy any new clothes and bough 1 pair of stretch band Levi jeans. I was not one of those lucky ones with the body type, who could lose 20 pounds right after birth or by breastfeeding. Also, Instagram really can be your biggest enemy (or an inspiration) sometimes. You compare yourself to those women who flaunt (which they should!) the postpartum body or look like they never even had a baby. Going through postpartum blues and being sleep deprived, I just did not know how to make time for myself. In between taking care of the baby, breastfeeding, pumping, washing bottles and Instagram (jk/lol) I was always exhausted. I was really hung up on looking the way I used to before pregnancy, it was not a number, it was an image of me that I had in my mind. The thought that these clothes may never fit me again really haunted me. I was not being nice or fair to myself. What was I thinking? I was 5 months postpartum; I was no super model and I just did not have the time or the energy to put in for a workout. However, the thought of fitness kept lingering with me every day and my thoughts were taking me to a dark place with each passing day (hello postpartum blues!). I talked (complained) to my husband everyday but him being a sweetheart would always listen to me patiently and then tell me that I look just as beautiful as ever :). I knew I had to take charge of the situation to get myself out of this rut. I know so many women that go through this same feeling of being lost and you are not alone!

How do I make time for exercise?

So, I started with regular walks with and without my baby (left her with my husband or in laws). Exercising releases hormones that makes you feel good (endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine). The days I walked I was happy and felt like myself again. However, I knew that walking alone was not going to get me in achieving my fitness goals. After seeing a million Instagram ads I thought I would give BBG by Kayla Itsines a try. BBG is a 28 min HIIT workout that you can pretty much do anywhere. Could I really not spare that 28 minutes in a day to do something for myself?! So, I created a schedule for self-care; a plan of how, when and what. I worked out when the baby was napping, again since the workout is 28 minutes, even if the baby only naps for 30 minutes, you are covered (yas girl!). Yes, there was laundry to fold and bottles needed to be washed but they did not have to be done right away. My husband was more than willing to help take care of the laundry and bottles after he got back from work, but I had prioritized chores over self-care. Chores could wait, self-care couldn’t. I realized quickly that there are trade-offs in order to make time for self-care and I was on a mission to make the most of it. I took great care in watching what I ate (see: post). I felt that I had more energy post workout which helped me get a lot of those chores taken care of. I was good about my water intake, sleep (thanks to sleep training) and staying active. I also did a 5K, 6 months postpartum (I was back to work full time by now) and a 10K, 8 months postpartum. The first round of BBG showed some great results and I felt really good about myself. I started 12 weeks challenge of BBG Stronger this year and as hard as it was, I have never felt stronger, energetic and more grateful for my body. I don’t know if I’m in the best shape of my life or if I’m back to how I was before pregnancy but I feel good. Although, looking back, I realize that I never appreciated my body for what it was. The basic human desire of always wanting more can sometimes be so cruel. There are certain outfits that fit me better than others and I flaunt them. And for the rest of them it’s time for spring cleaning anyway :). I have accepted the fact that my body has transformed during the pregnancy/postpartum journey and I am at peace with it. However, I am also determined and working towards my fitness level and look my best!

Tips on starting exercise postpartum

  1. Give yourself time! Don’t be harsh on yourself. Love yourself, be kind, encourage yourself and listen to your body.
  2. Assess your fitness level by going on a light walk or a jog
  3. If starting with a workout program, commit to it and show up!
  4. Make time that works best for you! Energy wise, baby schedule wise or simply your state of mind.
  5. Chores can wait!
  6. Make your family aware about your personal time and goal
  7. Have nutritious snacks readily available (nuts, cucumber, berries, avocado, yogurt)
  8. Stay hydrated and have a bottle with you at all times
  9. Lastly, do what makes you happy. You are fabulous and inspiring!

BBG (Bikini Body Guide) and transformation

Today marks the completion of my 12 weeks of Bikini Body Guide (BBG Stronger) challenge by Kayla Itsines found in the Sweat app. For those of you that are not familiar with BBG, it is a 28 min HIIT workout that you do 3 days a week (arms, abs, legs). You add on some cardio on the remaining days to continue to stay active. Now, let me just reiterate that I have been active and healthy at least for the past 10 years of my life. I have run a few 5 & 10Ks, a half marathon, done the Jillian Michaels- 30-day shred and have been a regular at the gym. However, I just felt that the BBG workout has by far been the most challenging, yet promising. If you are looking for a workout that is sort of guided you should give BBG a try. I have to warn you though; it is not easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest workouts I have done. Take it easy, go slow but get it done! The truth is, your results are based on the work you put into it. I did this for myself and I showed up for myself, every time! I made a commitment and I knew that if I just showed up, I could make it through. There were days when I was just so tired and wanted to nap with the baby or just did not feel my 100%. On those days, I gave myself a break and said ‘you’re doing great, give yourself a break’. On other days, I knew, I was letting my laziness creep in so all I had to do was leave the house, and I did.

Your thoughts can be your biggest enemy sometimes. Your body listens and reciprocates to the way you treat it. Let your body and mind heal, listen to them and give it time, it will work with you. Otherwise, no matter how much hard work you put into looking your best, you may not feel that way. Something to also remember is that given the changes in our bodies (hormonal, physical), working out, staying active and eating right should be part of our lifestyle.  Otherwise, personally I have felt that my muscles tend to loosen up quicker.

I also highly recommend Headspace if you are looking to calm your mind, find some space and be present.

XO, Naya

Eating Healthy During Pregnancy and Postpartum

Eating Healthy to Nourish and Heal Your Body

Being healthy has always been an important aspect of my life. I’ve never really been unhealthy because I didn’t really LOVE eating junk food or fast food all that much. As everyone says, portion control is everything! However, things changed during and after pregnancy. During pregnancy, unfortunately, my morning sickness was so bad that I lost 11 lbs in the first trimester. After that, I just made sure to eat regularly, every 2 hours, and eat good. I gained about 30 lbs altogether (including the 11 lbs I had lost) during the course of my pregnancy. Once I delivered the baby, I may have lost about 10 lbs. I breastfed for about 8 months and trust me, when you are breastfeeding, you find yourself starving all the time.

Being from the South Asian part of the world, our culture really embraces taking care of the mother during postpartum and what better way to show it than through delicious meals, right? Thanks to my mother-in-law and my mom. I devoured rice, lentils, chicken, vegetables every day, morning and night, for about 5 months. I was hungry all the time and found myself carb loading. Don’t get me wrong, I love my carbs but I started getting them love handles and belly rolls which I have never had in my life! I panicked but then really started watching what I ate thereafter and started regular workouts to my schedule. It took me more than 6 months to get back into shape, meaning that I feel myself now and feel healthier. In the hindsight, I probably would have planned my meals to eat better. Meal planning isn’t quite the thing you want to do during pregnancy or postpartum, but hopefully the plan below will give you an idea on how to stay satiated and get your calories in!

NOTE: please don’t deprive yourself of any food at any point in your life. You don’t want to be binge eating those things during pregnancy to satisfy you ‘cravings’ :). Everything in moderation is ok. Also remember you are not really eating for 2, you’re just adding about 300-400 extra calories.

What to eat during pregnancy: Meal Plan

Breakfast (options) 7-8 AM

  • Milk (whole, almond) with protein powder or a dollop of ice cream
  • Homemade smoothie (without added sugar , try dates instead)
  • Oatmeal
  • Toast with Avocado or peanut butter or almond butter
  • Yogurt with homemade granola or oats

Snack 1 (options) 9-10 AM

  • I would recommend not doing spicy or oily snacks such as pakora, samosa or other packaged savory snacks. Save yourself from the heartburn!
  • Boiled Eggs – 2
  • Banana
  • A handful of raw nuts (walnut, pecans, almonds, dates)

Lunch (options) 11-12 PM

  • Peanut butter & Jelly
  • Chicken/Tofu Sandwich, wrap/kathi roll
  • Chicken salad (if you don’t feel comfortable eating raw food, substitute with cooked vegetables)
  • Fish (salmon) with vegetables or rice or salad
  • Rice/Whole Wheat Roti/Quinoa with chicken curry, chick pea curry or any other vegetables
  • Pasta with chicken, tofu or vegetables
  • Pan fried shrimp tacos or pastas
  • Quinoa Salad

Snack 2 (options) 1-2 PM

  • Cheese (pasteurized)
  • Greek Yogurt (whole milk) – refrain from any low fat low cal diet
  • Daal/Lentils/Soup
  • Avocado

Snack 3 (options) 3-4 PM

  • A handful of raw nuts (if not previously snacked on)
  • Fruits (apple, banana, grapefruit, blueberries, whatever you are feeling). Avoid papaya and pineapple as these are considered to be labor inducing fruits
  • Raw vegetables like cucumber, carrots, celery with hummus or other dip
  • Homemade poha

Dinner: 7 PM

  • Chicken and vegetables (such as kale, broccoli, green leafy vegetables)
  • Roti with Saag Paneer , Rajma, Edamame
  • Salmon with Rice/Quinoa or Sweet Potato
  • Hearty soup (daal/lentils or asparagus or butternut squash) with rice or roti

What to avoid during pregnancy?

Notes:

  1. Avoid citrus fruits in the morning as they tend to give you heartburn
  2. Avoid very spicy and oily food. Again, anything you can do to reduce heartburn.
  3. Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day. The recommended water intake is 12 glasses. However, if you are not a water drinker, don’t start chugging glasses to get the intake. Make your way slowly. I would carry a water bottle with me at all times.
  4. Avoid store bought juices since they are high in sugar and other additives.
  5. Limit coffee intake to 1 if you must and take it easy with those desserts/mithais 🙂

Our South Asian diet includes a lot of carbs which turns into sugar during digestion. South Asian women are considered to be at a high risk for developing gestational diabetes so you want to balance your diet from the get go. Be mindful of your choices and make a conscious decision of what you are putting in your body.  

What to eat after deliver: postpartum

Postpartum Meal Plan

In general, you need 500 extra calories a day if you are a breastfeeding mom. This typically adds up to 2000-2500 calories per day for those who are trying to maintain their weight. You can pretty much follow the same meal plan as listed above although may be difficult the first few weeks so have friends and family help (if possible). Below are some of the items you may want to add to your diet for postpartum:

  1. Lactation Supplement: a lot of women start taking fenugreek pills to increase their milk production. You may have family members who have homemade recipes with fenugreek seeds, that works great as well.
  2. Bone broth: if you are not a vegetarian, bone broth is a fabulous addition to your diet during pregnancy and postpartum. It is rich in collagen and gelatin which contribute to strong bones, tendons and connective tissue in mom and developing baby. Decreases fatigue and weakness which is especially helpful during the first few weeks postpartum. Lastly, it contains amino acids glycine and proline which are needed for soft tissue and wound healing which may help speed recovery if you have C-section like I did. You can make your own or buy it at Whole Foods or one of the other super markets.
  3. Lentil Soup: Moog or Mung Daal is by far one of the healthiest and heartiest soups. It is packed with nutrients, high in antioxidants and rich in potassium, magnesium and fiber which are all essential throughout your pregnancy and postpartum.     
  4. Green Leafy Vegetables: rich in fiber, antioxidants, calcium, vitamin C and iron, make sure you have at least 2 servings of green leafy vegetables. It can be spinach, kale, broccoli, mustard greens, etc. FYI, you will need to test and try out a variety of food during this period as you will get gassy (like bad smelly ones) and that’s OK!
  5. Meat/Protein: protein is a must during pregnancy and postpartum. Depending on where you are in your pregnancy doctors recommend anywhere between 75-100 grams of protein a day. It sounds like a lot and yes, it is if you are not used to protein being part of your every meal, that’s how you are going to need to up the intake. It does not necessarily need to be all meat or fish but those definitely will give you the most:
    1. Chicken, Fish, Lamb, Goat Meat
    2. Cottage Cheese
    3. Whole Milk
    4. Nuts or nut butter
    5. Tofu
    6. Legumes (split peas, black beans, red/white kidney beans)
    7. Eggs

Ladies, as always these recommendations are just my opinion based on personal experiences. This post is not meant to offend anyone or any culture. You know your body the best and should listen to what it wants. If you have any kind of allergy, please substitute those items with an alternative. Also check with your doctor recommend food, diet, supplement and exercise and do what works for you. I hope this helps to at least plan things out. Please let me know your thoughts on this and previous posts in the comments section below.

Next post will be on fitness journey, stay tuned!

Xo, Naya