Fitness, Health

How to stay fit during & after pregnancy

Pregnancy is certainly a special time, expecting a little one and already loved person (s). And all you want the most is to make sure you’re doing everything to have a heathy baby, and mother’s health and the way she feels make a huge difference on baby’s health too.

Three years ago we had our precious baby girl and I truly can say the whole experience was great thanks to some healthy habits and specific rules I followed. I was able to see abs just 2 weeks after birth, and the photo below is a little over a month after birth. How?

Before I start sharing my tips on how to be a healthy and happy mom-to-be and have a faster postpartum recovery, you gotta be prepared for hard work! But once some of these rules you’ll follow become your habits, I promise it won’t be as hard as it may sound. Also, remember to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

So to make it all a bit easier, I want to separate it into few categories:

First, my NUTRITION.

When I got pregnant, I had some nausea in the beginning and then it went away except some of my taste preferences changed (as an example, I could throw up from only thinking of anything deep fried). I set myself a goal – is to eat controlled portions, and eat healthy for the whole pregnancy time, and have occasional cheat meals (just like I do when I’m not pregnant). There were times I felt like I failed when I’d binge too much on something, but for the most part, I did what I’ve listed because I never wanted gaining fat after birth. I believed I could look great right after having baby and do everything to grow my baby the healthiest possible, of course. 

So I tried to control the amount of food I’d eat. Of course, it’s not that I tried to starve myself or eat extremely small because women do need around 400 extra calories during pregnancy. But by controlling portions I mean that I made sure I’m not eating from boredom, from cravings such as eating dessert after dinner. If I was hungry in 2 hours after my meal I would eat again but fill up on healthy food. Your body knows what it’s asking! It needs to prepare for birth so right nutrition and enough food is important especially last couple months. If you’re feeling like you need to indulge on huge portions of unhealthy food, you need to understand pregnancy is not an excuse. You can have these cravings all year round and pregnancy shouldn’t be tine of “letting yourself go”. In fact, I believe this is most important time to eat right because you’re not doing it only for yourself but for your baby. It’s been shown that mothers who ate healthy during pregnancy have healthier babies who tend to eat less junk later on and have stronger immune systems as well as have lower chance getting obese later in life. During pregnancy, eat variety of healthy food and avoid popular hypos like, “white potatoes are unhealthy” because when they’re cooked properly (not deep-fried over salted) they have lots of healthy nutrients. Eat fruit, because you need all the vitamins and antioxidants. Just eat what nature gives you, in the least processed form and try to control your cravings.

Moving forward to my EXERCISE routine.

I wasn’t taking it easy during my pregnancy! As I read online and chat with other moms, everyone used to say giving birth is an athletic event. You can’t run a marathon and finish it without preparation! So, here was my workout routine:

First 3 months is the time when I took it easy because of extreme tiredness and potential risk of miscarriage. So I did running for around 20 minutes, and then light weights exercises for another 20-30 mins, around 3-4 days a week. After 3 months I felt way more energized and I did around 30 minutes running and 30-45 minutes of weight lifting plus lots, lots of stretching, 6-7 times a week (if I did 7, I would do weights 5 times and Saturday was cardio only and Sunday just yoga and stretch). I’m sharing my favorite exercises during pregnancy here that help to prepare for easier birth. 

#1 squats – they have to be deep with as wide as possible legs stretched. It helps to stretch and strengthen that whole area to prepare for birth. Exercises such as butterflies are also great.

#2 abs workouts – there is a baby in your tummy but once the pregnancy is done, you will want to see muscles underneath and have your tight tummy back in days. On the top of that, you do need to push a bit with your tummy so that helps. If laying on the back is issue do exercises for abs that don’t require to lay such as planks.

#3 Back exercises such as superman are great during pregnancy to prevent back pains and strengthen it for the last few months when stomach gets bigger.

It wasn’t an easy workout but id do it early morning before college and tried to nap later and rest.  

#4 kegels – this one is not for fit body but to keep the vaginal area stronger to avoid tears. Do it daily on the go.

Finally, here are some of my beauty tips I did to help pregnancy complications:

For pregnancy hair loss, I’d do massage for my scalp with or without oils. I’d massage my scalp with my fingertip for few mins before bed. They started falling out around 5th month of pregnancy but soon they stopped and haven’t fallen after birth. 

To prevent stretch wars, I did dry brushing with oils like coconut or Shea or olive. It hasn’t been proven to prevent them, but many people had success using them. In any case, dry brushing helps to increase blood flow which is also beneficial in preventing varicose veins problems, and oils are great for nourishing skin. I was extra gentle around my tummy.

If you have any acne complications, I suggest going to dermatologist to get a treatment that will be safe as it’s recommended to avoid salicylic and benzoyl acids. There are also some great natural remedies for acne and these are my favorite:

  • Using natural aloe gel on a clean skin, can leave overnight; 
  • Make this easy toner – put 1 tbsp of sea salt into 1/2 cup of clean water and wipe your face every night; 
  • Use clay masks (green, white, red clays) to help acne and pimples 2x a week;
  • Use steamer to open up pores before you use masks or boil water in a pot and steam your face for 10 mins, following a natural scrub.

Postpartum training – what to do and what not to do

 

My 2 month postpartum. 

After birth you’re probably excited to get to workout routine as fast as possible to lose that belly. Back then doctors used to say you need to wait 6 weeks but now, if your pregnancy was without complications they say you can start light exercise when you’re ready. Always talk to your doctor of course, and here’s from my experience.

I Started walking and light running just a week after birth. I was listening to my body just like during pregnancy. A week after I started slowly increasing the duration of exercise, started adding light weights, and in about 2 months I was doing heavy lifting back again.

Exercise after pregnancy is crucial not only for getting in shape but for preventing postpartum depression. All the hormone chaos, and lack of sleep can make you feel depressed and even light 15 min workout will help you to get energy and feel good mentally as well.

First, you need to ask your doctor  what exercises should be avoided if you had complications during pregnancy. If not, then I’d suggest to take stretching part easy especially if you had stitches. Most likely you, like almost every postpartum woman may develop a diastasic recti. 

Diastasis recti is a separation of abs muscles due pregnancy or rapid weight gain in abdominal area. Here is how you can check if you have the separation:

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your fingers (palm facing you) just above your belly button, If you feel gap, its diastasic. Sometimes it can be one finger or four fingers in a gap, depending on how big is the gap.

Because of that, doing all kind of crunches is not a good idea as it will only worsen the separation (imagine how it separates even more when you crunch). But you will build better abs and close the gap by doing different type of exercises that I’m going to share.

Exercise #1 for abs after pregnancy is plank. 

Exercise #2: plank on a bosu ball – turning right and left

Exercise #3: Side plank 

Exercise #4: Pelvic tilts laying on the floor

Exercise #5: Cat stretch – going with your back back and forth 

I’ve been doing these exercises along with other full body exercises (keep in mind that even a squat works out your abs a little, too) and here’s the results I got, with proper nutrition I’ll explain further.

Nutrition 

When it comes to postpartum nutrition, you need to keep one thing in mind: the food you eat has to be healthy. If you breastfeed, you’re burning more calories but don’t use it as an excuse to have more sugar or fried food. Remember what you provide to you baby the first several months is most crucial, so if you want your little one to be healthy and have a strong immune system, try hard to nourish her and your post pregnancy body as well. Some women get increased appetite so breastfeeding actually makes them gain weight due their appetite, so the good old method is to count your calories to see where you’re at, or you can just use your own sense to stop when you’re full and eat when you’re hungry. Personally I believe counting calories may help to lose weight but it will be hard to do it all the time and too stressful (imagine you had all your calories at 3 pm because you had sleepless night and felt extra hungry and now its too much stress to say no to food). That’s why it’s the best to practice mindful eating before, during and after pregnancy and here’s how to do it:

Mindful eating 

 1) Understand that if you choose not to eat that cake someone brought to the hospital, you’re not depriving yourself. After all, you can then get it the next day and the day after and there are plenty of grocery stores around and cake shops. You’re doing if for yourself: to be happy, healthy, to lose weight, to have beautiful skin and more. Did I mention you’ll have a healthy baby, too?

2) If you had cheat meal, don’t feel like you’re back to start again and you’ve failed and now you’re never going to get the body you want. You treated yourself – enjoy it, everybody likes a treat sometimes!

3) Find healthy foods you love and eat them. Sometimes I forget I actually love green smoothies. Then I swing by smoothie shop and I’m drooling and thinking, why didn’t I make one one this morning? There are plenty recipes online and you can also check my page with recipes for sweet tooth. 

4) When you eat, enjoy your food, don’t swallow too fast, and even though for a mom it’s hard to find time to eat in piece, try to work it this way so you can have at least one calm meal per day.

5) The problem behind overeating goes a long way. If you constantly overeat, I’d suggest take high quality vitamins and check thyroid at doctor’s; on the other side, check what’s going on in your life. Are you too stressed? Too tired? Too mad? If you’re kind and calm, you’re more likely to be eating less. 

Sleep deprivation is the worst part, because being tired makes you more stressed, and crave more sugar and food in general. Besides you trying to get you sleep (if only it’d be that easy), I have a valuable advice: exercise. Just 15 mins a day will make you feel happier, healthier, and you’ll be surprised you have energy to do stuff after a sleepless night. Another advice is to do deep breathing exercises that will help to relieve stress.

I hope you have a healthy pregnancy and easy recovery!

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