I don’t usually write about healthy lifestyle or body image issues but I do write about wellness and work in the wellness field. My body went through astronomical changes during pregnancy: I gained 30+ lbs, inherited stretch marks (battle wounds), and literally ripped my once-firm abs in two. Needless to say, I did not feel like my body was “mine” postpartum. Many of the moms I work with feel this way too. Your body has just been through a lot and you may find yourself wondering when or if you may ever feel like your body will be the one you used to know. Well, I am now 7 months postpartum and I finally feel back to my “self”. No, I’m not at my pre-pregnancy level of fitness, but, I am back to a place where I feel healthy and fit again. Many of the mamas in my yoga class ask me on the weekly how I’ve managed to get my fitness level back as a priority between diaper changes and nap time. So, this is my story of postpartum wellness, accepting my new body, and staying healthy amidst the rollercoaster ride of becoming a parent.
Love Note: Every single new mother’s postpartum health journey is unique and I genuinely believe that there is nothing more beautiful than a pregnant body and a new mom body, stretch marks and all. What I offer below is my opinion, my story, about postpartum healing and wellness from the perspective of a yoga teacher turned momma. If you’re not feeling comfortable in your postpartum body, check in right now before you read below. Ask yourself: will reading the health tips below make me feel motivated and excited or risk making you feel blue? If the latter, maybe bookmark and come back when/if you feel like you’d like to read it. Don’t rush mamas, you just did something phenomenal.
As a yoga teacher, I used to attend 5-7 yoga classes each week, often sprinkling a random boxing or Lagree or pilates class into the mix. I rode my bicycle everywhere, everyday (even in the winter!) In addition to all of this ‘fitness’ and mindfulness activity, I taught 10+ yoga classes a week, often demonstrating postures and sweating while I taught. Before and after classes, I would decompress in YYOGA’s infrared sauna. On vacation, I would scuba dive or snowboard, depending on the destination. It was without question that I lived a remarkably blessed and active life.
Since having my baby, my top priority has been allowing time for my body to heal. This has meant tons of rest, rather than exercise, and when I was given the go ahead by my doctor to exercise, I focused on slow, gentle, therapeutic movements that supported the recovery of my pelvic floor, my aching neck and shoulders and my sleeplessness. Now, at 7 months, I practice yoga consistently ONCE a week. I take my baby with me Nicky Poole’s delightful parent-baby yoga class at Octopus Garden, and between changing my baby’s diaper and breastfeeding, I am lucky to get in 40 minutes of actual ‘fitness’. In the past month, I finally felt strong enough to add one more post-natal yoga class to my routine at Yogaspace.
When I was 8 months pregnant, my husband and I bought our first car, knowing that I would not be able to lug my wee one around on my baby blue cruiser bike (especially in the winter). I still walk every day, but I have only rode my bicycle once since childbirth. The fresh air I get from our long walks in nature are my new meditation. Walking meditation is a very real thing, and it really helps the mind and body postpartum. I highly recommend this.
I am breastfeeding, which I attribute to a lot of my weight loss. It is said that nearly 600 calories are burned per day from breastfeeding alone. Alas, because of all that breastfeeding and the associated dehydration, I avoid the infrared sauna and any heated yoga classes like the plague. I went to hot yoga once, and it was a terrible decision.
While I haven’t been on any wild active adventures yet, I anticipate taking a vacation soon where I can either snowboard or scuba dive. But the truth is, the ‘fitness lifestyle’ I lived pre-baby is simply not compatible with being a mom. A working mom at that.
Finding the Balance
Imagine you had to pay for childcare every time you went to exercise alone? Take the cost of your yoga class (est $20.00) and add the cost of childcare per hour (est $20) plus the time for childcare for your commute to and from yoga, and you are looking at $60 just to work out for one hour. This is why parent-baby classes and online yoga are so so so important as a new mom. I highly recommend both. You can check out my prenatal online yoga program here.
In terms of balance, I found mine going back to work 10-15 hours a week when my baby was 4 months old. That means that when I hire childcare, I am working on my copywriting jobs or teaching my corporate yoga classes. When my husband gets home from work at 5:30pm, I am putting our son to bed and so exhausted from my intermittent sleep schedule (yes, I am still up every four hours with my baby) that the mere thought of venturing out into the world for ‘fitness’ exhausts me further. What my body needs is sleep more than fitness. I highly recommend napping and sleeping every moment that you can.
So then, how did I lose all of my pregnancy ‘weight’? Let me ask a better question – how did I find peace in my postpartum body and feel healthy and vibrant again? Obviously it was not from vigorous working out or hot yoga or 10k runs. I lost my pregnancy weight from good metabolism, breastfeeding, and thanks to these three things:
Good Friends, Good Food, and Good Community.
I believe that first and foremost, eating right is the secret to a happy, healthy life. I still go the market to buy fresh, organic, unprocessed foods every week. My partner and I cook delicious, healthy, hearty and natural meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the final months of my pregnancy, we prepared over 40 healthy frozen meals from traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic recipe books. I literally ate a homemade and delicious zucchini lasagna hours after giving birth in my hospital bed. The healthy meal prep we embraced during the nesting phase of pregnancy seeped into postpartum life and continues to this day. I highly recommend healthy meal prep, pre and post baby. Local mom and entrepreneur Meghan Telpner has some great recipes.
I believe that a healthy mind is a healthy body, through and through. I have seen it with my yoga students and myself, time and time again. For my first two months postpartum, any guest to our home was requested to bring home cooked food – and they did, from granola to greek cuisine to organic yogurt and berries, our friends filled our bellies with nutrients and vitamins that heightened our moods and sustained us despite the sleepless nights. We also retreated from the city at 2.5 months postpartum, shacking up in a family members cabin by the lake, surrounded, 24 hours a day, with family and friends (mostly women) who shared food, conversation and baby caring duties. This system of support gave me the rest and energy I needed to heal while the fresh air inspired me to get back outside and begin slowly reintegrating gentle movements into my body.
I believe in community, so much so that I spent an entire year living in a vegan commune (intentional community) downtown Toronto. Now, I live in the West End of Toronto and at my own home, every Wednesday, a group of four moms gather and practice yoga, eat healthy snacks, and open up about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. I call this my yoga therapy. Every Tuesday I attend a pre-natal yoga class in my neighbourhood with moms, who I often encounter at local singalong groups and baby parent drop in centres. Every single day I walk through my neighbourhood and run into friends – old and new. My local West End YMCA offers childcare for $4 an hour and last week I started going for 45 minute cardio sessions while two wonderful women rock my baby back and forth. A local vegan protein powder company called Profi reached out to me shortly after I gave birth (and announced my return to fitness) and offered to support my transition back into wellness by sending samples of their plant-based protein powder stacked with amino acids and the protein my body desperately needs as I return, day by day, to a little more exercise.
I am forever indebted to my local farmers who feed me and my family, to my incredible friends and family who support me, and to my West End Toronto community who inspires me to get up, get outside, and get into the world – rain or shine – every single day. I do not believe in weight loss gimmicks, 30 day fitness challenges, rigid dieting, or juice cleanses as a way to heal the body and find your new perfect weight postpartum. I believe in Good Food, Good Friends and Good Community.
And so, here are my offerings to you, superstar superwomen mamas out there:
- Enjoy 10% off PROFI vegan protein powder for when you are ready to head back to your own fitness regime. Use the code “ashleyholly” at checkout.
- Join me at parent-baby yoga when you are ready. Click Here to Learn More.
- For those of you who are still pregnant and worried about weight gain, I invite you to use the coupon code YOUAREAMAZING for 50% off my prenatal yoga program online. Click here to sign up.
Stay strong mamas!