Today I am about 6 & ½ months postpartum. I don’t think I will ever get used to how much life can change in 6 months but I wanted to talk a little bit about my postpartum fitness journey.
This week, I have really tried to intentionally be more conscious about my weight, stress, and my diet (not a diet program but the food I eat). The past week has been incredibly frustrating, the more I thought about my health and physical fitness, the more I realized how far I was from where I wanted to be. I even felt like the way I looked and the shape of my body looked worse compared to before I started, which added to the frustration. But after just a week of sticking through it I finally feel like I am seeing some beneficial results. My loose skin is beginning to tighten andI can see a noticeable difference in fat that is starting to be replaced by muscle.
I don’t know if anyone has felt discouraged by their fitness journey but I wanted to create a post where I share your frustration and also encourage having continued to the other side and loved the results.
This blog post is going to be a little different than my others but I think fitness is a large part of my life and I would love to share experiences and techniques for prioritizing health.
To me there are 3 parts to fitness and health what you eat, when you eat it and your exercise routines.
Nutrition: Why What You Eat, Matters.
A new perspective that I heard about food is that we have the misconception that food is supposed to make us feel something when if we break it down into its simplest function food is supposed to provide us nutrition. Too often, I have turned to ice cream when I am sad, ate fast food when I had a rough day and although these things are not inherently bad it can set a dangerous precedent. When you tie food to emotions, it strays from its primary function to an escape to make you feel better, something to do when you are bored, a pick me up when you’re sad. Instead of developing other coping mechanisms you are training your brain to seek the comfort of sugar and processed foods as a release and escape.
I saw this as someone who realized recently that I was doing this as well. And the problem I realized is that when I experienced harder things more frequently I was consuming foods with low nutritional value too often, which has its own negative side effects in regards to mood, sleep and energy.
To combat this habit, I have intentionally begun to monitor what does into my mouth, not to obsess over calories but to evaluate why I am eating what I am eating and the basic nutritional benefits it has. For me I realized I often craved a snack when trying to procrastinate and when stressed strongly craved chocolate. With any bad habit, the first step is awareness of what you would like to change, and the second step is trying to replace a bad habit for a good one.
I have heard it said that the trick to dieting is won at the grocery store because what you keep in your house it what you will eat. So, I started buying groceries online to avoid the shopper instinct to put extra stuff in the cart, and ordered mostly high protein items, fruits and vegetables. But I also allowed myself to pick cinnamon cake and plan a day to make and enjoy it. For me, this has been the key. It’s not about all or nothing, it’s about control. Where I used to let me diet be controlled by whatever emotion I was feeling now I am planning a “pick me up” during the week to look forward to, which makes the process of sticking to a healthy diet easier.
The main difference I have seen thus far is the energy I have, I feel more motivated and less sluggish in the things I try to do. The fruit and vegetables help fill me up while providing nutrition without processed carbs. The more I keep healthy foods in the house and experiment with recipes the better success I have had in maintaining the nutritious diet I need to live the life I want.
Intermittent Fasting: Why When You Eat, Matters
This step ties a lot into the previous step in terms of evaluating why you are eating when you are eating. As I talked about previously, I realized I had a habit of using food as a procrastination tool. Eating had become a feedback loop of me wanting to get out of whatever it was I was doing, then using food as a distraction and excuse, and thereby successfully avoiding what I didn’t want to do making me more likely to do it again in the future.
This is where I have really fallen in love with intermittent fasting. It is not an excuse to stop eating or starve yourself but it is another exercise in control over your diet. Instead of eating in response to emotions, situations or pressures, you create a system that will allow you to not overeat and only eat when you are actually hungry.
It looks different for everyone, but for me I only eat from the hours of 12pm to 8pm. One of my problems was that I would often get confused when I am thirsty for when I am hungry. So before 12pm I intentionally drink water and tea or coffee to try to start my day hydrated. Then I make nutritious meals and lunches throughout the day, and after 8pm I again only drink tea or water. Sometimes there are variations but I really try to stick to a schedule because it helps me track my nutrition and control my diet.
The last thing I want to add is that there are times that I get bored, hungry or stressed and one thing I have always turned to that has worked tremendously is a quick exercise break. I can lose focus on what I am doing, I can get wrapped up in stress or anxiety, I can be trying to procrastinate but instead of eating or distracting myself I substitute 25 crunches, jumping jacks, squats or push-ups to raise my energy and force me into the present moment. It’s a quick, easy way to get stronger while trading potentially negative habits for positive ones.
Exercise Routines: Find What Works, And Stick With It
The first step of finding a work out routine is experimenting, everyone is different and some exercises will work wonders and target the muscles you want and others you can do forever and still not see the results that you want. For me I needed to focus on the areas I wanted to target, then find exercises that targeted those areas then finally do then to see which one felt the best, challenged me the most and that I enjoyed. Once you know what you are comfortable with and what works for your muscles the hardest part is consistency.
One of the mistakes I used to do was switching my work-out routine every time I did not see the results I wanted. But if you consistently do your chosen exercises, and increase reps and weight appropriately you will see results, you just have to be patient.
The hardest part for me was accepting my body in its transition phase, where I could feel the muscle but I could still feel the fat bulging out at weird places where it used to be tucked in. I thought I looked worse and unproportional because while some areas looked better, it made the other areas look even worse. But the main thing I want to stress is that this is temporary, strength is what matters and if you focus on building strength you will tone, it will look consistent and you will feel better!
My exercise journey has been a roller coaster especially because after birth I wasn’t able to do many of the exercises I wanted to, but consistency and doing what I can when I can has made such a difference in my health and confidence.
Let me know in the comments if there is anything that has helped you in your fitness journey! I would love to hear it!