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Archive for December, 2014|Monthly archive page

It’s Almost Bikini Season (?)

In Challenge, Fruit, Healthy Lifestyle, Oats, Quinoa, Rice, Vegetables on December 5, 2014 at 4:02 pm

A line I’ve heard far too many cliched times.  I’ll be in a fitness class, performing some G-d awful maneuver, and the instructor will chime in with the motivational “C’mon, it’s almost bikini season.”  Have you been there, too?  This usually starts sometime in the Spring, but I’ve heard it all year long.  The most surprising time was a few years ago in a late November or early December yoga class.  I remember thinking I wanted to Warrior 3 back-kick that teacher in the face.  Seriously?  This was smack in the middle of the season of eating (Halloween-New Years).  But you know what?  I always remember that class, and that message is so very clear and meaningful to me now.

It’s always bikini season, or at least that’s what your eating/fitness routine should reflect.  Don’t starve yourself a month before summer, or spend 3 hours at the gym everyday, then turn around and subsist on fast food and couch potato-ing the other 9 months of the year.  Balance and healthy habits are a 365 day-a-year prescription for what you seek.  Something important to remember during this current season, or any time in your life.  Which brings me to a topic I’ve been toying with discussing on this blog.  Another 9(+) month period that opens you up to the advice and opinions of even the faintest stranger.

I’m talking about pregnancy, and specifically how it affects “bikini season.”

I know this topic can strike a nerve in a lot of people, which is why I’ve been procrastinating addressing the topic.  Several people have asked me to give tips for losing the baby weight and getting back in shape.  I could have wrote a post about this over a year ago.  Honestly, if I wrote some of the things I’d been thinking in my head, I’m sure I’d get a lot of backlash.  I have lots of stories and anecdotes to add to this topic, but really the common theme is this: treat everyday like you’re prepping for bikini season.  Before, during, and after pregnancy.  What does that mean?  Eating healthfully and exercising, plain and simple.  There’s no secret or mystery plan behind it.

Okay, so that may seem like a pretty generic piece of advice.  Plus, not everyone has the same criteria for what constitutes healthful eating and physical fitness routines.  For reference, I’ll talk about some of my healthy habits, but really the bottom line is to find what works best for your body and lifestyle.  I may have been able to run 3-5 miles into my 8th month of pregnancy, but somebody else could benefit just as much from walking their dog for 30 minutes.  It doesn’t make me better, it is just what suits me best.

Recovering from pregnancy weight gain for me really started before even trying to conceive.  I had a healthy lifestyle before becoming pregnant, which set a good foundation for prenatal and postpartum maintenance.  Mind you, I was no skinny super model with “naturally fast metabolism”, nor a fanatic celebrity with a nutritionist/chef/personal trainer at my disposal.  Through trial and error, I found what worked best for me and incorporated these changes into my lifestyle.  I found exercises that I liked (running, full body dvds, yoga, bike riding) and scheduled appointments in my calendar to make sure I didn’t cancel on myself and fitness goals.  I didn’t treat my nutrition in a diet-focused manner, but rather with a holistic approach.  Basically, how do certain foods make me feel?  Do they give me energy or do they make me sluggish?  Are the ingredients naturally occurring or are they frankenfoods?  Do I need a whole plate of an indulgent food, or will just 2-3 bites satisfy my cravings?  You get the idea, but here are some of the food habits I developed and have remained unchanged:

  • Drink 10+ cups of water a day.  No soda or juice.
  • Breakfast is the biggest meal of the day, with no added sugar
  • Eating lots of vegetables, especially leafy greens
  • Maxing out at 2-3 fruits/day
  • Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oats, whole wheat, etc)
  • Organic when possible (although when I prepared the foods it was 98% likely to include organic ingredients)
  • No sweets in the house (hardest by far, and not always kept)
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • Avoiding GMOs, hydrogenated oils, and chemical additives, such as high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, and MSG
  • Minimizing convenience and processed foods (pre-made sauces, crackers, snacky type foods, etc)
  • No eating after dinner

Those are my eating guidelines.  They didn’t change when I became pregnant or after giving birth.  I’ll share one little anecdote about how important that is.  When Rocco was 6 weeks old, I was wearing him in a baby carrier while walking the dog, and I was stopped by a woman who had a 6 month old baby.  She was just being friendly and wanted to chat with another mom.  She expressed interest in walking/exercising to lose her baby weight – which was 80 pounds.  You know how that happened?  She told me that before the baby she worked out like crazy and “dieted” so much, that when she became pregnant she just wanted to eat ice cream every day.  Where did she think that ice cream was going?  What goes up must come down, and it doesn’t exit in the L&D ward.  I think that example really drives home the point about healthy habits, not dieting.  I don’t mean to point fingers at this woman, but I think it’s more common than others admit.  Before pregnancy, I wouldn’t keep ice cream in the house and would only have desserts on special occasions.  The same rules applied during pregnancy.  Okay, so one time I sent Nick out for ice cream, but it was a rare occurrence.

Maintaining my habits during pregnancy was not hard at all.  In fact, it was more motivation than fitting into a bikini, because my nutritional intake went directly into my baby’s growing body.  I was especially more careful about chemicals/gmos, etc, and while that’s all fine and hippy dippy, the positive side effect is I ended up eating a lot less junk.  That junk just goes straight in the trunk, and we all know the baby is in the front.  I also maintained my fitness routine, but just modified for pregnancy.  I biked and did personal training through the first trimester, I ran 2-3 times a week until the 8th month, and then adjusted by going for longer walks with the dog in the last few weeks.  I also increased the frequency of my yoga practice, just avoiding poses not suitable for a growing belly.  Up until 2 days before I went into labor, I was going to the yoga studio 6 days in a row that last week, which was when my monthly pass expired.  The day I went into labor, I took my dog for a 4 mile walk.  That same day was my 39 week appointment, and my weight gain was 24.5 lbs.  My healthy habits carried me through a healthy pregnancy with minimal side effects.

Then the smoking mirrors of pregnancy shattered as reality set-in.  Or so I thought.  This is specific to my experience, so I can only speak to what I know.  The next day when I gave birth, I had 15 minutes of pushing (which I like to think is all thanks to yoga).  Shortly after delivery, I had to take a shower and noticed how flat my stomach was, compared to my expectations based on what everyone was telling me to see (a 6-month-pregnant looking belly).  9 days later I was down 16.5 pounds, and I had one pair of regular size 28 jeans that I could zip and button.  3 months postpartum I was wearing 26/27 again and only 3 pounds from pre-pregnancy weight (I’d like to think those 3 pounds are lactation related).  I’m not saying I looked like the aforementioned super model/celebrity, but I looked like me, not a new mom version of me.  I’ve also definitely improved my shape since then, but having that solid foundation both physically and mentally enabled me to improve myself instead of trying to “bounce back.”

I continued with those nutritional habits in the trying weeks as a new mom, despite the exhaustion and every other excuse in the book.  The foods were the same, just more as I needed them, and also DEFINITELY more water for lactation.  I exercised as my body allowed and was safe for a postpartum recovery.  I started walking 3 days after delivery.  It started out as 15-20 minutes, but within a week I was running errands, walking the dog twice a day for 2-3 miles each time.  It was that simple.  At my 5 week checkup, I was cleared for exercise, and the next day I went to baby and me yoga.  I returned back to running, training for the NYC marathon, but only lasted a month and 14 miles.  Pregnancy taught me to know my physical and mental limits, and clocking in 30-50 miles a week on a collection of 2 hour naps throughout the day was not something I was prepared to continue.  Once the baby was sleeping for longer stretches, and finally through the night, that’s when I would wake up early to run or go to a 7 am class.  Until then, I just tried to keep moving.  I’d wear Rocco around the house as I did chores.  I’d keep going to baby and me yoga, despite time after time dealing with a screaming infant hanging from my boob.  Eventually, I’d catch a break and he’d sleep, allowing me to get in an hour of vigorous practice without paying for a baby sitter.  All of those small efforts, combined with healthful food, strongly contributed to returning to my post-baby measurements.

Like I said before, these accounts are of my personal stories.  I’m not trying to say that if somebody hasn’t accomplished those results there is something wrong with them or what they’ve done.  A healthful life can be challenging, and motherhood is even more so.  My hope is that by sharing my experience, the tips I incorporated into my life could help others to achieve a year-round healthy body, instead of struggling towards some fleeting and unrealistic goal.  Just remember that you don’t need to “diet” or hardcore exercise to achieve those results.  It’s about the journey, not the destination.  Simple, small, and lasting changes will put you on the path to 4 seasons of bikini wearing.  Even if it is still December.