CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
I had a baby girl six weeks ago -- my first. My daughter is healthy, so that is the best blessing ever, but I am exhausted and don't recognize my own body. I know I need to exercise, but I really have no energy. Any tips to make me feel good about myself again? -- Carla
Congratulations, and welcome to motherhood! Your frustrations are shared by all new moms. There's nothing more life-changing than a baby. Most of the changes are joyous; however, some are a little harder to appreciate, such as the disappearance of your pre-baby figure and your energy supply.
Here are a few tips that may make you feel less stressed and more in control about what to expect from this point forward:
Your body is healing and you've just reached the time (with physician's clearance) when you are able to begin exercising.
Understand your belly is going to look and feel puffy and like Jell-O -- probably not how you remember it. You'll have the linea nigra (dark line on your abdomen) and if you had a C-section, you will also be dealing with an incision that's healing.
When you start into labor, your belly is like an inflated balloon. When you deliver, it doesn't just pop, it slowly deflates because everything inside you, including your uterus, must shrink back to a pre-pregnancy size.
You'll lose about 11 to 13 pounds when your baby is born. Chances are you gained at least double that. If you are eating healthy calories, this weight loss will happen naturally, but it is a process.
Getting rest cannot be emphasized enough as this helps you heal as well as shed pounds. If you are breastfeeding, you will expend an extra 600 to 800 calories a day, which is a bonus.
As you feel your energy and muscles resurfacing, you can get back to your normal physical activity.
In terms of intensity and duration, don't expect to pick up where you left off with your exercise. Start with activity such as walking or gentle yoga, which will start to reinvigorate your body and start plugging you back into your energy source.
When you feel ready, begin increasing your active time keeping in mind that not all days will feel the same. Listen to your body. A nap may be the better choice if you've been up the night before.
Add intensity easily with a stroller -- just add baby! They are the perfect way back into strength training because they are natural progressive weights. As they grow, your challenge will grow. A 30-minute walk can burn about 150 calories.
Add cardio with a jogging stroller, which is a great way to exercise with your little one and burns even more calories.
Exercising at the right time and at the right pace will oftentimes prevent postpartum blues -- those feelings of sadness, anxiety and depression that can occur after delivery.
Finally, and with your doctor's approval, remember that sex is great exercise and can definitely be an enjoyable way to rehab your abs.
The fastest way to shed baby weight is to fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods.
Eliminate empty calories; they will leave you empty with no energy. Say no to sodas (this means any sugary beverages including juices) and chips.
Eat lean protein for your muscles and to feel full, whole grains and plenty of fresh vegetables. Low-fat dairy is also beneficial.
Great snacks include high-fiber and low-fat dairy items such as apples, pears, grapes, berries, bananas, carrots, tomatoes, yogurt, string cheese, avocado, almonds and almond butter.
When thinking about weight loss, focus on health rather than dieting. Eat mini meals (five to six a day) to keep energy up and feelings of starvation down.
Remind yourself that your body took a little time off to become the perfect incubator creating and nourishing that new person in your life. Giving it a little time and embracing a healthy lifestyle will soon have you feeling great about your body and your new family.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified instructor/trainer since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," at www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.