Nutritionist Joanne Reid Rodrigues has written us a fabulous piece about how to get your body back. In essence she says to take your time. so many of us strive to get back into our skinny jeans just days after giving birth, and I think this article has a really interesting point – to give ourselves a break!
As a nutritionist and holistic therapist for many years, I’ve had the privilege of working with many women during their pregnancy to ensure they are well nourished and don’t gain more weight than is necessary. After childbirth, it’s understandable that some women want to lose any weight gained during pregnancy, however the trend to get back in the skinny jeans as quickly as possible, is one that can cause unnecessary stress and pressure. The transition into motherhood is wonderful though not without its challenges, and I always recommend a gentler approach to recovering pre-pregnancy weight and shape.
When women express a desire to lose weight quickly once their baby is born, in most cases, they simply want to feel better quickly and increase their feel-good factor. But there is so much more to feeling good than losing weight, and in the weeks after giving birth, the body that has given so much of itself in the creation of a beautiful baby now needs a little love and support. Allowing your body to release any excess weight over time is a wiser approach that will benefit you more in the long run. Instead of focusing on weight-loss alone, I recommend shifting your focus to how best to nourish yourself and baby, and this approach typically benefits the whole family.
I deliberately used the word nourish rather than diet, nutrition or even food. As well as our body, our spirit and mind need to be nourished too. The mind can be our harshest critic. Many fear-based thoughts result in self-judgement and wherever the mind goes, our emotional state follows. If we’re finding fault in ourselves – the fear of not being good enough or lovely enough or adequate – we engender negative emotion which in itself depletes our vitality. But if we can find something to appreciate in ourselves or in others, we evoke a more positive emotional state, which uplifts our mood and energy. Happiness and contentment are states of mind, just as sadness and dissatisfaction are states of mind. The secret to happiness is conscious appreciation of what is. Of course we can take steps to make changes where necessary, but rather than operating from a premise of having to repair something that’s broken, do it in appreciation of what is and what’s yet to come. When we appreciate, we feel good.
At various stages of a woman’s life, her body often becomes the target of any disappointments she harbours. But rather than being impatient with your body, if you can treat it with care and respect, this demonstration of self-value will nourish you at the deepest level. We often think of nourishment as something we feed the body from the outside, but feeding the body from within is every bit as important for our health and happiness as any healthy food or vitamin supplement. Our thoughts and perceptions evoke equivalent emotions in our energy system, so how we think about ourselves and our life is a key element in understanding how we feel and in changing how we feel, if necessary.
Language is a very powerful currency, and whether words are spoken aloud in conversation or are heard only as an inner dialogue, they affect our emotional and physical health. We feed what we focus on. So, if we make dietary changes to appease a sense of pressure, whether succumbing to pressure from others, or pressure that we put upon ourselves, then we are feeding and strengthening the belief that there is something wrong with us that needs to be fixed. This is one reason why after losing weight, some people still feel insecure. But if we act from the premise of making health-oriented dietary and lifestyle choices as an expression of self-worth and self-respect, then we are endorsing our value and nourishing a positive self-image. The difference might seem subtle, but I assure you that this little adjustment in our manner of thinking can make a powerful difference in enhancing our feel-good factor and our health.
The weighing scales are a useful measuring instrument, but I strongly recommend you give them no authority over your psyche. Your worth is beyond debate and your worth cannot be diminished or enhanced by numbers changing on a weighing machine. Once we begin nourishing our sense of self-worth, we generate inner riches including inner-strength and confidence, vitality and love of life. I believe this is the best start any mother can give her child – in fact, the first three years of life are the most critical in that whatever we feed the baby both in terms of food and loving care and guidance forms the foundation for patterns throughout life. Whether we realise it or not, we do all teach by example. I can promise you that one of the greatest things you can do for your baby is to take care of its mother. Your baby is wholly dependent upon you and this is why your own health and wellbeing are top priorities. The healthier and happier you are, the more you will nourish your baby’s sense of security and confidence. And by example you’ll begin teaching your child lessons in self-value. It’s never too early to begin it this important work.
Though my work as a weight-management expert does entail helping people release excess weight, many of clients are surprised when I guide them in releasing self-defeating belief systems that are causing their unhappiness. And I say the same to you: If you have a little tendency to find fault in yourself it will serve you even more to release this habit than releasing excess weight. Your body is your most faithful companion! It is with you from your first breath to your last breath. And your body has given you a beautiful child. Give your body some love and approval and then watch how it flourishes.
Be gentle with yourself in these months after childbirth – be patient and simply make choices that are health-oriented with all the family in mind. There is never any need for you to isolate your mealtimes from the family. Skipping meals or indulging in any type of crash weight-loss plan will only serve to deplete your energy and can even negatively affect your mood. On the contrary, eating small healthful meals at regular intervals throughout the day will keep your blood sugar levels stable and give you more energy. Many a new mum will often grab some chocolate or a few biscuits to get an energy boost, but these snacks are best avoided if possible because they actually deplete our energy.
The message about harmful effects of sugar has at last been well broadcasted, and going back to what I’d mentioned about the first three years of life being the most important in terms of establishing patterns; if we can keep children free from processed sugars for the first three years, it gives the digestive system a greater opportunity to function optimally. In my work over almost thirty years I’ve done much research into the relationship between babies and very young children receiving sugary snacks and sweeties and weight issues and obesity later in childhood and adolescence. We are wise to be mindful that sugar is like a poison. For so many years we’ve given sweeties as a token of love, but now we know better. This is not to confuse the natural sugars that are present in fruits and vegetables – these foods are extremely healthy and in due course when your baby is able to have solid foods, a few mashed fruits and vegetables are excellent.
I feel a little dismayed when I often read reports that bananas and potatoes should be avoided because of their sugar content. Such information causes confusion. I do not subscribe to this theory at all, since the naturally occurring sugars present in all fruits and vegetables are a source of energy which fuels the body. Potatoes are a good source of potassium and vitamin C, and they also contain vitamin B3 and the amino acid tryptophan. Together, B3 and tryptophan produce serotonin in the body; the neurotransmitter that aids sleep and lifts mood. Small portions of potato can support energy, mood, and sleep. Bananas are also rich in tryptophan and they are rich in fibre and help alleviate constipation. I’m not suggesting you eat more than one banana a day or have big portions of potato, but again, small portions can be most beneficial.
Eating unprocessed natural foods in a little and often manner; taking regular walks; and most important of all, giving yourself love and appreciation will help ensure you quickly feel great. A healthy perspective helps restore harmony and promote happiness.
Joanne Reid Rodrigues is a nutritionist and one of the UK’s foremost therapists. Joanne is the founder of an internationally acclaimed weight-management and personal development programme called Slimming Together and she is the author of three books. She is a sought-after speaker and thought leader in the field of mind, body, spirit.