A GUIDE FOR LOSING WEIGHT AFTER PREGNANCY
With special focus to Nigerian and African Women.
Pregnancy changes us. The change most times is drastic, and especially for us here in Africa, with our culture (the whole pumping you with food after childbirth and all that). 70 percent of women never get back to their former size after childbirth, and of the remaining 30 percent, 15 percent don’t lose the big tummy.
After childbirth, you might notice that you still look pregnant despite the fact that you have already given birth, this is absolutely normal. It takes between four and six weeks for your uterus to fully contract back to its normal size. Remember; please do not make the work harder on yourself. Do not over it during the pregnancy, the more you overeat, the harder it is to lose. Ensure you eat healthy during the pregnancy, but please please please do not overeat.
With no intent to criticise our culture, I would say that the habit of pumping women with tins of milk after childbirth and daily pounded yam is totally uncalled for. A lot of women add more weight after pregnancy than they did during pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, you really need to eat well, but not over eat. You should eat healthy, lots of Vegetables, Fruits and Salads, drink lots of water and continue with the routine drugs given to you at the hospital. The myth that if you don’t drink multiple tins of breast milk after childbirth your milk would dry up is fallacy. What happens to the poor women who can’t afford milk? Does their breast dry up? How many market women have you heard that complained that their breast milk dried up because they could not get powdered milk to drink? Please avoid daily pounded yam and the likes after childbirth.
Breastfeeding is one of the easiest ways to lose pregnancy weight. I always remember the episode of desperate housewives, where a mother was feeding her fully grown up son with breast milk, because she wanted to stay slim. However, I am not saying we should breastfeed till they are ten or eleven, but at least one year. Remember the WHO guideline says two years. Breast milk contains calories, and the more you breastfeed the more you lose calories.
According the American college of Obstetrics and gynaecology, if you were active before the deliver, and you had a normal delivery with no complication, you can start walking and doing minor strengthening exercises for your abdomen as soon as you feel strong enough. However if you had a caesarean section, you should wait several weeks before starting any exercising.
For the exercises, we shall focus on three parts:
a. Cardio: Initially, after childbirth you should not do any strenuous cardio exercises. Start slow and steady: while some of us may be so eager to jump on the treadmill and start working out day and night, this might be dangerous. New mothers need to start slow and steady, start about 15 to 20 minutes every day, 3 days a week. The best form of cardio I advise for new moms is walking. Walking is a great exercise for women who just gave birth, please do not waste your maternity leave watching Nigerian movies all day and drinking milk. WALK! Walking can be done anywhere, any day and any time. For the first few weeks, you can walk 15 to 20 minutes every day, and then you increase both the time and the intensity as time goes by. A good form of walking is using the stroller, for those who live in areas where they can move around with the stroller. Taking your baby out in the stroller would help you burn some calories.
b. Strength Training
Please for those that had a caesarean section, I would advice that you stay away from this until your doctor says it’s okay for you to do this Pregnancy weakens some parts of the abdomen, While it isn’t possible to reduce only one spot, i.e. reduce only the tummy, you can however strengthen your abdominal muscles, so that after you lose the fat overlying them, you won’t have that flabby tummy that you see on some women. Sit-ups are useful, back exercises and tummy exercises. If it’s possible, get a tummy bench, and while you are watching African magic or Movie magic, you could be working on your tummy and losing weight. I am placing a link here to the video for abdominal exercises should you be interested in doing them. : http://africanweightloss.blogspot.com/2009/06/easy-do-at-home-tummy-exercises.html
c. Toning of your arms to prevent the popular ‘Christian mother arm’ could be done with dumbbells, you can carry 5kg dumbbells daily, this would help greatly.
Things that prevent us from exercising:
1. Fatigue: this is a common complaint, most women are very tired or often complain of fatigue after childbirth
2. Busy Schedule: some women jump back to work after childbirth, while some who are at home get overwhelmed with taking care of the baby and feeding him or her
3. Time constraints –Most women complain of Lack of time, they claim that there is never enough time to wake up an exercise.
My usual reply to this is: HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT
I believe this all depends on how bad you want it. IF you were promised 1million naira at the end of the month just to wake up at 4 am every day, most of us will not even go to bed at all to ensure we are still awake at that 4am. There is never enough time in the world. If it’s important to you, you shall make out time. If you normally wake up at 5 am, try waking up at 4 thirty instead. Begin with the end in mind. I suggest you picture two things in your head. One of them is you being slim and shapely at the end of the next three months, and the other is you being fat and shapeless, lying down at home and your husband comes home and rushes straight to the bed so you won’t ask him for sex. Picture that several times in your head; I am sure no one would need to urge you to wake up by 4 and exercise. Also try splitting your workouts, there is no need to do a 2 hour work out at once, split it, 30 mins daily or 30 mins twice daily. Be consistent, watch your diet. Heidi Klum is no magician, even after her house of kids; she still looks like a 20 year old. It takes hard work and dedication.