Not Giving Up: Getting into Shape after 4 Pregnancies

Not Giving Up: Getting into Shape after 4 Pregnancies

It was pretty much my worst nightmare. Except it was really happening.

People swarmed around me while I stepped on a scale and a muscly guy with 8% body fat recorded my weight and my body measurements. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Mr. Muscles then proceeds to stare in disbelief at the numbers he’d just jotted down.

“But I see you in here all the time,” he said, genuinely perplexed.

And I had nothing to say.

I’d been working with a personal trainer for a whole month, giving everything I could to getting into shape after 4 pregnancies and yet there was absolutely no discernable difference in any of my measurements. Like any.

Not a pound. Not an inch.

Nothing.

My kindly trainer could not figure out what was going on. Not only did I show up in beast-mode daily at the gym (he was a witness!), but I was breastfeeding, right? Hadn’t he read like EVERYWHERE that breastfeeding just melts away body fat? Why wasn’t I melting?

I could feel myself slipping into a junior high-like feeling of insecurity. Deflated and disappointed.

Well, I explained, it didn’t work that way for me. In fact, I usually gained weight while I nursed.

We finished the workout, my usual enthusiasm absent. And like the little leaguer after the last game of a losing season, I went home ashamed and defeated.

Weight loss after 4 babies

Couldn’t shake it

Days later, I couldn’t help but replay the humiliation of the scale and the measuring tape.

What was I going to do? I was exercising daily and changing how I eat. Basically, I was giving everything to getting in shape. And apparently, it wasn’t getting me anywhere.

I’d mulled over my failure for a week when the thought suddenly dawned on me: Actually, things had really changed.

First off, I was nursing and I wasn’t gaining weight.

Wait a minute…this is HUGE!!!!

Also, I had more energy, slept better, and I simply felt better.

While the fruits of my labor were invisible, things were actually changing for me. I realized then that my hard work was indeed paying off.

And I wasn’t about to quit.

The Dreaded Fourth Baby Body

Just a few months earlier, I knew I was ready for a serious lifestyle change.

Looking in the mirror shortly after the birth of my 4th child December of  2016, I was shocked by how drastically 4 pregnancies in under 5 years (and a whole lotta stress) had altered my body.

To begin, I was the heaviest I’d ever been not pregnant. And more than the weight, my body showed all the signs of 4 years of not making exercise a priority. Nothing remained of a once-toned body.

But my belly. Oh, my belly.  

While pregnancy always left my tummy soft and droopy, this time it was different. My stomach basically looked like a huge pile of discarded pizza dough. While the 1st three pregnancies certainly impacted my belly, the fourth pregnancy seemed to have made a bet that it could blow away all the others in level of destruction.

And it clearly won.

Now, I firmly believe in loving your body–scars, stretch marks and all. But because I love and respect my body, I was resolved that things were going to seriously change. Perhaps my pizza dough mom belly would never completely go away, but I was determined to have the healthiest body possible.

Getting into shape after 4 pregnancies would not be easy, but I was like a toddler fixated on an unreachable toy. I was bound and determined to get what I wanted.

Once the 6 week postpartum mark approached, I swallowed my fears and insecurities and marched straight into the gym and got a membership. Determined to change (and a sucker for a well-honed sales technique), I even signed up for a personal trainer.

And nearly every single day, I showed up at the gym. The sweaty sore spot in a sea of fit and fashionable gym goers.

Weight loss after 4 babies

Getting into Shape after 4 Pregnancies

Babe Ruth once said, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”

After the disappointing weigh-in, I resolved that I was not about to be be beaten by a scale and a measuring tape. My journey to health was just too dang important.  

So on I plowed, more determined than ever.

While I only continued with the trainer for a few more sessions, I continued to workout regularly and research health and fitness topics. After getting the go-ahead from my pediatrician, I started intermittent fasting while I nursed.

Suddenly, the changes started to happen more rapidly.  I gradually developed healthier habits. And, lo-and-behold, the number on the scale actually started falling.

Just this week, almost a year to the day of the catestrophic weighin, I ran into my old trainer at the gym. Mere feet from the scale and drawer that held the measuring tape. .

But this meeting was waaaay different from the year before. My determination and hard work paid off: I had lost 30 lbs while gaining a ton of muscle, completely reshaping my body.  

“Wow. You look great!” he said. “Smaller every time I see you.”

We stood and chatted for several minutes and caught up on each others’ lives.

It wasn’t until after we said our goodbyes that I realized that it had been almost exactly a year since that intensely disappointing day when I could see no discernable impact of all my hard work.

Ironically enough, I realized that I was even wearing the exact same shirt (that fit much looser now).

What I couldn’t see the year before, but saw so clearly now was that my hard work did pay off. From the moment I started my health journey, even though I couldn’t see the results, I had started on the path that led me to very real changes.

Weight loss after 4 babies

Determination is everything

When you are determined to change a habit–whether it’s not yelling at your kids, eating healthier, reading more, waking up earlier, exercising more, keeping up wth your laundry–the most important thing you can do after you decide to change is to never give up.

Even when the results are invisible and you feel like you’re going nowhere.

If you are actively working towards your goal, getting back up after you fall, reassessing your strategies, educating yourself, big changes will come.

Even if you’ve failed a million times before.

Results may come slowly, but they will come if you keep trying and never give up no matter how many times you fall.

Honestly, I still haven’t reached my health goals. I still have about 20 more pounds to lose and there are still habits I want to change. I’m not per definitely mess up. (In fact, I may have eaten half a wheel of brie today…)

But this I know:

You just can’t beat the person who never gives up

Stick with it, mama. If I can do it, so can you. You’ve got this!

 

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13 Tips for Intermittent Fasting While Breastfeeding

13 Tips for Intermittent Fasting While Breastfeeding

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Tips for Intermittent Fasting While Breastfeeding

Intermittent fasting has been a godsend for me. I’ve reclaimed my health, losing over 35 lbs in the year since I started. And I’ve finally lost the baby weight from 4 back-to-back pregnancies. All while breastfeeding. And taking care of 4 busy kids.

For me, intermittent fasting while breastfeeding has been the gateway to healthy habits and establishing a healthy lifestyle (you can read more about my experience here).

Because of my results, I’ve been asked a lot about what exactly I did to successfully breastfeed while doing intermittent fasting (IF). After nearly a year of intermittent fasting and breastfeeding, here are my top tips and recommendations:

13 tips for success doing intermittent fasting while breastfeeding

 1) Start slowly

Be gentle with yourself. This is not a quick-fix solution for weight loss. Your priority is health, both yours and your baby’s.

To ensure you don’t disrupt your milk supply, start slowly. Start with a 12 hour fasting period (for example, 8:00 pm to 8:00 am) and then gradually increase it from there to a 14 or 16 hour fasting window. 

Since adjusting, I have mostly done a 16:8 (16 hours fasting, 8 hours eating). My body is very comfortable with that and I rarely feel actual hunger.  I feel best eating between a 6 and 8 hour window.

2) Listen to your body

What is true hunger vs. simply wanting to eat? We spend so much of our life ignoring our body’s signals of true hunger and fullness.

Tune into your body and determine whether you’re experiencing hunger or just in the habit of eating. Pay attention to emotional triggers that send you straight to the fridge, even when you’re not actually hungry.

On this IF journey, I’ve had to wrestle with the fact that I am an emotional eater. My husband has a major work success. So we celebrate with milkshakes AFTER a huge meal.

My child gets injured and we rush her to the ER. So I nervously down a huge bag of vending machine Skittles.

I’m overwhlemed with work, kids, and my many responsibilites. And I find myself in a fast food drive-thru despite the fact I just ate and am not at all hungry.

Cutting through the emotional noise and actually listening to my true hunger cues has been a revelation. I’ve gotten back to my pre-4 kids wedding weight without counting any calories.

I also pay close attention to how what I eat affects my body. After 5 sugar cookies, I am zapped of energy and feel seriously gross. But after the green smoothie, I’ve got all the energy I need to keep up with 4 little kids. 

Not only do I eat fewer calories naturally, but paying attention to how food make me feel had helped me make healthier food choices. 

 3) Drink lots of water

One of the few things my pediatrician insisted on was drinking tons of water. Since I’m never without my trusty, (very banged-up) Hydroflask (the BEST water bottle ever), it hasn’t been a problem.

You need lots of water to maintain your milk supply.  And plus, it also helps navigating true hunger pains. And it makes your skin nice, too!

intermittent fasting and breastfeediing

4) Don’t go nuts with exercise

As your body adjusts to a new eating pattern, don’t overdo your exercise routine. While you should certainly exercise regularly, gradually increase your intensity so as not to shock your body. 

When I started, I would exercise a few days a week for 25 minutes (doing this workout program). As I grew accustomed to IF, I now do a pretty intense weekly regime (heavy weights and HIIT cardio at the gym 3 days a week and running 2-3 days a week). 

5) Exercise right before breaking your fast

Experts recommend exercising immediately before breaking your fast in order to reap the greatest metabolic benefits.

At first, I thought that I wouldn’t have the energy to exercise, but now I feel best exercising on an empty stomach. I have the most energy in the hours before breaking my fast. 

Just make sure that you eat protein-rich food quickly after working out. I often will make a protein and fiber packed smoothie to break my fast (frozen berries, greens, chia seeds, hemp seeds, coconut butter, vegan protein powder).

6) Skip breakfast

Most people find this is the easiest way to do IF.

Because I’d always heard that skipping breakfast was the worst thing your could every do, for years I’d eat breakfast despite not feeling hungry. In listening to my body, skipping breakfast and starting my meals at noon gives me an energized morning.  

7) Plan a satisfying 1st meal

This was especially important in the beginning. Your first meal should be both delicious and satisfying. A meal heavy on protein and fiber will set you up well for the day.

When I first started to do IF, I was just trying to get a handle on my out-of-control cravings. I wanted to eat ALL OF THE THINGS. All the time.

So making a delicious 1st meal was really important to help ease my cravings. As I adjusted to intermittent fasting while breastfeeding and my craving subsided, my meals naturally became healthier and healthier. 

8) Stop eating after dinner

As you go through the day, you are using up your limited store of willpower. After dinner, most of us have very little willpower left. Therefore, eating anything during this time may send us for a ride on the binge-eating train packed to the gills with sugar and carbs.  

9) Take PGX before meals

At first, you may be tempted to overeat. Especially, at your first meal of the day. But that will just leave you zapped of energy and will NOT help you achieve your health goals. PGX can help with that.

I first heard about the supplement PGX when I read Dr. Hyman’s 10-Day Detox Diet (which is awesome) where he highly recommends taking it before each meal. PGX is a soluble fiber from natural sources that helps regulate blood sugar, reduces food cravings, and helps with appetite control.

Since it takes 20 minutes after eating for your body to feel fullness, taking a few PGX fiber capsules with water before eating can help with overeating.

I typically take 3-6 capsules a few minutes before eating a meal (especially my first meal of the day) and it helps me not to go nuts and eat everything in my sight. If I’m feeling especially hungry, it helps me not to feel so ravenous so I don’t eat so much that I feel gross.

intermittent fasting and breastfeediing

10) Get protein and fiber with each meal and snack

This combination has been really helpful in satisfying my hunger without overeating. There are so many possible combinations.

For a meal, I’ll eat chicken or fish with a ton of baked veggies and maybe some whole grains. Or I’ll have a smoothie packed with greens, seeds, coconut or almond butter, nuts, some fruit, and vegan protein powder. A snack might be an apple with almond butter or some nuts and raw veggies. 

10) Experiment with meal schedule

To find out what works best for you, you may have to experiment a bit before finding what works. For me, this meant a satisfying, protein-rich meal at noon, a snack a few hours later, and then eating a final meal with my family at 6:00 pm or so.

11) Take your Vitamins

Be sure to continue taking the vitamins your pediatrician recommends while you breastfeed. For me, this means continuing my prenatals and taking vitamin D.

12) Quickly forgive yourself when you “mess up”

Don’t let minor setbacks stop you from your health goals. “Messing up” is just how we learn new habits and skills.

My success has come entirely because I refuse to give up, not because I eat perfectly. Seriously, most people can’t do the cold turkey approach.  

Most of us give into temptations as we claw our way to better health. Just get back up every time you fall and there is nothing you can’t accomplish. It may take some time, but you will do it.

Intermittent fasting while breastfeeding is possible

For the last year, I have practiced intermittent fasting while breastfeeding. Through following the tips above, it’s been of one of the most important steps I’ve taken to conquer my cravings, lose my baby weight from 4 pregnancies, and finally reclaim my health.

It was the vehicle through which I have managed to slowly lose over 30 lbs while creating a healthy lifestyle. I hope that what I’ve learned from doing IF will help you on your health journey. Just remember, your biggest priority is health: your health and the health of your baby.

Good luck, mama!

Loving My Post-Pregnancy Body

Loving My Post-Pregnancy Body

 Learning to Love My Post-Pregnancy Body

I was right in the middle of running a 10K turkey trot on Thanksgiving Day 2015 when the way I looked at my body completely changed.

It was then that I began to truly love post-pregnancy body for what it was–not just for what it could be on some magcial day when I got my act together and miraculously looked like a fitness model.

My 3 kid bod

I had just given birth via c-section a few months earlier to my third child in just 3 years. While I had a full marathon and about 7 half-marathons under my belt, I hadn’t raced since before having children.

Honestly, I was just trying to finish without walking or needing an ambulance. My body was easily carrying 30+ extra pounds from the last few years of perpetual pregnancy.

And like many with the postpartum “mom bod,” I was not particularly thrilled with what I saw when I looked in the mirror. And like many women, I put qualifications on when I could love my body.

I would say and think things like: I’ll be happy with my body when I lose 30 lbs. Or 40 lbs. Or when I fit into a size 6 again.

Learning to love my post pregnancy body

loving my post preg body

The Race

When I began the race that crisp Thanksgiving morning, just praying that I could finish, I did not feel comfortable in my own skin.

But there I was, lumbering along at about mile 3 when to my surprise, I realized that I was actually passing people—people who looked far more fit than me. People who were not carrying around all this extra baggage.

That shocking realization sent a flurry of thoughts racing through my mind and I began contemplating this ol’ body of mine.

My body had gone through 3 pregnancies and 3 c-sections in 3 years. It miraculously provided food and comfort for my babies and kept up with 3 small kids. My body could pump milk while making dinner and keeping a 2 year-old occupied. It could (and often did) snuggle 3 kids at once.

My “imperfect” body was AMAZING

With these thoughts, I couldn’t help but see my body in a new light.

My body was not terrible. My body was actually freaking amazing. It was incredibly resiliant and capable. .

I mean, I was 4 months post partum and running a 10k, for Pete’s sake!

Like a jolt, I was filled with an overwhelming gratitude for this body of mine that was doing so much for me and my family. I was immensely proud of my body for what it was and not what it could be.

That’s when it REALLY hit me:

How could I have anything but love for my body that did so much for me and for my family?

I was immediately ashamed of the past feelings of discontent with my body. How unfair and short-sighted I had been!

Running amidst a mass of people in the Turkey Trot, I was fighting back tears of both gratitude for my amazing machine of a body and regret for not loving my body in every state as I should have.

So why don’t we love our bodies in every state they are in?

There’s a growing movement to accept our bodies in every state. I’ll admit, I used to think those in the fat-acceptance movement were delusional at best and dangerous at worst.

But you are morbidly obese, I’d think. You are not healthy. How can you be happy with yourselves? You should want to change. Perhaps it was jealousy that these people could love their bodies when I couldn’t love mine. (An interesting read by Lindy West about fat-acceptance and her experience that I recommend.)

But now, I am so ashamed of that line of thinking.

Because no one is saying that fat = healthy. What they are saying is fat/skinny/whatever = deserve to be loved by self and others.

Having a body that is not idolized by the media does not mean one is deserving of public ridicule and self loathing. No matter what unrealistic expectations for society says, our body size and our worth have literally NOTHING to do with one another. 

And why shouldn’t everyone love themselves? What good does hating your body serve anyway? When I see people fighting back against fat-acceptance, I get so frustrated. Think about it: how does hating our bodies help us in any way?

Hating your body will not be a gateway to greater health. But loving your body as it is, is certainly a gateway to better health, both mental and physical.

Honestly, once I started loving myself, suddenly making healthier choices was actually EASIER.

Why We Should Love Our Bodies, No Matter What

But what can loving our bodies do? It can improve our mental health and happiness. I love my post-pregnancy body, stretch marks and all.

And folks, that’s 4 whole pregnancies in 4 years which DID NOT leave this body unscathed (for more on my postpartum health journey, click here).

To be honest, before when I would hear or read about mothers who “loved their stretch marks,” I thought they were absolutely full of crap.

How can a person love stretch marks?

But there I was, in a street full of panting runners, and I finally got it: my body bears scars of love. My c-section scar, my stretch marks, my loose soft skin, all bear the signs of carrying the greatest joys in my life: my children. I would never want to erase the signs my body bears from such beautiful experiences.

Sure, I want to be healthier. I want to be trim and run faster and have firm shapely muscles. But I love myself as I am now. I love and respect the miracle that is my body.

3 Steps to Loving Our Bodies as They Are

If you struggle with this, here are just a few ways that you can start to see your postpartum body in a new light.

1) Recognize all your body does for you

Get a piece of paper, a pen, and somnversation to be depressie mental juices and start listing.

Don’t focus on what it looks like, focus on what it does.

Think about all your daily tasks over a 24 hours period. Think of what your body means to and does for the different members of your family. When one truly considers how amazing our bodies are and all they do, it’s hard not to be grateful for them.

2) Stop Negative Thoughts About Your Body

When negative thoughts creep into you head about your body, dismiss them and instead think about something from your list of all your body does for you.

We can’t always keep thoughts from popping in our heads, but do not lay our the welcome mat and invite them for coffee. Send them packing and focus on positive thoughts.

3) Change How You Talk About Your Body

How you talk about your body effects how you feel about yourself and how others feel about themselves.

If you start complaining about your body in a group of people, you are inviting the conversation to go down Depression Avenue. You may even invite others to subconsciously start being more del-critical of themselves.

It’s not an uplifting subject. Instead, change that discussion into discussing something you are excited about for improving your health. As always, be very careful how you talk about your body around kids.

National Eating Disorders Association has an extensive guide of more ways to love your body.

We All Deserve to Love Ourselves

Your body is a complex and amazing miracle. Your body, warts and all, is a gift.

Learning to truly love my body has not only brought me so much peace and gratitude, but it’s also helped me to make better health decisions. Instead of a blight I want to change, my body is a miracle I want to honor and respect by taking care of it.

I hope you are on a journey to love your amazing body, mama. 

 

 

 

 

 

Intermittent Fasting & Breastfeeding: My Experience

Intermittent Fasting & Breastfeeding: My Experience

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional nor am I advocating Intermittent fasting and breastfeeding without your doctor and pediatrician’s consent and support. Everyone’s situation, needs, and health are different. I am simply sharing my experience while I was under the guidance of a doctor.*

Intermittent Fasting & Breastfeeding: My Experience 

I have a really hard time losing weight while breastfeeding. Like instead of losing weight, I gain it. While other women waste away while breastfeeding, I’m voraciously downing the last cupcake.

One thing that helped turn this around was practicing intermittent fasting (IF) following my 4th pregnancy and birth.

Honestly, it was perfect for me. No I didn’t lose a ton of weight quickly (because that would not be healthy or easy to maintain), but I reversed the trend of all my previous pregnancies and have slowly and continuously lost weight (here are my top tips for intermittent fasting while breastfeeding).

intermittent fasting and breastfeeding

The Struggle is Real

After each birth, I would resolve to finally lose the weight. But I always had trouble losing while breastfeeding. In fact, I usually would gain 10 lbs before then getting pregnant again.

But since breastfeeding is amazing (and I really do love it), I refused to let my weight interfere with what was best for my baby.

After the birth of my 4th and last child Dec 2016, I was bound and determined to lose the weight. I was going to finally overcome my inability to lose weight while breastfeeding.

So after getting the okay from my doctor, I had joined a gym, hired a personal trainer, tried to eat healthy, and worked my butt off for weeks and weeks. But my weight did not budge.

It was so incredibly depressing.

Then, I came across intermittent fasting while researching healthy eating, which was my main struggle. It was a revelation. There are so many health benefits to IF, it’s unreal (e.g. fat loss, increased lifespan, lower ideas risk etc).

I wanted to do it, but couldn’t find anything substantial about intermittent fasting AND breastfeeding. I didn’t want to risk my milk supply or quality, but I also didn’t want to wait a year to lose weight.

But then I thought: women throughout history have successfully breastfed with limited food supply and in various circumstances. How could a couple extra hours of fasting a day impact my milk supply?

My experience with intermittent fasting and breastfeeding.

Talking to the Doctor

At my baby’s 3-month visit, I decided to ask the pediatrician about it. My milk supply was well established and my baby and I were in a great routine.

My pediatrician has always been very involved in my nutrition when I am breastfeeding, making sure I am getting all the vitamins and nutrients I need so my babies get what they need. She is very current on research and very concerned with healthy living. So I figured she was the perfect one for me to talk to.

I honestly figured that she would say “no” out of extreme caution. But to my pleasant surprise, she was really supportive of my plan to fast daily for 16 hours (half while sleeping).

I was going to eat between noon and 8:00pm each day while focusing on drinking tons of water and eating healthy.

I started the very next day.

Managing Intermittent Fasting and Breastfeeding

I woke up around 7:00am and got busy taking care of my kids. I wasn’t going to eat until noon, so I tried to stay busy. Honestly, that’s not hard as a mom, right?

After the morning routine, we went to the gym. By the time I got my kids checked into the kid’s center, worked out, gathered up my kids, and drove home it was almost noon!

By then, I was definitely ready to eat and prepared a nice big meal. Then I ate 3 meals between noon and 7 and made sure to be done eating at 8:00pm.

I continued this and by about day 4, it was seriously no big deal waiting til noon to eat. In my experience, it was really easy to adjust to IF. Eating during an 8 hour window is so doable!

Plus, I found that feeling “empty” in the mornings helped me have more energy to take care of my kids and get stuff done around the house.

MY RESULTS

Milk Supply

To my pleasant surprise, my milk supply was unaffected by the fasting. I had plenty of milk and I noticed no change in nursing whatsoever. My baby didn’t seem affected one bit.

At times when I’ve lost weight more quickly–months after beginning IF–I have noticed a slight (and temporary) drop in supply, but that seems unrelated to IF and more to do with rapid weight loss. As of right now, I have a very healthy still-breastfed 15 month old.

Weight Loss

The weight immediately began to come off at about a pound a week (my breastfeeding sister has seen similar results), which is perfect.

Other than the first few days, I never felt hungry. I have lost 35 lbs so far.

I wasn’t necessarily drastically changing what I was eating right off the bat. But the best part of intermittent fasting is that it helped me get in control of my eating–which was key for me on my weight loss journey.

Since beginning IF, I have changed my eating habits a lot. But it’s been a really natural and gradual progression which means that it’s a change that has been easy to maintain.

Best Result of IF: Changing Habits

I never struggled to exercise–I love it. But you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. And breastfeeding makes me feel like I am starving ALL THE TIME. It was hard to control my eating because I want to eat everything in my sight.

With intermittent fasting, I felt like I took back control of my eating habits. It became easier to start making better food choices.

Calorie counting has never worked for me. I’ll be dedicated fore about a week before I lose track and then eat whatever I can get my hot little hand on.

But as I gained more self-control through IF, I started to be more mindful of my true hunger cues and really listening to my body. Listening to how food actually made me feel. 

As I gained more self-control, I read some fantastic books on nutrition that helped shape the foods I was eating. Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • The 10 Day Detox: This book was really helpful in conquering my sugar addiction and cleaning up my eating. 
  • The F-Factor Diet: This book really helped to start eating healthy fiber-rich foods that filled me up without adding loads of calories.

With IF and continued nutritional education, I began to finally stop the cycle of gaining weight while I breastfeed my babies.

Intermittent fasting while breastfeeding was the answer for me.

Overall, intermittent fasting is simple (no counting calories or tracking food) and has been a miraculous way for me to build healthy eating habits. It was an important tool for me in taking back my health and losing 35 lbs of extra weight from you pregnancies. 

If it interests you and you are breastfeeding, be sure to consult with your doctor/pediatrician first. (And check out my top tips for intermittent fasting while breastfeeding).

And then let me know how it goes for you! 

Good luck, mama! 

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