Dear Marathon Mom,
My son is four months old and I’m still hanging on to an extra fifteen pounds from my pregnancy. I’ve been running for about two months now, but I am only up to about 15 miles a week. My body just hurts a lot more when I run now (probably due to the extra weight), plus I feel exhausted before I even start due to still getting broken sleep, and nowhere near enough sleep overall. I’m also having a hard time getting, and staying, motivated. Like many new moms, I’m beyond thrilled with my little nugget of joy, but I’m feeling frumpy and dumpy. I really want to drop this weight and start feeling fit and strong–like my old self. Do you have any tips, ideas, or realistic expectations for me to consider?
Dear Fabulously Frumpy,
You’re not alone. You just described what most of us go through the first few months in motherhood. Please know that it’s okay to not be back to your old shape yet. Four months may feel like an eternity when you’re not feeling confident, but it took your body much longer than four months to get where it is now–give it a fair chance to work its way back.
Growing and delivering a child is traumatic on the body, to say nothing of actually raising the child. The stress caused from sleep deprivation, figuring out breastfeeding, physical healing, constant second guessing oneself, and the hundreds of other little things that come with parenthood (yet most people fail to fairly warn new parents about) are constantly challenging your body to a whole new degree.
Parenthood is utterly exhausting, which may make your old hobby, running, seem like it has no place in your new life. Of course running doesn’t sound appealing when you’re falling asleep while reading a board book or slurping your fourth cup of coffee before 8 a.m. and still waiting for any sign of energy to show itself. Yet, ironically, it’s something that may make the exhaustion a bit more bearable; it may even provide you with renewed energy and, eventually, weight loss.
Just because you became a parent doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you used to do for yourself. In fact, hanging on to these things that make you happy and healthy is one of he best way to ensure you remain a calmer, happy parent. Running keeps you healthy, provides a few moments of self-reflection (vital for maintaining sanity–especially when Junior hits the toddler years), and sets a great example for your family. What’s not to love about that?
You didn’t mention if you’re breastfeeding, but if you are, please also know that if you lose weight too fast, or reduce your calories too quickly or to too low of a number overall, you will very likely sabotage your milk supply. Remember your priorities here; Baby’s food supply trumps rapid weight loss.
For many women, simply breastfeeding and going about her daily routine burns enough calories to gradually (read, up to a year) return you to your pre-pregnancy weight. However, if you’re not one of those lucky ladies, it is still important to intake approximately 500 extra calories a day in order to maintain your milk supply and your body’s energy required to make it. It’s best to get these extra calories from a mix of vegetables, fruits, and healthy-fat snacks such as almonds, walnuts, flax oil, salmon, and avocados. So long as you’re making smart choices for those extra calories, you’re not going to add more excess weight to your frame; you will, at worst, maintain. When you’re done breastfeeding, then you can focus on cutting overall calorie intake (without starving yourself, of course) and concurrently increasing exercise. Note that by the time you’re done breastfeeding, your baby will most likely also be sleeping through the night, which means you will subsequently feel better rested, healthier, and happier.
There is definitely a light at the end of this tunnel, my friend. But don’t remain so focused on the future time when you will once again reach your goal weight that you miss the hundreds of beautiful moments each day with your new little gift.
Best of luck and congratulations,
Audra Rundle, Marathon Mom