Fit Mamas: How to Stay Fit and Healthy During and After Pregnancy
Fitness Mom Maria Kang
When an image of fitness promoter and founder of Fitness without Borders Maria Kang went viral last year, many moms were angry. The photo shows Kang surrounded by her three young sons, posing in workout clothes exposing her very well-toned body, with the slogan “What’s Your Excuse?” displayed prominently above her. Her youngest child in the photo was 8 months at the time, and many who commented about the picture criticized the young mom for “fat shaming” and creating unrealistic expectations for postpartum women. Some even accused her of being a bad parent for focusing on her working out, assuming that her focus on keeping her body toned detracted from her taking care of her children.
Here’s the thing. Not every woman who works hard to lose weight after giving birth is going to look like Maria Kang. But recognizing that fact shouldn’t devolve into creating excuses for why you can’t do anything about your weight at all. And there’s no reason it should be an activity that “competes” with the important task of caring for your kids.
We’ve all heard someone blame childbearing for their inability to lose weight, sometimes long after they can be considered postpartum. It’s a phenomenon that has sort of become the norm in our society. I had a baby, so I can no longer… fill in the blank, you’ve probably heard it. The reality is that a healthy pregnancy for an individual at a normal pre-pregnancy weight should only result in 25–35 pounds gained. That number drops for women who are overweight prior to pregnancy. With about 8 of those pounds being the baby, 2–3 being placenta and 2–3 as amniotic fluid, during birth you are potentially losing half of that weight right away.
Pregnancy isn’t meant to be a debilitating condition that stops you from living your life as a healthy and fit person. It certainly doesn’t leave most women looking the same as they did before becoming pregnant, but it doesn’t have to permanently keep them from being in shape either.
Here are some practical ways to stay healthy during and after pregnancy:
1. Maintain a healthy exercise routine throughout your pregnancy. Even if you’re not pregnant yet but are planning to be in the future, you should get yourself into a good routine that you can stick to throughout your pregnancy. If you were very active prior to being pregnant, don’t think that you have to give that up now that you’re carrying a baby. In fact, exercise is strongly encouraged for women during pregnancy. It’s healthy for mom and baby, and it helps you build up your stamina for the big day ahead of you.
2. Eat healthy. You’ve probably heard the expression “eating for two,” but that’s a very unhealthy mantra to live by during pregnancy. Women who start a pregnancy at a healthy weight don’t need to eat any additional calories in the first trimester at all. In the second, they need to add about 300 extra calories a day and 450 per day for the third trimester. That’s really not much additional food at all. Instead of eating more, make sure you’re eating enough of the right foods—nutritious meals that are high in protein, folic acid, iron and vitamins.
3. Schedule in exercise time after the baby has arrived. It can be hard to step away from your baby for a few minutes, but it’s much better for your overall health, mentally and physically, to schedule in some time to work out after the baby is born. As soon as your doctor says it’s safe (usually 4-6 weeks postpartum), make arrangements for someone to watch your child so that you can get in your exercise. An idea might be to have a plan established for childcare a few times a week exclusively for you to exercise. Work it out with a friend who has kids and offer to watch hers while she works out to save on sitter money. If you can’t make it out everyday, don’t be discouraged. Even occasional exercise is better than none at all.
You always want what’s best for your baby, and sometimes that seems to translate into the need to sacrifice other things that are important to you in order to take care of your little one. In some areas, this is true. You won’t be out partying with your friends as often (or, you know, ever) or taking many vacations; however, your health isn’t something that should be on the list of things that should be sacrificed in the name of “what’s best for the baby.” You want to set a good example for your child throughout his life, and the best way to do that is by demonstrating a healthy and active lifestyle yourself.