1. You Don’t Have The TimeThere are not enough hours in the day as a parent, I’ll be the first to preach that one. With a newborn, you don’t get the five minutes to go to the toilet let alone the hour to go to the gym - with a toddler, they’ve gained some independence, but chances are you’ve also returned to your working day and any chance of a quick workout has disappeared again. If you stay at home, you can’t find the time, if you work, you can’t find the time - it’s a lose lose situation, and one that I can completely understand. Nutrition coupled with an active lifestyle are the two main influencing factors on bodyweight, so if we can’t find time to cook healthy options, or to workout, how is it possible to lose weight?
It’s simple. Work more efficiently, not more.
There are so many healthy dinners that take less than 5 minutes to prepare, lunches that you can take straight out the freezer and snacks that are ready to hand, provided you do a little bit of planning and preperation. On a Sunday, I spend roughly two hours prepping food for pretty much my entire week - this is 2 hours where I have someone watch my son, whether that be my partner, or my mum, but there is nothing to say that this can’t be done during a nap, or after the kids go to bed. Two hours may seem excessive at one time, but how much time would you normally spend preparing food daily? Preparing food in advance means healthy, quick and satisfying meals are ready to hand when I get hungry, they reduce food wastage and take away any dangers of shoving on a pizza because I can’t think of anything else to cook. My own meal prepping posts will be live periodically throughout this month, but the reality is that it’s something that you can do with little to no input from me anyway, you probably no what healthy choices are, and you probably like them - you just don’t have the time to prepare them. Find two hours, find a freezer, and you’ve found a nutritious diet for the week.
The same can be said for exercise; I was the first to spend 2 hours daily in the gym prior to having a baby, however the thought of that now is almost comical. Post baby, any form of exercise (other than the dead weight I carry around for 60% of the day in one arm) has to be under half an hour. More than that, and I've completely over run nap time, I've probably burnt my cooking chicken, or I've simply fell into the trap of feeling utterly guilty for using more than half an hour per day for myself. The Body Coach TV workouts are perfect for new mothers with little time; 20 minute bursts that can be done at home with no equipment, completely free to find on Youtube, but that you can guarantee will allow you to pick up a sweat. Although it can be difficult to push yourself at home - modifying exercises, taking extra breaks and ensuring your completely hydrated throughout will allow you to make it the entire way through a 20 minute workout, which is the most important thing when trying to begin a program. 70% of all people who start a new fitness regime quit: why not be the 30%. Depending on how audacious your feeling - working out with your pram is also an option. I personally have not yet managed to incorporate this into our weekend walks, but if I ever get brave enough, or find a park deserted enough, I might just. I fit in a ridiculously long walk three days per week, normally when my child is playing up and refusing to sleep, and I make sure to try and utilize the time. I'll listen to a Podcast, or write posts using the microphone feature on my phone. Fitness is what you make it, and if your still telling yourself you can't find 20 minutes in your day a few times a week to stay fit, then your probably lying to yourself.
2. You Don’t Think About What Is Going Into Your MouthMindless eating is one of the worst possible habits to pick up if you have any desire to drop a few pounds - I know this, because finding it slapped 15lbs straight onto my arse. In the baby days especially, when it’s hard to find that extra time to cook, we’re all guilty of popping a digestive, or twelve, into our mouths. Now what if I told you a Digestive biscuit contains 73kcal, and the 12 you’ve popped in your mouth throughout the day has added an additional 900kcal to your daily total? You’ve probably burned about 40kcal walking back and forth to the biscuit tin, but regardless, it doesn’t add up, and over time that’ll probably become apparent when your jeans are a bit tighter. Whilst it's not necessary to track every calorie that goes into your mouth - in fact it's probably more detrimental in the long run - looking simply at what goes in versus what goes out is enough to make adjustments that will provide results. I can't recommend having set meals at specific times, because from experience I know that parenthood is far too unpredictable for that, but meal prepping means that whenever you do have a quick minute, it's simply a case of popping it in the microwave, rather than having to prepare something. It all comes down to putting in that tiny bit of effort in advance to reap the rewards; however, chances are, if you want to graze on digestive after digestive, chances are you will still to continue to do so if they are in the house, I've always worked by the 'if it's not in the cupboard I can't put it in my mouth', so try and limit the foods you are in the habit of gorging on, within reason of course, moderation not deprivation.
3. You Aren't Getting Enough Sleep
The holy grail of health is sleep. You are one lucky person if you are getting enough sleep in the early days; I sure as hell wasn't, in fact, I still am not. It's well known that in order to lose weight, generally getting enough sleep can be a big factor. You'd think that the fact that your awake and more active for significantly more hours in the day would result in more calories burnt, but unfortunately that isn't the case. Often, too little sleep can contribute to a damaged metabolism and promote weight gain, which is obviously not what we are looking for here. Simple solution to this is to get more sleep, but let's face it, there is nothing simple about being a parent, and 'get more sleep' isn't often an option. In order to combat this, I've tried to introduce a few techniques to give myself the best sleep I can in the shortest amount of time. Switching off all electronic devices half an hour before bed allows me to switch off quicker and fall into a deeper sleep, and has also allowed me to pick out my recipes for the following week in one go. Trying to stay away from coffee as much as possible is also a big winner. It sounds detrimental, but when your so tired that you feel like the only thing that will help is matchsticks to hold open your eyelids the last thing you probably need is a big dose of caffeine. Loading up on coffee results in a caffeine buzz followed by a crash, and makes sleep more difficult, even hours later. I'm going to go ahead and throw in the obvious here and say nap while the baby naps, but we all know thats not even possible in the most part...
4. You Just Don't Want To
This was my problem for the first four months. I didn't like the way my body looked, or how sluggish I felt, but I was still stuck in a rut whereby I didn't want to put the work in to lose the weight. If only it was easy as magically clicking fingers.. it's not, you'll get out (or off) what you put in. Contrary to popular belief, telling yourself that you want to lose weight won't equate to losing weight, and until that clicks in your head, chances are nothing is going to happen. If you've been trying for a while, write your pros and cons. Look at it in black and white: you may only be seeing 'I want to be skinny' right now, which obviously hasn't been enough. Have you looked at the health benefits, the quality of life improvements, the possible friendships, the feel good energy after a workout? If you want it - really want it - then you won't let anything get in your way. Not even those pesky digestives.
5. The Baby Excuse
Leading on from simply not wanting to, we often turn to 'The Baby Excuse'. Often, during pregnancy, we let our bodies go. We can lose the will to workout and turn to eating as a means of comfort, but this becomes dangerous after pregnancy when we continue to fall back on the 'Baby Excuse'. This may be an unpopular opinion, but too many women, myself included for the most part, use our new found parenthood as an excuse for not being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We are too tired, too busy, too broke, and while we may be all three of those, if we make small changes to other parts of our lives, we can find the energy, find the time, and it won't cost any extra. It may take time to come to the realization, but hiding behind 'I just had a baby 6 months ago' is not promoting any kind of healthy lifestyle; smart choices, conscious effort and determination will not come up short - take control of your own body. If you want to lose weight, you will.
Both your nutrition and your activity levels are the direct influencers on your body weight prior to pregnancy, and after childbirth, it really is no different. It’s not easy and it will take a little bit more work, but small changes can make a huge difference in the long run, not only to your waist line but to your quality of life. I can bark on for hours about getting to your ‘ideal’ body, but in reality, what good is that if your doing little to extend your lifespan; what good is an Aston Marton with an interior that can only be likened to a beat-up boy racer? It comes down to slow, steady weight loss and incorporating a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable - taking small steps like the ones outlined above will ensure you maintain the weight loss, rather than creating a quick fix.
Disclaimer; I am not a health professional. I have a degree in Physiology, Sports Science and Nutrition, as well as being a Certified Fitness Instructor and a Health Coach. Let's be honest, that's all a bit airy-fairy; I've been there and my advice comes more from first hand experience than anything else. What works for me may not work for you, but the basic principles of health and fitness can have a profound effect on anyone's overall quality of life, and it is those that I aim to promote in any of my fitness and nutrition posts. BUT I am not a doctor, and I'd suggest you seek his/her advice before introducing any new vigorous changes.