You may have seen celebrities like Miranda Kerr, Heidi Klum, Jessica Alba and others look great after giving birth and wondered “how can I do that?”
First, a dose of reality: Every picture in any magazine is photo-shopped so you need to get realistic.
Second, these women look good for a living and have more time and resources to devote to looking beautiful than any of us.
Third, they are genetically thin that’s why they are models or actresses in the first place.
So what is a regular woman with the stresses of work, kids, family and more to do?
Not to fear, with the right knowledge, habits and social support you can drop all that belly and buttock fat that most ladies gain when they get pregnant.
In this article, Jonathan Wong, personal trainer, weight loss coach and the owner of Genesis Performance Center, tells YourHealth what you can do to get your pre-baby body back, no matter how much weight you may have gained during pregnancy.
Here are 5 of his best tips:
Tip 1: Start now
The best time to start preparing for a great body post partum, is… before you get pregnant.
"The most impressive post partum recoveries I have seen, have been from women who made health and strength a priority before they got pregnant," Jonathan said.
So how do you know if you count as one of the healthy?
A fit and healthy woman should be able to do at least a single chin-up. She should also have a body fat percentage in the range of 17 to 20 per cent for an Asian woman, and slightly less if they are of Caucasian or African American descent.
So if you are preparing to have a kid, start following the tips below sooner rather than later. You will certainly benefit, and so will your unborn child.
The tips below will tend to reduce overall stress loads, increase nutrients in your body and create an environment where you and your baby have the greatest chance for a healthy, happy life.
Tip 2: Cut out processed food
If you are craving fried chicken, Macs, fries and chips, stop telling yourself it's ok since you are pregnant.
This isn’t good for you whether you are pregnant or not.
There may be some food cravings due to hormonal changes post partum, however eating processed food will give more fluctuations in blood sugar, lower nutrient content, and increased tiredness and irritability.
The two questions you should ask yourself before you consume anything are:
1. Did a caveman have access to this food?
If yes, then its probably good for you. If no, then its probably man-made, and therefore bad for you. For example, chicken? No problem. Chicken nuggets? No good. Sweet potatoes, no problem. Sweet potato pie, no good.
2. Does this food have advertising?
Given the price of advertising, if a food has rampant advertising, it is probably cheap to produce and low in nutrients and quality.
Tip 3: Don’t do long cardio
The common form of exercise taken up by women post partum is slow cardio and classes like spin or aerobics, said Jonathan.
The problem with cardio based training is, surprise! It doesn’t really work well!
Exercise physiology studies since the 1970s have shown that cardiovascular exercise works for only 6 weeks, after which you will stagnate.
Now, taking walks with your family is great for relaxation, but using long jogs or hours on the stair-master is not going to be a great form of exercise.
Here are some of the drawbacks:
>> Increased stress hormones
>> Decreases in hormones that maintain lean muscle
>> Increased inflammation and oxidative stress
>> Lower immune system function
All these make sense considering the fact that to the body, long cardio sessions are similar in experience to you being lost in the jungle.
That is stressful and the correct thing for your body to do is to STORE fat just in case you don’t have enough to eat. This is undesirable in our age of excessive food.
Giving birth to, and taking care of a newborn is stressful enough without increasing the burden on your body. So for your training method follow the next tip:
Tip 4: Do strength training
So if you are not going to do cardio you still need to exercise for the physical and emotional benefits.
Post partum depression and all mental conditions have been clinically shown to decrease with exercise.
"I’m not suggesting you go and try to set new weightlifting records once you step out of the maternity ward, but strength training is the best way to get back any lean muscle you may have lost due to lower activity levels during pregnancy," he said.
A 45 min resistance training session 3 times per week is a good start for a woman who has been cleared by her doctor to exercise.
These can be supplemented by 2-3 walks of 30min or so. You should aim to build up to 4 session of 60 mins per week, which is what most very healthy people do, Jonathan added.
Your training sessions should consist of exercises that use as many muscles as possible.
This is because it’s the best use of your time, and because these exercises tend to give the most positive hormone release which builds and maintains lean muscle, burns fat, and strengthens bones and connective tissue.
Tip 5: Restore your nutrients
Having a baby will deplete the mother of nutrients, which are shuttled to the baby growing in her tummy.
The most common deficiencies Jonathan has found via lab testing of his post partum clients are: Omega 3 fatty acids, carnitine, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
Eating unprocessed food consisting of good, animal based protein sources, veggies, some fruit, nuts and healthy fats like fish oils, coconut oil, and butter will get you a long way to restoring your nutrient levels.
However the fastest way is to take a high does of supplements for at least a month post partum and then lower the amounts after that.
Whenever your body is depleted, its best to use high doses at first to restore levels, and then trickle does them later to maintain levels.
One more quick tip is for loose skin. If you are very healthy this is not a common problem.
However, for those of you experiencing this, besides the usual recommendations to wear a corset or compression device, the herb Gotu Kola is excellent for reducing loose skin.
The mechanism of its action is not fully understood, but it has a way of “eating” up loose skin. Jonathan said he uses this herb frequently with post partum ladies, or clients who have lost a lot of weight and have problems with loose skin.
Now, the question is “how closely must I follow this plan to get good results?”.
From his experience - on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being barely doing these, and 10 being perfect adherence every day and every meal - Jonathan said a post-partum woman needs to do these things at about 5-7 out of 10 to feel changes.
And at 9 out of 10 to see visible changes quickly.
"Aim for 9!" was Jonathan's advice.
You may or may not be the next supermodel mom, but with these tips, he assured anxious moms that they do have a realistic chance of getting their hot body back and maximising their health, fitness and appearance even after giving birth.
This article was contributed by Jonathan Wong, a personal trainer and weight loss coach. Coach Jon, as he is known to his clients, owns Genesis Performance Center, a private health and fitness centre that offers personal training and fitness bootcamps in Singapore. To find out more, visit www.coachjon.com.