My Post-Partum Body – Surgery, Recovery and Everything in Between

One of the things I often get messaged about is postpartum weight loss, so I thought I’d write about my pregnancy, my delivery (?) and all that happened after. But first things first –

This is NOT A Guide

I don’t know shit about fitness and/or nutrition, friends. This is just about what happened to me and what I did. Please don’t use this as a guide. Please do your own research and try to pay attention to your own body’s cues. This is not a guide, it is simply my story.

My Long and Complicated Relationship With My Body

When I passed out of school in Std XII, I weighed about 77 kg. I had been a fat kid from like, Standard V, I think? And I remained a fat kid. I just loved to eat food. My parents tried to get me into sports – they were paranoid, given the family history of diabetes and heart disease – but I hated it because I had the hand-eye coordination of a blind squirrel and I just hated the way it made feel, like a failure. I kept quitting and eventually, so did they.

In my first year of Chartered Accountancy, I put on more weight, thanks to my eating out constantly. It became harder and harder to buy clothes – I was 83 kg then (about 18 kg over my ideal weight), and my parents got me a gym membership. I started going there and taking things really slowly and enjoying it, even. But the weight loss wasn’t prominent or anything. I was still fat, but I was able to run a little.

Sometime in early 2009, something snapped in me. I don’t know how, I don’t why, but I decided that I wanted to lose weight, fast. And so, I starved. Sometimes I even worked out while starving. I don’t want to go into the details of what I ate (rather, didn’t eat) because I believe it could act as a nudge for some of my readers and I don’t want anyone to attempt to go through what I did.

I was down to 58 kg in early 2011. I had lost 25 kgs, at the cost of my mental well-being.

I was anti-social (going out involved calories), constantly unhappy about the state of everything, I hated myself and tied my entire self-worth to one stupid aspect – the size of my jeans. I was also a complete asshole who judged others through the same idiotic perceptions with which I judged myself. I was always angry about something or the other, despite the fact that I had pretty much the best life one could hope for. I wish I hadn’t been that person, but I can’t change the past, I can only learn from it.

I went back to eating normally by the end of 2011 but it took a lot of effort from both my family and myself. I put on 6 more kilos and became less of an asshole. A lot of anorexia has to do with telling yourself that you’re not worth the food that you’re eating. That you don’t deserve it. It honestly takes years to think differently and it is a conversation, a choice that I continue to make to date. It’s like, I can mute that voice in my head now, but it hasn’t left. And I don’t think it’ll ever leave.

Pregnancy

The year before I got pregnant, I started working out with a trainer who made me do a lot of body weight exercises. I was crazy fit before I got pregnant – like I could do two-minute planks without as much as a sweat. The problem began when I quit training, I think. I had a lot of muscle, and muscle makes you hungry, but when you don’t work it out, it disappears and you’re left with your old friend fat again. The chocolate and chaat cravings didn’t help either. The bulk of the 20kgs (including baby) that I put on were during my first and second trimesters. I reeled it in during the last trimester, but by then, I’d already put on the weight. I did some prenatal yoga, but I think weight loss as such requires activities with greater intensity. I wasn’t particularly paranoid though. I just thought I’d lose the weight the moment I delivered.

 

Labour, Surgery, Etc

I was induced into labour on my due date (because the foetal heartbeat test showed some aberrations) and had to go into an emergency C-Section because my baby’s heart rate started falling dramatically. I delivered my baby boy a few hours after.

When I weighed myself the day I had been discharged, I weighed exactly 2 kilos less. My body pre and post delivery were two entirely different beasts. My pregnancy body had felt strong and defined. My post-delivery body was just everywhere. I hadn’t seen that kind of fat in a long time and I wasn’t able to deal with it, mostly because I was an idiot who didn’t comprehend that it had gone through a pretty serious surgery. It didn’t help that my breastfeeding journey was really unpleasant – my supply was so bad that my baby ended up in the NICU because of low sugar.

When you’re a new mom, there are just so many changes that happen in your body and brain all at once. When you deliver by C Section, it’s that much more difficult for your body to process what’s happening and pull it together.

Needless to say, pulling it together took me a while.

Diet and Exercise

Nothing happened the first three months. I had postpartum depression, a breastfeeding-friendly Pathiyam Diet that involved eating bucket loads of rice and garlic pods drenched in ghee and a body that was only allowed to do minimal activity while it recovered. I was whiny and angry and knew I wanted to lose the weight, but I also took a conscious decision to never do anything that will come in the way of taking care of my baby.

When baby was around 3 months old, I started walking and doing stretches, and when baby was four months old, I started doing very light cardio. I never exercised for more than 25 minutes and made small changes in my diet. I ate oats with a lot of fruit, peanut butter (fat) and nuts (more fat) for breakfast, brown rice for lunch and I began skipping the rice/roti in my dinner for double (or triple) the serving of whatever sabji/vegetable was made for dinner. I ate whenever I was hungry and never deprived myself. Of course, I snacked responsibly – I ate a ton of fruit, I swapped salty chips for nuts, ate dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate and restricted desserts to like, twice a week. Breastfeeding made me ravenous ALL THE TIME, so it was important to make these substitutions.

After baby was like 8-9 months old, I was back at work. I also felt a little stronger and started doing short but intense workouts (AFTER getting the go-ahead from my gynecologist!) I used a combination of the Freeletics and Nike Training apps. I never did more than 10-12 minutes and usually did them before I showered. It would be like, 50 Jumping Jacks, 50 Squats, 50 Crunches, 50 Lunges, skipping/jumping in place for a minute, a one-minute plank and some stretches. I increased reps as I got more comfortable. Honestly, the only reason I exercised was to increase my stamina to run behind my now very active baby. The weight loss was only a bonus.

Long Story Short

Here’s what worked for me –

  1. Acknowledging that my baby was the most important person in this postpartum journey. Whatever I did could NOT come at the cost of depriving him.
  2. Breastfeeding made me crazy hungry – I ate a lot, but mostly healthy stuff. I ate a ton of fruit and vegetables,keerai and nuts every day.
  3. Short intense bursts of exercise worked as well (if not better) than 45-minute gym sessions which I didn’t have the time for.
  4. What works for me may not work for you and what works for you may not work for me

Everyone’s body is different, as is every new mother’s birthing story. I honestly thought I’d have a fit pregnancy that culminated in a normal delivery, but I ended up with 20 kgs on my butt and a C-Section – and you know what, I don’t give a shit anymore. It all happened the way it had to happen and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It’s also important to remember that looking like a Santoor mom or whatever is total BS – your body is meant to keep you alive, not fulfil some dude’s fantasy about how ideal moms are supposed to look like. Women are surrounded by so much suggestive advertising that it’s so hard to not feel terrible about yourself, but no, you are not obligated to look a certain way for anyone other than yourself, irrespective of whether you’re a mom or not.

If you are happy with the way you are, please, don’t change.

24 Comments

  1. Long time lurker. This is such a beautifully honest post. I went through pretty much the same pregnancy experience(albeit with variations obviously) and looking back, I wish I had dealt with it differently. I was so stupidly unhappy with both my pregnant and post partum body. My little girl is 18 months old now and I think around the time she was 1, I learned to relax and my body is almost back to how it was pre-baby. It’s only when I stopped caring so much about how I looked that things began to change!

  2. I opened a browser now to search if it’s okay to get pregnant weighing 66kgs and I see this. Thank you for being honest!

  3. I am mom to a 7 month old, struggling with postpartum weight loss. Your article has been an eye opener. Thanks, feeling much better already.

    • Hugs! I am so glad. Please take your time and take care of your health and baby. Good luck.

  4. That’s awesome! Congrats!
    You’ve not mentioned how much weight you’ve lost though. And how you’re maintaining it now? Do you still do short and intense exercises? In terms of diet?
    Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Hi! Ok, I have lost all 20kg and I’m back at 65 kgs (my ideal weight). I exercise (or at least try to) 3 times a week. The same short routines and I still eat the same way. Have gone back to white rice though. Eating healthy has been a sort of permanent shift for me. And healthy doesn’t mean fancy – for me, healthy is home cooked food in moderate quantities and lots of water!

  5. I am very unrealistic in goal setting. Like I want to lose all my pregnancy weight in 2 months and wen that does not happen, I get sad and eat more and more. Very counter intuitive. Can you pls tell how u remained motivated? Also, how long did it take for you to lose the post partum weight?

    • It took me one year. If it takes you 9 months to put on that weight, you need to give yourself AT LEAST nine months to lose it. As for motivation – you just have to keep reminding yourself about your goal, and keep the goals very short. My goals were always like, ok, let me try to lose one kilo and I worked towards that, and then the next kilo and so on. I also didn’t obsess over the weight – I just wanted to be healthier and more active. So when I shifted from x kg to say, 50 more jumping jacks, I found myself happier and lighter!

  6. Do u add sugar to coffee/tea? it is my biggest weakness. I then end up craving more sugar..

  7. Thanks for this honest post Lavanya…what you have written about makes so much sense. I have been through a similair journey…only difference
    my kid in 9 yrs old and it took me this long to realise that weight goes away only when I stop stressing about it. 4.5 kg away from my ideal weight of 66 kg now

  8. Good one Lavanya. I am a new mom as well, and your post helped answer some of my mental questions to myself …

  9. Thanks for the post! I think the first part of the post where you gained weight might be sort of linked to CA course. I had a similar timeline where I was anti-social and angry most of the time. Now I see a similarity. I was always on the ‘overweight’ category as per the BMI. I put on 14 kgs during my pregnancy as I had CONSCIOUSLY avoided putting on weight to counter my risk to a possible gestational diabetes. I had a normal delivery. Couldn’t work out to go back to my prepregnancy weight because of a Lumbar disc prolapse. My son just turned 4 and I just reached my prepregnancy weight. Took me 4 years with minimal workout and a little consious eating.
    If anyone asks I’d say there is no target time limit. Each body responds differently. I completely agree with you when you say what works for you may not work for the others. Wishing all new Mom’s a happy and healthy motherhood.

  10. Hi! I’m not a mom but this is honestly such a journey that made me realize I’m being wayyyyy too harsh on my body

  11. Thank you for being so honest about your journey. I had been one of those people too, judging people based on how much I thought they should have weighed. Unlike you, I had been skinny all my life no matter what I ate. When I got pregnant, I ate consciously and worked out. So it came as a shock when I put on oodles after my delivery. Also breastfeeding made me a glutton and I got ravenous at the mention of food. It made me hate myself and get into ppd that lasted for about two years. It took a lot of help from family and friends to accept myself and then once I rejoined work I slowly lost weight though I was nowhere near my pre pregnancy weight. Anyway, right now the whole cycle is being repeated since I have had my second daughter. I am again a whole ton heavier than before. But it doesn’t bother me now. Whether I lose the fat or not, I have learnt that it doesn’t change the person I am inside. The depression, first time around, was a bad place to be and am so relieved that I came out of it. I still want to work out, but it is only for the sake of stamina and to set a good example for my kids. Kudos on your journey. Sorry for rambling too much.

  12. Good to read about your relationship with your weight Lavanya!
    I have a similar story before baby. Severely cut down food, counted calories etc. And was very fit before I got pregnant because I ran a half marathon two months before getting pregnant.

    It took me 9 months to lose my pregnancy weight too, and then I lost some. But due to a recent health issue and some reckless trainings I am not able to exercise as much, which is bugging me. I need to carve out time and focus on my body, which I am not doing. ;—( now I just eat what I want when I want. I need to change this. My stamina is down in the dumps, I am ashamed of myself. Work and family are taking most of my time, but I know it is just as excuse and I need to snap out of it!
    Sorry about the long post, just ranted off.

  13. This might seem like an odd question for this post but how do u have perfect hair all the time even after working out lol

  14. Great post Lavanya.I donno why we have this obsession about how our body looks. Every picture you see in Instagram or FB is all about showing ourselves in our best shape and color. I guess that makes us automatically feel bad about our own selves. Once we realize that the social media pictures are only a facade and people go through a lot to show themselves that way, you will start to feel better about yourself. Be happy should be our mantra. Not weight loss

  15. Hi Lavanya,

    I used to be a regularish reader of Coconut Chutney about a decade ago and then life took over etc. A long break has made me google old favourite bloggers and that’s how I rediscovered your writing and this post. I don’t have a postpartum story but I can still relate to the twisted relationships that most of us have with our bodies as women. Beautiful post and it’s great to see how your writing has matured without losing its refreshing honesty. Also, my warmest wishes on the birth of your baby.

  16. Hi Lavanya, Great article. I was 69 kgs when I got pregnant! I worried a lot about my weight loss.It must take time because I couldn’t take any supplement for weight loss. So, what I can do was a soft exercise but I needed Waist Trimmers during exercise to support my abdominal area.Here ishttp://www.womensedge.org/best-waist-trimmers/. i found a positive result.
    Good luck for all moms.

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