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.
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 –
- 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.
- 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.
- Short intense bursts of exercise worked as well (if not better) than 45-minute gym sessions which I didn’t have the time for.
- 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.