05 Nov Just Gave Birth? Losing Weight Should Be The Last Thing On Your Mind
Senior Pilates instructor Nicole Serje says that beyond getting back in shape, new mothers should focus on doing what’s best for their bodies and minds
Everybody wants to know how to lose the baby weight after pregnancy, but according to post-natal recovery expert and Senior Pilates Instructor Nicole Serje, there’s a better approach that most of us are missing. “Losing fat should be the last thing on a mom’s mind immediately after giving birth,” she says. “Many women focus on losing weight, when their primary focus initially should be on regaining structural integrity, postural realignment and core connection which will lead to long-term strength and function.”
So if you’re a new mum, congratulations for making it through the third trimester! It’s now time to map out your journey back to optimum health both inside and out. Let’s hear Nicole Serje’s best advice for creating a holistic postnatal program that incorporates movement with mindfulness.
The post-natal recovery journey is different for everyone, and there are so many factors that affect it.
Becoming a mum makes you physically, emotionally and psychologically a different person… which is not a bad thing! Whether you have children or not, you’re continually changing as a person over the course of your life, so why not try to accept and embrace it?
There is no rush to get back to your “pre-pregnancy body”, and to be honest, you have changed physically and won’t necessarily be exactly how you were before being pregnant. The important thing is to first focus on what’s happening within your body, and then start to work on how you’d like to look on the outside. Build yourself up working from the inside and then out. Don’t push too quickly and don’t overdo things. Add core strengthening exercises and gentle movements in the initial stages of your recovery.
You grow a baby for 9 months – don’t expect to recover overnight. In terms of feeling like “normal”, it can take anywhere from twelve to twenty-four months. When you consider the physical changes during pregnancy as well as the emotional and hormonal influences on your body – among other things – they all play a role in how quickly and how well you recover postnatally.
Having a caesarean birth is major surgery, but it doesn’t usually get treated that way. When you have knee surgery, for example, there is a complete rehabilitation strategy with regular physio and specialist follow-up appointments to ensure everything is on the right track. There is not usually the same level of intensity postoperatively for mums who’ve had caesarian operations! Mums who’ve had a C-section rarely get encouraged to see a specialist to help them with scar tissue management or correct core re-connection. Plus they have to manage their recovery while also looking after a newborn. Seeing a women’s health specialist should be a standard part of every mum’s post-natal recovery journey.
Pilates uses rehabilitation principles to help new mums recover from giving birth. I believe it’s the best way to get your body on the right track in the long run, because it approaches recovery from all angles, not just that of body image.
The first step to recovery is breathing. Correct breathing technique is essential for engaging and strengthening the pelvic floor and for reconnecting the core unit as a whole. Most mums need to be taught how to breathe properly again after having a baby, as breathing is usually significantly affected during pregnancy. Once there is re-establishment of the core unit, it is then important to learn how to maintain that connection while going about day to day activities and during exercise. I can’t stress enough the importance of finding that connection and applying it to your daily life!
If you try and push things too soon, it could lead to bigger problems down the road. A lot of mums, and especially first-time mums, want to “get back in the gym” doing the exercise programs they did pre-pregnancy. This is entirely possible to do, but it must be worked towards in a safe and timely manner. If, for example, you start your regular training without ensuring the pelvic floor and core muscles have reconnected well enough to be able to manage and sustain the extra loads to the body, then there is a higher risk of more serious issues such as hernias or prolapses later down the track. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but it’s important that as women, we are aware of how our bodies are affected, that we are informed to best protect and prevent.
Post-natal recovery is really to do with lifestyle – exercise is just one part of the equation. Nutrition, stress levels, hydration and rest, along with exercise, are all essential and important for intelligent and long-term recovery.
You’ve got to look at the long term picture. You’ve only got one body, which has accomplished an amazing thing, and it needs taking care of. My biggest advice? Just be kind to yourself!
Nicole Serje leads Postnatal Recovery workshops and classes at Flex Studio Hong Kong. Catch her at the Central branch on Nov 20 & 27, and at One Island South on Feb 19 & 26, 2020. www.flexhk.com/workshops