Dear Dr. Claire,
I am thirty-six and have two kids. Six months ago I had my second child. After my first baby, I was able to get back into my pre-pregnancy clothes and weight within three months. After my second, I can't seem to lose the baby weight. I am the highest weight I've ever been without being pregnant. I have friends who recently had babies, and they're already in their pre-pregnancy clothes. I am feeling discouraged and disgusted with my weight. I'm still wearing my maternity clothes and getting dressed is so stressful and depressing. How do I lose the weight?
-Cindi in Tennessee
Congratulations on the birth of your second child. As a mom to four girls, I do understand how frustrating it is to have your body change in ways you may not have expected.
Many women struggle with weight loss after the birth of a child. Social media, advertisements, marketing and our culture, in general, creates unrealistic perceptions of how women "should" look after having a baby.
The reality is, there is a variation on how women gain weight during pregnancy and how women lose weight after the birth of a baby. Instead of focusing on your weight, consider shifting into a mindset of health. Ask yourself the following questions:
* Are you eating healthy food, in nutritionally balanced porportions?
* Are you physically active and exercising?
* Do you routinely get enough sleep?
* Are you nursing your baby?
* Do you have any other medical issues or diagnosis which could impact your physical health?
There are many variables which impact physical health after a new baby including sleep patterns, nursing or not, the type of delivery you had and nutrition and physical activity. If you have no medical conditions and are in good health, then consider the lifestyle choices which contribute to your physical health. Be mindful about what you eat, increase your physical activity, and get enough sleep.
While it can be difficult getting a full night's sleep with a baby, try to get as much sleep as possible each night. Sleep deprivation and fatigue can result in variations in metabolism, energy and weight. Also, being tired can result in looking to food for an energy boost, which can increase vulnerability to over-eat.
Emotionally, be more compassionate and caring in the ways you speak to yourself. Instead of saying you're disgusting, look at the feeling beneath the put-down. Are you feeling frustrated, hopeless, sad or overwhelmed? Use the feeling to inform what you need to do at the moment to improve it. For example, if you are feeling frustrated, ask yourself what is one thing I could do right now to shift my mood from frustration into something more positive.
Be careful not to compare your first pregnancy weight loss to your second pregnancy. Many variables have changed since then, including your age, and the fact you now have a lot more to juggle with two children, one being an infant. The nature of having two children, means you have less time to care for yourself and are in the process of making adjustments having a new family member.
You also mention comparing yourself to friends and the weight they've lost. Please hold off on comparing yourself to anyone, not only does it bring your mood down; it keeps you stuck in a place of self-loathing.
Practically speaking, I think it's time to go out and purchase some new clothes, even a few items, to help you feel better. Wearing maternity clothes is emotionally increasing your frustration, sadness and hopelessness about your physical self. Purchase clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident; clothes that are too small or ill-fitting doesn't feel good on many levels.
There is an adjustment period after having a baby. Focus on activities that are healthy; exercise and be active daily, plan meals with attention to nourishing yourself, don't starve or skip meals, and be compassionate with the way you talk to yourself.
If you notice feelings of depression, low motivation to change, disruptions with sleep and appetite, and have continued thoughts of self-loathing, please reach out to a mental health professional for support on how to receive assistance with improving your well-being.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2015