Lisa Williams, co-founder + editor of TantrumXYZ, on why you shouldn’t lean until you wean
I’m going to have my hands full with the baby, I thought to myself. I will be so enraptured by the new arrival that I won’t care about the ‘mum tum’, I imagined. Most the baby weight will come off with the baby, I predicted. But then the baby arrived, and only one of the above came true. I DID have my hands full with the baby, as it happened, but the weight gain - only a quarter of which could be accounted for by my little newborn – bothered me immensely.
The first six weeks of my life as a mother were nearly unbearable. I was recovering from a c-section, which made me feel crumpled up and tender, as if the front of my body had been foreshortened by several inches which I was never going to get back. We had feeding issues which left me severely sleep-deprived and in so much pain I couldn’t bear even a bra or a bed sheet on top of me. I was so hunched over my shoulders would creak and fizz every time I stretched, and – as with all new parents – found the responsibility of keeping this beautiful, precious thing alive overwhelming. But I can’t deny that another factor in why that first stretch felt so long was the fact that I couldn’t do any exercise before getting the all-clear from my doctor at the six-week check.
I’ll point out now that I am not an obsessive exerciser or clean eater. I like swimming, running and yoga, but team sports feature in my nightmares, and I’d do almost anything for sugar. But I am vain, and the combination of a soft, swelling belly and those waist-high Sloggi pants made me feel as if I was Obelix to my pre-pregnancy Asterix. I’d look at my little underwear sets and non-maternity clothes like artefacts from a lost civilisation. I’d berate family for bringing over too much cake (knowing full well I’d be the one to devour the lot), and the long breastfeeds and continual sofa-dwelling got me down. I’d see someone jog past me on a warm summer evening and think, ‘She’s free.’
And if that sounds melodramatic, it’s because it was. I feel sad for myself that I felt this way. I feel sad that I had pre-registered for buggy fit so that I could go the day after I got the all-clear. And I feel sad that the first time I left my baby with someone else, to buy holiday clothes because nothing fit, felt like a failure rather than a triumph.
Because the thing is, trying to lose weight during this time was a futile exercise. I can see now how important that rest and good food was at that early stage. Even the junk food had its purpose. Relatives brought cakes to show that they cared. Friends brought round lasagne and pulled pork so we didn’t need to think about dinner. Moving beyond the first six weeks, I bonded with new friends over cake while our babies fed and slept. I wish I had enjoyed the rich food and laziness of that time. I could have had a much better time. As it was, it took six months for me to start getting back into sustainable healthy habits and fit again.
As my son weaned, I taught myself what I was teaching him. He didn’t need processed sugar or added salt, just wholesome, tasty, healthy foods, eaten slowly and relished with every new flavour, texture and combination thereof. It felt wrong to sit there with a bakewell tart while he lapped up smashed carrots or popped blueberries into his mouth one by one. I also enjoyed the act of enjoying a meal together: whizzed-up pineapple and kale topped his Weetabix, then I’d add protein powder, flax and bran to make a smoothie for me. I’d make him porridge with whole milk, mango and Greek yoghurt, and realise it was a good, filling breakfast for me too. And by then he was old enough to sit up and laugh at me while I bounced around in buggy fit, and to have a proper bedtime, so I could do YouTube workouts after he had fallen asleep.
It felt right then, and it worked for me when everything before that hadn’t. If I have another baby, I’m going to be quite strict with myself. No Project Healthy Weight until Project Healthy Baby is six months old. Sure, I’ll do a yoga class before then, if I fancy it, but I will also enjoy a cake. And the big pants will stay as long as they need to because, let’s face it, they’re really comfortable.
Lisa Williams is Co-Founder and Editor of Tantrum.xyz, provider of the best kids' gear, clothes, tech, events and tips through its shop, magazine, listings and Breeders' Digest newsletter.