I get asked by so many women "Why am I struggling to lose my post baby weight?", especially after the second, or third baby and the reasons are simple, yet complex. I say 'simple' in that they can be easy to identify if you are experienced in understanding the workings of the body's endocrine and metabolic system and know what to look for, yet 'complex' in that the reasons can be due to a combination of factors and can take time to resolve. Losing your post baby weight is not always a case of eating less and exercising more, in fact this can even inhibit your weight loss efforts! The most important thing to remember is that your body is going through huge hormonal shifts both during and after pregnancy and then again after breast feeding, and hormones can play havoc with your health and appetite when they're out of balance.
I typically find the overriding reason why most women struggle to shift their post baby body fat, results from a failure of their hormones to balance out again. Here are some of the contributing factors why this can occur.
Our bodies need adequate sleep each night in order to restore and repair regardless of whether you're a new mum or not, but sadly having a baby is not typically conducive to getting enough 'shut eye'. Although the human body has an amazing coping mechanism in the form of stress hormones - adrenalin and cortisol - which enable us to 'push through' and cope during times of stress, chronic or ongoing stress caused by sleep deprivation will inevitably impact on the function of the endocrine system and metabolic rate. Too much cortisol, or not enough - can down regulate your thyroid and slow your metabolic rate. My advice to mothers of newborn babies is to get as much sleep as you possibly can. Don't feel guilty about taking a nap yourself when your baby does and try to get as much support as possible from family and friends, you don't need to try and be a superhero and take on everything yourself - learn to say 'NO'. Of course this isn't always possible, especially if you have other children to look after, which is why getting to bed early each night is so important during those first few months, when your hormones are trying to rebalance following childbirth.
Many women struggle emotionally to accept the change in their body shape both during and after pregnancy, and can even suffer postnatal depression from the hormonal shifts. Putting pressure on yourself to regain your pre-pregnancy body weight will only increase the production of your stress hormones which as I've mentioned can down regulate your thyroid and metabolism. As simple as this may sound, it's important to remember you've just had a baby! Rather than allow your mind to battle against your body, try and accept the changes your body shape is going through at this point in time and be patient and gentle with your body. Remember stress can be fattening so you don't want to be adding to what is already a physically and emotionally stressful time.
Stressing about your weight and then and running yourself ragged, by over exercising in the name of losing weight can actually have the exact opposite effect on your metabolism, especially if you are overly fatigued. This is where the saying 'less is more' can apply. Losing weight is not a simple case of eating less and exercising more, because of the influence hormones have on metabolism, as well as appetite. So whilst I'm all for healthy amounts of exercise both during and after pregnancy, if you're pushing yourself too hard in the name of losing weight, you may well slow down your metabolism, due the effect stress hormones have on your thyroid function. Try a combination of walking and yoga, or pilates or light weights, but don't over do it if your body is screaming for you to 'slow down'.
Many women report that they gain weight when they stop breastfeeding and this is often because of the changes in certain hormones. The body is in a progesterone dominant state during pregnancy and breast feeding and when we stop breastfeeding, progesterone can drop off sharply resulting in an imbalance in the ratio between progesterone and oestrogen. The effects of progesterone deficiency can include excess weight gain around the abdomen, increase in appetite and sugar cravings and mood changes, so its important to seek professional guidance from a health practitioner experienced in providing natural hormonal support through herbs and specific nutrients if your sex hormones are struggling to rebalance after pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Not all women lose weight during breast feeding, and this can result from an underactive thyroid and pre-existing adrenal fatigue. There are many factors that can contribute to an underactive thyroid and this is an area that I have had extensive experience with, both personally and professionally and one thing I can say is that thyroid health is a complex and involved area of health. It is not a simple case of one size fits all, nor just popping thyroid hormone replacement pills to get a desired result. Nope, the body is smarter than that and requires all the pieces of the puzzle to be in place for it to respond and function optimally. So unless you address all of the factors that influence thyroid health - diet, digestion, replenish underlying nutrient deficiencies, address emotional and mental stress and modify your lifestyle, then the thyroid will struggle to get back on track, even if you're taking thyroid hormones. But the first place to start in addressing thyroid health is with your diet and improving gut health to reduce inflammation and physical stress in the body and ensure optimal absorption of nutrients. I designed my gut repair and detox pack and eating program contained in my e-book Eat Yourself Healthy with this in mind. So after laying the foundations through diet and gut repair, you can start to address the other contributing factors to effectively regulate your thyroid and experience far greater results.
Poor Gut Health
Your gut is the gateway to your health and if its not functioning properly then all the other body systems and organs will struggle to function optimally, including your metabolism and brain function. The majority of us sadly don't have happy guts and this is typically the underlying cause for many common health problems, so its essential to get your gut health shipshape if you want to tackle any health problem, whether its fatigue, weight gain, hormonal imbalances and to strengthen your immune function. Again my gut repair and detox pack works to restore optimal function to your gut and overall digestion
Have you struggled to lose your baby weight, especially after the 2nd or 3rd child? What do you think has contributed to this ?