Implement some postpartum protocol for a stronger, healthier you.
By Jenny Hoff, Photo courtesy of theantman.co
Rachel Lily Campbell was 30 years old when she finally started to love her body. After a lifetime of eating disorders and never feeling skinny enough, she never expected to look at her body in the mirror and see anything other than its flaws. Then she got pregnant.
“It was literally my come-to-Jesus moment,” she says, wiping tears from her eyes as she recalls that day six years ago when she found out she was pregnant with her now 5-year-old son, Deuce. “I was on my knees and so amazed at what my body could do after so many years of abusing it.”
Campbell says motherhood gave her back her life, so she’s now dedicating it to helping other moms regain the joy in theirs.
“There is nothing better for me than to see the lightbulb moment with a mother who finally feels like she can be kind, move kind and speak kindly to her body,” she says.
As owner of Fit4Mom Sunset Valley, Campbell believes fitness and health involve much more than a diet plan or a workout regimen. While she offers fitness classes ranging from workouts with babies to boot camps just for moms, as well as food guidance, she believes it’s having a fellow mom to lean on who is going through the same process that can really help a mom find the support she needs to strengthen her body, regain energy and get through the emotional highs and lows of parenting.
“I only train moms,” she says. “When you give birth, everything changes. You’re losing blood and abdominal strength. Your posture and hips change. You are not sleeping as well. Your cortisol is lifting and you’re now lactating. You need to be supported in the right way. You need someone who understands moms and, in my opinion, is a mom and has been through the experience.”
Campbell’s training focuses on food freedom versus food restriction, listening to your body and strengthening the areas that are impacted most through pregnancy. Since insulin resistance is common in women after pregnancy, she encourages moms to focus on whole foods with fat and protein instead of simple carbs to avoid spikes in blood sugar and late- night cravings.
“Insulin resistance is the No. 1 undervalued result of postpartum bodies,” she says. “It starts when we’re prenatal and can last for five to seven years postpartum. That’s why many women find what worked for them foodwise before doesn’t work for them now.”
Dr. Christie Mileur, an OB-GYN with Austin ObGyn Associates in Central Austin, agrees specific food changes can help women get their bodies back into shape after pregnancy.
“The core or belly area of your body is sensitive to weight gain through stress, pregnancy and carbohydrates,” she says. “Working to minimize stress and eating a low-carbohydrate diet will help.”
Mileur agrees breastfeeding can also help with weight loss, but it doesn’t work for everyone. She also advises breastfeeding moms to avoid strenuous workouts and too much cardio so as not to compromise supply.
When it comes to that postpartum pooch, weight is not always the culprit. Many women experience diastasis recti (a separation of the abdominal muscles) after giving birth. Mileur says it’s important not to exacerbate the condition with certain exercises, like crunches, that may tighten the muscles but keep them separated.
“I recommend you work on your obliques. That will help bring those muscles back together in the middle,” she says. “If that doesn’t work, physical therapy can help.”
Issues like diastasis recti, hormone changes, heightened stress and lack of sleep are why Campbell believes it’s important for moms to train with an expert on postpartum weight loss and strength building. While diet and exercise are crucial for regaining energy, shedding extra fat, regaining balance and core strength, she says it’s community that gives moms the much-needed emotional support to handle the stress and anxiety.
“My tagline is: Come for the exercise, stay for the mom tribe,” Campbell says. “We have weekly play dates, get-togethers for every single holiday, moms’ night out and charity drives throughout the year. We are in this together.”