Q: I am a 22-year-old-mother of three. My children are 4yrs, 2yrs, and 3 months. I am having a very hard time getting back to my weight after my third child. After my first two I dropped my weight back down to 130lbs. I am now at 150 and no matter what I do I can not shake the weight.
I am also breastfeeding, therefore I can not diet as normal dieters do. I cannot take supplements or fill up pills. I have been working out 5 days a week since my youngest was 6 weeks old. I lost a few pounds at the beginning, but now I am stuck at 150. I am 5ft 7in tall and want to get back down to 130. Most of the weight that I can not shake is, of course, my flabbing tummy, hips and thighs (inner and outer). I can not stand it. I am so upset about this it has really affected me emotionally and socially. PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!
A: Dear, dear Lindsay:
What a timely letter (they often are). I'm going to answer it in the Ask Rox forum, because you've hit a nerve that will be familiar, I think, to a great many hot mamas. First, let me say what all mothers need to hear:
You have a great body
Your body birthed a baby
And is feeding a baby
That's one great body
Okay, platitudes aside, here's the dope. First of all, you have no idea what your "my weight" is, because you got pregnant with your first child before you even finished growing! My body at 17 was not the body I had at 23 was not the body I had at 27, and I had no children in that time. In my late teens, I was a rail with no discernible chest, then I went to college and gained the proverbial "freshman fifteen," which, in typical overachiever's fashion was actually twenty pounds. Bear in mind that I am just over 5 foot 2 and have the smallest frame possible (meaning really small bones -- my wrist is so small I have to cut down children's watches). Therefore, I had a face shaped like a Moon Pie and a chest like Dolly Parton's. Now, after weaning my daughter, I am still smallish, but thickwaisted from the front, and now, I once again have no discernible chest. All these bodies have been mine. In retrospect, some I liked more than others, but they were always good to me, though I was not so good to them.
Let me be blunt -- if you decide to climb Everest, you'll have to prepare for about a year. Get in the best physical shape of your life, find a reputable climbing outfit, raise money, get fitted out and find your way to Nepal. You'll learn about Everest, and one of the things you will learn is that it's rather chilly there. Once there, when you notice that it's cold, will it surprise you? Will you mention it repeatedly? Will it affect your self esteem? No, because you have other fish to fry. Well, having a baby (just one, mind you) is like climbing Everest, physically and mentally. We should try to be in the best shape possible before getting pregnant, we should prep by taking folic acid before even trying to get pregnant, we should stay in great shape throughout the pregnancy -- knowing that labor is a marathon and that the fourth trimester is fraught with hormonal changes, night sweats and mood swings the likes of which are hardly ever seen outside a Turkish prison. But we don't, because we're human. And, you, my dear Lindsay, have climbed Everest THREE TIMES in the past four years!! What, exactly, did you think your thighs might look like at this point? :)
To extend the Everest metaphor (only because I've read a cool book about it, not because I ever climbed anything resembling a mountain, myself. In fact, the description of the travails involved in getting to the BASE CAMP of Everest pretty much were enough to wipe that off my to-do list permanently!), after such a grueling climb, it takes weeks if not months for the climbers to recover. Vicki Iovine, one of my personal goddesses, writes in one of her umpteen books that, whether she put on a leotard and headed out to step class the minute her doctor gave her the go-ahead or just spent the entire post-partum time at Gymboree, her body needed, what a surprise, about 9 months to take off the weight it took nine months to put on! If you have three kids in four years, you can pretty much expect a forecast of slightly flabby, with fat in the horizon and storm clouds full of stretch marks. If we are to be quite frank, the same weight post-baby doesn't look just like it did pre-baby, right? For our New Year's Resolutions, Bob and I decided to get into great shape. All went well, for about three months, then he took off with Gilad's Quick-Fit System, and I got sick, busy, tired and trailed off. At this moment, it feels easier to get pregnant again so that my not-so-firm tummy would have a raison d'etre than to get back up on that Reebok Step I asked for last Christmas.
At this point, you're probably asking yourself, "Did she even READ my question? I feel yucky and want to look good!!" I do hear you, but I just want to point out that your body is just coming off a long, weird cycle of up/down, pregnant/not and is tired all the time. Not optimum for an Olympic athlete, not optimum for you. What can you do? Here's my 9-step program for looking and feeling great while nursing a baby and being a mom (do I need to remind everyone here that I'm not a doctor, have only played a nurse on tv and that all weight loss and exercise programs should be started under a doctor's supervision? Well, I just did.)
- From us, the Spanx power panty and stuff will hold it all in til your insides adjust and your muscles get stronger. Look good immediately.
- Stop wearing big, baggy or shapeless clothes. This only makes you look like hell. Go get a pair or two of pants or skirts and some tops that fit you now, flatter your face and that have some colour. Wear a little makeup and let your hair down sometimes.
- Stand up straight and as tall as you can.
- Throw away your scale. It's fairly useless. You can weigh 125 and be all flab, or 150 and be a sculpted vision. Muscle weighs more than fat, anyhow. Did you know that many anorexics are medically obese, because of the complete lack of muscle in their builds?
I checked your weight out for your height. It is a bit on the heavy side of normal, but you just had another baby, and may be big-boned. I tried looking up your BMI, which measures your body fat as a function of your height and weight, but found that ... "BMI is reliable for most people between 19 and 70 years of age except women who are pregnant or breast feeding, competitive athletes, body builders, and chronically ill patients." That about says it all right there, doesn't it? You're still a little bit pregnant, so let it go.
- Did I already mention tossing the scale? Just checking.
That's great that you're not popping any diet pills. Geesh! That shouldn't occur to you.
- Even though some of these suggestions involve getting a book or a tape, being healthy shouldn't involve paying anyone anything. Get the books and tapes at the local library, if you prefer. Speaking of which, get this one:
Eat Well, Lose Weight While Breastfeeding. I haven't read it yet, but I'd bet one of the things it suggests is to not clear the table by eating the last of the mac and cheese and pepperoni pizza that my kids live on! Other mothers seem to like this book, so it'll probably be helpful.
- Don't have any more babies for a couple years. Seriously, a woman's body needs two years after the birth of a child before getting pregnant again just to replenish lost minerals and let bones get back into place. I want another baby, but I just feel like I need a minute longer or my very bones will snap.
- Learn to dress the body you have now -- Trinny & Susanna of BBC's What Not Wear are your guides in this -- get either this book or What You Wear Can Change Your Life.
I hope some or all of this is helpful. Realize one very important thing ... the woman giving you this advice is thirty-seven and a half years old, so all the stuff I did after my two pregnancies was harder because I'm practically a grandmother agewise!! :) My body now is better and stronger than it was at 23, and in ten years, yours will be as fabulous as you want it to be. Put the focus on your insides -- how they feel. If you can keep up with THREE little kids, you are a strong and amazing young woman. Looking like a hot bod on the outside requires hours of dedication ... part of the reason Jennifer Garner of Alias and her husband are splitting is that if she wasn't at work, she was at the gym. Okay, that's according to the Enquirer -- but they're usually a little bit right. You already have a full-time workout on your plate -- with a 4-yr-old, a 2-yr-old and a 3-month-old trainer. Write me back when everyone's in school and you're able to run a couple miles a day. You'll be missing this mushy body time you had with your babies! :)
Update. Wow. I am now 43, and have had two more babies (at once!) and am once again faced with the reality of a not-so-great body. Denise Austin is no longer on Lifetime every morning, and I have slowly let go of my thrice-weekly workout in favour of collapsing in front of HGTV (house porn, really!) at the end of the day. I have to take my own advice, and be easier and harder on myself at the same time. Maybe you need to do that as well.