By: Kimberly Egipciaco, Guest Blogger and Survivor Ambassador, American Heart Association
Asthma. Heart Disease. Weak knees. Bad back. There’s a million reasons to avoid working out. I am sure any one of us could come up with a laundry list of things we have to do around the house, people we need to catch up with, emails we need to address, and errands we have to run. But what about right after you have a baby? You now have more laundry than you have ever seen, a mouth to feed that is hungry 24/7, a bed that needs to be made regardless of the fact you can’t remember the last time you slept in it, and an extra twenty to thirty pounds you had no plan of ever gaining. Even more importantly, you are already obsessing from the moment you get home from the maternity wing on how to get it off!
I get it. I’m a new mom too. It’s hard to look in the mirror and not recognize the individual starring back. Your hair is oily because you can’t fit a shower in with all the rocking and crying and rocking. Of course, you, mama bear, are gorgeous regardless of those things, but you don’t see it. That’s the problem. Motherhood is beautiful, but it can certainly hurt your self–esteem when your clothes don’t fit, what clothing you do have has spit up on the sleeve, and you have no idea how you will ever find the time to feel like yourself again.
For someone with a heart condition, the task of losing the baby weight and toning up can be that much more daunting. Unlike my mom friends who immediately enrolled themselves in boot camps and fun runs and extreme exercise classes, I was left feeling sluggish and exhausted without any end in sight. The thought of working out was terrifying. Where would I find the energy? Where would I find the time? Between my asthma and my heart condition, what could I possibly do to feel like a human being again? Or look like my former self again, for that matter?
It really started, for me, with food. I needed to regain a healthy relationship with food. I started watching what I was eating. If it wasn’t a fruit, vegetable, or lean protein, I would eat very little of it or none at all. I started cooking meals regularly that I knew weren’t highly caloric, but were high in protein. Although the weight wasn’t falling off, I found I at least had more energy. I was also clear-headed enough to see that my eating habits wasn’t the only issue. It was also sleep that I so desperately needed. I knew that without rest, my metabolism would remain slow and my body would thus hold onto the weight. This led to my second step in getting back to my former self; it was time to care for myself emotionally and mentally.
Nobody warns you about the hormonal outbursts, the crying for no reason, the aftermath of childbirth. I certainly went in blind. My mind was not right after having my son. I was constantly in a fog and felt very detached from myself. By eating better and sleeping more, my head started to clear. In order for this to happen, I had to learn to ask for help. Now, I am a stubborn woman. Asking for help is not my thing, but I shared with my husband how I was feeling and asked him what we could do. We became partners in this parenting thing. He would get up with the baby for one feeding and I would handle the other. When we could see that the other person was struggling, we would alternate entire nights so the other person could have a solid night’s sleep. When my husband was away on business, I asked my mom to come and help me with my six week old son. To ensure that we were taking the time to communicate and to keep us both feeling positive, my husband and I made time for a date night here or there. Sometimes, we even brought the baby with us as a kind of family outing in an attempt to return to the normalcy as we knew it, b.c. – before child.
My last and final step to healing and becoming the healthy person I like to think I am now was exercise. I started just by taking walks here and there. Nothing crazy. I was still very concerned about my other health issues rearing their ugly heads and preventing me from being successful. After I felt that I could conquer the steep hills on my walks, then I integrated indoor cycling or an exercise video here and there into my routine. Truthfully though, I still do not have the time to work out every day. My son just turned a year old, I work full-time, and my husband often travels for work which leaves me running my household solo. I do try to find a couple days a week to get even the slightest bit of exercise in though more for my mind than my body. Chase my son around the living room? Yes. Do a 25 minute fitness video while he naps? Yes. Walk to daycare to pick him up and carry him home? Yes. Just get yourself moving!
To date, I have lost all of my baby weight and then some. I fit in clothes I haven’t seen since I got married. What I am trying to say is that health is a process. The baby weight doesn’t fall off instantly and a lot of feeling successful has to do with mental and emotional wellness. Start small with easily attainable goals that won’t overwork your heart or brain. Do not jump right in feet first with a hardcore workout regimen, a strict diet, and add too much to your plate. Literally. Healing takes time. Grant yourself permission to take it.
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The American Heart Association’s blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.