By Mia Von Scha
Weight is never a simple issue – we have the media feeding us unrealistic examples of what is “normal”, we compare ourselves to others, we have other things we’re busy with (like raising a new child) that distract from rigorous diet and exercise routines. But why is it that so many moms are struggling with that last bit of excess weight after having a baby? Is it purely physiological? Is it psychological? Or could it be both?
Here are some possible reasons that you may be finding it hard to lose that baby weight and what you can do to address the issues…
From a physiological point of view there are a couple of things that could be happening. For a start, you may not have given yourself enough time after having a baby to return to your normal weight. This is not an overnight process and you need to go easy on yourself. Breastfeeding may also cause your body to naturally keep a store of extra fat incase times get bad and you’re short on food but still needing to feed your baby. This can happen particularly if you are prone to fad dieting and depriving your body of essential nutrients for stretches of time. This, by the way, is not a good reason to stop breastfeeding, but rather a good reason to accept yourself as you are for now and know that it won’t last forever! What to do? Relax and thank your body for wanting to care for you and your baby regardless of what happens out there in a crazy unpredictable world.
High cortisol levels from lack of sleep can also affect weight gain. You are more likely to carry weight around the middle if your cortisol levels are high. Again, this won’t last forever – even the worst sleepers do eventually make it through the night! In the meantime, see if you can do night shifts with a partner (even if it’s only over the weekend), hire a night nurse once a week, catch up on sleep in the day, send the kids for overnight stays at grandma. And relax – stressing about your weight can increase your cortisol levels even further.
From a psychological POV there are also a few possibilities for delayed weight loss…
Most people have some limiting beliefs around food, weight and health. Many of these may only kick in once you’ve had a baby as they revolve around beliefs you have regarding parenthood and what it does to you. You may have beliefs like “It’s hard to lose baby weight” or “Moms never get their figures back” or “The older you are the harder it is to lose weight”. Each of these is a belief, not a statement of fact that can be verified or proved to be true. It is worth figuring out what you believe and putting these beliefs through a process of rigorous questioning (Is it a fact or an opinion? Who am I with that thought? Who would I be without that thought? Find some examples of people who don’t fit this model). If you struggle to do this on your own, find a good NLP coach who can help you to root these out and clear the path for easy weight loss.
Another possibility is that the weight gain fulfills a role of protection. Adding extra layers to ourselves is often a way of covering up traumas from the past. The birth of your baby can trigger past traumas to come to the surface for healing and if we don’t want to face these things they can end up as some unwanted padding! If this is the case I would definitely suggest finding a trusted therapist, coach or a good friend to work through the past with you and help you to heal.
And last, but not least, eating can fulfill the role of a quick fix if you are dissatisfied with your life. If you are trying to live out someone else’s values instead of being true to yourself, this often manifests in various addictive behaviours (eating, smoking, drinking, sex, TV, shopping, gambling) that you may use to try to satisfy yourself temporarily to distract from the deep dissatisfaction of your life. I see this on both ends of the parenting spectrum: Women trying to be stay at home moms (because society/family/friends tell them this is the right thing to do for their kids) when what they desperately want is to get back into their careers (eating ‘resolves’ boredom). And, mothers returning to work who want nothing more than to be home all day with their kids (eating ‘resolves’ guilt). In both cases what is needed is a serious reassessment of what is important to you and finding a way to make that work. Instead of saying “I can’t” try asking, “How can I?” and see the possibilities opening up.
Weight loss involves both physiological and psychological factors that come into play, particularly as new mothers. While many of these are issues that deserve to be addressed, it is also ok to allow yourself to be less than perfect. Babies grow up in the blink of an eye and you will have time to get your life and your figure back before you know it! For now, relax, love yourself exactly as you are, and take action when you’re ready to.