When I checked into the hospital the weekend my daughter was born, I weighed 212 pounds. I had put on a whopping sixty-two pounds during my 37 weeks of pregnancy. Sure, some of it would come off naturally as my postpartum body slowly started to heal itself, but the rest? I was stuck with it.
I wish I could simply tell you, “I lost sixty-five pounds in less than a year and here’s how to do it!” but that would be misleading and an incomplete story. Just as yoga is a holistic practice made up of more than just the physical form of asana, I think my postpartum weight loss journey deserves to be considered in the same fashion – holistically.
I did lose sixty-five pounds in less than a year. But it wasn’t all about what I ate and how I exercised. It was about reclaiming my body and life from the inside out.
New Body, New Baby, New Ballgame
My body was different now, there was no denying that. Add to that the radically different lifestyle, new responsibilities, and the tiny little human I was suddenly responsible for keeping alive. It was an entirely new ballgame and I felt like a rookie coming up to the plate empty-handed.
In the months immediately following my daughter’s birth, I didn’t feel like it exercising. Sleeping through the night had become a distant memory which only added to my lack of energy and motivation. Not to mention my poor hormones – I was unbalanced, dysregulated, and dragging myself through each day.
And let’s not forget the mental gymnastics that come along with the intensity of the postpartum period. Our brains become so consumed with the needs of our babies that prioritizing our own health and wellbeing seems totally counterintuitive to us. If breastfeeding is involved, our bodies need huge amounts of extra care to do this; Extra food, extra fluids, extra rest.
Suddenly it felt like all of my former go-to weight loss strategies seemed completely unworkable in this new life. It felt like every small success was met by the harsh bullet of my new reality. A feeling of being depleted and totally out of my league. Nothing was straightforward and everything was different. I felt trapped in a body I didn’t ask for and didn’t know the first thing about.
The Great Burden of High Expectations
I also suffered from what I like to call the great burden of high expectations. I thought I’d be back up and running in no time. Looking and feeling like my old self in a matter of months. My mind had convinced me that there was a singular path to feeling like myself again, and that path was a purely physical endeavor. I thought shedding the sixty-two pounds was my one-way ticket to healing. If I looked like my normal self again, surely I would feel like her again, too.
Forget the fact that my body had completely different needs than it ever had before. Or that it was going through changes it had never experienced before. Or that, despite the absurd construct that “maternity leave” should fit into a neat 3-month box. It is impossible to put a timeline on your own healing.
What I was going through was mine and mine alone, there was no magic formula that was going to instantly solve all of my problems. Postpartum weight loss can undoubtedly be a frustrating process, but it’s also a personal one. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. I needed to explore and experiment on my own time to figure out the things that worked for me.
The Discomfort of Change
In the early postpartum months, I was trapped in a dense state of consciousness, completely absorbed by my own thoughts and stories. My ego was running the show. I suddenly found myself feeling terrified of how others might see me, scared to do things that were once a part of everyday life. I was living in a state of fear and it consumed me.
Our egos like to separate our experiences into separate, distinct boxes – good or bad, right or wrong, success or failure. They are potent instigators, leaving no room for nuance or thoughtful discernment. When we process our surroundings so dualistically, nearly everything we come across seems like some kind of existential threat.
Why? Because when an experience doesn’t fit neatly into the boxes we’ve created, we are unable to process it. Rather than confronting it, we actively try to bury it, suppress it, ignore it altogether. Instead of expanding, we stay in our comfort zone because it makes us feel safe. We stay small to avoid the discomfort of change and growth.
Thrust into this brand-new reality of new motherhood where absolutely nothing was familiar to me, my ego started scrambling. The only threat bigger to my ego than failure was facing the unknown. It was so quick to inform me that I was, in fact, failing that I never stopped to question whether or not it was the objective truth.
It wasn’t just my body that had changed during my pregnancy and postpartum journey – my mind had, too. For all the fuss and attention our medical system places on our postpartum physical health, I had no roadmap for knowing how all of these changes might be impacting my mental health. Stress seemed to be the only constant in my life.
How Stress Adds to the Problem
Stress is a powerful drug and it doesn’t just live in our minds. It is the catalyst for intense changes in our physical bodies as well. When we experience stress, our bodies respond by producing the hormone cortisol in order to give us the boost of energy we need to escape an imminent threat.
Sounds like a great thing, right? Sure, if your hormone levels are able to go back to normal once the threat has passed. But what happens when our everyday stressors become so intense to us that they begin to feel like threats? When we are so overwhelmed that we render ourselves unable to distinguish between a real threat and a perceived one?
In the immediate months following my delivery, making this distinction was almost impossible for me. Physically and mentally, I was the most vulnerable I had ever been. The smallest disturbance could send my nervous system into overdrive. I could flip into “momma bear” mode at the drop of a hat. It felt like my primal maternal nature was fully online all the time, actively searching for battles against invisible enemies.
How Stress Impacts The Body
It wasn’t long before this would become my default state of being. My baby clearly wasn’t in any danger, yet my body was still responding as if she were. What I didn’t know was that this near-constant activation of my body’s stress response wasn’t just the root cause of my anxiety and fatigue, it was also disrupting nearly all of my body’s other major functions.
And this makes sense if you think about it. With “life-threatening” danger present, whatever energy my body needed to do other things would simply have to wait. The result was poor digestion, a suppressed immune system, and chronic inflammation that was making me feel foggy and exhausted on a level I had never known.
I was blind to the massive impact all of this extra cortisol was having on my physical body and wellbeing. I had just given birth for goodness sake, my disrupted hormonal system was working overtime to reestablish balance, and constantly flooding it with extra cortisol and adrenaline was making matters a hell of a lot worse.
Losing weight didn’t just feel hopeless, it was hopeless. I needed to identify the underlying cause of my stress and finally come to grips with it.
Postpartum Weight Loss
The extra weight on my body was only an illusory surface. The superficial layer that screamed for the most attention because it was all the incomplete version of me could see. Staying stuck on my weight and what I saw in the mirror was only a symptom of being stuck in my ego, stuck in the old stories that were holding me back from experiencing joy.
It is what we feel, not what we see – in the mirror or anywhere else – that defines our human experience. Our quality of life is determined not by our physical strength and fortitude, but by our mental and emotional resilience.
The weight was merely a symptom of all the other crap I was still clinging to. The unresolved grief, the unprocessed traumas, the old ways of thinking about myself and the world. Once I began clearing out the mental junk and lingering emotional baggage I had been keeping bottled up, the pounds slowly started to melt away.
Before I could shed the weight, I also had to redefine the relationship I had with my own body. I needed to accept the body I had today. Not the body I had last year or the bodies I compared myself to on social media, but the one-of-a-kind body that looked back at me in the mirror right now.
To heal, I had to surrender. Surrender to the things I didn’t know about the world and about myself. To the ego that had somehow convinced me I wasn’t enough. Surrender the lifestyle that had kept me barrelling down the road to burnout, full speed ahead. I needed to fully and completely surrender to my own healing process, a process that was mine and mine alone.
I worked on changing the way I saw myself. On fostering a new relationship with my body, exploring and getting to know it on a more intimate level than I ever had before. Rather than seeing the changes in my body as negative, I slowly began to accept them as my new normal. Not good or bad as my ego would like me to believe, just different.
Healthy Mind, Whole Life
For me, postpartum weight loss was a simple byproduct of taking control of my mental health. The healthier I became on the inside, the healthier my physical body started to look and feel as a result. It felt like my body and spirit had finally decided to integrate and find harmony with one another – two parts integrated into one whole.
The closer I moved toward wholeness, the more open I was to radical positive transformation in all areas of my life. When my self-worth improved, so did my food choices. Rather than impulsive, mood-driven choices, I began consciously selecting foods directly from the earth that matched my higher vibration.
Rather than battling with my body and forcing it to do so much, I started using Ohana Online as a way to discover new forms of movement. Movement specifically designed to restore and restrengthen my unique postpartum body. I started giving into the gentler types of movement my body was calling for. Movement like restorative yoga and Mindful Yoga, rather than the high-impact exercises that were only putting more stress on my body.
When my mental clarity improved, so did my ability to make decisions and take actions that served my highest self. Instead of falling into old traps and destructive habits that kept me limited, I started consciously choosing the things that made me feel good. Things like walks in the sunshine with my dog, morning yoga, journaling before bed, reading, and unapologetic rest when I needed it. All the little pieces that make me whole.
Postpartum Weight Loss
I was finally eating, exercising, and thinking in ways that were aligned with my authentic self and my body was finally responding positively to the changes. All of a sudden I wasn’t trying to lose weight, I was just doing it. And contrary to what my old conditioning had led me to believe, struggling and suffering didn’t need to be part of the equation.
The postpartum weight loss was happening because I was nurturing and supporting the body I had today – the beautiful postpartum body that had created life and brought it into the world.
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