Disclaimer: this article is not intended to make any reader, especially a woman reader, compare themselves to me or any other woman who has had a child. Every woman's experience with pregnancy is 100% unique and every woman's recovery (YES RECOVERY) is also 100% uniquely their own. My intention is to simply share my journey back to a fitness lifestyle and in doing so not just reclaiming myself, but finding a whole new enhanced version of me.
Do you know one the biggest topics of discussion during my pregnancy and labor was that I use to be an amateur bodybuilder? That's right. The nurses, my doula, the midwives, and the doctor all enjoyed bringing up that I was an aspiring physique competitor up to the point of getting pregnant. They said this to encourage me and to remind me how strong I am as I endured a very long birthing experience which ended with a c-section. I believe my medical doctor also brought up my bodybuilding lifestyle to remind me that I could and would return to my former self. In my mind, I was wondering two things: if I could actually do it and who I would be as this predetermined "fit mom." In a subtle way, this was my new competition and already I felt the pressure on me.
Our medical doctor said, "Give yourself a year; a solid year and you'll be back to how you use to look." I took those words literal and I just nodded my head thinking "totally, I got this." I was in this half daze with all the pain medication they had me on, but I remember our conversation like it was yesterday. The doctor could not believe I was already walking around and smiling after my long labor and cesarean. My doctor inspired me though. He gave me something to work toward as a person, as most of my world would be focused on my son. It was those words which have motivated me on my road back to fitness after a baby. Since May 3, 2019, I have focused on that time frame to get to where I am today. I gave myself a year to feel like the woman I use to be before being pregnant. To my surprise, I met my weight goal in 11 months. To even more of my surprise, I came out with more accomplishments than a number on a scale. My eleven months postpartum journey has made me more aware, confident, whole, and patient.
Now you may be wondering how I got back into great shape. How did I lose 50 pounds? That is right. I gain 50lbs being pregnant. I even weight trained 5 days a week, walked daily, and did prenatal yoga several times a week, but I still got huge. I weight trained up to 36 weeks pregnant and the last three week I just walked and did yoga with meditation. I had to slow down at the end. My body was super uncomfortable and it hurt to walk most days. While I was pregnant, I watched what I ate fairly well. I did give into my pizza and quesadilla cravings a bit too often, but like my disclaimer said "don't compare your journey with someone else's." My body gained all that weight to make my most perfect baby boy. Wrapping my head around how I would lose all the weight I had gained is what had me in a tail spin at the beginning of my postpartum journey.
Now, the start of my postpartum journey is how I grew with patience. Already I was told by my OBGYN doctor that I would have to wait to be cleared for exercise around week 8-10 depending on how my healing process went. I had a c-section so just simple acts like standing up or walking were very difficult. I will add, the outside world has no sympathy for this type of surgery and most people don't even see it as a big deal, when really it is incredibly painful to heal from and new moms should be afforded more care post cesarean. With that being said, did I mention I was also trying to nurse and pump? Did I mention during the day I was all alone as my spouse was working and I had no family around to help me? This is where my years of yoga training took over. I just told myself to breathe, to slow down, and to take each day for what it was and to focus on getting enough rest until I could move more comfortably. The beginning road of my motherhood experience was tough and often lonely. In my head I kept hearing, "give yourself a year." This became my mantra and helped me to slow down and accept the journey.
Also at the beginning of my postpartum life, I was investigating and researching postpartum female trainers. I was on the hunt for legitimate coaches who could help women postpartum, especially with core rehab after a cesarean. I do not feel that just because someone gives birth that they are credentialed enough to coach postpartum women, so my search was very specific. I was searching for the best because that is what great coaches do: they want to learn from the best.
In the beginning phase of my fitness journey postpartum I discovered, Andrea Allen, the owner of Deliciously Fit n' Healthy Coaching Business. I discovered her on Instagram. I was amazed at the fact that she gave birth to four daughters, ran a legitimate coaching business, and maintained this amazing athletic physique. She posted all these videos about breath work and how her specific breath work techniques with particular gentle movements would help to restructure the core and reduce the "mommy pooch." The best part was knowing I could do this breath work prior to being cleared to exercise. I bought her postpartum program and that is what I did for four weeks prior to being able to exercise. I retaught myself how to breathe into my lungs, diaphragm, and lower transverse abdominis muscles (TVA).
This breath word was challenging. Beyond challenging at first. I couldn't believe how I couldn't connect with my core muscles at first and how just breathing properly would be so fundamentally difficult. I knew as an athlete that this was the first crucial step in getting myself healed and on the road to being able to be the type of athlete I enjoyed being. The core is the most important part of body alignment, and the part of the body needed to lift properly and safely. Breathing correctly is also foundational for aerobic workouts, lifting, and yoga. These exercise took anywhere from 10-20 minutes, which at times was difficult to fit into my day when I was alone with my son, but I managed to do it and I swear it made a huge difference when I finally got back to weight training.
As the days marched forward, I kept telling myself "give yourself a year." I still had not stepped on the scale, but I knew that day was coming and was necessary. In the beginning of my postpartum journey, I did not need that type of mental downer as I was dealing with healing from a cesarean, and unfortunately two round of mastitis. Breastfeeding ended up not working out for me as I kept getting a bacteria infection in my breasts. It was awful and messed with me mentally. It was beyond painful and there were nights I just sobbed in my spouse's arms. I literally wanted someone to cut off my breasts, as they were rock hard, red, hot, and gave me flu-like symptoms.
Here I had been this super fit woman my entire adult life, and had read a plethora of books about natural child birth during my gestation with my son, to now having so many things about becoming a mom not turn out as I had envisioned. I learned from my birthing experience that we control hardly anything in this life. My birth plan did not go as planned and that's okay because I took responsibility for it all by responding proactively and positively. My little mantra, "give yourself a year," helped me to just keep going. I knew that in a years times so much could evolve and change. I also knew what I was capable of based on my own life experiences, so I didn't doubt myself even though I was a bit scared on how to get started.
When Emilio would nap, I would often research postpartum programs. Even though I am a fitness coach, I didn't want to do this journey alone. I already was doing too much alone. I wanted a support system. I wanted workouts structured for me, so I wouldn't have to think. I wanted the tools to live a macro based lifestyle so I could enjoy life with my spouse and kids (I have a bonus daughter). I knew I couldn't go back to the rigid diets I use to follow as a competitor and I knew I couldn't go back to spending hours in the gym when my son needed me at home. I knew my former self wouldn't work out in my new life as a mom, wife, full-time educator, and part-time yoga instructor. My requirements of "need" is how I found Nathalia Melo, the owner of The Mother's Strong League and the Four Weeks to Fit Challenge.
Nathalia's 4 Weeks to Fit was how I got myself back on the fitness road. I saw all these postpartum women make amazing progress and I thought to myself "I can do that!" You see, I always believed in myself. I may have had moments of fear as to how I could get back into a physical condition I desired, but I also know that fear is a big liar. I was aware that my journey was going to be long, but I knew I could do it. After four weeks, I was back macro counting and I made amazing progress eating the foods I love, like tacos and eating chocolate. The results from the 4 Weeks to Fit Challenge was the confidence I needed and what catapulted me to becoming a "fit mom."
When the four weeks were over, I knew I wanted more. I decided to sign-up for the year long membership of the Mother's Strong League (MSL). I have used this membership to structure my workouts and to have a group of women I can talk with online about being a mom and an athlete. I have also used the group to track my weight loss data, as I am huge into data when looking at growth and change. However, I do my own nutrition and I respond to my own bi-weekly check-ins. MSL is not a program for women who need their hand held. It is for women ready to take their life to the next level with both being a mom and athlete.
Being in control of my own nutrition through the principles of macro counting and flexible dieting has allowed me to be the foodie and cook that I am while still making progress. I have loved helping others over the years master their own diets in sustainable ways, but as a former competitor, I use to go from competition to competition and it was this constant battle of yo-yo dieting I no loner wanted to do anymore in my new life. I didn't really realize all of this until I had my son. My new life brought me to a place of greater awareness about food and the life I really wanted to be living. I have decided, I never want to be the type of mom who won't make cookies with her kids and enjoy the taste of one or two out of fear of "ruining myself." I have learned that is completely unnecessary and no food is bad. It's not to say that I ever thought certain foods were evil, but I will say I use to be too strict and it kept me from just enjoying the foodie I have always been. I have learned that if there is something I want to eat, I eat it, but I plan and prepare for it. This is one way I have lost 50 pounds in eleven months. I have kept myself accountable and consistent with my daily food intake, and I have found that macro counting is a sustainable way of living my best, healthy life.
Not long after the 4 Weeks to Fit Challenge, I did a photoshoot to show myself that I still loved being behind the camera, and to share with other women how postpartum does not have one way to look. I just wanted to show up and say "Let's do this ladies. Let's be our greatest selves." It was very rewarding for me to share my photoshoot with my kids and my spouse and to just love my new body, loose belly skin and all.
It is crazy to think how far I have come in my postpartum journey. The mantra "give yourself a year" really helped me to keep everything in perspective and to never give up. Everything I did was with moderation and patience. I had moments of not wanting to trust the process, but that's what I did. I trusted the process. This took patience. It took my years of training and education as a coach to just trust myself. Yes, I have been using the workouts from the Mother's Strong League, but it is me who put in the effort with those workouts. It is me who made sure to get 10,000k steps in a day. It is me who modified movements when needed or switched out a certain exercise for another if I had to. It was me who made all of this possible. I designed all my own meal plans and calculated my own macros. I have been the one to determine refeeds and diet breaks. This entire journey has made me a better coach, too. This whole journey has made me feel more complete and confident as a person. Things I use to worry about I no longer do. For example, I can care less about the excess skin around my belly. I'm more interested in the happiness I feel post-workout. I am so much more aware of who I am and what I want as a woman and that is liberating. It is mind-blowing to believe what the human body, the female body, is capable of achieving. The transformation I have gone through has been more than physical; it has been spiritual. My journey has reminded me of the foundation of my coaching principles that everything: mind, soul, and body (MS.B Fitness) must be integrated for real change to occur. Thank you for letting me share my journey with you. I look forward to sharing more with you as I feel this is only the beginning of a whole new volume in my life.
If you are interested in a macro counting lifestyle (flexible dieting) to reach your goals, please contact me. If you go into my testimonials you will see I have helped many people over the years reach their goals.
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I am a new mother who has her hands full! I juggle not just my coaching business, but I am also a full time educator. I also teach yoga in the Bay Area, and I mentor first generation college students.