It has been three months since my younger sister got delivered of a bouncing baby Boy. I have been planning and re-planning my trip to her home for the belated “omuugwo” (baby care) which mom was supposed to do. Unfortunately mum was indisposed this time, because of her aching knees. Arthritis has been the enemy for some months and this enemy seems to be a tough one.
The day broke and I took an early bus to Ibadan for an awesome 4 weeks holiday. If I don’t go now, Zahra is going to resume work in a month’s time and my chance for an enjoyable holiday would be over. Oh! I remember how inseparable we were before she got married and became a baby making factory (laughs). I cried my eyes out at her wedding as if her husband had come to arrest her for life. I still find that memory funny and embarrassing at the same time.
Finally, we got to the final stop and I waited for the familiar face to come to pick me up. I saw a plump lady walk towards me with a slightly unstable composure. As she came closer, I thought she looked familiar but I looked away for fear of being caught staring. Suddenly I heard her thin voice as she called out to me with my pet name: Ummu, Ummuuu… I turned around to find that the plumpy grown lady with the unsteady gait was my beloved sister… What had happened! When did she suddenly get so big? As I stared at her speechless, she took the words right out of my mouth when she said: “yeah, I am really fat but I am now ready to work on it”. I can not go back to the office in a bigger dress size.
Zahra was a perfect size 10 when she got Married. However, it seemed that as each baby arrived, she went at least two dress size up. Now after the third baby, she is comfortably a size 20, exactly double her size just 5 years ago. We decided to work out a plan immediately and as a certified physical and health educationist, I took charge of the matter.
Most moms like Zahra delay getting back in shape immediately after baby arrives till when they are done having all the kids they plan to have. It’s a wrong notion because the bigger one gets, the more difficult it becomes to shed off the extra weight. In actual sense, getting back in shape should happen immediately after delivery. For some moms with birth complications, they might have to wait till after the 6 weeks check up or clearly after 2 months. It is much easier if the new mom was used to exercising or eating healthy before conception and delivery but in any case, a little effort would go a long way.
“The mothers shall give suck to their children for two whole years, (that is) for those (parents) who desire to complete the term of suckling”
Considering that Zahra was still Breastfeeding, she still needs to consume at least 2,000 calories daily to meet up with the demands of the baby. That’s an extra 300 calories to the recommended daily intake for an average woman. Please don’t be deceived with piling up on foods while breastfeeding. Extra 300 calories just simply mean about 4 slices of white bread. While for some lucky women, breastfeeding simply strips all the extra weight off their body for milk production, for most, their bodies hold the extra weight as insurance for milk production. If you belong to the latter, don’t despair, you can still shed it off.
No matter what, breastfeeding is very essential because it also causes the uterus to contract and return to its normal size faster than it would without breastfeeding. Luckily Zahra’s baby was still on exclusive breastfeeding so we were on a good track.
By means of water, we give life to everything .’ (Surah Al-Anbiya’, 21:30)
Zahra started her first day with a bottle of water and a teaspoon of lemon juice in it. Lemon water is very healthy as its packed full with nutrients that help strengthen and rejuvenate new mom and helps build a baby’s immunity. It also helps to flush out toxins making breast milk even healthier for baby’s consumption. It is important to stay hydrated if you want to lose weight. It keeps your tummy full, helps to flush toxins and keeps you feeling healthy and ready to work out. Breastfeeding moms don’t need to take more water than they would without breastfeeding, however, an average adult woman should have about 10 glasses of water daily. Most of us fall short of that so starting your day with a 1-litre bottle of water means you have had 4 cups of water already. It is easier to spread the remaining two (1 litre) bottles throughout the day.
“Eat and drink and do not commit excesses; indeed He does not love those who are excessive” (7:31).
“Eat what is lawful and good in the Earth” (2:168)
About an hour after lemon water, Zahra had breakfast. It is important to note that breastfeeding moms should not engage in any form of dieting but healthy eating. There is a clear difference. You shouldn’t cut down heavily on calories, in fact, you should maintain about 2000-2500 calories depending on your stature (height) and active lifestyle otherwise you tend to get weak and unproductive. Eating healthy means cutting down on fats especially unhealthy fats, sugar and largely unhealthy processed foods like pizza, white bread, shawarma etc. It’s best to cook your food from scratch (fresh and naturally) and that’s where the work is. It’s actually a daunting task to manage a home, a new baby and still finds time to cook healthy meals from the scratch but it’s not impossible. I made a large pot of vegetable soup and stored in bits in the freezer for our daily consumption. Breakfast was 2 small slices of yam and 2 eggs fried while for brunch she had 2 apples and a cup of tea with milk but no sugar. Lunch was a cup of cooked rice with a lot of vegetables garnished with fish and meat while dinner was a cup of boiled beans and a medium semi ripe plantain. All these are roughly about 2,000 calories in total.
“Your body has a right over you”
“A strong believer is better than a weak believer”
Zahra, unfortunately, is not the typical morning lady. Her daily activities usually pick up around late morning just before noon so we know breakfast has to be early enough so it can be digested a bit before we do some workouts.
Since breakfast starts as early as 8 am, work out is usually around 11 am then we round it off with a bath and cup of tea and fruits. We start with some yoga or simple stretches. Then with baby well strapped on either of us, we go on a 45 mins brisk walk. On getting home, we stretch out a bit more, do some Aerobics, Pelvic exercises and stomach crunches and call it a day. Exercise should be mostly fun and enjoyable. If you find yourself very uncomfortable with any type of exercise, it’s best to stop it. With something you find enjoyable to do, you are likely to stay longer on it.
The Prophet (PBUH) told one of his companions (Ibn Amr) who was praying the whole night “Offer prayers and also sleeps at night, as your body has a right on you ” (Sunan al-Nasa’i, #2391)
Once the Prophet (PBUH) entered the Mosque and saw a rope hanging in between its two pillars. He said, “What is this rope?” The people said, “This rope is for Zainab, who, when she feels tired, holds it (to keep standing for the prayer.)” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Don’t use it. Remove the rope. You should pray as long as you feel active, and when you get tired, sleep ” (Sahih Buhari 1099)
Sleep is usually underutilized when you have a new baby to care for. During the day they sleep all through while you have to be up and doing then at night, their eyes are clearly open while you are doubly exhausted and can’t keep ur eyes open. Finding time to sleep is very important if you want to lose weight because when people don’t get enough sleep, it can become more challenging to control behaviour and cravings. They might be more likely to seek pleasure in foods and replace exercise with other time consuming but pleasurable activities such as surfing the Internet or watching television.
Lack of sleep strengthens the desire for rewards, which usually leads to unhealthy eating. Also, the more time spent awake, the more time there is to consume snacks.
To sleep better, I helped Zahra by keeping the baby with me at nights and present him for breastfeeding when necessary. I also assist and ensure that we finish house cleaning or chores early enough so we can get to bed on time. Zahra avoided stimulating evening activities, electronics and blue spectrum light exposure from TV or Mobile phones one hour before bed. Sugar and caffeinated tea or coffee are largely reduced or eliminated totally at bedtime and dinner are over two to three hours before she gets into bed.
“Do not with your own hands throw yourself into ruin” (2:195)
At the end of my 4 weeks long holiday. My adorable sister had trimmed down from 95kgs to 84kgs and now a svelte and curvy size 16 figure sitting on a 5’6” height.
What’s most important now is for her to stay on her daily food regime or risk maintaining her new weight let alone losing more. One rule is for sure when trying to lose weight, what we eat constitutes 70% of the work while exercising carries 30%. What workouts do largely is to tone the body much more than burn fats. Always think of GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. It’s a computer science acronym that implies bad input will result in bad output. What you put in through your mouth, Is what you get as a result on your body. Moderation is always key.