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Loving your body: how to shift your baby weight healthily

If I told you that you wouldn't get the body back that you had before pregnancy then you'd probably want to stop reading immediately. The thing is, in most cases a mother's body does change. You might well go back to your original dress size but you may go up a bra size or two, your shape might change and in many cases, it is a welcome change. You may find that you are ultimately curvier, sexier, stronger and more comfortable in your own skin.

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There are a few things to consider when it comes to shaping up after the birth of a baby:

Give yourself time

After nine months of pregnancy - which can seriously deplete a women's nutrition and energy stores and giving birth which uses the same amount of energy as running a marathon - the last thing you want to do after having a baby is think about dieting and exercise. If you gave birth naturally then it is important to give your body time to heal, if you had a c-section then you'll need to rest properly for at least six weeks. It is easy to forget that a caesarian is classed as major surgery. It's not easy to rest properly when you have a newborn to look after, so take it easy on yourself and take the pressure off. It realistically takes a woman a whole year before her body is back to normal. It takes a good month for your womb to shrink back, and your abdominal muscles will need some nurturing too. In fact, pregnancy puts strain on the muscles in your back and puts a strain on your spine. It is worth giving yourself some breathing time before even thinking about exercising. Pregnancy hormones also cause ligaments to soften, which is great for opening the pelvis but can mean that it is worth avoiding any heavy lifting and strenuous activity for a good few weeks after the birth.

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Be realistic

There is too much pressure on women to lose weight quickly after having birth. This is healthy both physically and mentally. Rather than feeling the pressure to lose weight, take the time you need, listen to your body and do your bit for the sisterhood by not succumbing to pressure. We all know that losing weight quickly is not healthy and often doesn't leave lasting results. If you are breastfeeding then your uterus will contract back quickly and you will also burn plenty of extra calories. Even if you are not breastfeeding, the energy it takes to look after a newborn will keep you burning calories. Rather than setting yourself unrealistic goals or aiming for an ideal weight, why not ensure you get outside in the fresh air each day and take baby for a lovely stroll (in the buggy or in a sling), why not cut out sugar and fill your plate with nutritious fruit and vegetables instead. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential in the early days and will give you all the energy you need to take care of your little one.

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Be grateful for the body you have

Having a newborn is an incredible experience. You'll want to savour every moment, rather than feeling guilty about not eating properly or not exercising enough. Rather than hating your body, be grateful to it. That amazing body of yours created your beautiful baby. Besides, your little one will be much more comfortable cuddling up to a squishy tummy than rock hard abs. Whenever you look in the mirror, gently remind yourself that you are looking at the body that housed your incredible baby for 9 months. Who cares if you are a little out of shape? There will be plenty of time to shape up in the future.

Treat your body with respect

All this positive body talk is about being thankful to your body and not putting impossible pressure on it. It doesn't mean you can give yourself an excuse to pig out and sit around all day. After what feels like an eternity of sleepless nights then the odd comforting bowl of ice-cream at midnight or a snatched chocolate bar will help you to feel human again. However, it is important to stay active and eat a balanced diet. Respecting your body is all about taking the time to rest and heal, but also feeding your body with the nutrients it needs as well as staying active.

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It's time to shift your body image

Being a good mum isn't about being skinny and beautiful. Your beauty will shine through in the love you had for your children. Your children will remember the time you spent with them, they'll be much happier with an attentive mum who plays with them than a mum who is constantly distracted by her own figure.

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Consider dressing differently

Even the most positive of us have emotional wobbles sometimes. If you are feeling sensitive or need a little armour to help you through a social situation, then consider how you dress. Your pre-pregnancy wardrobe might be completely wrong for you now. Not only because your figure may have changed, but also because running around after children means your wardrobe will have different requirements. If you are still a little conscious of your post-baby bump, then opt for dresses that nip in at the ribcage and skim the hips. Corsets are brilliant for nights out and a wonderful way to show off your sexy new curves while keeping everything in. Breastfeeding mums might like to opt for under bust styles, whereas full corsets are perfect for a little more coverage. The structure of a corset will improve your posture, boosts your confidence and is the perfect way to give you a smooth silhouette.

 

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Aim for a healthy, strong body

The more we obsess over our weight and looks, the more likely we are to raise children who do the same. Next time you find yourself moaning about your weight, think about the message you are giving your children. Even if they are too young to understand, it makes sense to get out of the habit of talking yourself down so you can become the positive role model that they need you to be. Focus on getting strong and healthy, rather than Hollywood thin. Once you've had chance to rest and recover from pregnancy and birth, you might like to throw in some exercises. Using a gym ball to support your lower back is a good idea in the early days, and will give you additional support when you do abdominal exercises such as crunches and sit-ups. You could even break out your old birthing ball if you used one. Many women like to use a waist trainer when they exercise, it is thought that these specially designed exercise corsets increase the amount of perspiration created during exercise. These corsets are ideal for shifting baby weight as they focus on the abdominal area which is often where most women are self-conscious. With a new baby, you won't have the time or energy to do long workouts, so focus instead of short bursts of activity. Planks are a brilliant exercise that engages the whole body. You can plank next to your baby while they enjoy some tummy time, or even lie them on their back and lean in for a kiss as you perform some push ups. They are lots of inventive ways to bond with your baby while you exercise.

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Find other ways to boost self-esteem

If you are struggling to get used to your new body and need a little self-esteem boost then give yourself permission to do something special. Get a new haircut in a luxurious salon, the time to yourself is as valuable as the new do. Post-partum hair loss may have made your hair thinner, you might even want to choose something that doesn't take too much styling. Have a makeover and buy some new makeup. Again, you might need to change your beauty routine around now that you get so little time in the mornings. You could also buy a few new clothes. Looking through a wardrobe of clothes in your previous size will make anyone feel depressed. The best thing you can do is pack away your smaller clothes and buy some clothes that fit you now and make you feel fantastic. Dressing for your new figure will help to take the pressure off while you slowly build your new healthy, strong body.

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Above all, treat your body like a temple. Reward it for the wonderful baby it gave you. There is too much body hatred around. Your body is beautiful and it is time you treated it that way.

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