After the birth of baby #1 I was every new mum's worst nightmare. Breast-feeding round the clock and forgetting to so much as even sniff food meant the weight fell off me in a matter of weeks. I was back in my pre-pregnancy clothes not long after my new bundle turned three months old. Yes, I wanted to reclaim my body but I hadn't embarked on a crazy new diet, I just wasn't taking care of myself. I was so preoccupied by my baby's needs, I had neglected my own.
Second time around, shedding the weight has been more of a challenge. All I really wanted to do when I got five blissful minutes to myself was sit on my bum with a cup of tea and a jaffa cake. No part of me was motivated to squeeze myself into lycra and drag my mum-tum to the gym.
A self-inflicted target felt like the only way off the sofa and it motivated me into action … I signed up to run 5k for charity, bought myself some inspirational running leggings and filled my iPod with tunes. This is what I have learned so far about post-baby exercise and nutrition.
Get a jogging buggy. It encouraged me to leave the house as well as getting some exercise in and its cheaper than a gym membership. Even if it's a walk or a very gentle jog … baby will love the change in scenery too.
Have larger meals in the middle of the day. This means not only will you cut down on evening cooking time, you won't be hitting the sack straight after having eaten a large meal; research has shown that it's easier to metabolise larger meals during the day when you are naturally more active.
Cook in batch and freeze. Choose heathy but balanced meals; it's important to make sure you eat enough carbs with an increase in exercise. The Eatwell guide helped me understand portion size and how to balance food groups.
Keep an activity schedule. Plan in allocated time for exercise around naps and try to stick to it. If you really dread the thought of working up a sweat, you could also schedule in rewards to inspire you … maybe a relaxing soak in the tub or your favourite TV show.
Set small goals. You're much more likely to feel a sense of accomplishment if you set small goals and meet them rather than unrealistic goals and fail.
It's easy to wonder if your body will ever be the same after carrying a baby, and it's hard to stay motivated when results aren't always that obvious; just try to remember that it's not about numbers on the scales but about how you feel.
Moderate exercise can boost mood and do wonders for your wellbeing but be gentle with yourself. As a new parent your time will be more stretched than ever before, so whatever you decide on, try to have fun with it.
Caroline is a mum, writer and mental health practitioner from Hampshire with a particular interest in health and wellbeing and all things parenting.