Becoming a mother is a great opportunity to make major life changes in the areas of diet, exercise, and quitting bad habits. For many women, pregnancy may be the first time they consider the state of their overall fitness and health. For me, pregnancy was the first time my health had a direct impact on another life and it was also the first time I had to face the true state of my health.
At five feet eight inches and 186 pounds, I was determined to be medically obese when I became pregnant with my first child. I was determined not to let that frightening - and humiliating - label stand in the way of my baby's chances for a healthy birth. Here are the life changes I made that enabled me to get fit and stay fit even during pregnancy.
- I started walking - everywhere. My midwife and ob both assured me that even though I had never exercised regularly before, I could undertake a safe program as long as I started out slow and kept my heart rate below 140 beats/minute. I started out simply walking around the block a few times a day. Then, I started walking to the store rather than driving whenever it made sense to do so. Once the first trimester exhaustion gave way to the inexplicable verve of the fourth month,I was walking a few miles a day. Tip: invest in a good pair of walking shoes with supportive arches and VELCRO® closure.
- I stopped dieting and starting eating healthy. Diet was a very difficult change for me and I found the only way I could stay motivated to eat healthy was to use mental tricks and imagery. I started eating only off of salad plates so I took smaller portions. I envisioned everything I ate going directly into my baby's mouth which led to making healthier choices. I found that eating six or seven small, regular meals a day curbed my appetite, alleviated morning sickness, and kept me from binging on the treat I allowed myself at the end of the day. Tip: keeping a food diary and purging the house of junk food were key tools in helping prevent unhealthy eating.
- I took up yoga. Walking was such a success, I was determined to engage in other forms of exercise. Unfortunately, I find sports and exercising to be a daunting task as I am incredibly uncoordinated. Pregnancy only seemed to increase the amount of spills and bumps I seemed to take. My midwife gave me some yoga exercises to just try and I was hooked. The low-impact exercises improved my balance, core strength, and eased stress. Tip: belly dancing and swimming are other low-impact exercises to consider.*
No matter what your health history is, it is never too late to start taking the best possible care of yourself. Simple changes in daily behavior can have big impact on your health and the habits you pass on to your child.
*Always consult with your doctor before engaging in new activities during and after pregnancy.