Post Pregnancy Weight Loss
I don’t want to say “post-baby body” because it’s still the same body. I didn’t switch bodies or upgrade any of my parts. It’s still the same body, technically, but it’s changed. I understand now when moms say, “This body birthed a baby.”
Not that the bodies of women who haven’t or can’t give birth are lesser. Just gotta throw that out there since people always want to make a personal experience about them. At least in my experience, even when I was in the hospital, there was a time during the delivery, going from 8 to 10cm dilated, when I absolutely thought, “I can’t do this. I want to go home. I want to be anywhere but here doing anything but this!”
After gave birth, I thought, “Oh, that was surprisingly… um, well, it wasn’t easy, but I could, in theory, do it again.” And then the doctor started the episiotomy stitches, and I thought, “Nope, never again!” Still, my body, with whatever complexes I may have held against it, managed to safely carry and deliver a baby.
Pregnancy Weight Gain
Expecting mothers in Japan receive a boshi kenkou techou (boshi techo for short, Maternal and Child Health Handbook), which is partly used to record the mother’s vitals through the her pregnancy. At every appointment, blood pressure and weight are measured, and a urine test is done.
Prior to getting pregnant, I had heard that doctors in Japan were strict on pregnancy weight gain. In my case, my doctor wan’t strict, but in one month, October, I gained 2 kg and my doctor reminded me to be careful.
Weight gain guidelines are based on BMI. The photo below is from the maternity textbook provided by my hospital. My BMI was around 22 or 23 so, I was advised to gain no more than 10kg.
As my pregnancy progressed, I kept this number in mind, but I didn’t let it consume me. I didn’t obsess over it. I didn’t calorie count. Having to deal with pregnancy culture in Japan, I wasn’t about to add extra stress to my life.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was already 10 weeks along, so I don’t know my “true” pre-pregnancy weight. I went over the 10 kg “limit” but was not berated over it and certainly did not beat myself up over it.
My life prior to getting pregnant was healthy (ish). It could have been (and still can be) more greener, I admit. Physicals once a year, yoga/stretching when I remember to do it, plus twice daily walks with my energetic Shiba.
I love to cook- it’s a great way to save money, and it’s fun experimenting with recreating restaurant dishes. I love carbs and our lunch/dinner usually has rice/potatoes/bread, with soup, salad, meat or fish, and a side of spinach and/or hijiki for anemic me. I always drink water and sometimes tea.
Between my husband and I, we drink sodas two or three times a month (seriously) and lots of flavored but sugarless carbonated water. The supermarket by our house sells ice cream 20% off on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays- ice cream is in our freezer all year long! We order pizza and/or eat MCDonald’s once or twice a month. This was my pre-pregnancy diet/routine, and I stuck with it throughout my pregnancy.
Reality of Postpartum Body
My first postpartum shower was strange. I was prepared that my tummy wouldn’t be flat immediately afterwards, and it definitely wasn’t. It was pudgy and felt squishy, and my tummy, especially my belly button, was very dark. I debated about taking a “1 day after delivering baby” photo, but some things should remain unseen. There is nothing sexy about it, and as I stood in front of the full length mirror in very padded postpartum underwear, I thought, “I’ve got a lot of work to do.” I also remain skeptical when I see semi-naked, strategically covered postpartum selfies with no underwear or pads in sight. HOW SWAY?
I had a 4 day hospital stay, and on the day before my discharge, I weighed in at 66 kg. Seeing that number actually disappointed me more than the flabby tummy. If my baby weighed 2800 g and there was the placenta and all that, how come I only lost 2 kg? I’m certainly no expert, but the only thing I can think of is water retention. That number was a bit of motivation for me.
My first month postpartum, I was very fortunate to have my mother-in-law come down to Tokyo to help. My husband has irregular work hours, and my MIL doesn’t like dogs, so I continued the dog walks. In the beginning, the walks were less about getting shape and more about (1) taking my dog out so that he could go to the bathroom and have fun outside and (2) going outside so I could have a bit of freedom, a refresher from the mini monster.
At first, I could only walk him when the baby was sleeping so I only went out for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. As my daughter got closer to the one month mark, then we three could get out and walk together. First for 15 minutes then gradually working up to our current hour. Of course, walking times depend on the weather. I’m not going to have a two month old baby out in the rain or out on a windy day for 45 minutes.
In addition, I also wore a maternity girdle and waist nipper EVERY. DAY. They are extremely common in Japan, and are often sold with special postpartum underwear and nursing bras as part of a “get ready for hospital” set. I chose a two piece set that could be used separately or together, but there are a variety of girdles and nippers available. They are so common, it was difficult for me to choose the right one, even after reading tons of product reviews and mommy blogs.
I was also surprised that even my hospital provided one for me. After my stitches were done and I held my daughter, I was cleaned up, and a nurse immediately wrapped a strip of cloth around my hips and velcroed it shut. I used the hospital’s hip cincher (?) for a week, but had to let it go as my dressing routine was getting too complicated with velcro everywhere. I admit that I enjoyed the girdle/nipper set as it kept me from seeing and feeling my pudgy stomach for as little as possible.
In ten weeks, I was able to slowly drop weight. As I have a high energy dog, I go for 45-60 minute walks twice a day with the baby in tow. I do yoga/stretching, primarily for posture and pelvic realignment. I also watch what I eat, but I don’t beat myself up over eating a snack. In fact, as a kindergarten teacher, I am used to 10 o’clock and 3 o’clock snacks (called juu-ji no oyatsu and san-ji no oyatsu) and use it as my excuse to eat in between meals.
Apparently breastfeeding helps with losing weight, but as I often snack on trail mix or animal crackers or nuts when nursing, I’m pretty sure that contributed little to my current weight.
Now I’m almost back to where I started, and I can wear my pre-pregnancy jeans and skirts. Tops fit fine, but I’m switching to button down or wrap tops for easy nursing. Everything fits just as it did before… except a pair of high-waisted Stella McCartney jeans my mother got for me a few years back. They’re a 25 inch waist, so I could only wear them (literally) a few times a year in my pre baby life. If I could get into them again that would be awesome, but I’m not making that my goal. I just lied. I’d love to get into them by summer!
Now at 58 kg, I’m so close to my starting weight. I like to believe my weight loss is a combination of all of these things, there was not just one thing that helped me. I still have a bit of a tummy, and a stubborn linea negra that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Losing the weight wasn’t a priority, but I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say that I’m glad that’s out the way.
Check out my Birth in Japan Series:
Post Pregnancy Weight Loss
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