This is a question we get SO often from friends, family, and clients. Most moms find their worlds completely flipped upside down after having a child. In addition to a new amazing kind of love, it’s likely that you’ll also experience the kind of sleep deprivation that could drive anyone mad. And in moments when the sleepy fog and worry about every parenting decision clears for a moment, you think “I’d like to figure out how to take care of myself again at some point!”
As a dietitian and relatively new mom, I’ve had a couple (2.5 but who’s counting) years to figure out what’s worked well for me in terms of eating and exercise as well as with our C&J clients. Here are some of our top tips!
Shape your mindset. Think of the first step more as shaping your habits to make wellness easier moving forward, versus getting back to your pre-baby shape and/or weight as soon as possible. The sooner you shift your focus to what you can do around eating and exercise, instead of an unrealistic idea of what your body should look like or be doing, the easier and more enjoyable it will be to set the right goals.
Simplify your life (and don’t feel bad about it.) As moms we often feel a lot of guilt when we’re not able to do things the same way we were pre-baby. Simplifying things is smart, and doesn’t mean you’re not doing a great job. When it comes to eating and exercise, you may find that the way to success means taking healthy meal short cuts that you never needed before and/or doing different types of workouts at different times. Here are more specific ways to simplify:
- Have healthy convenience options on hand: Try using frozen pre-cooked brown rice or quinoa instead of making it fresh when time is tight (we love Trader Joe’s for these options!!); purchase pre-cooked rotisserie chicken instead of roasting your own; use other no-fuss proteins like beans and edamame that can be easily added to meals like stir-fries, quesadillas, burritos, and eggs to create a quick healthy dinner.
- Get groceries delivered. If it makes it easier to make sure you have healthful food in the house each week, then get your groceries delivered. Having healthful choices in your home makes it more likely you’ll chose them when meal time comes. Most major grocery stores offer this service for a very small fee. Some grocers also offer the option to shop online and schedule a convenient time to pick up your pre-bagged (and paid for) groceries.
- Shop online: We love Thrive Market for online food shopping, which allows you to shop at whatever time is convenient for you.
- Try out a meal delivery service like Green Chef or a meal planner service like
Prep Dish to take some of the pressure off. This can also allow you to easily transfer some of the food/cooking responsibility to your spouse or significant other.
Plan some meals ahead. Before becoming a parent I rarely planned meals very far in advance. I had time and patience to whip up something creative by looking in the fridge and pantry. Now, knowing what dinner is going to be ahead of time removes a lot of stress and means we eat more healthfully throughout the week. If you’re overwhelmed with where to start, begin by choosing 2-3 meals you’d like to make for the week, create a shopping list based on those meals, and plan a time to shop and do a little prep each week. It may sound time consuming at the start, but it saves SO much time and stress (and takeout) throughout the week. Our Healthy, Happy Pregnancy Cookbook has tons of easy recipes for pregnant and new moms, or anyone looking for quick and healthy recipes. Try this make-ahead Blueberry Sunflower Overnight Oats breakfast from the book that we’ve got up on the blog.
Resist the urge to skip meals. It might seem like it saves time, but don’t skip meals or go too long (more than 4 hours) without a meal or a snack. This can lead to overeating or grazing (on your child’s food/snacks!), which may result in consuming more calories/food that you really need throughout the day. Instead, have healthful options in the pantry or fridge so that you’re never stuck without a meal or healthy snack. A few of our favorites for convenient / frozen meals include Luvo and Amy’s Organic for meals and Seven Sundays bars / muesli for breakfasts or snacks. Of course, grabbing a piece of fruit and a cube of cheese is a great clean, whole food option, too!
Hydrate. Your entire body, including your metabolism, functions optimally when you’re well hydrated. Keep a re-usable water bottle with you (we love S’well bottles because they are gorgeous, come in many fun patterns and colors, and keeps your beverage hot or cold for hours) and make a mental note of how many refills you need per day to get about 64 ounces of water. Or, note your urine color — if it’s pale yellow to clear, you’re well hydrated. If it’s darker yellow to brown like apple juice, drink up!!
Adapt your exercise schedule and type if you need to: For me, this was the largest challenge. Set up weekly exercise times so that you are mentally prepared for them, as-is your spouse or significant other if they’ll need to be on solo parent duty.
- Try to stick to your schedule as much as possible, but be willing to adjust and replace if you need to. If something comes up and you can’t go to yoga, adjust and find time for a walk/jog or an exercise video instead. We have tried and love workouts by Julie Fagan from Peanut Butter Fingers, Tone It Up, PopSugar Fitness, The Fitness Marshall (super fun dance fitness!), as well as online Yoga classes via YogaGlo.
- Be willing to work out in the morning if that fits your new schedule better.
- Find buddies to work out with, whether it’s a walk, a yoga class, or any other type of exercise. Committing to someone else makes it harder to break your appointment. It’s also more fun and allows you adult time and conversation at the same time!
How did you find your way back to wellness after having a baby? Tell us what tips and tricks have been working for you in the comments!