New mothers face a number of challenges to maintaining healthy balance in their lives, with increased stress, reduced sleep and less time to get everything done. As baby takes the majority of focus and attention, self-care often falls by the wayside, and many mothers neglect to pay attention to their own diet and fitness. Modeling and fitness expert—and fellow mom—Dale Noelle, of TRUE Model Management, offers tips to counter this self-sacrificing tendency, helping mothers achieve and maintain mental and physical health with nutrition, exercise and stress-reducers.
“You need to keep yourself as strong and healthy as you can to be the best mom you can be,” she said.
The fitness expert recommends that women make exercise a regular part of their day. Right after getting out of the bed in the morning, moms can start by stretching and doing lunges. “Just by stretching and warming up for exercise, you can get more energy,” she said.
New moms often want to be with their baby all the time, Noelle said, and there are many ways to fit fitness into the schedule while still bonding with the baby. With the appropriate stroller, moms can take brisk walks or jog around the neighborhood with their babies. They can use the stairs instead of the elevator. Mothers can even do arm lifts with their bags of groceries. She said, “Everything has a cumulative effect,”
She urges mothers to recognize that taking off weight gained during pregnancy requires time and patience. She said the majority of women take anywhere from three months to a year to take off excess weight, depending on how many pounds were put on while pregnant. According to Noelle, underweight women are advised put on anywhere between 28 and 40 pounds during pregnancy, while overweight women may only need to gain 15 to 25 pounds.
While most women are able to lose weight within a year, she said that it could take much longer for some new mothers. She urges women not to compare themselves to other women—especially celebrities who often have professional help for childrearing, cooking and strict exercise routines. “Everyone is different,” she said, encouraging women to set their own personal goals.
“You might lose weight in some areas, but keep weight around the mid-section, which is what happened to me,” Noelle said. “The core is the big problem for most women who want to lose baby weight.” After healing from giving birth, women can begin to gear workouts to target the core. She adds that any type cardio workout, including swimming, is excellent for helping new mothers get back to being fit.
Noelle said breastfeeding, exercise, and diet all affect how quickly women will lose weight. She encourages new mothers to eat balanced meals and graze on healthy snacks throughout the day. To combat the hectic schedule of motherhood, she recommends foods that can be prepared ahead of time, like quinoa and vegetables. “Keep them in a glass Pyrex, with really tight lids, and they’ll keep a lot longer,” she said. “Have chickpeas around to make hummus, which is an easy thing to add to veggies, use in a sandwich or mix with quinoa.”
Noelle also recommends:
- Avocados are flavorful, nutrient dense and full of fiber and healthy fats, which help to satisfy hunger and may stabilize mood.
- Eggs are filling, energy fueling, easily portable and a great source of essential nutrients, including choline, which plays an essential role in metabolism
- Oatmeal is packed with fiber, helping you stay fuller longer, and it stabilizes blood sugar to help prevent big spikes (and slumps) in energy
- Green tea increases fat burning and boosts the metabolic rate.
- Grapefruit “has a property to dissolve fat.”
- Nuts, especially almonds, are “easy to carry around, don’t go bad and have protein and magnesium.”
- Apples stabilize blood sugar levels, and their fiber content helps satiate hunger.
- Lean meats, fish, chicken and turkey
She also stresses the importance of staying hydrated. To add more flavorful variety to water, she suggests infusing it with lemon, cucumber, rosemary or berries. Women can carry a refillable glass bottle of fruit- or herb-infused water around all day. Moms should also carry at least one healthy snack, such as nuts or apples, in a bag wherever they go. Noelle also recommends new mothers prepare different kinds of smoothies and homemade trail mix for quick and convenient consumption.
She encourages women also get their vitamin levels checked. “A lot of women lack vitamins B and D because they are stressed out,” she said.
She warns against following dramatic diets to lose weight, such as those that restrict calorie intake to dangerously low levels or that recommend eating only one type of food, like grapefruit, for five days. She disagrees with the notion that one size fits all when it comes to diet.
“I believe different blood types need different things. I believe what might be good for one person might not be good for another,” she said. Still, she suggests both women and men can benefit from staying away from processed and fried foods, as well as reducing starch in their diet with less bread and pastas.
Noelle also stresses the importance of sleep in not only getting fit, but to achieve optimal health in general. Lack of sleep affects the metabolism, making it more difficult for new moms to lose baby weight. Running low on energy also affects mood, making one more impatient and crankier. “Your whole body does not work as well when you don’t sleep enough,” she said. “It taxes your system, and your body doesn’t replenish energy or recover from activity as efficiently.”
To reduce stress, she recommends meditation in addition to exercise.‘When your breathing is shallow, you’re not getting enough oxygen flow, and your muscles are tight,” she said. “If you don’t have time for meditation, mindful breathing is something you can do while doing other things.”
While some moms believe they need to do it all by themselves, Noelle encourages women to ask for help. “Get a babysitter and take time for yourself. Spend time with your husband,” she said. “Say, ‘I need time for me.’ Make sure you incorporate self-care into your daily routine.”
You can learn more about Dale Noelle at TRUE Model Management.